No room for personal creativity in this job profile – Wednesday, 16th Week in ordinary time – Jeremiah 1:1, 4-10
We begin our study of the prophet Jeremiah who ministered for 40 years from the reign of King Josiah through the reigns of King Jehoiakim and till the end of the eleventh year of King Zedekiah under whom the people of Judah went into exile under the Babylonians.
In the year 622/621 the Book of the Law was found during the restoration of the temple. As a consequence, King Josiah led a religious reform in Judah (2 Chronicles 34:3). It is in this time that God called Jeremiah to minister to his people. Jeremiah hailed from a priestly family and lived in Anathoth, which was a small village about three miles from Jerusalem. It was in the land of Benjamin but given over as a priestly city (Joshua 21:18). God called these two giants; King Josiah and the prophet Jeremiah to serve Him and His people at the same time.
But in 609 BC this glorious period ended with King Josiah’s death in battle at the hand of Pharaoh Neco (2 Kings 23;29). He was succeeded by his son, Jehoahaz, who reigned only three months before being deposed by Pharaoh Neco. Neco then made Josiah’s son, Eliakim, king and changed his name to Jehoiakim (2 Kings 23:31-34). The reform of King Josiah was quickly eclipsed by a universal return to idolatry. At this stage Judah was a vassal of Egypt. Jeremiah denounced the idolatry and displayed tremendous faithfulness and courage in the face of great discouragement, opposition and small results.
Then the Babylonians defeated the Egyptians at Carchemish in 605 and King Jehoichim was succeeded by his son Jehoiachin who was exiled by the Babylonians never to return. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon replaced him with his uncle, King Zedekiah. Zedekiah had two choices, to be a vassal of Babylon or side with Babylon’s enemy, Egypt. He chose the latter who again besieged Jerusalem in 588 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar was forced to lift the siege temporarily to meet a threat from Egypt, giving the people of Jerusalem false hope that they would be saved. However, Nebuchadnezzar returned after dealing with the Egyptians, laid siege to Jerusalem once more, and in 587 B.C. breached the walls, destroyed the city, killed many of the residents, and took the rest into exile in Babylonia. Nebuchadnezzar had King Zedekiah’s sons killed before his eyes were gorged out
With this historical background in mind we are introduced to the call of Jeremiah. God tells Jeremiah that he shared an intimacy with Jeremiah before he was already formed in the womb. The word ‘knew’ in Hebrew is ‘yada’ and signifies an intimacy similar to that of a married couple. It was here in the womb that God ‘consecrated’ Jeremiah. The word consecrated translates as ‘qadas’ and indicates that something or someone is set apart; like the sabbath is ‘qadas’ or set apart from other days. Jeremiah was already consecrated for God’s work. Finally God ‘appointed’ him to be a prophet (nabi). Once again the Hebrew translation of the word ‘appointed’ gives us an insight into God’s actions. Jeremiah was ‘nathan’ or ‘given’ or ‘put into place’ by God’s will to be a prophet not just to Judah but to all the nations.