Sermon 1


Conrad Vine, DMin, is the president of Adventist Frontier Missions, Berrien Springs, MI, USA.


The call to lead, to speak forth for God, and to minister among God’s people, is not a call to popularity. It is a call to faithfulness. Those who would lead must serve in both good and difficult times, as we see in the life of Jeremiah.


In Jeremiah 1:4, Jeremiah presents his credentials: he is not a prophet for hire, and he does not follow the latest streams of fashionable thought. His vocation as a prophet is by virtue of a divine commission. This sense of God’s calling was the driving force for his ministry, and his support during his long years of persecution and discouragement. He had this burning fire in his bones and could not be silent (Jer 20:9).

In Jeremiah 1:5, even before he was born, God had purposed that Jeremiah would fill the prophetic office. Likewise, to every individual, young and old, God has assigned a place of duty and responsibility in His plan for humanity’s salvation, and our purpose in life is to find and be obedient to God’s purpose for us. To be told, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you” gives Jeremiah a new sense of perspective, away from his plans for himself and back to God’s master plan.

“I formed you,” says God (Jer 1:5). God speaks here of His care in hand-molding Jeremiah. It was no accident that Jeremiah had such a sensitive nature. Jeremiah was handmade by God for his God-given task. He was fit for God’s purpose—as are modern-day disciples! “I consecrated you” (Jer 1:5). Before his birth, God had set Jeremiah apart for his prophetic calling. God was calling Jeremiah to holiness. “I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” God now sends teenage Jeremiah out to a dying world. Goyim—the nations, not just Judah.

God gave Jeremiah two signs (1:11– 13). The first was an almond tree branch. The word for almond means “wakeful,” for the almond tree is the first to awaken in winter as it senses the coming spring (blossoming in January in the northern hemisphere). The message is clear: when all seems dormant, when evil seems triumphant, when God’s people seem spiritually dead, when there seems to be no hope, God is wakeful, ready for His moment to fulfill His Word. God promised He would deliver His people from their time of trouble in Babylon. The second sign was a tilted cooking pot. Before God’s deliverance, there would come a time of trouble upon God’s people, in the form of Babylonian attack, oppression, and captivity. Jeremiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem would learn the hard way that being God’s people does not guarantee them diplomatic or spiritual immunity. No, the message of Jeremiah was that God’s people would live through a time of Babylonian supremacy and oppression, but during this time of trouble they had the assurance that God would rise to deliver His faithful people in His time.\


Jeremiah lived during the darkest era for God’s people—immediately before the Babylonian exile. The northern ten tribes had been swept into captivity by the Assyrians. The southern kingdom of Judah veered between good and evil kings. Towards the end of evil Manasseh’s reign, two God-fearing boys were born: Josiah and Jeremiah. Josiah came to the throne at the age of eight and was a reforming king, noted for his religious zeal and piety. He cleansed the land of idols, closed down the occult, repaired the temple, and the discovery of a scroll containing the covenant (the book of Deuteronomy) led to a national reformation. In Josiah’s thirteenth year (627 BC), God called Jeremiah, a teenager, to the prophetic ministry. Living in Anathoth—two miles from Jerusalem, a town of priests—and of priestly descent, Jeremiah was a priest in training. Yet, immediately after his call, God instructed Jeremiah to go to Jerusalem and proclaim God’s message, followed in Jeremiah 11:6 by a command to conduct a national preaching tour.

Jeremiah called the people to return to God, accept Babylonian rule, and prophesied that after seventy years God would restore His people to Jerusalem. He was labeled a traitor and faced intense opposition throughout his ministry. He ministered for forty years and was persecuted, imprisoned, flogged, condemned as a traitor, starved, and forced to migrate to Egypt as an old man, living with the constant threat of execution or murder, and yet he lived to see the fulfillment of his prophecies of Babylonian captivity. Naturally a timid individual, he longed to withdraw from public life and weep over God’s people (Jer 15:17; 20:10a; Lam 3:14, 20.)

When Jerusalem fell, the Babylonians offered Jeremiah the choice to go to Babylon, where he would be well looked after, or stay with the remnant of God’s people in battered Judah (Jer 39:11–40:6). Although ignored by his own people, his prophetic ministry was recognized and respected by the pagan Babylonians! As then, so today. Faithfulness in ministry has an unforeseen and untold ripple effect, reaching well beyond our local congregation to those who ostensibly are far from God. Jeremiah opted to stay. Although he disagreed with God’s people on just about everything, Jeremiah never walked away from them. He stayed with them no matter what, because God had called and gifted him to minister to these people. Leaders today are called to such steadfastness in ministry—for we seek God’s approval, not that of fallen humanity.


His message applies to us today. God’s people would go through a terrible time of trouble, but God would eventually deliver them. If God’s people wish to live through the coming time of trouble, and experience God’s deliverance, then God’s people are to repent of their sins and turn to God with faith and obedience.

Jeremiah called people away from a superficial religion to a true inner walk with God. He taught that spiritual evil has its source in a wicked heart (Jer 17:9). Without a new heart, the wicked will remain wicked (13:23). What is needed is a new heart, bringing with it a new love for God, faith in God, and obedience to God (24:7). He pointed forward to the conversion miracle for all who follow Jesus Christ in the new covenant experience (31:33–34).


God was blunt with Jeremiah, as He is with His people today. “They will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, declares the Lord, to deliver you” (Jer 1:19, ESV). God’s people are not alone. For Jeremiah, and for the Lord’s followers today, God’s way is not to stop the fight, but to stand with those who follow Him. Like modernday disciples, Jeremiah was being sent out as a lamb amongst wolves (e.g. Luke 10:3). However, we today have the assurance of God’s presence and protection. Hallelujah!

Conrad Vine, DMin, is the president of Adventist Frontier Missions, Berrien Springs, MI, USA.