Summary: The LORD knew His plans for Jeremiah, and had a particular end in view (Jeremiah 29:11). The same is true for us: both as Christian individuals, and as Church.
A COMMON CALL
Throughout history both the Church in general, and churches in particular, have published books of Common Order, Common Worship, and Common Prayer; common lectionaries, common liturgies, and joint statements of faith and mission. This is not necessarily a bad thing, provided that we do not confuse uniformity with unity. What binds us together with other Christians is not outward conformity, but a faith held in common, based in a common Call and calling which is both universal and personal.
The LORD God called Noah to build a boat in a land that had known no rain. This was an action which both condemned sin and which, through his preaching, called to righteousness (2 Peter 2:5). Even Jesus was ‘set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel’ (Luke 2:34). This is remarkably similar to the proclamation of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:10).
The LORD called Abraham to leave his home and his moon-worshipping people to go to a place which he had never seen. There (against the expectations of nature) he would become the father of a new nation, with a view to recalling all nations back to God (Genesis 12:1-3). Jeremiah was also called to be a prophet to the nations (Jeremiah 1:5; Jeremiah 1:10).
When called to go and confront Pharaoh, Moses argued his unworthiness for such a cause. The LORD countered this with His promised presence for the task, and gave him visible signs of the authenticity of his calling (Exodus 3:12). A similar promise was made to Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:8).
Moses complained of lack of eloquence, but the LORD overthrew this argument by putting His words into Moses’ mouth (Exodus 4:12). Jeremiah similarly had the words of the LORD put into his mouth (Jeremiah 1:9).
Called to deliver Israel from the Midianites, Gideon complained of his lack of standing in Israel. Again the LORD promised His presence (Judges 6:15-16). It is His work, but it is often only accomplished by human instrumentality. Jeremiah also complained of his youth, but the LORD promised him strength and eloquence enough for the task (Jeremiah 1:6-7).
Isaiah was confronted by the LORD, and was overcome by his sense of personal and corporate sinfulness. A seraph touched his lips with a live coal, and his sin was purged. When the LORD followed this with a general call, ‘Whom shall I send?’, Isaiah did not hesitate to volunteer: ‘Here am I, send me’ (Isaiah 6:8). Jeremiah’s mouth was similarly touched by the LORD, in order to equip him for the task (Jeremiah 1:9).
When the Apostle Paul waxed autobiographical, it usually served an apologetic purpose, verifying an Apostleship which was often questioned by his hearers (Galatians 1:15-16). The prophets’ occasional accounts of their calling also serve to authenticate their ministries. Micah speaks of the Word ‘happening’ to him (Micah 1:1). Jeremiah uses the same word to explain the unplanned spontaneity of his own calling (Jeremiah 1:4).
Without denying their historicity or particular relevance to the prophet’s own time and place, some of the personal words of the LORD to Jeremiah can be applied to our own situations. We were ‘chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world’ (Ephesians 1:4), and thus, with Jeremiah, the LORD knew each of us before we were born, set His seal upon us, and prepared us for His calling (Jeremiah 1:5).