Jeremiah 1:4-10: Uproot to Plant

Law and Gospel (610x351)

Jeremiah writes, “The Word of the Lord came to me.” He’s describing his call to preach. For a man doesn’t call himself to be God’s preacher. “The Word of the Lord came to me.” The Lord deals with us through His Word. He doesn’t let us choose what His Word says, so we can tell Him what He means. God tells us—He tells us in His Law, and He tells us in His Gospel.


What do you mean when you use the term, “God’s Word”? Often, we think of the Bible. But Scripture also refers to God’s Word as Jesus Christ. For He IS the Word of God. Jesus Christ is God, The Word incarnate. The Apostle John tells us:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The Word became flesh and lived among us. We gazed on his glory, the glory of the only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth. [John 1:1, 14]

The reason the Word of God, the Bible, is the Word of God is because Jesus is the Word. The Bible gets its word-ness from the Word, Jesus. So, the Word of God who calls a pastor to preach, centers on the Word, Jesus Christ, the Word become flesh. So, when the Word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, Jesus came to him, even though Jeremiah lived several centuries before Jesus became incarnate.

Even in the Old Covenant, Adam and Abraham, Moses and Noah, and Isaiah and Jeremiah all preached about the Messiah to come, Jesus Christ. God never sends preachers to preach, who don’t point people to the Messiah, the Savior of the world.

The call to preach comes from outside someone, not within him. Just because you feel God’s prompting, doesn’t mean He’s calling you. God comes to a man and tells him to preach. With the prophets of old, God spoke to the man. Today, God calls men to be pastors through His Church. Read 1 Timothy and Titus, and you will see it is so.

In either case, God appoints the preachers to preach. They don’t appoint themselves. God shows us this with Jeremiah. God said He had chosen him to be a prophet to the nations.

Jeremiah hesitated. “Lord God, I don’t know how to speak well enough since I am only a youth” (Jeremiah 1:6). He considered himself and wept at his inability and inexperience. But God still chose him. Even before God formed him in his mother’s womb, He chose him, appointed him, and ordained him to be a prophet to the nations.

God even decided what Jeremiah was to preach. So, God not only sends the preacher, He even tells him what to preach. “You will go wherever I send you, and you will say whatever I command you to say.” (Jeremiah 1:7). You go where God says, and you say what God tells you to say. You’re not the boss. God is.

Many people call Jeremiah “the weeping prophet.” He had the painful duty to tell Judah (Israel’s southern kingdom) that destruction would soon descend. Their stubborn unrepentance would soon send them far from home. A foreign army would take them captive, and the Israelites would languish, far away in an alien land.

Now, they were still God’s people, so they were still to devote themselves to Him. But they only gave Him lip service. The real worship of the people was different from their official creed. Their god was the god of pleasure. So, we are more alike than we want to admit. We, too, often live for self-gratification. Today, most Americans still say they’re Christian. But when you see how we live, you find something far different.

What’s the standard for your faith and life? For the Israelites of long ago, their feelings became their standard. What pleasured them became their measure of right and wrong, and what they wanted to be true became their reality. In them, we find ourselves staring right back at us.

Now, for Judah, their god of feelings expressed itself through the worship of Baal and Asherah, the gods of the Canaanites. But why did those two false gods appeal to the people? They had God’s Word! They had the truth and the promise of the Savior. Why would they throw their salvation all away to worship pagan gods?

Why? In the Canaanite religion, people manipulated Baal and Asherah, even bribed and bought them. With those false gods, the Israelites got to keep their tainted passions and sinful ways, not renounce them. Sexual immorality was even part of worship! Wow, you can feed your sin and still think you’re godly? Where do I sign up?

So, along comes Prophet Jeremiah. God sends him to speak what they don’t want to hear. They don’t want to give up a religion of the flesh. Repent of their greed, lust, and dishonesty? No way! Now, they still blamed God for their troubles, and they refused to take responsibility for the aftermath of their actions.

So, God sent Jeremiah to preach repentance, and fear began to fill his heart. Telling people what they don’t want is a risky business. Who enjoys turning away from his sin? Do you? People prefer to attack the messenger, not repent. God told Jeremiah:

“Don’t be afraid of them, for I will be with you to protect you”… The Lord stretched out his hand, touched my mouth, and said: “I have now filled your mouth with my words. This day, I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and demolish, to build and to plant.” [Jeremiah 1:8-10]

God put His words in Jeremiah’s mouth, making him God’s mouthpiece to uproot and overthrow. But this was only to build up and plant. God promised to speak through Jeremiah, and the words He gave Jeremiah to speak were not hollow and anemic. For they were God’s words.

Filled with His words, Jeremiah preached the Law to Judah. He warned them of their impending exile because of their unrepentant sin—and they still didn’t repent! And so everything he preached came to be. But the Law wasn’t the final Word. Later, Jeremiah prophesied:

“The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will raise a Righteous Branch of David. He will rule with wisdom and understanding, and he will carry out justice and righteousness in the land. In his days, Judah will be saved, and Israel will live in safety. And his name will be ‘The Lord Is Our Righteousness.’” [Jeremiah 23:5-6]

The preached Law does what the Law does. The preached Gospel does what the Gospel does. God’s Law uproots and tears down, and destroys and demolishes. The Gospel builds up and plants. What God does through His Word has little to do with the preacher’s strength or ability to persuade. For the Word of God contains the power to do what it says. God is Almighty and His Word voices who He is, what He expects, and what He is going to do.

God calls us to gather as His people for His Word to enter our ears, for we need Him to uproot and destroy. God’s Word of Law comes to tear us down and demolish us. Through His Law, God doesn’t suggest. He commands, and His unflinching Word casts us down, demanding a perfect heart. God decrees pure love. He calls for faithfulness, honesty, kindness, patience, and humility. God tells us to run the race set before us without looking back, without questioning what He gives us to do.

To understand the Law, it must do its work within you. For when the Law works within you, tearing down and uprooting, you repent. When you argue with the Law and rebel, you’re still unrepentant because you’re deciding what is, not God.

But when the Law breaks open your heart, you cry out: “What God says is true.  I should be faithful. I shouldn’t have slandered my neighbor; I should’ve honored him. I shouldn’t be arrogant but admit I am wrong.” If those are your words, the Law has done its work.

Yes, God’s Word of Law kills, but He still wants more for us. For the Word of the Gospel gives life. And His Gospel Word does more than describe the Lord as our righteousness—as if that’s going to do you any good! Knowing something doesn’t make it real inside you.

So, the Gospel doesn’t stop at telling us about our Lord. No, the Gospel gives Him to us and makes Him ours. The words of the absolution from your pastor’s mouth don’t come from him; they come from Jesus, who is the Lord, our righteousness. The life-giving Gospel isn’t your pastor’s opinion. No, Jesus in His power comes to you with life and salvation in those words.

Jesus took your sins on, and into, Himself. He suffered the enormity of their guilt. His innocent life and death are the ransom payment to God’s Law, to set you free and to give you His righteousness. And He speaks to you His words of forgiveness.

Those words of forgiveness tell you, “You’re forgiven.” But they also have the power to give you the forgiveness they speak. For those sin-forgiving words have God’s power within them, which give you the power to trust in them. Those powerful words rescue you from whatever evil lies within, even to transport you into God’s eternal presence.

The Word of God is powerful. For Jesus comes to you in His Word, doing His saving work. God yearns to keep you steadfast in true faith until you die. But He’s still not done with you. For God also wants to take you to heaven to be with Himself, as you still live in faith, awaiting the body’s resurrection, without sin, suffering, and death. God brings you into that eternal reality through His Word.  Amen.