The prophet Jeremiah is popularly noted as being “the weeping prophet” or “the prophet of doom.” Keeping in mind all the opposition Jeremiah endured as God’s spokesman to Judah, it might be more appropriate to instead call him “the persevering prophet.” Born and raised in Anathoth, his father was a Levitical priest named Hilkiah. It is debatable as to whether or not Jeremiah followed in his father’s priestly footsteps before being called and appointed by the LORD as a prophet to the nations. As R.K. Harrison observes, “There is no evidence that Jeremiah had either been trained for the priesthood or had officiated in such a capacity.” He adds, ”Whatever his own background was, he appeared most diffident about the prospect of prophetic office when he was called (1:6-8), though assured of divine support.” In spite of this initial mark of reluctance, Jeremiah is deeply characterized by endurance as he seeks to fulfill his prophetic mission. Many other characteristics influence Jeremiah’s perseverance and determination in his divine vocation, which will be explained here and in the following posts.
The Man Who Knew God
In his book with the same title as this section, Mordecai Schreiber argues that “Jeremiah knew God more personally and more intimately than perhaps even Moses.” This comparison partially stems from one’s comment after the death of Moses: “There has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face.” Indeed, there has not been another prophet since Moses, through whom such signs and wonders have been done like those “in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land.” Schreiber’s comparison, however, refers to the inter-relational dynamic between Moses and God. He calls their relationship “mostly one-sided,” as God commands and Moses obeys. Moses himself does not convey much emotional engagement with God in comparison with Jeremiah’s deeply complex affections for his Lord.
Ironically, some of the first words of the LORD’s call to Jeremiah speak of his own knowledge of the prophet-to-be: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…” Even though Jeremiah’s initial response to his prophetic call is expressive of what he doesn’t know, “I do not know how to speak,” a mutual knowledge of one another is eventually reciprocated in their intimate relationship. Moreover, because of this deep and personal knowledge of his God, he is able to persevere as a prophet to the nations. For instance, it is against the people’s wretched idolatry that Jeremiah so often rebukes. They create and worship their own idols because they do not know the one true God. As the LORD himself says, “For my people are foolish; they know me not; they are stupid children; they have no understanding. They are ‘wise’—in doing evil! But how to do good they know not.” If the LORD wanted his people to boast in anything at all, it was that they understand and know him, that he is the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. He delights in these things. This is the God that Jeremiah was aimed to persuade the people to return to from their idols. Jeremiah is “the man who knew God.”