The introductory verses of the chapter (1:1-3) give us the time span of Jeremiah’s work. He preached from the general time frame of 627 B.C. until 586 B.C., though some believe his preaching extended to an overall time span of 50 years. It was near the end of Judah’s existence as a nation, during the time of Judah’s last righteous king, Josiah (2 Kings 22), that Jeremiah begins his prophetic “career.” Jeremiah’s task as God’s preacher is laid out in rather plain terms in this chapter. He will go where the Lord wants him to go; he will speak whatever the Lord wants him to speak; and he is not to allow the resistance of the people to stop him (1:7-8). Note especially (in vs. 10) how the Lord describes his work. One expositor notes: “The situation which called for such drastic actions upon God’s part was the result of the general moral decay and apostasy which had engulfed, not merely Judah, but the whole world as well” (Coffman, p. 14). The intensity of the resistance he was about to face would be great. From each walk of life there would be those who would oppose him (1:18-19). Through all this the Lord would deliver him.
APPLICATION: The Lord was bringing His judgment upon Judah because, as 1:16 declares, the people of Judah had forsaken the Lord. Forsaking the Lord is not only a matter of action, but action motivated by the heart. We learn that it is actually possible to be present in the assembly of the Lord’s people and still forsake (abandon) the Lord in heart. Another point to consider is the godly role of a prophet (preacher). As a messenger of God, Jeremiah had to do some things that were tough—it affected the lives of all with whom he came in touch. The need for it, as can be seen, was because idolatry had taken hold and the loyalty of God’s people became confused. In some religious writings, one will be introduced to a word that is not often understood: syncretism. Syncretism is a melding of a number of ideologies into one ideology. The people of Judah felt they were still loyal to the Lord intact, only they wanted to include some of the good parts of another ideology and tie it into their own. If there was any good intention in this at the outset, it did not take long before one ideology took hold and another started losing its grip. Whether there was a good intention or not, it was a bad decision! Thus, by the time of Jeremiah, idolatry was so pervasive that each community had its own God (2:28). This is why the Lord is so insistent on His people maintaining loyalty to Him, He who is Lord of heaven and earth. When politics and/or economics become the priority in one’s life (a form of idolatry), those who have so prioritized have begun to fall into the trap laid by the devil. He loves the idea of us being confused because he then knows that the whole heart is not the Lord’s.