Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.
As with Isaiah, God touched Jeremiah’s mouth. Isaiah started the same way. God touched his mouth with the coals from the altar and gave him power in speaking. Jeremiah’s words, then, become the key to his power, for it is the living, burning, shattering, building, mighty power of the word of God.
Jeremiah was set over nations and kingdoms. This was no mere poetry. The messages of this book were addressed to all the great nations of the world of that day — to Egypt, to Assyria, even to Babylon in its towering might and strength. Jeremiah was given a word for all these nations. I believe this is repeated in every generation. Here are the nations of the world, with their obvious display of power and pomp and circumstance, with leaders who are well-known household names, marching up and down, threatening one another, acting so proud and assertive in themselves. But God picks out an obscure young man, a youth thirty years of age whom no one has ever heard of, from a tiny town in a small, obscure country, and says to him, Look, I have set you over all the nations and kingdoms of the earth. Your word, because it is my word, will have more power than all the power of the nations.
That is a remarkable description of what is our heritage as Christians in Jesus Christ. James says that the prayer of a righteous man releases great power. When you and I pray about the affairs of life we can turn the course of nations, as the word of Jeremiah altered the destiny of the nations of his day. When we preach and proclaim the truth of God, even though we are obscure and no one knows who we are, that word has power to change the course of nations.
So Jeremiah was set in the midst of death and destruction, but God said he would plant a hope and a healing. His word was to uproot and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow — and that is always the work of God. In a nation there are many things which have to be torn down — things which men trust in — just as in an individual’s heart and life there are things which need to be destroyed.
I talked with a young man about his marriage who said to me, I don’t understand what’s wrong with my marriage. I’m doing everything that I know to do, but our relationship isn’t right. I said to him, Yes, I’m sure there is something wrong, and God will show it to you. There are things you’re doing in your marriage which you’re not aware of. But right now you are blinded to them. You think things are right, and yet they’re not. All this indicates is that there are still things God needs to tear down — points of pride, moments of discourtesy, perhaps, that you don’t recognize, habits and reactions of worry and anxiety and anger and frustration that you’ve fallen into or given way to, and you don’t even know about them. We all have areas like these in our lives. The work of God is to open our eyes to these things, to destroy them and root them out — and then, always, to build and to plant. God never destroys just to destroy; he destroys in order that he might build up again.
Father, I pray that I will find the secret of the courage of this young man to stand in the day of national danger and disaster, and to be faithful to my calling.
We are living in a time of crisis, when ‘truth stumbles in the streets’. Will we choose to retreat from speaking the Truth in love? Or will we stand in the power of our Sovereign God against the destructive powers of darkness?