The Point of Prophecy

Jeremiah and Two Angels

A sermon idea based on Jeremiah 1:4-10.

Jeremiah 1:4-10 NRSV

[4] Now the word of the LORD came to me saying, [5] “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” [6] Then I said, “Ah, Lord GOD! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.” [7] But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a boy’; for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you. [8] Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD.”

[9] Then the LORD put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the LORD said to me, “Now I have put my words in your mouth. [10] See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”


The relevant topic I would be addressing, based on this text…

Sometimes God calls on us to speak truth regardless of the consequences, but always with the purpose of creating the kind of change he wants to see around us.


Information about the text that matters to the message…

The book of Jeremiah’s prophecy begins as many ancient prophecies do, with an apologetic for the words that follow. It declares that what you’re about to read has been spoken because it is a word from God, through a prophet, to the situation in which we currently live.

In other words, it’s always a mistake to lift an ancient prophet’s words from their context and make a generalized, broad application to a modern audience. We must always walk across the bridge that leads from then and there to here and now.

Then and there… God had a word for the Jewish people with whom Jeremiah was living his life. The book was written from the perspective of one who saw judgment coming to his fellow Jewish neighbors living in the southern region of Israel, announced it repeatedly, and then wept as he saw that judgment executed.

We can’t simply apply his messages directly to America, or to modern Israel, or to any other modern nation. That would be a bridge too far.

What we can do is learn some principles about how God interacted with his people through his prophet and try to broadly apply those principles in the totally different context in which we live today. And here are a few principles I see emerging from this text concerning how God communicates with his people:

  1. God knows people, individually, from the womb.
  2. God calls some to carry prophetic messages to others.
  3. God’s calling is the only qualification needed for speaking his message.
  4. If we’re speaking out in obedience to God, we have nothing to fear.
  5. The point of prophecy is not merely predictions about the future, but rather diagnoses of how things are, how they should be, and how to change.
  6. The fruit of prophetic words should be to create real change (“to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant”).


The big call-to-action in the message…

I would choose one of two possible directions to drive the message:

  1. Is there anything in your life that needs to change according to what you’ve heard from God’s Word, God’s Spirit, or God’s wise leaders?
  2. Are you prepared to share truth, in love, with those around you about what God sees and how things can change to align with his purposes?


About the Cover Art: Starnina, Gherardo, approximately 1354-approximately 1413. Jeremiah with Two Angels, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN.

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