One of the most insightful statements in the whole New Testament was uttered when Philip excitedly told his brother about finding the Messiah. “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” replied Nathaniel.
It was bad enough being from Galilee, which was despised by the Jews because its inhabitants lacked culture, spoke with a crude dialect, and lived among so many Gentiles. But the worst dung hill in all of Galilee was the small, poor village of Nazareth, which contained less than two hundred people. Why Nazareth was not even mentioned once in the Old Testament! How could the Messiah come out of such a lowly place?
Nathaniel was shocked to learn the truth.
Young Jeremiah could certainly have related to Nathaniel’s surprise when he heard God say:
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. (Jeremiah 1:5)
There had to be all kinds of thoughts going through Jeremiah’s mind before he finally spoke.
He was a Levite, son of a priest named Hilkiah. Jeremiah would have been studying and preparing himself for his Temple and teaching ministry five or so years ahead of him. But he would have also remembered that he was from Anathoth and from the lineage of Abiathar, the high priest who was defrocked by Solomon for choosing Adonijah to be king upon David’s death. There was a stigma upon the Anthoth priests because the high priests now all came from the sons of Zadok, rather than from Anathoth.
So, why would God want a prophet from Anathoth?
Eventually, Jeremiah spoke:
“Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I cannot speak, for I am a youth.” (Jeremiah 1:6)
Jeremiah was approximately twenty years old at the time. He knew that priests served in the Temple from twenty-five years of age until they were fifty years old. He also knew there were veteran prophets in Zephaniah and Huldah available to be the Lord’s voice to Judah and other nations. So, his statement about being young was understandable.
God overruled Jeremiah’s objection:
“Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the LORD.” (Jeremiah 1:7-8)
Jeremiah learned quickly that the Lord was boss, but he still had a few other lessons to learn.
(Continued in Part 4….if you’re interested, the full series may be seen here.)