The Lord Watches over His Word
“The word of the LORD came to me, saying, ‘Jeremiah, what do you see?’ And I said, ‘I see an almond branch.’ Then the LORD said to me, ‘You have seen well, for I am watching over my word to perform it’” (vv. 11–12).- Jeremiah 1:11–19
If ministerial success is measured in terms of the number of people who are converted under a minister’s work, then Jeremiah was a failure. His book concludes with a description of the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon in 586 B.C. and the exile of Judahites, indicating that most people did not heed his message of repentance (Jer. 52). Yet Scripture tells us repeatedly that the primary indicator of ministerial success is faithfulness to God and His Word. Some of us will be called to work in a day of “small things,” and that is not to be despised (Zech. 4:8–10). The Lord is sovereign over His Word, and He brings about growth according to His schedule (1 Cor. 3:6–9).
God’s sovereignty over His Word is a key theme in today’s passage, which continues Jeremiah’s recounting of his own call to ministry. In Jeremiah 1:12, the prophet tells us that the Lord promised to watch “over [His] word to perform it.” Jeremiah could be confident that the Spirit of God would accompany the preaching of the prophet and guarantee that it would accomplish the Lord’s intent for it. Since Jeremiah had doubts about his own abilities, this must have been reassuring to him. After all, Jeremiah was but a youth when he was called and did not “know how to speak” (v. 6). Although the Hebrew term translated as “youth” can refer to even an individual in his early forties, most commentators believe Jeremiah received his call to ministry when he was about twelve. His failure to know how to speak did not refer to a speech impediment but his inexperience in speaking before other adults as a peer. John Calvin comments on verse 12 that “the power to accomplish what the prophet would declare remained with [God],” and this truth undoubtedly helped to instill in Jeremiah the confidence he needed for the mission ahead.
But Jeremiah’s youth was not the only reason why he needed to know the Lord was with him. God was sending him on a difficult mission with a message that would have both negative and positive effects. It would “destroy” and “overthrow” as well as “build” and “plant.” Jeremiah’s preaching would afflict those who took false comfort in their sin, with the result that even his own people would fight against him (Jer. 1:17–19). His message that foreigners would set their thrones “at the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem”— that they would take over the city and establish their reign there—would not be popular with the people (vv. 13–16). Such is often the case with God’s truth.
God said to Jeremiah, “They shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, declares the Lord, to deliver you” (Jer. 1:19). This promise was not just for Jeremiah, but it is for all the faithful servants of God. The enemies of the Lord can do their best, but the gates of hell will not prevail against His church (Matt. 16:18). Even if we die as a result of faithfulness to the gospel, we will be vindicated at the last day, and God will save all of His elect by His Word. The Lord will indeed deliver all His people.
Passages for Further Study