“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
Jeremiah’s call was clear: a prophet to the nations. In our context, we would probably associate this with God calling one of the great missionaries of old, i.e. William Carey, Jim Eliot or even Abraham; they were to physically go as God’s ambassadors to the nations. If we knew nothing further about Jeremiah’s life or ministry, we would assume that the people of nations were to be his sole concern. He would leave the Jewish people to preach the Gospel to the ethne of the world. Instead, in the first part of his ministry, God clearly tells him to, “Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem, Thus says the LORD…”
The following verses make up a stern rebuke for idolatry found within God’s people. They were not walking in the freedom that God provided for them in the Exodus: “For long ago I broke your yoke and burst your bonds.” The most well-known rebuke is found in verse 13: “for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” In short, Israel was failing live out its identity as children of the Living God.
After offering mercy for their sins and giving opportunities for repentance, the Lord says, “If you return, O Israel…to me you should return. If you remove your detestable things from my presence, and do not waver, and if you swear, ‘As the LORD lives,’ in truth, in justice and in righteousness, then nations shall bless themselves in him, and in him shall they glory.” See the pattern? If YOU repent, then…NATIONS will bless themselves and they shall glory in Him? How so?
This was one of the first ways that we see Jeremiah fulfilling his calling as a prophet to the nations…by preaching repentance to Israel. God, in His redemptive purposes, was trying to re-align Israel with His purpose for them, found in His promise to Abraham in Genesis 12: “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” The blessings of salvation, of knowing God’s design through the law, of mercy, were all intended to bless the nations. Repentance itself was never meant to terminate on Israel and their mental health and well-being; it was meant to overflow into blessing for the nations.
Which naturally leads to questions for personal reflection: What does my repentance lead to? When God grants me mercy, does it overflow into mercy that impacts the nations? Or is my repentance merely for the sake of my own sanctification, without impacting others? Is God’s purpose being fulfilled in my life, that all the nations would be blessed?