1. (a) How were Jesus and Jeremiah similar? (b) Why should we imitate Jeremiah in our ministry?
JESUS CHRIST is the chief model whom we follow in preaching the good news. It is noteworthy, though, that people in the first century who observed Jesus sometimes thought of the prophet Jeremiah. (Matt. 16:13, 14) As was true of Jesus, Jeremiah received a divine command to preach. For example, on one occasion God told him: “You must say to them this word, ‘This is what Jehovah . . . has said.’” (Jer. 13:12, 13; John 12:49) And in his ministry Jeremiah displayed qualities similar to those of Jesus.
2. How are the needs of people today similar to those of the Jews in Jeremiah’s time?
2 However, some Witnesses might say: ‘Our preaching work is different from that of Jeremiah. He was God’s spokesman to a nation that was dedicated to Him, while most of those to whom we preach do not know Jehovah.’ That is true. But by Jeremiah’s time, most Jews had become “unwise” and had left the true God. (Read Jeremiah 5:20-22.) They needed to change to worship Jehovah acceptably. Similarly, people today—whether claiming to be Christian or not—need to learn to fear Jehovah and pursue true worship. Let us see how we can serve the true God and help people by imitating Jeremiah.
‘JEHOVAH TOUCHED MY MOUTH’
3. What meaningful gesture did God make toward Jeremiah at the beginning of his work, and how did the prophet feel about it?
3 Recall that at the start of his prophetic ministry, Jeremiah heard these words: “To all those to whom I shall send you, you should go; and everything that I shall command you, you should speak. Do not be afraid because of their faces, for ‘I am with you to deliver you,’ is the utterance of Jehovah.” (Jer. 1:7, 8) And then God made an unexpected gesture. Jeremiah tells us: “Jehovah thrust his hand out and caused it to touch my mouth. Then Jehovah said to me: ‘Here I have put my words in your mouth. See, I have commissioned you this day.’” (Jer. 1:9, 10) From then on, Jeremiah knew that he spoke for Almighty God.* With His full support, Jeremiah’s zeal for sacred service grew.—Isa. 6:5-8.
4. What examples of outstanding zeal in preaching can you relate?
4 Jehovah does not physically touch any of his servants today. Yet, through his spirit, he does give them a strong desire to preach the good news. Many of them glow with zeal. Take the case of Maruja in Spain. For over 40 years, her arms and legs have been paralyzed. Preaching from door to door is difficult for her, so she finds other ways to be active in the ministry. One way is by writing letters. Maruja dictates the words to her daughter, who writes them down. During a month-long campaign, Maruja and her “secretary” sent out over 150 letters, enclosing a copy of a tract in each envelope. Through their efforts, the good news reached most of the homes in a nearby village. Maruja commented to her daughter, “If one of our letters gets into the hands of a person with an upright heart, Jehovah will bless us with a Bible study.” A local elder writes, “I thank Jehovah for sisters like Maruja, who teach others to value what is really important.”
5. (a) How did Jeremiah maintain his zeal in the face of apathy? (b) How can you maintain your zeal for preaching the good news?
5 In Jeremiah’s time, most of Jerusalem’s inhabitants took “no delight” in God’s truth. Did the prophet stop preaching because so many were apathetic about the message? On the contrary! Jeremiah said: “With the rage of Jehovah I have become full. I have become weary with holding in.” (Jer. 6:10, 11) How can you maintain zeal like that? One way is to meditate on the incomparable privilege you have of representing the true God. You know that prominent ones in this world have reproached the name of the true God. Think, too, of how religious leaders have deceived the people of your territory, even as the priests did in Jeremiah’s day. (Read Jeremiah 2:8, 26, 27.) In contrast, the good news of God’s Kingdom that you declare is really an expression of God’s favor toward humanity. (Lam. 3:31, 32) Yes, reflecting on such truth can help you maintain your zeal for declaring the good news and helping sheeplike ones.
6. Jeremiah faced what daunting challenges?
6 You will likely agree that maintaining zeal in the Christian ministry is not always easy. As he served Jehovah, Jeremiah too met with serious challenges, including false prophets. You can read of one instance in Jeremiah chapter 28. Most of the people paid no heed to his message, and sometimes he felt rather isolated. (Jer. 6:16, 17; 15:17) Moreover, on occasion he had to cope with enemies who threatened his life.—Jer. 26:11.
Why can you trust Jehovah to help you overcome challenges as you preach the good news?
“YOU HAVE FOOLED ME, O JEHOVAH”
7, 8. In what beneficial way did God ‘fool’ Jeremiah?
7 During one period when Jeremiah faced mockery and insults day after day, he expressed his feelings to God. In what sense, do you think, can you say that Jehovah “fooled” his faithful prophet, as mentioned at Jeremiah 20:7, 8?—Read.
8 Jehovah had definitely not tricked or deceived Jeremiah by using some crafty, underhanded scheme against him. Rather, God “fooled” his prophet in a positive, beneficial sense. Jeremiah felt that the opposition was too great, that by himself he could no longer fulfill his God-given assignment. But fulfill it he did, with the Almighty’s support and help. Hence, you might say that Jehovah overpowered him, proving far stronger than Jeremiah and his human inclinations. When this man of God thought that he had reached his limit and could not keep going, Jehovah exercised a persuasive force so that Jeremiah was fooled, as it were. God proved stronger than the prophet’s weaknesses. Even in the face of apathy, rejection, and violence, Jeremiah was able to continue to preach.
9. Why can you take courage from the words of Jeremiah 20:11?
9 Jehovah proved to be like “a terrible mighty one” alongside Jeremiah, supporting him. (Jer. 20:11) And God can strengthen you too so that you keep your zeal for true worship and carry on despite major problems. You might think of it as it is expressed in another translation—Jehovah will be “a mighty soldier” standing at your side.—Contemporary English Version.
10. What are you determined to do when facing opposition?
10 The apostle Paul underscored that point when encouraging Christians who faced opposition. He wrote: “Behave in a manner worthy of the good news about the Christ, in order that . . . I may hear . . . that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one soul striving side by side for the faith of the good news, and in no respect being frightened by your opponents.” (Phil. 1:27, 28) As did Jeremiah and Christians in the first century, you can and should lean on Almighty God as you carry out your ministry. If some people deride or attack you, remember that Jehovah is at your side and can fill you with power. He did so for Jeremiah and has done so for many of your brothers; hence, he can do so for you. Supplicate him for help, and trust that he will respond to your prayer. You too may find that you are “fooled” as God gives you strength to face obstacles successfully, with boldness instead of fear. Yes, you may do far more than you ever thought possible.—Read Acts 4:29-31.
11, 12. (a) What adjustments might you make in order to speak with more people in your ministry? (b) What local possibilities does the photograph on page 39 suggest?
11 What we read of Jeremiah’s service can help us in various ways to be more effective ministers of the good news. After he had served as Jehovah’s prophet for over 20 years, he was able to say: “I kept speaking to you people, rising up early and speaking, but you did not listen.” (Jer. 25:3) Yes, he got an early start rather than a late one. Can we learn something practical from his example? In many congregations, there are publishers who rise early to speak with people at bus stops and train stations. In rural areas, many Witnesses use the early hours of the day to visit farmers and others who are active at that time. Can you think of other ways that you personally can apply this lesson from Jeremiah’s faithful ministry? What about getting up sufficiently early to be present right at the start of a scheduled meeting for field service?
12 Moreover, preaching from door to door in the afternoon and evening often produces excellent results in many localities. Some publishers even preach at night, visiting workers at gas stations, restaurants, and other businesses that are open 24 hours a day. Can you adjust your schedule so that you can preach when you are most likely to find people at home or elsewhere?
Why do you feel confident that Jehovah is backing you as you proclaim his message?
13, 14. (a) How does Jeremiah’s example relate to making return visits? (b) What illustrates your need to be dependable about making return visits?
13 On occasion, Jehovah commanded Jeremiah to announce prophetic messages while standing in the gates of the temple or of Jerusalem. (Jer. 7:2; 17:19, 20) By making such declarations at the gates, Jeremiah reached large numbers of people with Jehovah’s word. And since many, including prominent men of the city, merchants, and businessmen, used the same gate habitually, he may have spoken to some people repeatedly in an effort to help them understand what they had previously heard. What can we learn from this about making return visits on those who have shown interest?
14 Jeremiah knew that lives depended on his work as God’s prophet. Once, when he could not carry out divine instructions to speak with the people, he sent his friend Baruch in his place. (Read Jeremiah 36:5-8.) How can we imitate Jeremiah in this? When we tell a householder that we will return, do we keep our word? If we cannot keep an appointment for a return visit or a home Bible study, do we arrange for a substitute? Jesus said: “Let your word Yes mean Yes.” (Matt. 5:37) Keeping our word is essential, for we represent the God of truth and order.—1 Cor. 14:33, 40.
15, 16. (a) How have many followed Jeremiah’s example in expanding their ministry? (b) What lesson do you see in the experience from Chile, depicted on page 40?
15 Jeremiah encouraged the Jews in Babylon by writing them a letter about Jehovah’s “good word” of restoration. (Jer. 29:1-4, 10) Today, the “good word” of what Jehovah will soon do can also be effectively spread by letter and telephone. Could you use those methods to help your relatives or others who are in faraway places or who are difficult to contact?
16 By following Jeremiah’s example of fully accomplishing his ministry, Kingdom publishers today often obtain positive results. A Witness in Chile approached a woman exiting a subway station. She was thrilled to hear the Bible’s message and agreed to a Bible discussion at her home. The Witness, however, did not write down the woman’s address. Afterward, realizing the importance of cultivating the woman’s interest in the truth, our sister prayed to Jehovah for help. The next day, she returned to the subway station at the same hour. She met the woman again. This time, she took care to write down her address and later visited the woman at her home to help her understand the Scriptures. God’s judgments are soon to overtake Satan’s world. But there is hope for those who repent and put faith in the good news. (Read Lamentations 3:31-33.) Hence, let us reflect that fact by conscientiously working our territory.
“PERHAPS THEY WILL LISTEN AND RETURN, EACH ONE”
17. In your territory, how can you imitate Jeremiah’s approach?
17 Jehovah did not want people to lose their lives. Some ten years before Jerusalem’s destruction, he used Jeremiah to outline a hope for those exiled in Babylon. We read: “I will set my eye upon them in a good way, and I shall certainly cause them to return to this land. And I will build them up, and I shall not tear down; and I will plant them, and I shall not uproot.” Jeremiah could say to such ones: “There exists a hope for your future.” (Jer. 24:6; 26:3; 31:17) Jeremiah made God’s view of people his own. He carried out his ministry with genuine concern, conveying Jehovah’s urgings: “Turn back, please, each one from his bad way, and make your dealings good.” (Jer. 35:15) Can you think of additional ways to show deep personal interest in people in your territory?
18, 19. (a) What view must we reject as we preach the good news? (b) What attitude of Jeremiah should we make our own?
18 Jeremiah’s deep love for the people never cooled off. At Jerusalem’s destruction, he continued to feel compassion for them. (Read Lamentations 2:11.) The Jews had themselves to blame for their disaster. Jeremiah, however, did not say, ‘I told you so.’ Rather, he felt great sadness for what had overtaken them. Similarly, our ministry must not become perfunctory, done only out of obligation. Our efforts at giving a witness should prove how much we love our wonderful God as well as people, who are created in his image.
19 No privilege or position in this world can surpass that of witnessing on behalf of the true God. Jeremiah felt that way, writing: “Your words were found, and I proceeded to eat them; and your word becomes to me the exultation and the rejoicing of my heart; for your name has been called upon me, O Jehovah.” (Jer. 15:16) As we preach the good news, many more may come to know and love the One to whom they owe their lives. By serving with zeal and love, as exemplified by Jeremiah, we will contribute to that end.
Given Jeremiah’s example, what additional ways to spread Jehovah’s “good word” might you try in the future?