You’ve probably heard it said by someone in a prayer meeting at some point, “Lord, you said, ‘Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.’” And it’s true, God did say that. What many may not know is – He said that to Jeremiah. And what is, perhaps, even less known is what exactly the great and mighty things that God desired to show Jeremiah were. Quoting Scripture is great, particularly in prayer. And making an appropriate application is, of course, fine and good; however, if the original meaning of a text is missed the application of that text can be misused. It’s always safest and hermeneutically appropriate to understand what a particular promise meant to its original recipient(s) before we try to figure out how it applies to us. So with that being said, let’s create some context and set the scene so as to discern what God was saying to Jeremiah and whether or not we have a similar invitation today.
The opening verse tells us “Moreover the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah a second time, while he was still shut up in the court of the prison saying…”(vs.1). This follows the events of chapter thirty-two: Nebuchadnezzar was besieging Jerusalem and Jeremiah was imprisoned in the courtyard of the guard of the royal palace (Jer. 32:2). These were, indeed, dark and desperate times in Jerusalem. The grim nature of the day is seen a little bit later on in this chapter. The houses in the city, even the houses of the kings of Judah, were being torn down to help reinforce the city walls against the Babylonian siege and Babylonian swords (33:4). And while God’s fury was coming upon the wickedness of the rebellious city (vs.5), He was mindful of His prophet and the people that would need to be reminded that the desolation of Jerusalem was not its terminal destiny (vs.10-11, 15-16).
So although Jeremiah’s adversaries could keep him out of the temple’s courts, they could not keep God away from him – a reality many persecuted saints have come to treasure (cf. Acts 23:11; 2 Tim. 4:17). They could keep Jeremiah captive but they could not bind the Word of God (cf. 2 Tim. 2:9). So, for the second time, while he was shut up in prison, the word of the LORD came to him and said,
“Thus says the LORD who made it, the LORD who formed it to establish it (the LORD is His name)”(vs.2).
Upon reading that preface you may ask, “Made what?” While it was likely crystal-clear to Jeremiah, the reader, per the Hebrew text, isn’t explicitly told. Some commentators believe that Jerusalem is in view (see Jer 32:44; Isa. 37:26) but, as most major translations communicate, it’s likely that the LORD had the heavens and the earth in view. The Septuagint, for instance, includes the word “earth” in this verse and the words used in Genesis 1 for “formed” and “established” are also used here. And while those possibilities do not exhaust the suggestions of commentators, we must not miss the emphasis of Yahweh. In reminding Jeremiah of His credentials and name it’s as though God was preparing Jeremiah to understand that the seemingly impossible promises of tomorrow could be trusted in the light of His performance history. After all, when God can create the cosmos ex nihilo (out of nothing), and when He has a track record of complete accuracy concerning His truthfulness, bringing about restoration from the ruins should not be seen as impossible, or even simply as reasonable, but assured. That’s the reason God had Jeremiah buy his cousin’s field (Jer. 32:6-15). You could, as it were, take God’s promises ‘to the bank’ without worries that the issued check of promise would bounce due to insufficient funds of character and capability.
So, in the midst of the calamity, while Babylon was not only ‘at the door’ but knocking downs the doors, God gave Jeremiah a great invitation:
‘Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.’ (vs.3)
This was not open-ended invitation to pray for ‘just anything,’ but instead, given the context of the preceding chapters (29-32), along with the verses that follow, for the understanding of, and perhaps renewed confidence in, the fulfillment of previously spoken things despite the present calamity; namely, the return of the captives, the rebuilding of the soon-to-be-sacked city, and the safety coterminous with the earthly reign of the righteous branch. God had promised restoration; He was going to issue those promises once again (33:6-26); and He commanded Jeremiah to cry out to Him for divine insight into them. They were, indeed, great (Heb. gadol) and mighty (Heb. batsar – “inaccessible”). And to whatever degree Jeremiah knew about these promises, he didn’t know them as he ought to have (33:3c). So God called Him to “behold them” (vs.6).
Instead of desolation there would be health and healing (vs.6). Instead of being scattered, the people would return (vs.7). Instead of being guilty, they would be pardoned (vs.8). Instead of being a byword of disaster, they would be testimony to God’s praise (vs.9). Instead of the barrenness of judgment (vs.10), there would come the sound of celebration (vs.11). God would remind Jeremiah that there was coming a day when He would perform what He had promised to the house of Israel and Judah (vs.14). One from David’s lineage would execute judgment and righteousness upon the earth (vs.15) and in those days Judah would be saved and Jerusalem would dwell in safety (vs.16a). And the name by which they would be called was: “THE LORD OUR RIGHTOUSNESS” (vs.16b).
Jeremiah could have thought, ‘Well, God’s going to do what God’s going to do. I guess I’ll just wait and wallow in the meantime…’ But God didn’t want Jeremiah discouraged and disengaged. He wanted him to live in light of the promise of coming restoration. Even when the situation looked hopeless, that was not an excuse to be prayer-less. And although the judgment would not be averted, and although the previous petitions for either deliverance from Babylon or repentance for Israel, had gone unanswered (at least positively), it didn’t mean that Jeremiah should stop praying. In fact, the future, both near and far, was to be a better and glorious future, and Jeremiah needed divine insight into that.
We would do well to be reminded that, like Jeremiah, we are commanded to pray (1 Thes. 5:17). How gracious it is that God would command us to do what is best for us. And although we will not pray for new revelation as though the canon was still open when it is closed, we can and should pray for insight into the revelation of God that has been given to us in the text of Scripture. If you call upon Him for that, while using the means He has appointed, i.e. study, meditation, the guidance of sound pastors and teachers, etc., you can humbly expect to see great and mighty things that you currently do not. Not because you found something outside of the text but because you saw something within the text. Oh the great fruit that is produced through the faith-filled heart that is enthralled with, captivated by, and believing in the Word of God and the precious promises therein. And so as to keep us calling, not only for insight and illumination, but also for the incredible and the impossible, let us remember that the One who is commanding us to pray is not only the One who formed and established the earth (Jer. 33:2) but is the One who sent His eternal Son to demonstrate His love and satisfy His justice on behalf of every son and daughter of His who, being justified by faith, would have ongoing access to call upon Him.