Tomorrow we will begin our 2 week journey through Jeremiah, with a couple of diversions in reading as close to chronologically as possible.
The purpose of the Book of Jeremiah was to URGE God’s people of JUDAH to turn from their sins and TURN BACK TO GOD. LOOK at how patient God has been…..for YEARS HE has been sending prophets and leaders to HIS people to tell them to TURN BACK TO HIM!! The urging is now more than an urging…it is a warning. Israel is already in captivity and exile and has been for awhile. Much of Judah is in the same situation. Jerusalem is still “free”…but if the people refuse to TURN BACK to GOD…. the same consequences will come upon them.
The author of the book is of course Jeremiah. The book was written during Jeremiah’s ministry, approximately 627-586 B.C.
Jeremiah ministered for 40 years under Judah’s last five kings — Josiah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiakin, and Zedekiah. Judah was sliding rapidly toward destruction and was eventually conquered by Babylon in 586 B.C. (2 Kings 21-25) Zephaniah preceded Jeremiah and Habakkuk was Jeremiah’s contemporary. Jeremiah faced a huge challenge. He was speaking on behalf of God, with the Words of God….BUT NOBODY listened. Jeremiah was consistent and persistent in his faithfulness to God through his obedience in “getting the Word out.” Jeremiah was ignored, he was poor and underwent severe deprivation to deliver his prophecies. In Chapter 37 we will see him be thrown in prison. In Chapter 38 he will be thrown into a cistern and in Chapter 43 he will be taken to Egypt against his will. In Chapters 11, 12, 20, 26, and 36 he will be rejected by his neighbors, his family, the false priests and prophets, friends, his audience, and the kings!! Reading Jeremiah breaks my heart on several levels…..first that no one listened to his warnings that he KNEW were coming…..second…..because he loved God so deeply he KNEW what was coming so he stood for God regardless of what happened to him. It is easy to see why Jeremiah became known as the “weeping prophet!!” In the eyes of the world he was not a success….NO where close. BUT in the eyes of God…..he was a total and complete success because he was faithful, obedient, courageous, and persistent to God’s calling.
We are going to read about the captivity now from 3 Vantage Points! We will read about it from the “outside” (never being captured) from Jeremiah’s perspective, the inside from the first wave of captives, and then again from the second wave of captives, Daniel and Ezekiel. This will be a most exciting journey!!
This will be either the one of the easiest reads or the hardest. Jeremiah was NOT written in chronological order, so it skips around. Try to imagine it this way, he had this huge scroll and after years and years of preaching his messages he would sporadically write them down, not in order, just as they came back to him. He then had a scribe, Baruch, write them into a book. It can however be divided into 4 sections:
The call of the prophet Jeremiah (Chapter 1)
The Prophecies of Judah (Chapters 2-45)
The Prophecies to the Gentiles (Chapters 46-51)
The Fall of Jerusalem (Chapter 52)
Jeremiah lived about 100 years after Isaiah. Jeremiah was CALLED to be a prophet in 626 BC. Let’s look at this from a global scope from that time period and a map may help with that scope.
The three corners are fighting for world power (Israel has the coastal ports and is smack in the middle of all 3). Assyria, Babylonia and Egypt. For 300 years Assyria, with Nineveh as its capital, RULED the world. But now, as predicted ASSyria is weakening!! Babylonia is becoming more POWERFUL!! Egypt, which 1000 years ago was once the world power is NOW hungry for POWER again. About the midpoint in Jeremiah’s life Babylonia wins, defeating Assyria (about 610 B.C.) and 4 years later beats Egypt (Battle of Carchemish). For 70 years Babylonia rules the world, while the Jewish people were in Babylonian captivity.
Jeremiah was born into priesthood, his father may have been Hilkiah the priest, who brought the book of the law to King Josiah (the good King of Judah), who started the great reform. So we can assume that Jeremiah was religious, but God had plans for him. He CALLED him to be a prophet during the most trying times of the Jewish people. God has a plan for EACH of us and sometimes it is the LAST thing we want to do. Jeremiah was called to be a prophet in the 13th year of Josiah’s reign. Jeremiah’s reign was never a popular one, like most of God’s men, he was beaten for it. He is called the “weeping prophet” for his sympathy and concern for the people of Judah for their rebellious and immanent doom.
I know I mentioned above that this book was not written chronologically. Therefore, it will be impossible to read chronologically, the end is in the beginning and the beginning in the end. As we read you will notice that Jeremiah used a LOT of “props” or symbolism in his teaching…..everyday things that people could relate to. He used things such as an almond rod, a boiling cauldron, a marred girdle, a full bottle, a drought, a potters vessel, a broken bottle, 2 baskets of figs, bands and bars, a field, hidden stones, and a book. Also, to get people to understand who the coming Messiah was/is to the world Jeremiah will refer to him as a Fountain of Living Water, a Great Physician, a Good Shepard, a Righteous Branch, a King, the Redeemer, and The Lord our Righteousness.
The book of Jeremiah has some of my favorite verses. As you read, please pray and ask God to show you what HE has in store for you. Each of us reading this will walk away with something special from our Most High God who LOVES us dearly. Even put yourself in Jeremiah’s shoes of KNOWING doom is around the corner for his beloved home, family, friends, town…. and having to preach and teach people who simply do NOT want to listen to him or to their God who LOVES them deeply. And the ONLY thing God wants of HIS people is for them to TURN BACK TO HIM…..but they refuse.
Once again…..I encourage you to read this with GREAT EXPECTATIONS ~~~ GOD will share things with you and make HIS Words jump off the page into your heart. He KNOWs where you are and what you need so ASK HIM to reveal HIS treasures just for YOU. I KNOW HE will!!
Sharing HIS love,