Bible 101: Old Testament Introduction
28 February 2021
Word Count: 2718
Jeremiah was a voice during a very deaf generation. He stood alone declaring God’s messages of doom to Judah who had no willingness to listen to him. He was stricken with opposition by not only the kings and false priests, but to his great sadness his family and friends. Jeremiah would be found weeping over the fate of his beloved country as he knew it was coming with the judgment of God who was going to allow Judah to be taken into exile by Babylon. His dedication to stay aligned with God’s word as his spokesman for forty years is what drew me to this prophet. His passion never strayed while speaking God’s message. He was dismissed, ostracized, and isolated from his people by being thrown into prison and then a cistern. His God fearing love just exudes through his message even though he agonized over his message that he had to deliver just speaks to his dedication and how he worked through so much rejection from people.
Even through it all and his hope his people would turn from their sins and repent so God would not punish the nation, he stood firm in his faithfulness and obedience to God. Jeremiah is an example to me that the reception of God’s word by an audience is not the measure of his success. The prophet Jeremiah, as seen in week 7 video 3 fulfilled all the parts of an delivering an oracle. He confronted the people with indictments and judgements because God’s sovereignty would not allow the nation to stay in their state of rebellion and sin therefore there would be consequences. Jeremiah secondly provided instructions for the people to repent and turn to God’s character which reveals his love and mercy for his people, so once their time of punishment ended he would restore their hope. Lastly, Jeremiah gave the people God’s plan for the aftermath of his judgment. Jeremiah provided guidance on God’s renewal of His covenant with the nation by returning them back to their beloved country and reestablishing his promise of redemption for the whole world.
“Jeremiah was a prophet to the southern kingdom of Judah in the Old Testament, right before Judah ultimately fell to Babylon and was led away into captivity” (Roat). Jeremiah was born the son of Hilkiah, who was one of the priests at Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin. Jeremiah lived and prophesied for 40 years under the last five kings of Judah: Josiah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedikiah. “Jeremiah was the most important voice during this time. He was called as a prophet as a teenager at a critical juncture in history” (Walton & Hill, 235) during the thirteenth year of the reign of Josiah. At this time, Judah found itself in the middle of the Babylonian, Egyptian, and Assyrian battle for world supremacy. The southern kingdom had watched as the northern kingdom of Israel fell to Assyria in 721 B.C. while Judah avoided Assyrian destruction under king Hezekiah. Jeremiah then proclaimed Assyria’s downfall and the rise of Babylon control. Jeremiah addressed Judah’s climate of deterioration economically, politically, morally, and spiritually. Jeremiah was faced with a society that deemed God’s word as offensive. Jeremiah became a prophet in 627 B.C. and his ministry ended in 586 B.C.. Jeremiah delivered two famous temple sermons in Jeremiah 7:1-5 and Jeremiah 26: 1-24. “He denounced the people for their dependence on the Temple for security and called on them to effect genuine ethical reform” (britannica.com) as he predicted the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem and the city and the ultimate sorrow of being exiled. “His greatest contribution is found in his proclamation of the new covenant (New Application Study Bible, Jeremiah 31:31-33). As this unfolds, it becomes the basis of the covenant initiated by Christ with his church.” (Walton & Hill, 245).
“Jeremiah raised the conception of the bond between God and His people far above the conceptions of a physical relation, and transferred piety from mere objective ceremonies into the human heart” (jewishencyclopedia.com ). Jeremiah, being God’s spokesman, provided indictments and warnings of judgments that would affect the whole nation from the king to the lowliest peasant. His main goal was to urge God’s people to recognize their violations of the covenant with God which was their disobedience to the law by worshiping other gods. In Jeremiah chapter 2 verse 8, he focused on the priests who were detestable in God’s sight because they were not speaking against false prophets who were prophesying through Baal and letting the people worship worthless idols. He brought his complaint to the people who were following false prophets because they were telling the people what they wanted to hear. Jeremiah proclaimed “they are prophesying to you false visions, divinations, idolatries and the delusions of their own minds” (Jer. 14:14) He warned them that they had seen Israel be disgraced and now Judah was following in their footsteps because “although you wash yourself with soap and use an abundance of cleansing powder, the stain of your guilt is still before me” (Jer. 2:22). Jeremiah was calling them on their sin and that they needed spiritual cleansing that only God could remove. The people had gone so astray they didn’t even observe the Sabbath day as holy. Their sacrifices to God were empty without true repentance. Jeremiah spoke of God’s condemnation by saying “The Lord said to me, “Faithless Israel is more righteous than unfaithful Judah” (Jer. 3:11).
It was this unfaithfulness that led Jeremiah to also speak of upcoming judgments of the kingdom of Judah if they chose not to repent of their sins and come back to God’s covenant. Jeremiah reminded the nation of their history and that God honors his covenant of blessings, but Judah’s worship of idols, hardened hearts and refusal to follow God's will would lead to the destruction of their beloved Jerusalem temple, city, and also be exiled by Babylon. Jeremiah warned that “a besieging army is coming from a distant land, raising a war cry against the cities of Judah” (Jer. 4:16). Jeremiah told the people that a drought of judgment was coming, but because the people had become so evil that he would not hear their prayers for rain. Through Jeremiah’s words, God continued to withdraw his blessings from Judah which included his love and pity for them. Jeremiah proclaimed “before your eyes and in your days I will bring an end to the sounds of joy and gladness and to the voices of bride and bridegroom in this place” (Jer. 16:9). Jeremiah had spoken many times over many years to urge them to turn from their sin and back to God, but they would not listen. God removed his empathy as he sent destroyers who would cut down Judah and its great city of Jerusalem. God knew the people would question his judgments and he told Jeremiah to answer them “because they have forsaken the covenant of the Lord and have worshiped and served other gods” (Jer. 22:9). Jeremiah even told the people not to weep over Judah’s king’s death, but weep more loudly for those being exiled as some may never return to their native land again.
Jeremiah conveyed instructions on how to put a stop to the impending judgments he laid out for the people of Judah. In Jeremiah 7, he “warns the people that their rituals mean nothing to God if they fail to change their ways” (Walton & Hill, 255). His instruction began with the hearts of the people to stop arousing God’s anger against them by turning from worshipping false Gods. Jeremiah tried to guide people through God’s word to “obey me and I will be your God and you will be my people. Walk in obedience to all I command you that it may go well with you” (Jer.7:23). Jeremiah directed people to acknowledge that away from God will cause curses, so the people should want God’s blessings by trusting in God and his word. Jeremiah called the people to reform their ways and actions along with rebuking their stubbornness because God was devising a plan against them that could be avoided if the people would just remove the evil from their hearts. The people had turned against Jeremiah, so he had his scribe try to proclaim God’s word to the people by reading from a scroll to turn from their wicked ways to avoid God’s anger and wrath. Jeremiah did as God commanded him by instructing the people to renew their part of the covenant to serve the one true God and God in return would honor his people with blessings not curses.
“Jeremiah preached a lot of doom and punishment. However, his message was ultimately one of repentance and restoration. God was quick to remind his people that although there would be consequences for their sin, He still had a plan” (Roat). In his oracles, Jeremiah spoke God’s word of the aftermath of his judgment. God reassured the people that they would have consequences to their sin, but in his compassion for them he allowed Jeremiah to speak of hope where he tells Judah that “the whole land will be ruined, though I will not destroy it completely” (Jer. 4:27). This would be a comfort to the people who Jeremiah specifically told they would be exiled for seventy years. God’s grace told the nation they would be uprooted, but that after that time they would return back to their homeland and inheritance. In Jeremiah 29:11, it states “for I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” God promised them that their beloved Jerusalem along with the holy temple would be rebuilt. God gave Jeremiah specific prophecies so God’s people would know it was the word of God as he told them that an army from the north would come and would allow them to be released from exile back to the promised land. God also reassured his people that he would not destroy their cities again once they have been brought back to their homeland as God would fulfill the renewal of his covenant. Jeremiah built upon his message to not just the physical return of the people to their land, but also the transformation of their hearts. God’s promise of restoration would be fulfilled as God declared “This is the covenant, I will make with the people of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people” (Jer. 31:33). God told the nation that he would send a new shepherd who would lead them into a new covenant and into a new day of hope. “The days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David’s righteous branch. A King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land” (Jer. 23:5). This King would be called “the Lord our Righteous Savior” (Jer. 23:6). This redemptive promise would reach not only the nation of Israel, but reach throughout the whole world.
Jeremiah’s work is relevant today because he continually urged people to focus on the inner spirit of worship and not the external religious practices. His prophecies are interwoven with the message to stop relying on a physical temple, but that the temple would be located in the hearts of each person. Jeremiah’s prophecies influenced future prophets like Ezra who reminded Israel of the blessings of God as his word was fulfilled by them returning to their land from exile. God’s word stands the test of time in the Old Testament to the New Testament and into the times laid out in Revelation. Today, believers know that Jesus came to die for the redemption of the world. In Hebrews chapter 3, Paul reminds people that Jesus came for us to gain individual personal access to the Father. “Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house, bearing witness to what would be spoken by God in the future. But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory” (Hebrews 3:5-6).
John 3:16 is the blueprint for salvation through Christ as it states “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” This message is in crisis today as with each generation God’s word has been chipped away from our government, schools, homes, and even infiltrated our churches. Jeremiah’s message still is relevant today because our society has again become deaf to God’s word and commands, but like Jeremiah believers must stand firm and speak truth even in the face of rejection and opposition. Jeremiah told people to question directions that were not in line with God’s commandments. Generations today and into the future seem to want to rely on the government to meet their needs, but even with their physical needs taken care of their spiritual needs are becoming desolate and barren. Just as in Jeremiah, there are consequences of the unfaithful which is separation from God. God’s anger will once again burn toward sin. Our reliance must be on God as “these are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open” (Revelation 3:7). God has provided us with his oracles as he laid out in Revelation of his indictments of our disobedience, the consequence of judgment, and aftermath of permanent separation from God. In his instructions, he reveals that people must first believe, accept Christ as their personal savior, and then go and win souls for Christ. Jesus is the fulfillment of the new covenant Jeremiah spoke of and behind the words Jesus spoke at the Last Supper. “Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them saying, ‘Drink from it all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom” (Matthew 26:27-28). Jeremiah had a huge influence on his generation “however, his words live on thousands of years later, offering teaching and hope even today. Jeremiah served God when it meant giving up everything and facing persecution in a culture that had abandoned God” (Roat). Jeremiah 31:31-34 is quoted in Hebrews chapter 8 which compares the new covenant with the old. The new covenant goes beyond Israel and Judah to include all nations, so its application is alive and vibrant as it is written on the hearts and minds of believers. All people can have confidence in their destination as they follow Christ with unwavering dedication no matter what they face. People need to hear from spokemen like Jeremiah who was known as the weeping prophet because of his anguish over a lost and dying nation. He still delivered God’s message with boldness, courage, and faithfulness. Like him, believers must pray for those who refuse to respond to the truth. Stand firm in God’s word so that all people come to an understanding of Jesus and that through him there is restoration and redemption for the whole world.
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