This is our first free day in the Book of Jeremiah. So, let’s take a look at this book and the prophet who wrote it. Jeremiah preached to the southern kingdom of Judah between 627-586 B.C. He was a young man when God called him to prophetic ministry with many believing he was still in his teens. Jeremiah was both a priest and a prophet, but one of the most hated prophets. Jeremiah’s name means “The Lord will raise up” or “the Lord will set free”. His name represents the promise of this book. Sin had brought Judah to its lowest point, but God promised to raise up His repentant, faithful people. Jeremiah is the second of the major prophets. There are major and minor prophets in the Old Testament, but that designation has nothing to do with their importance. Instead, it had everything to do with the length of the book that bears their names. Jeremiah joins the other major prophets, Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. He is often called the weeping prophet because of the sad message of judgement he delivered…and because so few people believed him or even listened to him. The Lord prohibited him from marrying. He had no wife or children and very few friends to give him support. God expected Jeremiah to depend fully on Him. He was also not allowed to attend funerals or parties. Instead, his life became one long object lesson pointing to the judgement about to overtake Judah. Like the Book of Isaiah that we just finished, Jeremiah is written as poetry, with some history thrown in for good measure. As you read, know that the Book of Jeremiah is not written chronologically. It is organized by similarity of subjects.
Jeremiah was sent to God’s people with a very important message and an opportunity for the people to change their ways, repent, return to the Lord and avoid the coming trials and tribulations at the hands of the Babylonians. However, the message meant very little to the people of Jerusalem and Judah. In fact, they refused to listen to the bringer of gloom and doom. Still “the Word of the Lord came” to Jeremiah. He used this phrase 42 times in this book. That Word was a word of gloom and doom, given with the hopes that people would leave their idols and pagan worship and return to worshiping the Lord. But their sins had made their hearts numb, their eyes blind and their ears deaf. They were drunk on their own foolishness. The people had fallen so far away from God that they participated in the practice of offering their children to pagan gods in sacrificial fires. This was the worship of the pagan god Molech. Jeremiah’s message was very clear and as you have already seen, he repeated it often. The Hebrew word here is ‘shuv’ and it means to turn or return or turn and repent. This word appears some 74 times in the Book of Jeremiah. He begged his people to return to the one true God in faith and obedience, but they insisted on following their own path and doing their own thing. They were stubborn and stiff necked. But God is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and He always leaves a remnant of faithful believers. Judah at this time was no different. These people did listen to Jeremiah. They respected the Lord and sought to please Him. To this small remnant Jeremiah described the righteous branch that would grow up from the seemingly dead stump of Judah. We know this branch as our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who gives us His own righteousness in His cross.
His message is for us today as well. Just like the residents of Judah and Jerusalem, we know that sin is tricky. The evil one is sneaky, ruthless in his pursuit of God’s people and always ready to try to wrench someone away from the Lord. Sin can numb our conscience and put us to sleep. And it happens almost without our knowing. It happened in ancient Judah, and it can today as well. If we ignore God’s warnings long enough, any life the Holy Spirit has grown in us can shrivel up and die. In Jeremiah 17:9 we read, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” Because of that, it is a blessing that the Word of the Lord still comes to sinners like you and me! That Word comes to us when we read scripture. It comes when we are named and claimed in our baptism and when we receive it when we receive Jesus’ very own body and blood in holy communion. The Word, Jesus Himself, became flesh and dwelt among us, full of Grace and truth. (John 1:14). Jesus came and keeps coming to warn us of our sin, to call us to repentance, and to remind us of the righteousness He gives to all believers. Jesus is the righteous branch Jeremiah describes in 23:5, and 33:15. His cross makes the comfort of chapters 30-33, often called the book of consolation, possible for guilty sinners like you and me. The promises of pardon and peace Jeremiah scatters throughout his book are possible only in the righteousness of Jesus Christ.
Jeremiah used object lessons often to get his message across to people. There are at least nine of them in this book.
The Book of Jeremiah contains 52 chapters, many with the themes of judgement and lamentation. These are his constant themes. But in the middle of the book, chapters 30-33, are chapters called the Book of Consolation. Right in the middle of the gloom and doom comes light. It is in one of these chapters, 31 to be exact, that we receive the promise of a new covenant. This covenant will not be like any other God has made with His people. It begins like this: “Behold the days are coming says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband says the Lord.” Here Jeremiah shares the message that God promises restoration and this new covenant in the coming Davidic King, fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
When we read the Book of Isaiah, we saw his call to prophetic ministry. He was somehow taken into the presence of the Lord. It was a spectacular and terrifying sight all at once. There was the Throne Room, the six-winged seraphim, and the music...holy, holy, holy. Isaiah was quite sure he was a dead man. He had seen the Lord and he knew he was a sin-filled man. But one of the seraphim took a coal from the altar and touched Isaiah’s lips and took away his guilt and his sin. Jeremiah also had a dramatic call to prophetic ministry. His came in the form of a conversation with the Lord who informed him that He, God, had chosen before he was even born. But unlike Isaiah who volunteered to go for the Lord, Jeremiah sounded more like Moses, sure that God had chosen the wrong guy. And like Moses, God assured Jeremiah He had the right guy. Several times Jeremiah found himself prophesying for the Lord, “behold the days are coming”. But perhaps the most precious words the Lord gave to Jeremiah were these; “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, I have continued My faithfulness to you.” Jeremiah 31:3. Those words are for you and me as well. God who spoke through the prophets of old, sent His one and only Son to us so we would know His everlasting love. And just like the people of Judah, we too are given chance after chance to repent and return to the Lord when we stray. But things are very different for us. While Jeremiah prophesied about the New Covenant, we are living in it. None of us have ever known life without the opportunity to receive the Lord’s Supper. We have the promise of eternity with the Lord. How very blessed we truly are.
In His Grip,
Pastor Matt W.