By Eugene Garner
INTRODUCTION TO JEREMIAH'S PROPHECY
Jeremiah was preceded in the prophetic office by such men as: Joel, Jonah, Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, Micah and Nahum. His contemporaries, in the land, were Zephaniah, Habakkuk and Obadiah. For a brief time his ministry overlapped that of Daniel and Ezekiel in Babylon. He was officially placed in the prophetic office during the thirteenth year of Josiah, king of Judah - continuing through the rule of his four successors on the throne of David, and then in the land of Egypt, where he was taken as a captive by his own self-willed people.
Five years after his call, the long-lost TMbook of the laws was found in the Temple, (2 Kings 23). Its reading brought grief to the tender heart of young king Josiah, who knew that his people had wandered far from God's appointed pathway for His covenant-community. Thus, he instituted reforms in Judah which were designed to rid the land of its idol-worship, and to restore the true worship of Jehovah.
Jeremiah dearly loved young Josiah, and was to him what Isaiah had been to king Hezekiah. Though he sympathized with Josiah's reforms, he knew that they had no depth; the hearts of the people were not in them - though they went through the motions of compliance, out of respect for the king whom they all loved.
Variously described as: courageous, loyal, patient, retiring, sensitive, severe, sympathetic and tender; Jeremiah stands so near to us, in a human sense, that one may almost feel his heartbeat. The weight of his task would have been unbearable apart from the faithful promise of divine support, (1:10-19). He was to be the very voice of Jehovah to a stubborn, stiff-necked, presumptuous, self-willed and hard-hearted people determined to follow a path that led to inevitable destruction! He would put forth an heroic effort to turn the nation back from spiritual suicide - only to fail! and to watch her leap over the precipice to such misery she so richly deserved!
The attitude of the nation toward the man of God, and the message he proclaimed, ranged from that of tolerance, to resentment, resistance, antagonism, hatred, violence and attempted murder. Yet, through it all, Jeremiah remained true - to his God, to his people, to himself, and to his task. His message was not his own; it was the word of Jehovah that he was sent to deliver to a thankless and gainsaying people, (Rom. 10:21).
1. It was a message of DENUNCIATION: they had forsaken the One who had delivered them from bondage in Egypt - constituting them a holy nation at Mt. Sinai, establishing with them His covenant, and marvelously sustaining and protecting them by the faithfulness of His loving grace. They have treacherously turned away from Him to walk in vanity and to trust in lies - worshiping "no.gods"!
2. It was a message of VISITATION: judgment MUST COME! Judah's sin will find her out! (Num. 32:23). It must be punished. A just reward is always attached to the practice of evil.
3. Nevertheless, Jeremiah's message was also a divine INVITATION for Judah to REPENT and RETURN; she was still the beloved of Jehovah, (21:7). While God is just, in the punishment of evil, He is also gracious, compassionate and caring. Will not Judah mend her ways, and return to her first-love? (7:3; 18:7-10; comp. Rev. 2:4-5).
4. Included in Jeremiah's task was a message of CONSOLATION, (ch. 30-33). Through fiery trials, suffering, and humiliation, Judah will repent and learn to obey the voice of the Lord her God! Even midst the fury of the storm one may catch glimpses of light and hope. There will dawn a new day in which the nation will be liberated from the captivity toward which she is heading. Having broken and forsaken the covenant of Jehovah, Judah has forfeited all claim to its blessings; but, the Messiah Himself (the Branch) will ultimately come and restore such blessedness as, in her disobedience of unbelief, she had never thought possible.
In Jeremiah one beholds THE MAN OF SORROWS - who loses all thought of himself in grief over the willfulness of a people whom he loves so dearly.
"Oh that my head were waters,
And mine eyes a fountain of tears,
That I might weep day and night
For the slain of the daughter of my people!"