Friday, March 28, 2014

CCL - The Book of Jeremiah - Introduction Plus Chapters 1-6

Like Isaiah and Ezekiel, the Book of Jeremiah is categorized in the “Major Prophets”.  As stated before, the qualification for being considered among the major prophets is the length of the book, rather than being of superior importance.  Jeremiah has been called the “weeping prophet” due to his experiences, seeing the fall of Judah and Jerusalem.  He wrote of these events with a heavy heart.  As we read Jeremiah we can sense a sincere sharing of the suffering of the people during this tragic time in the History of God’s people.  We can sense how it made his heart ache when his attempts to warn the people of God’s imminent judgment fell on deaf ears.  Also like Isaiah, the Book of Jeremiah is rather challenging to study, as the order is jumbled and difficult to arrange in chronological sequence.  At times the dates are clear, but more often they are difficult to determine.  Many theologians have explained this as being in a somewhat hectic order because Jeremiah’s life and times in Jerusalem was during a hectic time.

Jeremiah acted as a spokesman for God for a period of forty years.  His ministry spanned the reigns of five different kings of Judah:  Josiah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah.  His closest contemporary was Habakkuk.  Jeremiah had witnessed so much tragedy and violence.  He was in Jerusalem when one of Judah’s kings was killed in an ill-advised war with Egypt.  Another was taken captive to Egypt.  Judah’s last sitting king was captured by the Babylonians, was forced to watch his sons killed, was blinded, then taken away to Babylon in total disgrace.  Jeremiah knew this was not what God had planned for His people, and tried to subvert it with his preaching.  Jeremiah was also around when there was so much turbulence in the world.  The aggressive Assyrians had already conquered and taken Israel into captivity, only to be later destroyed by the Babylonians.  It would have seemed to a man like Jeremiah that the whole world was becoming large and powerful except Judah.

Jeremiah Chapter 1

The first three verses serve as somewhat of a preface to his entire book.  This seemed to be all the information one needed as a preface.  It says his father was Hilkiah, a priest.  They lived in Anathoth, which was a small suburb of Jerusalem in the territory of Benjamin.  It goes on to state the dates of Jeremiah’s ministry as beginning in the thirteenth year of Josiah’s reign through the captivity and exile.  This would be approximately 627-580 BC.

Verses 1:4-19  -  God Calls Jeremiah

Verses 4 and 5 is the actual call from God to Jeremiah.  It says in verse 4 that “the word of the Lord came to me…..”  That in itself puts Jeremiah in a special group.  God had not spoken directly to many individuals.  Then God says in verse 5 something I find interesting.  He says that He chose Jeremiah as His spokesman even before Jeremiah was born.  I believe many servants of God are chosen this early.  Jeremiah’s response was not surprising:  He said he was too young.  This is just another way of saying that he was not qualified, or that he was not qualified YET.  But God seems to have chosen only humble people.  Notice in verse 8 when God gave to him the most comforting and encouraging words possible:  “Don’t be afraid…..I am with you and will protect you.”  Verses 9 and 10 are both special.  First God placed His hand on Jeremiah’s mouth, assuring him that his words will be directly from God Himself.  Then in verse 10 God is forewarning Jeremiah that his task will be filled with turbulence, resistance, and difficulty.  The task ahead was not going to be pleasant.  {God knew that only a very special person would be able to withstand what was ahead and still deliver God’s messages to the Israelites.  Then in this calling of Jeremiah, God previews some of the difficulties Jeremiah will experience.  But God warns him not to let up or compromise the word of God.  If you read 17-19 you will see God telling him something I have often said:  It is easier to stand against the threats of men that to try to stand against the threats of God.  And then it says “if God be for me, who can stand against me”.  {This is an excellent saying to memorize and get into the habit of saying to yourself.  It has gotten me through a number of difficult situations.}

Chapter 2 - God’s Indictment Against His People

God’s charge against His people is simply about his faithfulness compared to their unfaithfulness.  He mentions throughout the chapter the thing He hates:  Idol worship, even naming a few of the specific idols they have yielded to.  Then in verse 35 God mentions through Jeremiah that the people insist that “I am innocent”.  {They just don’t get it.  No wonder God is so fed up.}
Chapter 3:1-4:4  -  Judah Needs to Repent

God appeals to Judah through Jeremiah throughout these verses.  He uses the analogy of a husband-wife relationship.  Look how many times God pleads with His people to “Return” to Him.  He makes it clear in verse 18 that if they do not repent they will follow the path of Israel and see themselves as a nation destroyed, but His words seem to have little if any impact on a people too entrenched in a sinful and Godless lifestyle to understand they have been on the wrong path.

Chapter 4:5-6:30  -  The Imminent Punishment

In these chapters Jeremiah repeats two points over and over: 1. God’s judgment was inevitable, and 2. He has good reasons for His disappointment.  Look at verse 18 where He says, “Your own conduct and actions have brought this on you.  This is your punishment.  How bitter it is!  How it pierces to the heart!”  As you read this book you will notice unmistakable words, such as 5:7 saying “Why should I forgive you?”  He accuses them of not only idol-worship, but also adultery, lying, injustice, greed, forsaking the orphans and widows, picking on the poor, stealing land and other property, just to mention a few.  But then in 6:15 he says, “Are they ashamed of their detestable conduct:  No, they have no shame at all…”  Also included in these verses is the announcement that an army from a foreign land will invade Judah and defeat them, which is exactly what is about to happen.

Next Post:  Jeremiah Continues to Appeal to Judah

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