Steven Ger - Monday, February 09, 2015
I strongly believe that one of the Biblical areas most churches tend to neglect is the
writings of the great prophets of Israel. When one contemplates that the prophets comprise
over twenty percent of Old and New Testaments combined, it can be seen as a rather large
omission on the part of our pastors and teachers. And yet I am hard-pressed to select a
more relevant portion of Scripture for our day; a section of the Bible that speaks to our
nation's moment in history and our window of opportunity as the church. If we are indeed to
be the preserving salt to our decaying culture as our Lord intended, we need the timeless,
and timely, message of the prophets.
Let us endeavor, then, to continue together to correct this oversight and supplement our
Biblical knowledge by undertaking a brief survey of the prophet Jeremiah. As I've spoken
with many people and taught over the years, I have come to the realization that many of us
have never even opened the book of Jeremiah. In fact, in many Bibles, the pages are still
stuck together! Take a moment before continuing and run a maintenance check — make
sure all your Bible's pages in Jeremiah are free and clear!
I have called this study "weeping for the disobedient," and in fact, Jeremiah is often called
"the weeping prophet." This is because the main concern of the book is Jeremiah's continuing
prophecy of God's judgment against Judah. He denounced Judah in order to warn them to stop
being disobedient to the Mosaic Covenant. If they would not return to the Lord, the people
of Judah would be exiled. Of course, as we know, the Jewish people did not turn back to the
Lord and were exiled to Babylon by the end of Jeremiah's ministry. This is why he wrote the
book of Lamentations; because he grieved over the destruction of his people as they had not
heeded his message.
Jeremiah is perhaps the most autobiographical book within Scripture. Jeremiah reveals more
personal details concerning his life and inner feelings than any other of the prophets.
Some of his writing resonates with the stark emotional force of several of the more vivid,
personal psalms. The book of Jeremiah is composed of many literary styles, however, ranging
from history to prophecy and spans several decades of Jeremiah's life and ministry. One
interesting feature of the book is that, unlike most Biblical books, there is a marked lack
of chronological arrangement. The author has arranged the material in a logical, progressive
pattern, to advance the overarching theme of God's judgment on the disobedient nation. Even
in the midst of this theme, however, the pattern of Jeremiah's work, like other Old Testament
prophets, also encompasses the tempering of final judgment with the promise of their eventual restoration to the land.
The Hebrew name "Jeremiah" means, "the Lord exalts" or "the Lord throws down". This seemingly
contradictory, dual nature of the name can be seen in the message of the book. The prophet
grew up in a priestly home, and the book records that he was called to be the Lord's
messenger while still a child. He was appointed by God to "pluck up and break down, destroy
and overthrow, and also to build and plant". How's that for a mission statement?! Jeremiah's
message was primarily of judgment to a disobedient and unfaithful nation. However, it was
also one of hope, comfort and promise of restoration with their God, Who had promised
never to completely reject His chosen.
The historical period Jeremiah encompasses is that of the book of Kings of Judah and Israel,
approximately 600 BC. You will remember that at this time, several centuries after David
and Solomon ruled a united Israel, the nation had split into northern and southern kingdoms.
The southern kingdom is called Judah, and it is here that our weeping prophet ministered.
Judah's gross disobedience to the Mosaic Covenant, their rampant idolatry, injustice and
sinfulness, occurred within a context of religious renewal under the good King Josiah. In
the aftermath of one of the most exciting times of actual religious reformation came a
disastrous period of rebellion against the Lord. This is the backdrop for the prophet's
dramatic ministry and message of impending doom on a hypocritical nation.
Now that we have laid our groundwork for our study of Jeremiah's message, I'm afraid I will
have to leave you in suspense until next month. Between now and then, though, be sure and
read through the first ten chapters of the book. I know that the prophets can seem a little
intimidating, but just jump in — the water's fine! Next time we will see what the
weeping prophet had to say to a backsliding nation.
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