Growing in Christ
"He opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures." Luke 24:45
Links to observations drawn from other books of the Bible
Background: Jeremiah's name means "the Lord establishes." Jeremiah received his call while "a youth" (Jer. 1:6) and ministered faithfully, and largely unfruitfully, for over 40 years (627-585 BC). When Jeremiah began to call Judah back to the Lord and warn of pending punishment for its apostasy, Judah was comparatively prosperous, free and secure. Judah's leaders continued to reject Jeremiah's warning through the rise of Babylon and Babylon's final breaching of Jerusalem's walls and exile of it's most prominent people.
Jeremiah, like Jesus, wept over Jerusalem. Yet, Jerusalem's hardness of heart remained firm. Jeremiah himself was taken to Egypt (against his will) by a remnant left in the land as the Babylonians withdrew, where Jeremiah died (in oral tradition by stoning at the hands of his countrymen weary of a message they refused to heed).
If you are able to access a copy, the NLT provides an excellent introduction to Jeremiah, as do many other translations. (Those who purchase the NLT have access to the introduction online.)
Practical and Pastoral Observations on the Book of Jeremiah (please read each chapter slowly and meditatively, taking personal notes, before reading observations below):
A Purpose for Every Life: God's plan for Jeremiah's service of the Kingdom is formed before his birth (v.5) and God's call to obey (v.7) comes to Jeremiah while still young (v.6), probably in his teens.
Sustained by God: See how God sustains Jeremiah in his call...
1.) The Word of God is put into Jeremiah's mouth (v.9) and continued to come to Jeremiah from 627 BC (v.2) through 586 BC (v.3) without fail,
2.) God knew there would be violent opposition to His message and messenger but promised to protect Jeremiah as a fortified city (v.18), to be with and deliver him (v.8, 19).
3.) God promised to watch over the Word He gave to Jeremiah and bring it to pass (v.12).
Jeremiah as royal messenger: In the ancient near east messengers representing their King and were sometimes abused by those rejecting the message. Jeremiah knew this. Yet the cost of fearing man more than fearing God is a very bad exchange (v.17). Therefore Jeremiah remained a faithful messenger to the end, knowing the Lord's promise: "I am watching over my Word to perform it" (v.12).
Stuff: People are prone to collect and "worship the works of their own hands" (v.16), whether homes, car, clothes or technology. This is no different than the ancients worshipping idols fashioned by their own hands. It may be for this reason some Christians have resisted even the idea of private property (despite the fact ownership tends to produce better care of it.)
My Practical Response: I will embrace God's calling on my life until I have fully fulfilled His purpose for me (Acts 13:36). I will hold lightly the "works of my own hands" (possessions, education and achievements) and hold absolute allegiance to the King of the rulers of the earth.
My Prayer: I will go everywhere You send and speak all You
command. Lord, give me ears to hear your voice.
Yahweh yearns for the days when He was Judah's Husband: God remembers the devotion of the early days of their love (v.2) when Israel followed her Lord through the wilderness after He had set her free from slavery, when Israel sought to love Him purely, when Israel was holy unto the Lord (v.3). But, without any injustice from God (v.5), Israel wandered from Him, walking after emptiness to become empty (v.5). In this, Israel's leaders failed her: priests, rulers and prophets led the way to apostasy (v.8).
Effects of Breaking Covenant: In abandoning her marriage covenant Israel exchanged living water from eternal springs for broken cisterns (v.13), the Glory of God for unprofitable slavery to pagan gods (v11), the status of a wife for that of a harlot (v.20). Unfaithfulness to Yahweh leads to political alliances to provide the projection only God can give (v.14). "The Israelites had been rescued from slavery in Egypt, but they became slaves again in Jeremiah’s time through their covenants with Egypt and Assyria (NLT)." Judah made for herself as many gods as she had cities, none of which could save (v.28). How can the children of Israel forget the God who brought them into being? (v.32) Such abandonment of its gods had not even been done in the surrounding nations (v.11).
Refusal: Despite all this, and the life-blood of the innocent poor on her clothes (v.34), Israel refuses to accept responsibility (v.35). Therefore God has no choice but to allow Israel the consequences of her abandonment. Israel and those in whom she trusts, will be judged (v.35, 37).
Substitute Alliances: Political alliances as a substitute for trust in the Lord (v.18)) always lead to sorrow as they produce slavery to fickle nations and/or spiritual compromise (as "Ivy League" seminaries bring in teachers not committed to the Lordship of Christ, where one board member or professor with divided heart votes to bring another).
"But now what are you doing on the road to Egypt, to drink the waters of the Nile? Or what are you doing on the road to Assyria, to drink the waters of the Euphrates?" (v.18)
History is littered with broken branches of the faithful church entering alliances with the world leading off into apostasy. Consequently and repeatedly, a faithful remnant remains of whom Yahweh requires one alliance only; that with Him. And that alliance in utter purity of heart and purpose.
Personal Application: I will not enter into alliances with those who hold not only to Christ. I will serve the Lord only. I will expect persecution (hard or soft) from governments and institutions which hold not to Christ.
My Prayer: Father, how can it be that a nation which has known Christ, could loose her ardor and abandon her covenant joy and blessing? Yet many nations in the west have done so. Lord, call your people to faithfulness, love and covenant.
Unteachable Hearts: Judah belonged to Yahweh, the One who brought her into being, out of Egypt, her husband. Both Israel (the 10 northern tribes) and Judah (the southern tribe) absorbed and embraced the idolatry of the Canaanites; despite God's command to root out these spiritual influences entirely. For her spiritual adultery Israel was given a writ of divorce and sent into exile permanently among the Assyrians. Yet Judah, her sister, has learned nothing, and without fear continued in the same harlotry (v.9) despite King Josiah's efforts to bring reformation (Jer. 3:6 to 6:30).
God's Yearning: Though continuing to be polluted by every false god (v.2) Yahweh calls His bride to return (v.12-14), not unconditionally but on the condition of faithfulness to her Husband. This, Israel and Judah, the promiscuous sisters, refused to do to the end (v.24-25).
Promises: Yet God is good, unceasingly beacons his people (v.12) and makes promises to those he hopes will be a repentant faithful bride. The promises include good shepherds who are committed to Israel's shalom (v.15). In addition, though the physical Ark of the Covenant is gone (v.16, and see note below), the very presence of God enthroned in Jerusalem will draw all the nations of the earth (v.17). This promise, and that of the reunification of Judah and Israel (v.18), is yet to come, but both are equally sure.
Father/son: Jesus's reference to God as Father is prefigured in vs. 4 and 19. God is creator, husband, father, king, shepherd and unspeakably more. The 'waiting Father' (Luke 15) is clearly seen in vs. 12-15. The Father's arms, despite all, are open wide those those who will come:
v.14: "Return, O faithless sons, declares the Lord…and I will bring you to Zion…. v.17: and they shall call Jerusalem "the Throne of the Lord" and all the nations will be gathered to it, to Jerusalem, for the name of Yahweh."
Personal Application: I will be patient and persistent, inviting and giving hope to those who wander and reject Him, as I also have been faithless but found Him to be faithful. I will seek to be a midwife to at least one person each day, to come or return to the Good Shepherd (v.15).
My Prayer: Father, give me today an opportunity to give hope, to invite, to be a midwife to someone to enter the Kingdom, to draw near to you. Give me eyes to see into hearts, courage to speak, wisdom from the Holy Spirit. Lord, use me as a midwife today for your glory.
(Final resting place of the Ark of the Covenant: This question remains interesting, largely because there is no answer. The last Biblical reference to the Ark is in 2 Chron 5 during Josiah's reforms, when the king calls for it to be returned to Solomon's temple. We assume, but don't know for certain, that Josiah's command was obeyed. The last noncanonical reference is 2 Maccabees 2, which states Jeremiah hid the Ark, tent and alter of incense in a cave on Mt. Nebo where Moses had received the law. We also don't know if this happened, though many have since looked for a blocked cave, without success to the best of our knowledge.)