In our reading-through-the-Bible-in-one-year process, I’m currently in the book of Jeremiah. Given that he also wrote the book Lamentations (as well as usually being credited with authoring I and II Kings), I don’t always find joy reading his words. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate all of God’s word, but I personally find some parts more enjoyable to read than others. Jeremiah offers Israel some hope for the coming Messiah (particularly "Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS." (Jeremiah 23:5-6)). For the most part, however, it seems to me that he’s predicting (correctly!) bad event upon bad event for Israel due to their unrighteousness and the fact that they keep turning away from God. Personally, I find it quite comforting that God is called “Father” – as a parent, I know that I will always love my children, and I thus believe God will always love me. As a parent, I am disappointed and punish my children when they misbehave and appreciate that my Father also can and will and does discipline me. I suppose what’s so difficult for me to read in Jeremiah is that Israel doesn’t learn from their mistakes – when I discipline my children, they most often don’t repeat the behavior for which they’ve been reprimanded. However, Israel (and, I have to admit I) keep sinning. Which brings us to a head – since I hate my own sin and am helpless without God to stop, I feel as I am Israel, only subject to God’s wrath and punishment. Like many (most?) people, I most hate to be confronted by that which I am most ashamed.
In any event, to help myself appreciate Jeremiah more, I’ve done a bit of investigating to see what is known or believed about him as a person. Anyone who has such a direct line to God deserves respect in my belief, so here are some facts:
· Jeremiah was a Jewish priest and came from a landowning family
· His father was named Hilkiah and believed to be the prophet and High Priest Hilkiah (Hilkijah) noted in scriptures
· His God-given purpose was to turn the Israelites towards repentance from the widespread idolatrous practices
· Jeremiah’s people and even his family rejected his prophesies
· Jeremiah was called to prophesy in around 626BC, at around the age of 20, roughly 100 years after Isaiah
· Jeremiah wasn’t an entirely willing prophet – similar to Moses he told God he was unable to speak. God touched his lips and enabled him to prophesy
· Naysayers sought to kill Jeremiah – he was continually persecuted, which seems to have resulted in the Lamentations
· During his time, there were a great number of false prophets. God had Jeremiah speak against these
· Similar to Jesus, Jeremiah’s teachings often come through the use of parables – linen belts, wineskins, a potter, and fields all play part in his instruction
· Besides the various messianic quotes, another known one in Jeremiah is "Thus saith the Lord: Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might; let not the rich man glory in his riches. But let him that glorieth, glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth Me, that I am the Lord Who exercises mercy, justice, and righteousness on the earth; for in these things I delight, saith the Lord." (Jeremiah 9:23)
· Jeremiah, understandably, was quite discouraged at times during his prophesying. The people were so far away from God that they didn’t want to hear anyone talk to them about it. Yet God gave him the strength and courage to keep on going.
After completing this, I have a greater appreciation for Jeremiah. It is often difficult to do as God wishes, yet he persevered against a lot of hardship and persecution (reminds me a bit of Paul). Personally, I need to remember Luke 12:48 “For everyone to whom much is given, of him much shall be required.” I’m now seeing Jeremiah as an example to aspire to as opposed to merely a doomsayer I wish to avoid.
One resource I personally enjoyed as a challenge for myself can be found at http://www.biblecentre.org/ebooks/The%20prophet%20Jeremiah.pdf. May you find it helpful as well.
Have a blessed week.