Introduction to Jeremiah

This week we begin our nine week study on the second largest book of the Bible! Given the time constraint, we are covering major themes, important concepts, and word studies. We will tackle several passages that are usually taken out of context by evangelicals. We will delight in beautiful truths about God’s character, His faithfulness, His hesed, the true hope we have, and the New Covenant. For my own personal study in preparation for teaching I have been reading Tremper Longman III’s commentary. 1.  

Building, Planting, Plucking up, Tearing down. 

We are about to read how Jeremiah’s call to speak the Word of God would be a call to do all of this.  This is not a “choose one” but a call for all of these to be proclaimed and carried out.  We would rather God just heal in painless ways, that He overlook all our sins, and it is that casual attitude toward sin and God’s holiness that has brought Israel and Judah to this point.

Living in this post-Genesis 3 world, not yet in heaven, we too experience much affliction.  We long for, and often demand, redemption that is perfectly sweet and painless and complete now.  In Jeremiah, we will learn once more to trust the God who has a real Hope and Future for us, secure in Christ, rather than a god or a hope of our own making.  Jeremiah speaks about God’s redemption that on this side of heaven involves plucking up and tearing down. 

No more dismissing sin.  Guilt is real, so is grace; and grace conquers.  No more evading consequences.  No more cheap grace; no more “oh it will all be ok”.  We are not ok, sin is powerfully destructive.  Will we seek the ancient paths?  Will drink from the cistern of the Living Waters? It is sheer hypocrisy to remain in sin and guilt if we are His.  It is hypocrisy to not move forward, to not cling to hope.  

In this book we will hear the call to seek Him, cling to the hope He gives, and meanwhile, build houses, plant gardens, bless our neighbors–far away from the temple where God promised to dwell, in a foreign land where you are not home you are merely sojourning.  As the remnant did, we too will learn to trust Him to care for us, and to turn the hearts of leaders and pharoahs and kings, even kings who claim to be the “king of kings” yet we know it is just a man.  The remnant were carried off into exile, while others ran away to Egypt.  And so in this book we face the question of “hmm, what if I attempt to choose my own consequences, rather than humbly submitting to what God ordains?”

We know the True King of Kings!  We do not trust in any other.  

God does not cover up sin as we do.  In the gospel we know that He covers our sin in His Blood; He takes it away.  He makes us new.  The truth of our lives is not about how we feel, or what we feel stuck in; it is about God’s glory–He is on the throne, what does He say?  We cannot silence Him with our rage or our lighthearted candor…we must listen.   He watches over His word, it is not an idle word, it is our life (cf Deuteronomy!) 

God speaks His word, He does not abandon His word–He is not a watchmaker God; we will see His faithfulness through this whole book, we will see that His promises are kept, and cannot be manipulated by mankind.  Over and over this book speaks of those who have rejected the Word of God.  So we need to ask as we read: what is my view of God’s Word?  Do I listen to Him, or pick and choose, or manipulate to fit my opinion…do I reject His Word or accept it and listen to it?  John 8:37, does it find a place in me?

What about the promises?

All the covenant promises seem to be crumbling as the book of Jeremiah is written:  people dying and being carried off into exile (Abrahamic covenant to give Abraham a nation as full of people as the sand of the sea or the stars of the sky). The promise of an enduring kingdom given in the Davidic covenant.  The covenant with Levitical priests, see Numbers 25:1-13; exodus 32:29; (Jeremiah 33:24 God has not rejected the two clans He chose! Levi and David…)  God’s people are being punished for breeching their contract, breaking the covenant (Read Deuteronomy 28:25-26 and 64-68; and read 2 Kings 20:16ff to remember, God told Hezekiah that these consequences would shortly take place)–the land needs to heal, the hearts of the people need healing. 

The promises seem to be reversing, they must be wondering whether God can be trusted?  When the Temple is burned to the ground and they are marched far away, they cannot seek God’s presence through the sacrifices, or the institutional worship.  What will God reveal to them through this?  What can we discover in His Word?

A Brief Timeline

626BC is the beginning of Jeremiah’s career, read 2 Chron 34ff and 2 Kings 22ff–Josaiah’s reign.  Josiah began to purify Judah and Jerusalem, then found the Law, instituted proper worship.

612BC The fall of Ninevah, capital city of Assyria, Babylon takes over Egypt, and eventually all of Assyria. 

609BC Josiah pridefully goes up against Pharaoh Neco in war, and dies.  

605BC Babylon’s armies are besieging Jerusalem. See Daniel 1:1-3 to remember that there were still some who were faithful to YHWH!  He always preserves a remnant.  The remnant went into exile.  The land could heal, and God’s plan of redemption marched forward.  

597BC, the king refused to continue the tribute–rebelling against Babylon.  

586BC the final deportation to Babylon lasting 70 years.

Chapters 1-24 contain a lot of poetry; the oracles are directed mostly toward Israel; 25 is a summary; 30-33 salvation oracles–the Book of Consolation, 30-31 poetry and 32-33 prose; 34-38 stories of Jeremiah’s life, and the first description of the deportation; 39-end contain oracles directed at other nations and the second description of the deportation (same event).  

Most agree, Jeremiah is a work of poetic art.  What do we need when life is crumbling?  Poetry.  What do we need when we are afraid of God’s wrath, wondering if His hesed will hold out?  Poetry.  What do we need when we are facing the consequences of our cultural heritage of sinfulness/idolatry/injustice/etc?  Poetry–calling us to look to God, believe God’s word, walk in His ancient paths, trust His Sovereignty and Goodness, and know that if He says He has a plan and a hope, then those are to be our only hope.  Poetry, not just “suck it up, deal with it,” and certainly not “oh, you are screwed…”  

I am with you!

1:8  The power of God’s presence!  “I am with you” answers our fears and insecurities, as it did for Jeremiah.  Jeremiah’s doubts and insecurities were real; his later struggles with depression are very real. And it is God’s promise of nearness that is our greatest good, that would prove to be Jeremiah’s greatest good. It is His presence that we have longed for, that all of humanity longs and seeks for. The human heart seeks, which is why all the surrounding nations had created so many false gods. The chapter closes with this same promise given to all in Judah who would listen.  

1:11-16 The almond tree, first to bloom in spring–announcing the beginning of the growing season, when everything turns green and reminds us of His renewal. Almond tree = saqed . Watch = saqad . As delightfully and expectantly as we wait for Spring and liveliness, so God watches of His own word. He speaks and it is sure.  (Tremper Longman III, page 23)

17-19  God fortifies, He is our strength and shield.  Do not be dismayed or afraid–only fear God!  Jeremiah didn’t feel up to the task and God says He has already made Jeremiah like a fortified city, like the strongest elements used in construction and protection of said city. God does not call Jeremiah to do this, but tells Jeremiah that He has done it. Read this in light of 2 Corinthians 4, the afflictions and dismay we face as Christians. We serve the same God, who is our strength and who strengthens us, builds us up, fulfills His promises to us.

  1. Longman III, Tremper.  Jeremiah Lamentations in Understanding the Bible Commentary Series.  Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2008. 

2 thoughts on “Introduction to Jeremiah”

  1. I’ve just started reading ‘Run with Horses’ by Eugene Peterson which is a commentary on Jeremiah so I was particularly interested to read your post. Great job, such a big topic to cover and love your last sentence that God is our enabler!

  2. I love Jeremiah. It’s one of the toughest times in Israel’s history, and they are so stubborn and wilful–just like we are. God sometimes has to allow the hard things to soften us and turn our gaze back to Him.

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