Old Testament Walk Through: Jeremiah 1–33

“Is not my word like fire,” declares the Lord, “and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces” (Jeremiah 23:29 NIV).

I Context of the Book
II The Call of Jeremiah
III God’s Complaint Against His People

IV God’s Call to His People
V Jeremiah and Jesus: A Comparison
VI Communication in Symbols and Pictures

VII Jesus in the Book of Jeremiah
VIII Jeremiah’s Attitude
IX Jeremiah as a Failure in the Eyes of the World/God’s Concept of Success

X Jeremiah and False Prophets
XI Message of Restoration and Hope
XII The Great Invitation to Pray
XIII God’s Sovereignty

I Context of the Book

Jeremiah was called by God as a young man to warn the people of Judah to turn from their wickedness, worship of idols and listening to false prophets. Jeremiah proclaimed coming judgement on the kingdom through the hands of the kingdom of Babylon. Since the people did not listen to him and turn to God; judgement came as predicted. Many people were carried into captivity and exile in 597 B.C. Later Jerusalem and the temple were fully destroyed in 586 B.C. (The Book of Jeremiah is not written in the exact order in which the events happened.)

II The Call of Jeremiah

Chapter 1 opens with the call of Jeremiah. Jeremiah was a young priest. He might have been around 20 years when God called him to be a prophet.
God’s Intimate Knowledge:
God told him: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations” (1:5). Know that God knows you intimately. Read Psalm 139. He knew you even before you were formed in your mother’s womb.

• God’s Promise of His Presence:
Jeremiah objected by pointing out his young age and inexperience. But God assured him saying, “I am with you and will rescue you.” When God calls you to do something He also assures you of His Presence to go with you. This is the confidence of a child of God.

• God Puts His Word in Jeremiah’s Mouth:
Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched Jeremiah’s mouth saying, “Now, I have put my words in your mouth.” A prophet cannot speak his own words. The Biblical understanding of a prophet is that of a messenger who “tells forth” what God has put in his mouth. That is why almost 2000 times in the Old Testament you find words like, “Thus says the Lord” or similar words. A prophet is a person burdened by God’s Word in his heart. Jeremiah says: “His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot” (20:9).

• God Appoints Jeremiah as a Prophet:
And Jeremiah was appointed over nations and kingdoms “to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant” (1:10). God does not paint over rusted surfaces just to make it look beautiful on the outside. When God does a work in our lives, He first tears down all the foolish things we have built. Then He begins to build again. Be sure that He will not leave you thrown down. He will build you up again. Our God completes what He begins (Philippians 1:6).

III God’s Complaint Against His People (Chapters 2 to 6)

• Their rejection of God:
“My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water” (2:13). Only God can satisfy the deep needs of our heart since He alone is the spring of living water (Read John 4:13, 14). But these people rejected God and His word (8:9 and 15:6).

• Their forgetfulness of God:
“Does a maiden forget her jewellery, a bride her wedding ornaments? Yet my people have forgotten me, days without number” (2:32). But God warns that these people won’t be helped by those in whom they trust; instead they will be disappointed (2:36, 37). Read Psalm 20:7, 8.

IV God’s Call to His People

• Return to Me:
God repeatedly calls out to His people to return to Him (3:1, 12, 14; 4:1). God promised them that if they returned to Him, He will cure them of backsliding (3:22).

•Cleanse your heart:
God asked them to wash the evil from their heart and be saved (4:14). (See also 4: 4).

•Ask for the ancient paths:
God told them that they should ask for the good way followed by their forefathers and walk in it so as to find rest for their souls (6:16).

• Reform your ways:
Religion is not lip-service nor is it trusting in magnificent buildings or cathedrals; but it is practical caring for people who are in need (7:3—7).

• Obey Me: (7: 23):
God makes it clear that all His commands about burnt offerings and sacrifices were to teach His people the lesson of obedience. Without obeying God from one’s heart if someone sacrifices great things for God; it is meaningless (Read also 1 Samuel 15:22 where it says, “To obey is better than sacrifice” and Psalm 51:16, 17 where it says that more than sacrifices of bulls and goats God delights in a repentant heart.)

V Jeremiah and Jesus: A Comparison

Jeremiah wept for the people of Israel and specially for Jerusalem (8:21, 9:1, 14:17). The Book of Lamentations records his grief. Jesus too wept over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41).
Jeremiah told that the temple would be destroyed (7:14; 26:5, 6). Fulfilled in 586 B.C. Destroyed by Babylonian army of King Nebuchadnezzar. Jesus too predicted that the reconstructed temple would be destroyed (Mark 13:1, 2). Fulfilled in A.D. 70 by the Roman army of Titus, who later became Emperor.
Jeremiah spoke against false prophets (14:13—16; 23:9—40). Jesus too warned us to be on our guard against false prophets (Matthew 24:23, 24).
Jeremiah was threatened in his hometown of Anathoth by his own brothers (11:18—23; 12:6) Jesus too was rejected in his hometown of Nazareth and even his own brothers did not believe in Him (Matthew 13:57; John 7:5)
Jeremiah was like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter (11:19) Jesus was indeed the Lamb of God led to the slaughter on the cross (Isaiah 53:7, Acts 8:32).
Jeremiah was invited by God to pray (33:3). CALL TO ME! Jesus too was invited by God to pray (Psalm 2:8). ASK OF ME!
Jeremiah spoke against the people for making God’s temple a den of robbers (7:11). He was challenging people not to trust in religious observances or the temple of God; but instead turn to God Himself. Jesus drove out the people who were buying and selling in the temple. He quoted Isaiah 56:7 (My house will be called a house of prayer) and also Jeremiah 7:11 (den of robbers). Jesus was saying that God’s temple should not be made into a religious-business-centre but should always be a house of prayer.
Jeremiah spoke, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (17:9) Jesus said, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander” (Matthew 15:19).

VI Communication in Symbols and Pictures

1. Branch of an almond tree (1:11):
It buds, blossoms and produces fruit quickly (e.g. The budding of Aaron’s Staff/Numbers 17:8). Likewise God said that He was watching to see His word fulfilled quickly.

2. A boiling pot tilting away from the north (1:13):
God said that disaster would come on this people from the north; i.e. from Babylon.

3. A linen belt (13:1—11):
God had bound the people of Israel around his waist like a linen belt to be displayed to His glory. But now God says that He will reject His people like the belt that became useless.

4. Do not marry (a specific command to Jeremiah; not a general command to all/ 16:1, 2): Through Jeremiah God had predicted the disaster that will come on the people (16:3, 4. And He wanted to spare Jeremiah the tears of seeing his wife and children destroyed. Thus Jeremiah became a symbol of the disaster that would surely come as he prophesied.

5. The clay pot at the Potter’s house (18:1—11):
The Potter and the clay is an image that God has used throughout the Bible (Isaiah 45:9, 10; Psalm 2: 9; Romans 9: 19 – 21). God is the Potter and He can shape us as it seems best to Him. It is our duty to cooperate with God like the lump of clay that yields to the Potter’s hand.

6. The broken clay jar (19:1, 10):
It showed the people in unmistakable terms that God would bring judgement as He said.

7. Two baskets of figs (Chapter 24):
God told Jeremiah that those people who were carried into exile to Babylon are like the good figs (Daniel and his friends, Prophet Ezekiel, Mordecai and Esther were some among the captives). And the people who remained in Jerusalem are like the bad figs.

8. A Wooden Yoke (27:2):
Jeremiah was asked a yoke and put it on his neck. The message was that if any kingdom would submit to Babylon, then God will save them. But false prophets were saying that God will break the yoke of the king of Babylon (28:2). And one false prophet named Hananiah broke the yoke off the neck of Prophet Jeremiah. God replied very strongly to Hananiah saying, “You have broken a wooden yoke, but in its place you will get a yoke of iron” (28:13) and it was predicted that he will die that same year which happened likewise (28:17).

9. Buying a field (32):
Jerusalem was under siege. The Babylonian armies had surrounded the city. Yet God asked Jeremiah to buy a field and keep the documents in a clay jar so that it would last a long time. God’s message through this was that normal activities of life would once again happen in Jerusalem. Even Jeremiah did not understand this and expressed his disbelief because he saw the armies surrounding the city. But God told Jeremiah, “I am the Lord of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?” (32:27). God was telling Jeremiah that as surely as He brought the people calamity; so also He will give them prosperity in later days (32:36—44).

VII Jesus in the Book of Jeremiah

1. The spring of living water (2:13;17:13).
Psalm 36:9 says that with God is the “fountain of life!”

2. The Shepherd of Israel (31:10).
Jesus is the good shepherd (John 10:11).

3. A righteous branch (23:5)
And His name will be called, “The Lord our Righteousness” (23:6). Jehovah-Tsidkenu. Jesus has become our righteousness (1 Corinthians 1:30).

4. David the king (30:9).
Angel Gabriel announced to Mary that “The Lord God will give
him the throne of his father David” (Luke 1:32) and Jesus was often addressed by people as Son of David (Matthew 9:27)!

VIII Jeremiah’s Attitude

1. Towards God’s Word:
“When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight” (15:16). Even though proclaiming God’s Word brought Jeremiah insult and reproach he faithfully proclaimed it (20:8, 9). His heart was broken because of the message of judgement he had to proclaim (23:9).

2. Towards God’s people:
Even though Jeremiah pronounced judgement on the people he wept for them and did not rejoice in the fact that his prophecies were being fulfilled. He says, “Since my people are crushed, I am crushed; I mourn, and horror grips me” (8:21). He did not desire the day of despair (17:16).

3. Towards the wicked:
Even while he wept for his people, Jeremiah could not understand why the way of the wicked prospered. So he lodges a complaint against them to God (12:1—4). But God tells him that the trouble he has faced from these wicked men is small compared to what lies ahead of him (v.5).

4. Towards himself:
Even though Jeremiah said that God is with him like a mighty warrior (20:11), he was often overcome by sorrow at the opposition he faced so that he even cursed the day he was born (20:14). This shows Jeremiah as a very sensitive man. Job was another godly person who cursed the day of his birth (Job 3:1). This shows that godly people are not super-human beings; but ordinary men like us affected by sorrow and trouble.

IX Jeremiah as a Failure in the Eyes of the World/God’s Concept of Success

How the world views success is not how God measures success.

By the success standards of this world Jeremiah was a failure. His preaching was not listened to. People did not turn to God. He was hated and threatened in his hometown and put in prison. What he wrote as God’s Word was burnt in the fire by the king of the land (36:23). He was put into a mud pit (38:6). And false prophets opposed him throughout his ministry. He wept for his people but nobody cared.

But did Jeremiah fail in the eyes of God? NOT AT ALL! Success in God’s eyes is to do faithfully what He has called you to do. Jeremiah was called to preach judgement. He did so faithfully. He warned the people of coming judgement. In God’s eyes he succeeded. He gave people a message of hope that Jesus the righteous branch would come and His kingdom established (33:14— 26).

Life Application: God’s standards of success are radically different from that of this world. When God gives you a task, do it faithfully and to the best of your ability. Do not fear opposition for God is with you. And leave the results of your work with God. God says, “Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears, for your work will be rewarded” (Jeremiah 31:16)!

X Jeremiah and False Prophets

Jeremiah’s message was never popular because he always predicted judgement. But the false prophets dressed the wound of God’s people as if it were not serious saying “Peace, peace” when there was no peace (6:14, 8:11).

Today also we hear many preachers say, “God will bless you” instead of warning people to repent of their sins and turn to God. The Bible says, “But the prophet who prophesies peace will be recognized as one truly sent by the Lord only if his prediction comes true” (28:9).

False prophets also prophesied lies in God’s name saying, “I had a dream! I had a dream!” (23:25). But Jeremiah spoke God’s Word faithfully without adding or taking away from it (23:28). God’s Word has to be given supreme importance in our life rather than listening to the dreams of so-called prophets of today.

And remember also that false prophets behaved the same way 2500 years ago. That is why God has warned about them so specifically in the Bible. God warned that it is we ourselves who encourage the false prophets to have dreams and prophesy lies (Jeremiah 29:8, 9). [Read about judgement that fell on the false prophet Hananiah in Jeremiah 28.]

XI Message of Restoration and Hope

• Psalm 137 beginning with “By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion” was the mournful song of the people taken into captivity. But Jeremiah sent them an unexpected message. He told them not to listen to false prophets who told them that their captivity will soon end. Instead he told them as the Lord’s message to build houses, to marry and also seek the peace and prosperity of the city of Babylon. They were asked to pray for it because if it prospered they too would prosper (Jeremiah 29:4—9).

Life Lesson: When you find yourself in difficult circumstances, know that it is exactly where God has placed you. Trusting in God; go ahead with your duties and God will bring deliverance to you at the exact time He has planned for you.

Then came the message of hope that after seventy years that God will graciously bring His people back to Jerusalem. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (29:11—13).

Life Lesson: Even in judgement God loves to show mercy (30:11, 17). He has a plan for your life. It is to be discovered through earnest and sincere prayer. If you seek Him in prayer with all your heart, you will find Him.

The Message of Restoration:
It is centred on God’s love, “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (31:3). Based on it God proclaims what He WILL certainly do. This is the message of building and planting (1:10) for which Jeremiah was appointed a prophet. Look at each of these statements.

I will break the yoke off their necks and will tear off their bonds (30:8)
I will surely save you out of a distant place (30:10)
I will discipline you but only with justice (30:11)
I will restore you to health and heal your wounds (30:17)
I will restore the fortunes of Jacob’s tents (30:18)
I will add to their numbers, and they will not be decreased (30:19)
I will bring them honour (30:19)
I will punish all who oppress them (30:20)
I will bring him (the leader of His people) near and he will come close to me (30:21)
I will be your God (30:22)
I will come to give rest to Israel (31:2)
I will build you up again (31:4)
I will bring them from the land of the north and gather them from the ends of the earth (31:8)
I will lead them beside streams of water (31:9)
I will turn their mourning into gladness (31:13)
I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow (31:13)
I will satisfy the priests with abundance (31:14)
I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint (31:25)
I will plant the house of Israel and the house of Judah (31:27)
I will watch over them to build and to plant (31:28)
I will make a new covenant (31:31) I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts (31:33)
I will be their God and they will be my people (31:33)
I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more (31:34) [Most of these promises are repeated in Chapter 33 also]

Life Lesson: All of God’s promises will be fulfilled in your life when the right time comes. Even if God has allowed you to pass through difficult times, know that He has loved you with an everlasting love. And He will build you up and plant you again and restore you to health and heal your wounds. In His time!

XII The Great Invitation to Pray

God loves to hear from His children. He invites us to pray. Prison walls are no barrier to God. The invitation to pray came to Jeremiah while he was in prison: “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3).

The Invitation:     Call to Me.
The Assurance:   I will answer you.
The Revelation:   Tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.

Even Jesus was invited to pray by God the Father. In Psalms you read thus: “Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession” (Psalm 2:8). So let us make it a habit to call out to God in prayer.

Another lovely picture of prayer is painted for us in Chapter 31:8, 9. It talks about the scattered people of Israel coming back to their land. We are living in those times predicted here. The blind and the lame, expectant mothers and women in labour; all of them are coming back to the land of Israel today. A great throng will return, says the Bible. “They will come with weeping; they will pray as I bring them back” (31:9).

[Note: God also refuses to hear prayer because of the terrible wickedness of His people.Himself tells Jeremiah not to pray for these people (7:16; 11:14; 14:11; 15:1; 21:1—7). If we cherish sin in our heart, the Lord would not listen (Psalm 66:18).]

XIII God’s Sovereignty
One of the surest lessons of Jeremiah is God’s Sovereignty. He is the Creator. “No one is like you, O Lord; you are great, and your name is mighty in power” (10:6). But the idols that people worship are like a scarecrow in a melon patch (10:5). The specific command is not fear them (10:5) but to fear God the true God; the living God, the eternal King (10:10).

And God commands you to not to be terrified by signs in the sky though the nations are terrified by them (10:2). Do not therefore play with astrology and believe in the foolish and senseless and fear-causing predictions astrologers and horoscope readers make. It is God who is in charge of your life. Fear Him alone. “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him (17:7, 8).” Boast in the fact that you know your God (9:23, 24).

Advanced Lessons
The Seventy Years of Captivity
Jeremiah’s prophecy that the exiled people of Judah will serve the king of Babylon seventy years (25:11) is of utmost importance in God’s time table for the last days (that is now, the time we are living in). Prophet Daniel understood from this passage that the seventy-year captivity of the people was going to end (Daniel 9:2) and he started to pray much (Daniel 9:3). And Gabriel was sent to him immediately to give him the larger meaning of the “seventy years” in connection with God’s timetable of world history (Daniel 9:20—27).

This passage speaks of the exact time/year of Jesus’ crucifixion (Daniel 9:26) and the prophetic events of the last seven years of world history at the second coming of Jesus Christ (Daniel 9:27). Jesus referred to the events of Daniel 9:27 as one of the most important signs of the end times in Matthew 24:15. This prophecy will be fulfilled very soon as it is geographic specific—that is the land of Judea (v.16) and Israel as a nation. [Other related portions: 2 Chronicles 36:21—23; Ezra 1:1—4].

Why Jesus Was Born from Mary and Not from Joseph
The kings of Judah came from the line of Solomon son of David. But when it came to Jehoiachin, it was written about him, “Record this man as if childless” [emphasis given] none of his children will sit on the throne of David or rule anymore in Judah (Jeremiah 22:28—30). Only one more king ruled in Judah. But that was not one of his children but uncle Zedekiah (2 Chronicles 36:9, 10).

Joseph came from the line of Jehoiachin (or Jeconiah) (Matthew 1:11, 12). Therefore Joseph’s son, according to the prediction of Jeremiah, cannot rule as king. That is one reason why Jesus was born of Mary, who came from the line of Nathan (Luke 3:31), another son of King David. Thus Jesus can rule in Judah as the Messiah, the Son of David!

The rejection of Shiloh
The people of Judah were doing wickedness but trusting in the temple of the Lord to save them. God taught them that He will not respect the temple even though it bears His name. The lesson is that we should not trust in religious observances or church membership or family background to save us. But our trust should be in God alone and we should hate and avoid evil.

To prove His point God asked the people to go to Shiloh where the first worship place was built when the Israelites came to Canaan. He said that like how He destroyed that place of worship He will not hesitate to destroy the temple which was the pride of the people. Read more in Jeremiah 7:1—15 and Psalm 78:56—64.

Related Posts:
Jeremiah 2:13 Broken Cisterns
Jeremiah 2:36,37 You Will Be Disappointed by Egypt
Jeremiah 7:12 Shiloh, See What I Did to It
Jeremiah 9:24 Let Him Who Boasts Boast About This
Jeremiah 17:4a Through Your Own Fault
Jeremiah 17:7 God-Confidence!
Jeremiah 18:6b Like Clay in the Hand of the Potter
Jeremiah 23:6 The Lord Our Righteousness
Jeremiah 26:23 Prophet Uriah
Jeremiah 29:11 The Plans God Has for You
Jeremiah 30:17 Because You Are Called an Outcast
Jeremiah 31:3 I Have Loved You with an Everlasting Love
Jeremiah 31:6 There Will Be a Day when Watchmen Cry Out
Jeremiah 31:25,26 I Will Refresh the Weary, Satisfy the Faint
Jeremiah 33:3 Call to Me

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