Survey of the Old Testament: The Prophets
Table of Contents
Part of the prophetic model includes the calling of the prophet. Most of the major and Minor Prophets record the circumstances under which the LORD called them to proclaim his message. Jeremiah is no exception to this model. His calling in chapter 1 has two parts to it: the formal calling and the vision related to his calling.
The LORD calls Jeremiah to proclaim his message to Judah . But, just as the prophetic model usually records God's calling, it also usually records the reluctance of the prophet to take on this role. Jeremiah is no exception. After hearing God's call, Jeremiah tells Him, “I am too young, and I do not know how to speak.”
Like Moses, Jonah, and Amos, God's ambassadors often are hesitant at first to take on the task of proclaiming God's word. However, just as in these cases, God takes away the excuses one by one. First, the LORD tells Jeremiah that his youth won't be a problem because He is sending Him. Secondly, his lack of speaking ability is not an issue, because the LORD will tell him what to say.
(Jeremiah 1:7 NASB) But the LORD said to me, "Do not say, 'I am a youth,' Because everywhere I send you, you shall go, And all that I command you, you shall speak.
Part of Jeremiah's prophetic style includes visual or living illustrations of his message. This begins right with his calling. The visual illustration given by God of his calling begins in verse 11 with an almond tree and a boiling pot. This confirms to Jeremiah that he is seeing and hearing the things God wants him to see and hear. These visions are the first test of Jeremiah. They seem almost to be a trial run to make sure Jeremiah's prophetic antennae are working- to see if he really is plugged into God's word. At the end of the test, the Lord tells him:
(Jeremiah 1:12 NASB) Then the LORD said to me, "You have seen well, for I am watching over My word to perform it."
Jeremiah's message to Judah is recorded in chapters 2-29.
However, we have a concise summary of his message in 3:6-18. Here we have the three elements of the prophetic model all in one concise: chapter: 3:6-18
Jeremiah begins his discussion of Judah 's sin by reminding the people of the Northern Kingdom 's sin. As discussed in Hosea, we see Israel played the harlot to God, committing adultery. This horrible description of Israel 's sin, however, is nothing compared to Judah , according to Jeremiah.
(Jeremiah 3:11 NASB) And the LORD said to me, "Faithless Israel has proved herself more righteous than treacherous Judah .
Why is Judah worse than Israel ? Judah has seen Israel 's punishment for their sin. Yet Judah persists in the same sin as Israel . They know the consequences of their behavior, yet still keep doing it. To God, this is worse than the sin of Israel . They should know better. Yet knowing the right thing to do, they ignore this and continue on. This pattern of disobedience, not out of ignorance, but out of out-right defiance, is continued throughout the book of Jeremiah.
The second message in the prophetic model is the call for the people to repent. All that the Lord requires of them is that they acknowledge their sin and are willing to return to Him.
If they do so, the Lord will restore the nation of Israel . In this restoration period, Jeremiah states that they will not think of the Ark of the Covenant anymore. The ark always symbolized the presence of God's glory dwelling with Israel in the temple. Jeremiah is telling them, that when Israel is restored, people will not consider the Ark of the Covenant, because God himself will dwell with them and Jerusalem will be His throne ( 3:17 ).
The Jews could not recognize the coming of the Lord's judgment. The wise men, scribes, prophets, and even priests were softening the blow of God's condemnation by saying that peace was imminent. They were unwilling to admit that God was punishing the nation. Jeremiah 8:15 declares the result of this false teaching: “We looked for peace, but no good came; And for a time of health, and there was trouble!”
The teachers and scribes of the day had rejected God's Law (8:9). They had taken the Law of the Lord had warped it (8:8) such that they people could no longer recognize it (8:7). And they considered themselves wise for having done so. Jeremiah asks them how they can consider themselves wise when they have corrupted the law. If they were really a wise people, they would understand that Jeremiah spoke for the Lord (9:12). They would understand why Judah was about to be ruined and laid waste.
Judah had no reason at all to boast in their wisdom. Nor did Judah have any reason to boast in their strength or their wealth. The only thing which Judah should boast in is in their knowledge and understanding of the Lord (9:23). The only wisdom is the wisdom that knows the Yahweh delights in lovingkindness, justice and righteousness (9:24).
Following the Exodus of Israel from their slavery in Egypt, God made a covenant with the nation of Israel. As part of that covenant, if Israel obeyed the Law of the Lord, the nation would be blessed. If they disobeyed the Law, the nation would be cursed (Deuteronomy 27-28). Among those curses was the invasion of foreign nations would lay siege to the nation (Deuteronomy 28:49ff).
Jeremiah reminds Judah of this covenant (11:1-2), and specifically he reminds them of the curses (11:3). The nation had decided to serve other gods, and the whole city of Jerusalem was filled with altars to the god, Baal (11:13). Therefore, Jeremiah reminds them, God will bring disaster upon them (11:11).
Jeremiah repeatedly talks about the inevitability of judgment. The sin of Judah had become so corrupt that there was action of repentance which could forestall judgment. While the message of the prior prophets had always offered a hope that if the people repented that God would relent and they could avoid judgment, Jeremiah's message is that judgment is certain, and the best they could hope for was that the judgment wouldn't be as bad if they repented and just accepted the punishment coming from God.
Jeremiah says, even if Moses and Samuel were to come and lead the people into repentance, it would not be enough to forestall judgment (15:1). For this reason, God tells Jeremiah to stop bothering to pray for Judah (14:11). God will no longer listen to their prayers.
Because judgment is certain, Jeremiah is also prohibited from taking a wife and starting a family (16:1ff). If Jeremiah were to have children, it would be just to introduce them to disease, famine and violence.
When Babylon is laying siege to Jerusalem, King Zedekiah comes and asks Jeremiah if there is anything they can do so that the Lord will cause the enemy to withdraw (21:1). Jeremiah's tells Zedekiah that God would not revoke his punishment, and that the only way they can survive this siege is to surrender to the Babylonians (21:8-9). God has already decided to give Jerusalem to be destroyed by Babylon (21:10).
Desperate times call for desperate measures. When calamity is coming, one must do all you can to get the people's attention. So God has Jeremiah use a number of object lessons, each more dramatic than the next to get the attention of the people.
The Linen Belt (Jeremiah 13) – God tells Jeremiah to buy a linen belt and then bury it in the rocks at the Euphrates River. The belt lay there for many days until God tells him to go dig it up. Now the belt had rotted and was no longer any good. Just as the belt had rotted and now was worthless, so Judah's pride had rotted it away, and they were now worthless.
The Potter and the Clay (Jeremiah 18) – God tells Jeremiah to go visit a potter. The potter was working the clay and as he was making a vessel on the pottery wheel, the vessel became ruined. So the potter remade the clay into another vessel. So was Israel in the hands of the Lord. Israel had become ruined, so he would destroy it so he could remake it again.
The Broken Pot (Jeremiah 19) – God tells Jeremiah to go buy and earthenware jar. After announcing judgment on the people Jeremiah was to break the jar before his audience, announcing that int eh same way God would break his people.
God tells Jeremiah to make a yoke and to put it around his neck. So Jeremiah does so, and he wanders around Jerusalem wearing the yoke. Jeremiah's object lesson was to call the people to voluntarily put themselves under the yoke of the king of Babylon, for if they voluntarily submitted they would live. If they resisted they would die.
This was not a popular message, and it contradicted other prophets at the time. But Jeremiah, wearing the yoke warned about the falsehood of these other prophets.
(Jeremiah 27:9-10 NASB) ""But as for you, do not listen to your prophets, your diviners, your dreamers, your soothsayers, or your sorcerers, who speak to you, saying, 'You shall not serve the king of Babylon .'  "For they prophesy a lie to you, in order to remove you far from your land; and I will drive you out, and you will perish."
This was a warning unheeded, and it contradicted at least one of the prophets own predictions. In chapter 28, the false prophet Hananiah declares that the captivity would end in 2 years and that the yoke oppressing Judah would be lifted. The yoke of Jeremiah was physically removed and broken by the false prophet (28:10). Jeremiah's response in 28:16-17 by predicting the death of Hananiah,.
Throughout the history of Israel & Judah , there were prophets to whom the LORD did not speak. These false prophets would not declare the Word of the LORD, but would declare the popular opinion of the day. The message of the false prophets and priests in Jeremiah's day was simple: “Peace, peace”
Jeremiah 14:10-16 . God warns Jeremiah not to ask for deliverance from the coming difficulty, because the punishment is for their own good (i.e. to punish for their evil and to bring them back to repentance.) Yet the prophets of Jeremiah's day were preaching that deliverance was imminent, and that there would not be any “sword and famine.” God tells Jeremiah that He did not reveal this to them, and that their false prophecy will cost them their life.
Jeremiah 23:9-17 . The prophets were wicked, deceitful, and adulterous. Their visions were not from God, but man. These worthless visions said that Judah was on the verge of peace. But God was these liars along with the nation would soon be destroyed.
Deuteronomy 13:1-5 and Deuteronomy 18:15-22 warns that false prophecy should result in death, and that God would send these prophets to test the people. Jeremiah expresses his frustration that the false prophets are not receiving their due. Furthermore, because the religious leaders of the day considered Jeremiah to be a false prophet, his life was in constant jeopardy. How did they know and how do we know if the message is from God or not?
Jeremiah 11:18-23, 12:1-13 . Jeremiah pleads with God about a threat to his own life. It appears that even priests from his hometown that were seeking to kill him as a false prophet. But Jeremiah knows that his message is from God, and pleads with God to spare his life. After God declares his punishment for his enemies ( 11:22 -23), Jeremiah praises God for his faithfulness and deliverance.
Jeremiah 17:14-18 . Again the people doubt Jeremiah's authenticity (vs. 15). After all, the other prophets were proclaiming peace, and Jeremiah was proclaiming disaster. Jeremiah's response in vs. 18 then is not just vengeance on his enemies, but a plead with God to fulfill what he had revealed.
Jeremiah 20:1-18 . This chapter begins with a historical discussion of when Pashur, the priest struck Jeremiah and placed him in a stockade after hearing his prophecy of doom. Jeremiah's response is to continue in his prophecy of destruction. Then Jeremiah shares his desire to give up the ministry in vs. 7-10. But his conclusion is that God is true and he will be vindicated. Nonetheless, he expresses his struggle with the job God has given, ending the chapter with a curse on the day he was born.
Jeremiah 26 . The priests and prophets seized Jeremiah again after proclaiming God's punishment. They declare that he is worthy of death (v. 11), based likely on the Deuteronomy law regarding false prophets. Jeremiah's response in vs. 13 & 14 is remarkable:
(Jeremiah 26:13-15 NASB) ""Now therefore amend your ways and your deeds, and obey the voice of the LORD your God; and the LORD will change His mind about the misfortune which He has pronounced against you.  "But as for me, behold, I am in your hands; do with me as is good and right in your sight.  "Only know for certain that if you put me to death, you will bring innocent blood on yourselves, and on this city, and on its inhabitants; for truly the LORD has sent me to you to speak all these words in your hearing.""
The political leaders in Jerusalem did not believe that he was a false prophet. Rather, they defended his prophecy by quoting Micah. Another prophet with the same message, however, was not as fortunate. Urijah fled to Egypt when his life was threatened, but was pursued, brought back to Jerusalem and killed.
Jeremiah later would be imprisoned (Jeremiah 32, 37:11ff), thrown into a cistern (Jeremiah 38) and taken against his will to Egypt (Jeremiah 43).
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