It's Friday! I hope you are having a great day so far. Today we begin a new book of the Bible and I can promise you we are in for an interesting study. We will be spending some time with the Book of Jeremiah. Today, I want to give you an introduction and then begin "digging" into the book on Monday.
"The words of Jeremiah son of Hilkiah, one of the priests of Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin. The word of the Lord came to him in the thirteenth year of the reign of Josiah...down to the fifth month of the eleventh year of Zedekiah...when the people of Jerusalem went into exile." (Jeremiah 1:1-3)
The above passage gives us a timeline of Jeremiah's work as a prophet. Remember, the prophets were active during the reign of the kings of Israel and Judah. As we go forward we are going to come to know this prophet a lot better, but for now I want to give you a little insight as to what is to come.
Jeremiah is not only a prophet who stands and declares "Thus saith the Lord..." he also comes across as a prophet with a personality. We see him delivering the message of God, but we also see him experiencing rejection and doing the unthinkable...he gets angry with God. Think, for a moment, what it must have been like to have been a prophet during the Old Testament times. Professor Renita J. Weems gives us some idea:
"To be a prophet was to be a mouthpiece for God before the audiences that wanted to hear anything but what the moral, just and righteous thing was to do. To embrace God's call to stand in the halls of the royal palace and temple and speak truth to power was to court rejection, assault, imprisonment and likely death. To say "yes" to God was to declare "no" to the status quo."
The Book of Jeremiah includes three types of literary sources. We discover autobiography (Jeremiah's own writing of his story: (Chapters 1-25 & 46-51) A biography (3rd person stories about Jeremiah.) (Probably written by his personal secretary Baruch. 19:1 through chapter 20:6; 26:29; chapters 36-45) and we discover sermons which were directly from Jeremiah. (7:1-8:3; 11:1-14; 18:1-12; 21:1-10; 22:1-5; 25:1-11; 34:8-22)
Again, we are told that Jeremiah's work began during the reign of King Josiah of Judah. If you recall Josiah was a good king. He began his reign with success and Judah enjoyed a time of prosperity and political independence. During the final decade of Josiah's reign Jeremiah would be silent, but would resume his ministry after Josiah's death.
Now, under the leadership of Josiah the people of Judah were protected against the wrath of God. But, even though Josiah restored righteousness this did not necessarily mean that the hearts of the people had changed. When Josiah died the people had no problem resorting to their old ways. I shall never forget an ongoing argument that I had with a family member (I won't mention names even if it was my mother in law). She claimed that a certain president (I really wont give his name) "at least kept our country moral." I asked: "What?" Now, the truth was, I voted for this president. (I hope I can say that as long as I don't reveal this person's name. LOL) But, my point to her was, he could not change the hearts of the people no matter what his beliefs were or what laws he initiated. What if the Ten Commandments hung on every wall from here to there. Would that make us "right with God?" Well, I travel quite a bit. I see speed limit signs posted all over the place. Now, those who know me know that I always wanted to be a state trooper. And, when I grow up that's still what I want to be. I come up on a sign that reads (65 mph). That tells me that I am not to go over 65 mph. If I do I can be stopped and given a ticket. I, therefore, would have broken the law. Now, I can't tell you how many times I will be driving along, following the speed limit, (I really do) and yet cars pass me like I'm sitting still. And...and...some of them have posted on their bumper the words: "Honk If You Love Jesus!" or even worse...they have something on a bumper sticker about "Keeping the Ten Commandments." Oh, I don't believe there are enough laws that can possibly make us "right with God." Jeremiah is going to find this out the hard way. Josiah dies, and the people lose their protection, and they need to hear the words: "Thus saith the Lord." Guess who will be sent to deliver the message? Yes, the prophet known as "The Weeping Prophet" Jeremiah.
Well, we will get into our real work on Monday. Have a great weekend. -Pastor Rick