In the Fall of 2019, I felt the nudge to read the end of Jeremiah. We were in Washington DC visiting our daughter and family. The elections had not yet taken place, but there was swirling in the air. I read the last twenty-seven chapters. As I did, I was dumbfounded as I observed the Lord send Jeremiah repeatedly hoping for a different response from Judah and Israel. Could this be America, His church? I have since read Jeremiah several times. Now, our Bible Reading Schedule is at Jeremiah, and my wife, Cammy has urged me to share my observations with you.
Today is the first in this series which covers chapters one through six, corresponding to where we are today in our reading this week. I hope to do this each Thursday and share my observations and not my opinions each week.
God’s love for His covenant nation was so tireless that He called a young man to be His mediator between Himself and Israel. He chose Jeremiah and Israel rejected Jeremiah. Like a bad marriage, it just kept getting worse. Interestingly though, it is in Jeremiah 31 that God declares the new covenant that He is going to make, the covenant in Jesus Christ.
Jeremiah Chapter One – Jeremiah’s calling
“Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.” This is God’s introduction of Himself to Jeremiah and Jeremiah’s introduction to his calling. “What do you see?” God asks Jeremiah. He then interprets for Jeremiah “I am ready to perform My word.” The vision of the impending judgment through Babylon is shared in the next vision. It is a vision that will grow in intensity and final fulfillment, during Jeremiah’s ministry. Chapter one gives the scope of Jeremiah’s ministry and the three main kings it involves, Josiah, Jehoiakim, and Zedekiah. Jeremiah is told to stand and speak what he is commanded; for God has made him a fortified city and an iron pillar. This is going to be a fight.
Jeremiah Chapter Two – God’s charge against Israel
God states His case against Israel. “I remember the kindness of your youth”. Israel was holiness to the Lord, the first fruits of His increase. “What injustice have your fathers found against Me, that they have gone far from Me, have followed idols, and have become idolaters?” Throughout Jeremiah, we will see that God considers idolatry as adultery in His marriage to Israel. No one asks, “Where is the Lord?” Not even the priests ask, “Where is the Lord?” Priests, rulers, and prophets all have walked after things that do not profit. Two examples of the foolishness of idolatry. “My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewn themselves cisterns – broken cisterns that can hold no water. The lust for idolatry is like a donkey in heat, they are addicted to worshipping other gods, and now say to a tree “You are my father.” And to a stone, “You gave me birth.”
Jeremiah Chapter Three — God’s call to return
Here we begin to see God’s longsuffering, forbearance, and goodness over His covenant nation. Backsliding Israel went astray first, but her treacherous sister Judah, seeing her judgment, did not fear but went and played the harlot and committed adultery with stones and trees. Even though God put Israel away and gave her a certificate of divorce, He now says, “Return, backsliding Israel, says the Lord, I will not cause My anger to fall on you for I am merciful.” Now the conditions of returning; “Only acknowledge your iniquity, that you have transgressed against the Lord your God, and have scattered your charms to alien deities under every green tree, and you have not obeyed Me voice, says the Lord.” God is still married in His heart and promises redemption if they will return to Him. If so, He will go and find them and bring them to Zion. Jerusalem will be known as The Throne of the Lord. This becomes the constant theme: God declaring Israel’s departure, the consequences coming, then a new offer to return, with the promise of greater grace.
Chapter Four – The Imminent Invasion
Judgment continues to march from the north. God is calling for hearts to be broken and the foreskins of the hearts circumcised. Visions of the severity of the invasion and its effect stir Jeremiah to say, “Ah, Lord God? Surely You have greatly deceived this people and Jerusalem, saying, ‘You will have peace, whereas the sword reaches to the heart.’” But the Lord is not saying peace, He says, “O Jerusalem, wash your heart from wickedness, that you may be saved. How long shall your evil thoughts lodge within you?” The continuing desire of the Lord is to deliver, yet desolation marches forward. His people are foolish, they have not known the Lord, they are silly children and they have no understanding. Israel continues to make herself attractive to other lovers.
Chapter Five – God is blameless when He judges.
Jeremiah is told to find one man who executes judgment and seeks the truth, and the Lord will pardon Jerusalem. But there is none. All swear falsely, making their faces harder than rock, refusing to return. The Lord says that they are poor and ignorant people. So, He sends Jeremiah to their great men, but they too have broken the yoke and burst His bonds. They are well-fed, lusty stallions, and everyone neighs after his neighbor’s wife. Israel and Judah both say that “It’s not the Lord speaking through Jeremiah and that evil will not come, nor the sword or the famine.” So, God ups Jeremiah’s game, making His words fire. The nation from the north continues to come. Note, Babylon has not marched, but each argument of their hearts, refusing to humble and consider their ways, brings judgment forward, years away. Theirs are defiant and rebellious hearts that have revolted and departed from the Lord. “The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priest rule by their own power, and My people love to have it so. But what will you do in the end?”
Chapter Six – Ask for the Ancient Paths
The nation from the north continues to come. The Lord looks for one whom He can give warning to who will hear. He is about to burst because from the least to the greatest (for-shadow of the New Covenant), they are all given to covetousness. From prophet to priest, everyone deals falsely, healing the people superficially, saying, “Peace, peace!” When there is no peace. Stand and ask for the old paths where the good way is and walk in it. The Lord pleads, and His people say, “We will not walk in it.” Refusing to listen, calamity’s march continues, the very fruit of their own thoughts.
We are only six chapters into fifty-two, and the case is clear. God considers idolatry as adultery in a marriage. He pleads with Israel and Judah to return, and He will heal their backsliding. But, they do not think they are backsliding and refuse to hear. A nation from the north is coming, but there are not yet any signs or rumors of such. There is the promise of peace, but they are only thoughts of their own hearts. Even though it sounds so ominous, the Lord will continue to make opportunities for hearing, and returning, with promises of complete reversals of all that is coming, and an established kingdom. Babylon will come to the gates of Jerusalem, but then leave plentiful opportunities to reverse the plague, the famine, and the sword. Can the Lord convince, through Jeremiah, Israel, and Judah’s backsliding? If anyone can, it will be the Lord.