Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Jeremiah 1

The call of Jeremiah (vs. 1-10)--Jeremiah starts his book by dating his prophecy, which I've already done in the introduction. He was priest who lived in the town of Anathoth. It is generally believed that Anathoth was named after a local, pagan goddess, Anat. The Jews, as a rule, did not change the names of cities they found in Palestine (with some exceptions). Anathoth was about three miles north of Jerusalem.

Verse 4 tells us that the Lord knew what kind of man Jeremiah would be before he was even born, i.e., the kind of man God needed to do His work at the most critical juncture in Judah's history. Jehovah intended for Jeremiah to be a prophet (v. 5). Jeremiah was hesitant: "Then said I: "Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I cannot speak, for I am a youth" (v. 6). But age means nothing to the Lord, if the person is right: "you shall go to all to whom I send you, and whatever I command you, you shall speak" (v. 7), a challenging commission for any man, but Jeremiah was certainly up to the task. The Lord would give Jeremiah the correct message, and explained his job even further: "See, I have this day set you over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out and to pull down, to destroy and to throw down, to build and to plant" (v. 10). Notice that Jeremiah's mission encompassed "nations" and "kingdoms" (plural), and that weeds would have to be pulled before planting could begin. How true this is to this very day. So many congregations need a housecleaning before the positive work of the Lord can be done. Even a little leaven leavens the whole lump.

Two parables (vs. 11-16)--To illustrate part of what Jeremiah was facing, the Lord gave him two parables, or visions, or whatever one wishes to call them. "Jeremiah, what do you see?'" "'I see a branch of an almond tree,'" and it was apparently about to bud because Jehovah responded, "'You have seen well, for I am ready to perform My word'" (v. 12). The Lord had warned, for generations, what He would do if His people continued their unfaithful, idolatrous ways, and now the price was about to be paid. The second vision was of a boiling pot, "and it is facing away from the north" (v. 14). The Lord explained this as "Out of the north calamity shall break forth on all the inhabitants of the land" (v. 15). He is speaking here about the coming of the Babylonian armies. They would come from the north; all armies moving into Palestine had to do so because of the desert to the east. If Jeremiah received this initial communication from the Lord in 628 B.C., then the calamity that befell Judah and Jerusalem was about two decades away, and the final destruction of the city and the temple was not for another 40 years (586 B.C.). But it was going to happen. Jehovah's patience had run out, it was simply a matter of arranging historical events to fit His timeframe. The main reason for this national calamity is clearly delineated in verse 16: "I will utter My judgments against them concerning all their wickedness, because they have forsaken Me, burned incense to other gods, and worshiped the works of their own hands." Josiah actually cleansed the land of all idol worship, but again, it was too late. Physical idolatry might have ceased, but the idolatry in the heart remained. It was too deeply inbred in the Jews, and they needed to have it washed out.

Jeremiah sent (vs. 17-19)--In one sense, Jeremiah is defeated before he even starts. Jehovah has already told him that Judah is going to be punished by northern armies, so there was no way that catastrophe could be averted. But individuals might still respond to godly preaching, so such is never in vain. Jeremiah's commission again was to "speak to them all that I command you" (v. 17). Don't lose heart. The Lord would give Jeremiah the strength he needed to stand "against the whole land--against the kings of Judah, against its princes, against its priests, and against the people of the land" (v. 18). You can be sure that the people of Jeremiah's day didn't like it any more than people today. And indeed, "They will fight against you," but they would not succeed because "'I am with you,' says the Lord, 'to deliver you'" (v. 19). Jeremiah would need a lot of delivering, but Jehovah never failed him. And Jeremiah never failed Jehovah.

Keep one thing in mind always. Jeremiah was preaching to God's people, not the heathen unbelievers. The parallel today would be a preacher preaching, not to the world, but to the church. Can God's people today drift so far away from Him and His truth? They did in Jeremiah's day and I don't think human nature has changed in the least.

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