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Lowell Brueckner

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Introduction to Jeremiah



Jeremiah 1:1-6
Today, I begin the expository study of the book of the prophet Jeremiah. I do hope you will follow me through this effort to give us, as God's people, a better understanding of His word. The plan and purpose of God for this book began before Jeremiah's birth. It was urgent, for He called him at a very young age. He preserved this word and placed it permanently in our Bibles, because of it's importance to our lives. I cannot over-emphasize the need that we have to be attentive to God's voice by studying and heeding His word. Please open your Bible and follow along verse by verse. As always in an expository study, you will have to follow along in your own Bible, because it would add a lot of volume, if we included the entire text.

Jeremiah’s person and ministry

In 1976, a well-known and appreciated 75-year-old preacher, named Vance Havner, from the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, publicly reminisced about his life’s calling. He said, in his heavy southern drawl, “I never knew the day when I did not feel called to preach.”  He preached for the first time at age 12. Charles Spurgeon was not much older, when he began to preach. The first time that he was invited to preach in London, some smiled at his country accent. They had no way of knowing that one day London would not have an auditorium big enough to attend the crowds that came to listen to him.

 All good commentators agree that Jeremiah was very young, when God called him into the prophetic office: "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations." Jeremiah spoke very literally, when he argued of his incompetence for the ministry, particularly because of his youth: "Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I cannot speak, for I am a youth." Adam Clarke estimated that he was about 14-years-old.

 He was born a priest, therefore of the tribe of Levi, and came from a Benjamite town, called Anathoth. When Solomon was a new king, he deposed his high priest, Abiathar, banning him from Jerusalem and sent him to this town a few miles northeast of the great city (1 K.2:26-35). Abiathar came first to David in exile, having escaped the massacre of the priests in Nob (1 S.22:20). Jeremiah could have been a descendent of the disgraced high priest, although from the time of Joshua, Anathoth had been given as a residence for the priesthood (Josh.21:18), so already there were priests living there.

 There is no mention of a wife or family, but his father was Hilkiah. Possibly, he was the high priest, whose timely discovery of the Book of the Law in the neglected temple, ended King Josiah’s search for the true God, which began when he was 16 years old (2 K.22:8). It happened in the 18th year of Josiah’s reign and brought revival to Judah.   

 A contemporary of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, was also a priest. However, a prophet, unlike a priest, is not born a prophet, but called by a God, who does as He pleases. It is His way to call the unlikely ones and we see that pattern throughout the Bible, particularly in Christ’s calling of His disciples. 


The Weeping Prophet

 Apparently, Jeremiah was a very sensitive person and he is often called the weeping prophet, the author of the biblical book titled Lamentations. He was an extremely compassionate man. He forcefully expresses his rebukes, but also his compassion. The Holy Spirit took this young man, equipped and inspired him for the rugged and difficult life of a prophet. God’s infinite wisdom in choosing and equipping him, gave him wonderful accuracy in his predictions.

He ministered in this office for 40 troubled years in Jerusalem. Besides Ezekiel, his contemporaries were Zephaniah, Habakkuk and Daniel. His prophecies began in the 13th year of King Josiah, 629 B.C., for the most part a favorable time for a servant of the Lord. Jeremiah was saddened by the king’s death, caused by a fatal mistake on Josiah’s part, and in 2 Chronicles 35:25, it is recorded: “Jeremiah also lamented for Josiah. And to this day all the singing men and singing women speak of Josiah in their lamentations. They made it a custom in Israel; and indeed they are written in the Laments.”

 Under kings that followed, he was tremendously unpopular, especially when he predicted the inevitable conquest by the Babylonians. Jeremiah was not interested in chronology, only the content of his message, therefore the prophecies are often out of chronological order. However, he sometimes dates them and, when he does not, by their content one can usually place the time quite accurately. As is common in the major prophets, he also prophesied to nations outside of Israel and the middle part of the book is largely historical.

 At one point, he wrote words that the Lord had given to him to be delivered in the temple, but he could not do it personally, because he was imprisoned. His friend, Baruch, therefore took it for him and on a feast day, when people came from around the country to Jerusalem, he read it. It was an ideal time for national repentance and an influential man by the name of Michaiah, reported the reading to the princes of Judah. Baruch was asked to read it to them and, in fear, the princes promised to inform the king. Meanwhile, they advised Jeremiah and Baruch to hide, presuming the negative reception by King Jehoiakim. He did as they feared that he would; he cut the scroll into pieces and burned it in the fireplace (chapter 36). 


The spiritual condition in Israel

 Judah’s spiritual condition had deteriorated significantly from the time of Isaiah. Jeremiah´s prophecies pertain to the reigns of various kings: Josiah (18 years), Jehoahaz (3 months), Jehoiakim (11 years), Jeconiah (3 months), Zedekiah (11 years). He begged the people to accept their eventual defeat and make the best of the situation. He suffered persecution and imprisonment in a miry pit, somewhat in the mode of the patriarch, Joseph, where he would have died, had he not been rescued by an Ethiopian. King Zedekiah had a bit more respect for Jeremiah and called to converse with him privately. However, this king’s political instincts were stronger and the last chapter of Chronicles states, “He did evil in the sight of the Lord his God, and did not humble himself before Jeremiah the prophet, who spoke from the mouth of the Lord” (v.12).

  Towards the end of his forty years of prophecy, Judah fell to the Babylonians, “to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her Sabbaths. As long as she lay desolate she kept Sabbath, to fulfill seventy years (2 Chr.36:21). After the conquest of Jerusalem, Nebuchadnezzar offered him a place in Babylon, but Jeremiah stayed with his people, mostly the poor, who were left in Judah.

 He was forced to go down with a rebellious group into Egypt and tradition holds that there they stoned him. But he had accomplished his mission and received the ultimate honor of being recorded in God’s holy and unerring Scriptures. His divine commission included, therefore, the faultless inspiration of the Spirit of God. In the perfect and conclusive view of the book, the Holy Spirit is indeed the Author, and Jeremiah is only His secretary, recording and preserving His Word for future generations. 

The prophets point us to Christ and quotations from the book of Jeremiah in the New Testament attest to its divine inspiration. In Matthew 2:17, the former publican gives us a very fitting quote from the weeping prophet. It is Jeremiah's prediction of the infants killed in Bethlehem: "A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.  In Matthew 16:14, the disciples reported that some people thought that Jesus was a resurrected Jeremiah. In Hebrews 8:8-12, the writer quotes the promise, given in Jeremiah, of a new covenant, featuring a new birth.

 In chapter 44, Jeremiah predicted, before he died, that his murderers would be destroyed, when the Chaldeans invaded Egypt. The Jews reached a level of debauchery and idolatry, unsurpassed in their history, during Jeremiah’s ministry. It continued after his death and culminated, with some exceptional and positive periods, however, in the murder of their promised Messiah. Jesus said to those of His day, “Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers’ guilt.” That crime cost them their homeland and some 19 centuries of wandering among the nations of the world, until the 20th Century. It is probably the greatest testimony, sure and faithful, to the nature of fallen man. Not only the Jews, but we all, as sinners, have played a part in His death, for He died for our sins.   


Two extremely important principles

Before beginning chapter 1, I want to refer briefly to Jeremiah’s prophecy, already mentioned, in which he predicted 70 years of captivity for Judah in Babylon. Daniel found this word, close to the time of its fulfillment and went to prayer, confessing his sin and the sin of his people: “I, Daniel, understood by the books the number of the years specified by the word of the Lord through Jeremiah the prophet, that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem (Dn.9:2)… “While I was speaking, praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel…” (Dn.9:20).

 I leave these two verses with you to be permanently engraved in your memory, hopefully.   I want you to notice, first of all, the literal nature of the prophetic word. There is nothing in it to spiritualize or to interpret. We need to learn to resist the temptation of spiritualizing the literal word of God. I emphasize… the 70 years were literal. Then, we need to recognize, that the fulfillment of the promises of God in our times and in our lives, only happens, when there are praying people. They recognize the things that God is doing in their day, but they know, that the sin that brought on the backslidden state in the first place, must be confessed and followed by repentance.



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