The 20th century was often the age of anxiety. Yet after two world wars in which millions perished followed by two draining conflicts in Asia, the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 seemed to herald a new era—a fresh opportunity for world peace. Leaders such as President George H.W. Bush talked of a New World Order, and Mr. Bush even hoped for “a kinder, gentler America.”
Many today believe that we are poised at another opportune time— “A moment that will define a generation,” as new American President Barack Obama expressed it in his inaugural address (emphasis added throughout).
Yet the stark reality is that just 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall—having experienced the horrors of 9/11, near genocide in parts of Africa and horrendous conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and Gaza—we seem farther than ever from achieving world peace and domestic tranquillity.
The specter of a deep recession
How deep and prolonged will this recession get? The future seems very uncertain as the present world economic crisis escalates. We appear to be on the edge of severe global anxiety, especially now with almost all national economies in serious decline with bank failures, businesses going bankrupt, billions being spent in bailouts, rising unemployment and the staggering increase in foreclosures and decrease in home values.
Those who regularly read such newspapers as The Wall Street Journal and The Financial Times find one article after another reflecting the downturn. Perhaps noted British author and journalist Paul Johnson best sums up the mood of some insightful observers of the economic scene:
“The financial crisis through which we are passing…is essentially a tragedy, and one which will broaden and deepen and intensify with every month that passes, as financial breakdown affects the real economy. Businesses built up over lifetimes are destroyed in weeks, men and women who have never known the fear of unemployment, as their grandparents did, now experience it in horrible reality and perhaps for years, [possibly] for the rest of their working life. Pensioners who had saved and prepared carefully for retirement now face a penurious old age, even destitution.
“Worst of all, as the world becomes a rougher, more desperate and frightened place, there is a real risk that the slump, as in the 1930s, will end in war, on a huge scale, that will engulf us all in thermonuclear ruin” (“What Shakespeare Has to Say About the Crisis,” The Spectator, Jan. 24, 2009, p. 30).
Still in such uncertain and stressful times with today's multiple crises, the Bible remains an anchor of encouragement to those who have learned to trust in God's inspired Word. “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the [Old Testament] Scriptures might have hope” (Romans 15:4 Romans 15:4For whatever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
American King James Version×).
Even the ancient biblical prophets offer us much consolation and hope when we truly grasp the real intent of their message. One such major prophet is Jeremiah.
Jeremiah to the rescue
Although the circumstances were different, this Hebrew prophet lived during a period of national confusion—a time resembling our present climate of uncertainty and anxiety.
His nation of Judah was under constant threat from two ancient powers, Babylon and Egypt. (Today it is terrorism and rogue nations such as Iran and North Korea.) By his time the Assyrian Empire—which had previously conquered and taken the northern, 10-tribe nation of Israel into captivity—had begun to fray around the edges as a feared imperial power.
Our faith in Jeremiah's words is supported and undergirded by God's personal commission to Him—unique among the prophets, with the exception of Moses and John the Baptist. “Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying: '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 1:4-5 Jeremiah 1:4-5 4 Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying,
5 Before I formed you in the belly I knew you; and before you came forth out of the womb I sanctified you, and I ordained you a prophet to the nations.
American King James Version×). His credentials and divine appointment to high prophetic office were and are unimpeachable.
“Then the Lord put forth His hand and touched my mouth, and the Lord said to me: 'Behold, I have put My words in your mouth. See, I have this day set you over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out and to pull down…to build and to plant'” (verses 9-10). We see from the contents of the book itself that Jeremiah prophesied during the time of the sharp decline and eventual captivity of his native country Judah .
He was the leading voice in expressing God's will for his people. In the course of some 40 years, Jeremiah prophesied during the reigns of five different kings of Judah—beginning with righteous Josiah.
With experience and with our Creator's unfailing guidance, Jeremiah learned and recorded certain hard-won lessons about the nature of God and the human condition itself that 21st-century men and women desperately need to grasp and comprehend.
Life apart from our Creator
Prominent among these lessons was Jeremiah's crucial understanding of a basic human limitation—that we cannot live proper, successful and fulfilling lives apart from the continual guidance of Almighty God.
This prophet said to God: “O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps” (Jeremiah 10:23 Jeremiah 10:23O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walks to direct his steps.
American King James Version×). Throughout the ages, in its foolish pride and arrogance, humanity as a whole has failed to grasp this important lesson.
King Solomon underscores the lesson: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6 Proverbs 3:5-6 5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart; and lean not to your own understanding.
6 In all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths.
American King James Version×). Both Solomon and Jeremiah tell us how to get on the same page with God. “Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and depart from evil” (verse 7).
Jeremiah takes the process of repentance a step further by asking for God's personal help. “O Lord, correct me, but with justice; not in your anger, lest you bring me to nothing” (Jeremiah 10:24 Jeremiah 10:24O LORD, correct me, but with judgment; not in your anger, lest you bring me to nothing.
American King James Version×). If we are going to get through very tough times that may require the “blood, toil, tears and sweat” that Winston Churchill spoke of at the onset of World War II, we need to repent of our wrong ways and get closer and closer to God—and increasingly rely on His help and guidance.
Sorely needed: national and personal reformation
Jeremiah's day is reminiscent of our own modern age. Nations today are in chaos! We live in exceptionally stressful times of unusual tension and international anxiety. Historically, this was a period of severe national crisis for Judah. During the siege and eventual captivity of that nation, few escaped with their lives. This constitutes a sobering warning for our own peoples today.
Only a few thousand captives survived to start a new life in the land of Babylon (Jeremiah 52:29-30 Jeremiah 52:29-30 29 In the eighteenth year of Nebuchadrezzar he carried away captive from Jerusalem eight hundred thirty and two persons:
30 In the three and twentieth year of Nebuchadrezzar Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried away captive of the Jews seven hundred forty and five persons: all the persons were four thousand and six hundred.
American King James Version×). Many who perished failed to follow Jeremiah's specific instructions from God, whether they sought to remain in Jerusalem or flee to Egypt. Following either option ended in disaster. Jeremiah had told his people to willingly go to Babylon.
Obedience to God is the master key to human survival. National calamity had overtaken the nation of Judah because of her many sins. For the most part the people had virtually ignored the Ten Commandments. Idolatry, adultery, stealing, lying and Sabbath breaking typified their unlawful conduct.
Sufficient examples of their multiple transgressions are given: “For the land is full of adulterers” (Jeremiah 23:10 Jeremiah 23:10For the land is full of adulterers; for because of swearing the land mourns; the pleasant places of the wilderness are dried up, and their course is evil, and their force is not right.
American King James Version×). Also: “Because they have done disgraceful things in Israel, have committed adultery with their neighbors' wives, and have spoken lying words in My name… Indeed I know, and am a witness, says the Lord” (Jeremiah 29:23 Jeremiah 29:23Because they have committed villainy in Israel, and have committed adultery with their neighbors’ wives, and have spoken lying words in my name, which I have not commanded them; even I know, and am a witness, said the LORD.
American King James Version×). False ministers misrepresented God.
Is anyone willing to venture the thought that these passages of Hebrew Scripture do not aptly apply to our Western world today? In truth, most of us know, as God does, that sexual immorality threatens to engulf and shatter the very fabric of our Western society. Regrettably, much of the media continually encourages this type of illicit behavior. It is a constant theme of many films, television programs and books.
Judah's worst sin
Idolatry, the breaking of what Jesus called the first and great commandment, can be the worst sin because it leaves us to our own devices. It exempts us from the blessings of the Creator God. Without His help and regular intervention in our lives, we become vulnerable to and are often the unwitting victims of our own follies. Things go wrong and we can't seem to grasp the real source of our problems. “Your own wickedness will correct you, and your backslidings will rebuke you” (Jeremiah 2:19 Jeremiah 2:19Your own wickedness shall correct you, and your backslidings shall reprove you: know therefore and see that it is an evil thing and bitter, that you have forsaken the LORD your God, and that my fear is not in you, said the Lord GOD of hosts.
American King James Version×).
Jeremiah highlighted Judah's idolatrous ways. “For 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” (Jeremiah 2:13 Jeremiah 2:13For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.
American King James Version×). This passage equally applies to our secular age. Can humanistic beliefs in the theory of evolution really come to our national rescue today?
One little-recognized aspect of idolatry is dishonoring God's Sabbath day. “Thus says the Lord: 'Take heed to yourselves, and bear no burden on the Sabbath day…, nor do any work, but hallow the Sabbath day, as I commanded your fathers. But they did not obey nor incline their ear” (Jeremiah 17:21-23 Jeremiah 17:21-23 21 Thus said the LORD; Take heed to yourselves, and bear no burden on the sabbath day, nor bring it in by the gates of Jerusalem;
22 Neither carry forth a burden out of your houses on the sabbath day, neither do you any work, but hallow you the sabbath day, as I commanded your fathers.
23 But they obeyed not, neither inclined their ear, but made their neck stiff, that they might not hear, nor receive instruction.
American King James Version×). Ezekiel 22:23-26 Ezekiel 22:23-26 23 And the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 24 Son of man, say to her, You are the land that is not cleansed, nor rained on in the day of indignation. 25 There is a conspiracy of her prophets in the middle thereof, like a roaring lion ravening the prey; they have devoured souls; they have taken the treasure and precious things; they have made her many widows in the middle thereof. 26 Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned my holy things: they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have they showed difference between the unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from my sabbaths, and I am profaned among them.
American King James Version×clearly shows that the nation of Judah also followed in the footsteps of the fathers by profaning the Sabbath day.
But at least ancient Judah knew which day of the week the Sabbath fell on. Most mainstream Christians today seem to think that Sunday is the Sabbath. But the seventh day of the week is the one and only true Sabbath day (Exodus 16:26-30 Exodus 16:26-30 26 Six days you shall gather it; but on the seventh day, which is the sabbath, in it there shall be none.
27 And it came to pass, that there went out some of the people on the seventh day for to gather, and they found none.
28 And the LORD said to Moses, How long refuse you to keep my commandments and my laws?
29 See, for that the LORD has given you the sabbath, therefore he gives you on the sixth day the bread of two days; abide you every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day.
30 So the people rested on the seventh day.
American King James Version×).
Getting to know God
One way of becoming very well acquainted with God is to begin celebrating the seventh-day Sabbath. It is a sign between the Creator and His people (Exodus 31:13 Exodus 31:13Speak you also to the children of Israel, saying, Truly my sabbaths you shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that you may know that I am the LORD that does sanctify you.
American King James Version×, 17).
Jeremiah had a long-enduring, very close relationship with God. Over time he learned to rely on and trust Him with the positive outcome of the many sore trials that beset his ministry.
Godly prophets, who tell the truth about national conditions, are not popular people. Jeremiah had few real friends. Yet God was first in this prophet's life. He knew and obeyed God as Creator. “Ah, LORD GOD! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for you” (Jeremiah 32:17 Jeremiah 32:17Ah Lord GOD! behold, you have made the heaven and the earth by your great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for you:
American King James Version×).
Jeremiah was chosen to record one of the most profound passages of Scripture about knowing God. “Thus says the Lord: 'Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might, nor let the rich man glory in his riches; but let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight,' says the Lord” (Jeremiah 9:23-24 Jeremiah 9:23-24 23 Thus said the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches:
24 But let him that glories glory in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD which exercise loving kindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, said the LORD.
American King James Version×).
Hope for the future
Knowing and understanding the true God in itself gives us great hope for the future. Implicit with that knowledge is a comprehension of His plan and purpose for mankind. We then begin to grasp the fact that the certain outcome for true Christians, who endure to the end, is entrance into the everlasting Kingdom of God.
Jesus Christ told us to pray: “Your kingdom come” (Matthew 6:10 Matthew 6:10Your kingdom come, Your will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
American King James Version×). In the days of Jeremiah God said, “I am ready to perform My word” (Jeremiah 1:12 Jeremiah 1:12Then said the LORD to me, You have well seen: for I will hasten my word to perform it.
American King James Version×). Our Creator wants to complete His step-by-step plan by enlarging His family and bringing His government of true peace and prosperity to this earth. In the meantime we Christians are to continually “grow in grace and knowledge of our LORD and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18 2 Peter 3:18But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.
American King James Version×).
Once we really begin to cry out for guidance from our Creator, He will begin to reveal much more of His divine knowledge to us.
God's approach to life pays dividends, both physically and spiritually. The starting point is reading and studying the Bible itself. Why not enroll in our free Bible Study Course ? Its 12 lessons will help you to understand God's Word and lead you to a wondrous comprehension of His great plan and purpose for mankind. WNP