Lessons From the Life of Jeremiah

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Lessons From the Life of Jeremiah

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The 20th century was always the age of anxiety. Yet after two world wars and two draining conflicts in East Asia, the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 seemed to herald a new era and a fresh opportunity for world peace. Western leaders talked freely of a “New World Order.”

Yet just 14 years later with Afghanistan and Iraq as recent hot spots—and now outbreaks in the Congo and Liberia—we seem further from real peace than ever. Following the road map to peace in Palestine is proving to be a rutty and difficult path indeed. The future seems very uncertain as the world experiences one crisis after another.

Yet one of the purposes of preaching and publishing the true gospel is to spread the certain truth that the message of the Bible offers real hope for the future in spite of our present chaotic, unstable world.

“For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we 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×
, NIV).

Jeremiah to the rescue

In the 6th and 7th centuries B.C., the Hebrew prophet Jeremiah lived in a moral and political climate not so different from our own. His own nation was under constant threat from two ancient powers of the time, Babylon and Egypt. By that time the Assyrian Empire (which had previously conquered and taken the 10-tribe northern house of Israel into captivity) had begun to disintegrate as an imperial power.

Jeremiah's basic commission from God included “presiding over” the demise and captivity of the nation of Judah by a foreign power, King Nebuchadnezzar's Babylon.

In the course of 40 years in a major prophetic office (626 to 587 B.C.) encompassing the reigns of five kings of Judah, Jeremiah learned certain hard-won lessons that 21st-century man desperately needs to grasp and understand.

Lesson 1: the limitations of humankind

Prominent among the lessons Jeremiah learned was his visceral understanding of the limitations of mankind—that we cannot live proper and fulfilling lives without the continual guidance of Almighty God.

One newspaper writer recently observed that “nation states are failing to settle the world's differences, but a new kind of imperialism can do it.” In other words, some sort of world government seems to promise an end to our many afflictions. Human hope springs eternal, but when based solely on mankind's limited resources, we are surely destined for bitter disappointment.

“O LORD, I know that 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×
). This basic biblical principle from the mouth of Jeremiah applies across the board—globally, regionally, locally and, perhaps most of all, personally. It impacts our governments on every level. Purely human intelligence, wisdom and understanding are not sufficient to guide our destiny. In fact, we will fail to reach it unless we learn to rely on a great unseen power apart from ourselves.

Another passage in Jeremiah elucidates the same basic principle: “Thus says the LORD: 'Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the LORD'” (Jeremiah 17:5 Jeremiah 17:5Thus said the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusts in man, and makes flesh his arm, and whose heart departs from the LORD.
American King James Version×
).

Lesson 2: The importance of knowing God

Jeremiah had a long-enduring, very close relationship with his Creator. Over time he learned to trust God with the positive outcome of his many sore trials.

This is what he once said to God: “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×
). No matter what happens, God is in charge. He is sovereign. He is our Creator.

Jeremiah recorded the following words, reflecting the fact that God saw him through all of his hardships in a time of terrible national crisis. (We may just be entering one very shortly ourselves.) “Blessed is the man [or woman] who trusts in the LORD, and whose hope is the LORD. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when the heat comes; but its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought” (Jeremiah 17:7-8 Jeremiah 17:7-8 7 Blessed is the man that trusts in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is. 8 For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreads out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat comes, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.
American King James Version×
).

We have to learn to subject our limited human outlook on life and submit it to God's divine perspective—His way of viewing things. “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×
).

Lesson 3: The need for national reformation

Jeremiah's day is reminiscent of our own modern age. We too live in a period of unusual tension and international anxiety. These conditions came about as a result of sin, the transgression of God's law (1 John 3:4 1 John 3:4Whoever commits sin transgresses also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.
American King James Version×
). The time finally came when the Creator chose to judge the nation of Judah for its many sins.

Not everyone escaped with their lives during that nation's severe national crisis. Only 4,600 were recorded as taken captive 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 of those who failed to follow God's specific instructions through the prophet Jeremiah perished, whether they remained in Jerusalem or fled to Egypt.

Obedience to God is the master key to human survival. National calamity came upon Judah because of her many sins. People ignored the Ten Commandments. Adultery, stealing, lying, idolatry and Sabbath breaking typified their conduct. “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×
). “Because they have done disgraceful things in Israel, have committed adultery with their neighbors' wives” (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×
).

Is anyone willing to venture the thought that these two passages of Scripture do not aptly describe our Western world today? In truth we know that sexual immorality threatens to engulf and shatter the very fabric of our Western society.

A case in point is the breaking news in Britain that a prominent politician and member of Parliament “leads a double life as Britain's leading organiser of upmarket sex parties” ( The Sunday Times , June 22, 2003). He runs a London-based organization “that hosts five-star orgies for swingers.” This politician also has a leading role as a coordinator for policy change in a major political party in Britain.

Yet this politician insists that “the two things don't overlap and therefore do not pose a problem. Fortunately we're living in the 21st century and even naturally censorious people tend to feel slightly self-conscious about wagging their fingers at what consenting adults do behind closed doors.” Frankly, adults consenting to sin in private cuts no ice with God whatsoever. We are all made in His image and He will hold us responsible for our conduct, whether private or public.

The sin of Sabbath breaking was also a major problem in God's eyes (see Jeremiah 17:19-27 Jeremiah 17:19-27 19 Thus said the LORD to me; Go and stand in the gate of the children of the people, whereby the kings of Judah come in, and by the which they go out, and in all the gates of Jerusalem; 20 And say to them, Hear you the word of the LORD, you kings of Judah, and all Judah, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, that enter in by these gates: 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. 24 And it shall come to pass, if you diligently listen to me, said the LORD, to bring in no burden through the gates of this city on the sabbath day, but hallow the sabbath day, to do no work therein; 25 Then shall there enter into the gates of this city kings and princes sitting on the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, they, and their princes, the men of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: and this city shall remain for ever. 26 And they shall come from the cities of Judah, and from the places about Jerusalem, and from the land of Benjamin, and from the plain, and from the mountains, and from the south, bringing burnt offerings, and sacrifices, and meat offerings, and incense, and bringing sacrifices of praise, to the house of the LORD. 27 But if you will not listen to me to hallow the sabbath day, and not to bear a burden, even entering in at the gates of Jerusalem on the sabbath day; then will I kindle a fire in the gates thereof, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched.
American King James Version×
). Today it may be a largely unrealized transgression of God's law, but our Creator is just as concerned about it now as He was anciently in the time of Judah's national troubles. (If you do not yet understand the importance of observing the weekly Sabbath day, please request our free booklet Sunset to Sunset—God's Sabbath Rest .)

But perhaps Judah's worst sin was their national idolatry, which expressed itself in two primary 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×
).

One of the worst expressions of modern idolatry today is our virtual worship of celebrities: movie stars, pop icons, sports personalities, even politicians—many of whom lead seriously flawed personal lives, unworthy of our respect and attention. Greed—our modern way of life, worshiping money and the things it can buy—is also called idolatry (Colossians 3:5 Colossians 3:5 Mortify therefore your members which are on the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:
American King James Version×
).

Lesson 4: Gaining God's favor

God didn't enjoy punishing Judah for its national and personal sins. He sent His prophets to warn them first, but the nation didn't heed. “In vain I have chastened your children; they received no correction” (Jeremiah 2:30 Jeremiah 2:30In vain have I smitten your children; they received no correction: your own sword has devoured your prophets, like a destroying lion.
American King James Version×
). So, national captivity became a necessity. Is there a lesson for our Western world today?

Before Judah's calamity Jeremiah preached national repentance to his contemporaries. “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: 'Amend your ways and your doings, and I will cause you to dwell in this place'” (Jeremiah 7:3 Jeremiah 7:3Thus said the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, Amend your ways and your doings, and I will cause you to dwell in this place.
American King James Version×
). God called the nation of Judah to national and personal repentance (verses 4-7), but it didn't happen.

The Creator is consistent; He doesn't change (Malachi 3:6 Malachi 3:6For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore you sons of Jacob are not consumed.
American King James Version×
; James 1:17 James 1:17Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom is no ficklenss, neither shadow of turning.
American King James Version×
). He hopes that our nations will wake up; but do not mistake His merciful longsuffering and patience (2 Peter 3:9 2 Peter 3:9The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
American King James Version×
) for indulgence and consent to bad behavior. “These things you have done, and I kept silent; You thought that I was altogether like you; but I will reprove you … To him who orders his conduct aright I will show the salvation of God” (Psalms 50:21 Psalms 50:21These things have you done, and I kept silence; you thought that I was altogether such an one as yourself: but I will reprove you, and set them in order before your eyes.
American King James Version×
, 23).

Today God calls us to national and personal repentance (Acts 17:30 Acts 17:30And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commands all men every where to repent:
American King James Version×
). But even if our nations as a whole do not heed the divine warnings and really repent, you can develop a personal relationship with your Creator and turn your own life around.

You will benefit enormously from His continuous guidance no matter how bad national conditions are allowed to become. “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×
). You can pray that same prayer today!

Relying on God

In spite of the fact that he was severely persecuted by his own people, Jeremiah knew that Almighty God was in complete control of events. Many of his countrymen did not and some of them continually contrived to undermine his messages, which were directly from the Creator. But God had said: “I am watching to see that my word is fulfilled” (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×
, NIV).

Our Creator has a definite plan and purpose for the salvation of mankind. Few things in this world really make sense unless we grasp that fact.

To the remnant of Judah who obeyed Him in Jeremiah's day, God promised to bless them during their Babylonian captivity.

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you” (Jeremiah 29:11-12 Jeremiah 29:11-12 11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, said the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. 12 Then shall you call on me, and you shall go and pray to me, and I will listen to you.
American King James Version×
).

God is no different today; He has not changed. He will respond to genuine repentance and a willingness to be corrected with His abundant blessings. Indeed He will guide His true people into more and more truth. “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3 Jeremiah 33:3Call to me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you know not.
American King James Version×
). WNP


Jeremiah's Commission From God

Jeremiah was accorded a very rare honor even among the biblical prophets. The Creator declared to him: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you [set you apart]; I ordained you a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5 Jeremiah 1:5Before 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×
). This prophet was commissioned from his mother's womb for his sacred task.

Please note that his prophetic commission is plural in nature. His brief is “to the nations”—not just to the one nation of Judah alone. Verse 10 mentions nations and kingdoms (both plural). Jeremiah's overall mission was “to build and to plant” as well as “to destroy and to throw down.”

His prophetic commission began with Judah and Jerusalem (Jeremiah 2:1-2 Jeremiah 2:1-2 1 Moreover the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 2 Go and cry in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, Thus said the LORD; I remember you, the kindness of your youth, the love of your espousals, when you went after me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown.
American King James Version×
), but was extended to “all the families of the house of Israel” (verse 4). (To understand the full extent of Jeremiah's sacred task among the 12 tribes of Israel and its modern implications, please request our free brochure The United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy .)

Two scriptures written by Luke (author of the Gospel account and the book of Acts) in the New Testament reveal the broad extent of Jeremiah's divine commission. In the Olivet Prophecy, Jesus Christ specifically stated: “For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written [the Old Testament prophecies] may be fulfilled” (Luke 21:22 Luke 21:22For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.
American King James Version×
). Horrendous events are predicted to occur during the Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord. World conditions would get so bad that only Christ's direct intervention will assure human survival (see Matthew 24:21-22 Matthew 24:21-22 21 For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. 22 And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.
American King James Version×
).

However, other biblical prophecies show that an undreamed world of peace and prosperity will follow Christ's second coming to this earth. In the early Church the apostle Peter exhorted his audience to “repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration [restitution, KJV] of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began” (Acts 3:19-21 Acts 3:19-21 19 Repent you therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord. 20 And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached to you: 21 Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.
American King James Version×
).

So Bible prophecy is twofold in nature. It certainly promises punishment for transgressions of divine law. But it also encourages mankind by promising a golden age of peace, prosperity and plenty following in the wake of global repentance occasioned by Christ's second coming. Jeremiah (the longest book in the Bible) contains many prophecies of punishment for national sins, but also crucial prophetic promises of a new covenant and a utopian age that will come upon and overtake humankind.WNP

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