Learning from Jeremiah 1-6
1:1-19 - To understand Jeremiah’s story, we must look ‘behind the scenes’: ‘The Word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations”’ (4-5). To understand our own story, we must go even further back - ‘The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ... chose us in Christ before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight’. We must never forget the words of Jesus: ‘You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit - fruit that will last’ (Ephesians 1:3-4; John 15:16). We’re not to be ‘on the surface’ people. We’re to be people who have seen ‘behind the scenes’, people who have caught a glimpse of the eternal God and His eternal purpose for our lives.
2:1-19 - Jeremiah’s message was not popular. He spoke to the people about their ‘sins’. They had turned away from the Lord. They had chosen to go their own way (13). He invited them to think about what their wrong choices were doing to them: ‘Have you not brought this on yourselves by forsaking the Lord your God when He led you in the way?’ (17). Jeremiah left the people in no doubt about where their wrong choices were leading them - ‘“Your own evil will punish you, and your turning from Me will condemn you. You will learn how bitter and wrong it is to abandon Me, the Lord your God, and no longer to remain faithful to Me”, I, the Sovereign Lord Almighty, have spoken’ (19). This was not what the people wanted to hear. It was what they needed to hear. It’s still what we need to hear today!
2:20-37 - ‘Where then are the gods you made for yourselves? Let them come if they can save you when you are in trouble!’ (28). The man-made ‘gods’ cannot ‘save’. They cannot even begin to compare with ‘the Lord’ - ‘the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth’ (Isaiah 40:28). There is no comparison between God and the gods - ‘I am God, and there is no other’. The outcome of the conflict between God and the gods is never in doubt. For ‘all the makers of idols’, the future holds nothing but ‘shame’ and ‘disgrace’. God calls us to a much better and brighter future. ‘Saved by the Lord with an everlasting salvation’ - This is the great and glorious future which awaits all who obey God’s call to salvation: ‘Turn to Me and be saved, all you ends of the earth’ (Isaiah 45:15-17,22).
3:1-25 - God calls us to ‘return’ to Him (14,22). He calls us to make our response to Him. He invites us to say, ‘Yes, we will come to You, for You are the Lord our God’ (22). How are we to come to the Lord? We are to come to Him, confessing our sins - ‘We have sinned against the Lord our God’ (25). We are to come to Him, trusting Him to save us - ‘Surely in the Lord our God is the salvation of Israel’ (23). ‘Return’ to the Lord - There is nothing more than important than this. Think of the blessings the Lord gives to those who return to Him - (a) He is ‘merciful’ to us - ‘He does not treat us as our sins deserve’ (12, Psalm 103:10); (b) We become His children, calling Him ‘Father’ (19; Galatians 4:6); (c) He ‘cures us of our backsliding’ - ‘In Christ’, we become ‘a new creation’ (22; 2 Corinthians 5:17).
4:1-18 - ‘If you will return, O Israel,... then the nations will be blessed...’ (1-2). We are not only to seek blessing for ourselves. We are to pray that others will be blessed also. The blessing of God is not to be kept to ourselves. It is to be shared. We are not to be small-minded people - ‘What will I get out of it?’. Jesus said to His first disciples, ‘Go and make disciples of all nations’. This is still His Word to us today. We cannot rest content with being an inward-looking Church. Christ has given us a worldwide mission: ‘You will be My witnesses... to the ends of the earth’. We are not left to face this great task on our own. Christ says, ‘I am with you always’. We do not take up this great challenge in our own strength. Christ says to us, ‘You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you’ (Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 1:8).
4:19-5:9 - ‘One disaster follows another. The whole land is ruined... My people are fools. They don’t know Me... They are experts in doing wrong, and they don’t know how to do good’ (20,22). We read the daily news. We wonder, ‘What’s going to happen next?’ We ask, ‘Where will it all end?’ Are we to give up hope? No! We must learn to look beyond the things that are happening in our world today. We must learn to look to the Lord - ‘the God of hope’. He says to us, ‘There is hope for your future’. Do you feel like things are just going from bad to worse? Remember God’s Word: ‘I know the plans I have for you... to give you a future and a hope’. ‘May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit’ (29:11; 31:17; Romans 15:13).
5:10-6:8 - ‘A horrible and shocking thing has happened in the land: The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and My people love it this way’ (31)! The people were happy to listen to the ‘prophets’ - so long as their preaching wasn’t too challenging. They were happy to attend the services conducted by the ‘priests’ - so long as nobody expected them to change their way of life. The last thing they wanted was ‘prophets’ and ‘priests’ who took God’s Word seriously. Jeremiah was exactly what they didn’t want! He was serious about preaching the Word of God. He was serious about living in obedience to God’s Word. He wasn’t popular. He didn’t give the people what they wanted. Jeremiah was exactly what the people needed - a prophet who would keep on challenging them to ‘get real’ with God.
6:9-30 - ‘Their ears are closed... The Word of the Lord is offensive to them; they find no pleasure in it’ (10). Jeremiah must have felt like he was ‘hitting his head off a brick wall’. So few people showed any real interest in hearing and obeying the Word of the Lord. It seemed like God’s Word was ‘going in one ear and out the other’. It would have been so easy for Jeremiah just to ‘settle down’, to start ‘taking it easy’. This was what so many of the ‘prophets’ and ‘priests’ had done: ‘They dress the wound of My people as though it were not serious. “Peace, peace”, they say, when there is no peace’ (13-14). This was what Jeremiah refused to do. Jeremiah made his choice. We must make our choice. Will we choose to be faithful to God or will we settle for being popular with those whom ‘the Lord has rejected’ (30)?