Who wrote the book?
The son of a priest from the small town of Anathoth in Judah, the prophet Jeremiah dictated prophecies from the Lord to his secretary, Baruch. Because of Jeremiah’s lineage, he would have been raised a priest, though no record of his priestly service exists. Instead, God chose this man of undeniable courage to speak to the people of Judah on the Lord’s behalf—even though they would not listen.
Jeremiah was nearly twenty years old when he began to prophesy, and he continued in that office for the rest of his adult life, some forty years or more. Because his message held little weight with the people, Jeremiah’s prophecies reveal a substantial amount of emotional depth—often sorrow over the plight of God’s people or his own troubles (Jeremiah 12:1–4; 15:10).
Where are we?
Jeremiah’s ministry began in 627 BC and ended sometime around 582 BC with his prophecy to the Jews who fled to Egypt (Jeremiah 44:1). For the majority of this time, Jeremiah based his ministry out of Jerusalem. The southern kingdom of Judah fell during Jeremiah’s prophetic ministry (586 BC), having been threatened for many years by outside powers—first Assyria and Egypt and then by their eventual conquerors, Babylon.
Jeremiah found himself addressing a nation hurtling headlong toward judgment from God. The Israelites may have feared the future as the outside powers drew near, but rather than respond with humility and repentance, the people of Judah primarily lived as islands unto themselves, disregarding both the Lord’s commandments and the increasing danger that resulted from their disobedience.
Why is Jeremiah so important?
The prophecies of Jeremiah offer us a unique insight into the mind and heart of one of God’s faithful servants. The book includes numerous personal statements of emotional engagement, painting Jeremiah not merely as a prophet brought on the scene to deliver God’s message but also as a red-blooded human being who felt compassion for his people, desired judgment for evildoers, and was concerned about his own safety as well.
Significantly, the book of Jeremiah also provides us the clearest glimpse of the new covenant God intended to make with His people once Christ came to earth. This new covenant would be the means of restoration for God’s people, as He would put His law within them, writing it on hearts of flesh rather than on tablets of stone. Rather than fostering our relationship with God through a fixed location like a temple, He promised through Jeremiah that His people would know Him directly, a knowledge that comes through the person of His Son, Jesus Christ (Jeremiah 31:31–34; see also Hebrews 8:6).
What's the big idea?
Because Jeremiah prophesied in the final years of Judah before God’s people were exiled to Babylon, it makes sense that the book’s overarching theme is judgment. Indeed, the first forty-five chapters focus primarily on the judgment coming to Judah because of its disbelief and disobedience. However, an element of grace is also present in these events. The fall of Jerusalem comes nearly nine hundred years after the original covenant between God and the Israelites in the Sinai desert (Exodus 24:1–18). Such an extended period of time witnesses to God’s great patience and mercy, allowing His people the opportunity to turn from their sinful ways—a lifestyle they began not long after they struck the original covenant with God (32:1–35).
How do I apply this?
Seeing God’s patience with His people in the Old Testament reminds us that God has always been and continues to be merciful. That His chosen people routinely ignored the covenant they made with Him for the better part of a millennia without immediate death and destruction should give us hope in our own struggles with living well for God. Though we fail Him, He is patient with us, working in us to bring about the best for our lives.
But the book of Jeremiah also reminds us that an end will certainly come, a truth that should spur us to follow after God wholeheartedly. Will you follow Him?
Hate is a powerful word. We are taught from childhood to avoid hatred at all costs and to obey the command of Christ to love everyone, including our enemies. So it’s shocking to read the words that Paul quoted from Malachi, who declared that God loved Jacob but hated Esau (Malachi 1:2–3). How can a […]Read More
The Mamertine Prison in Rome could have been called the “House of Darkness.” Few prisons were as dim, dank, and dirty as the lower chamber Paul occupied. Known in earlier times as the Tullianum dungeon, its “neglect, darkness, and stench” gave it “a hideous and terrifying appearance,” according to Roman historian Sallust.1Sallust, The War with […]Read More
Almost 2,000 years ago Joseph and Mary journeyed to Bethlehem. Approximately 2,040 years before, Jacob and Rachel, another expectant couple, traveled south along the same road. Rachel gave birth to Benjamin, but died soon after delivery, and Jacob buried her near Bethlehem (Genesis 35:19). Rachel’s death foreshadowed the devastation that the territory of Benjamin would […]Read More
On July 19, AD 64, a fire broke out in Rome, destroying ten of the city’s fourteen districts. The inferno raged for six days and seven nights, flaring sporadically for an additional three days. Though the fire probably started accidentally in an oil warehouse, rumors swirled that Emperor Nero had ordered the inferno so he […]Read More
Question: I recently read the book, The Da Vinci Code. I know that it is fiction, but it has caused me to question everything that I’ve always believed about Jesus. How do we know that Jesus is God in the flesh and not simply a good teacher? Answer: For two thousand years, critics have chipped […]Read More
Everyone of a certain age knows exactly where they were on the evening of the 22nd of November 1963…when it happened. That’s the day when heroes fell. A day to remember. You might naturally be recalling the assassination of President Kennedy, but I have a different man in mind. C. S. Lewis had died just […]Read More
The church of the twenty-first century needs to awaken from its moral slumber. In this age of “enlightenment,” we have been taught to be tolerant. We have gone soft on the exposition of the Scriptures. We have learned to ignore sin rather than deal with it. We have adopted the flawed notion that God’s grace […]Read More
If there was one thing my dad taught me, it was to enjoy language – to find pleasure in the way words work together. Puns, riddles, crosswords and spelling games were the à la carte fun-fare when I was a lad. His favourite poem was “If” by Rudyard Kipling. But should someone ask him if […]Read More
Holiness sounds scary. It need not be, but to the average person it is. Our tendency is to think that holiness would never find its way into the office of a salesperson—certainly not that of an aggressive and successful athletics coach. Nor would a mother of small children be that concerned about holiness, nor a […]Read More
When you boil the Christian life down to the basics, the name of the game is change. Those who flex with the times, who refuse to stay rigid, who resist the mould and reject the rut . . . ah, those are the souls distinctively used by God. To them, change is a challenge, a […]Read More