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Jeremiah

The opening verses of Jeremiah assist us in placing his messages on our timeline of Israel's history: The words of Jeremiah the son of Hilkiah, of the priests who were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, to whom the word of the LORD came in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign. It came also in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, until the end of the eleventh year of Zedekiah the son of Josiah, king of Judah, until the carrying away of Jerusalem captive in the fifth month (1:1-3). I. Outline of Jeremiah The God Who Calls (1) The God Who Instructs the Prophet (2-6) The God Who Rejects Hollow Worship (7-10) The God Who Allows Prophets to Suffer (11-20) The God Who Vindicates True Prophets (21-29) The God Who Promises a New Covenant (30-33) The God Who Enforces Covenant Consequences (34-45) The God Who Judges the Nations (46-51) The God Who Protects in Exile (52)25 II. Theology of Jeremiah A. The God Who Calls As with Isaiah, much is made of Jeremiah's call to the ministry. Before Jeremiah was even born, God had ordained him to be a prophet to the nations (1:5). This call was made clear to Jeremiah in his youth and although Jeremiah saw his youth as a roadblock to prophetic ministry, God did not (1:6-7). Indeed God promised to go with Jeremiah to deliver him from those who might rise up against him (1:8). Furthermore, God put his words in Jeremiahs mouth (1:9) that he might have confidence as he spoke: rooting out and pulling down, building and planting (1:10). B. The God Who Instructs the Prophet In Jeremiah 2-6 the Lord teaches Jeremiah why he must preach and what he will say. This instructional process actually begins in 1:11-19 where God has Jeremiah look to the north to see a boiling pot. The Lord then says, "Out of the north calamity shall break forth on all the inhabitants of the land" (1:14). While all phases of God's prophetic message are

25

Paul R. House, Old Testament Theology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1998), 299-326.

covered, the emphasis is certainly on Judah's covenant rebellion. Indeed God asks Jeremiah if he has seen what backsliding Israel has done (3:6) and what he then did to backsliding Israel (3:8a). Judah most certainly had seen God's judgment on Israel but she did not fear. Instead, she continued to play the harlot (3:8b). As such, God instructs Jeremiah to speak to the people and say: "Return, O backsliding children . . . and I will bring you to Zion" (3:14). Indeed it is interesting to note that "some form of the word repent occurs more than one hundred times in the rest of the book."26 Repentance, then, is a significant theme for Jeremiah. Indeed it is part of his overarching theology: "the priority of the spiritual over everything else."27 · · · · · · · · · C. Over outward covenant obedience (11:1-5) Over circumcision (9:25-26) Over the temple (7:1-15) Over sacrifices (6:20; 7:21-23) Over possession of Moses' law (8:8) Over (false) prophecy (23:9-40) Over prayer (11:14; 15:1) Over throne and king (22:1-9) Over the Ark of the Covenant (3:16)

The God Who Rejects Hollow Worship Chapters 7 through 10 are comprised of six sermons featuring the concerns communicated to Jeremiah in chapters 2 through 6. God first sends Jeremiah to preach at the temple warning the people not to trust in deceptive words like "the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD" (7:4). The mere existence of a worship site does not guarantee God's blessing. The second sermon focuses on God's refusal to tolerate the improper use of His Word. Indeed certain scribes entrusted with transcribing the law were altering it to fit their own beliefs (8:8). The third sermon calls everyone to "take heed to his neighbour" (9:4). "Everyone will deceive his neighbour and will not speak the truth" (9:5). The fourth message highlights God's judgment because they have "forsaken [God's] law" (9:13). In the fifth sermon Jeremiah not only denounces Judah but Egypt, Edom, Ammon, and Moab as well. In each case their sin is idolatry (9:26). The sixth and final sermon in this section looks at the problem of dull-hearted shepherds (10:21).

26

Ibid., 304. The Hebrew word sub (repent) is variously translated in English as "return," "repent," or "turn" (cf. 4:1; 8:4; 11:10; 18:11; 25:5; 26:3; 35:15; 36:3, 7). 27 Charles Lee Feinberg, Jeremiah in The Expositor's Bible Commentary, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1986), 369.

D.

The God Who Allows Prophets to Suffer The Life Application Bible summarizes well the suffering that Jeremiah had to endure: He was poor and underwent severe deprivation to deliver his prophecies. He was thrown into prison (chapter 37) and into a well (chapter 38), and he was taken to Egypt against his will (chapter 43). He was rejected by his neighbours (11:19-21), his family (12:6), the false priests and prophets (20:1, 2), friends (20:10), his audience (26:8), and the kings (36:23). Chapters 11-20 which mention some of these hardships are typically referred to as Jeremiah's personal laments. Jeremiah's first lament is against his neighbours who have plotted against his life. Jeremiah wants to know why the wicked prosper and why a righteous God does not do more to stop sin (12:1-4). Jeremiah's second lament focuses on his apparent lack of effectiveness (15:10-14). "Every one of them curses me." Jeremiah's third lament focuses on his forced singleness. God has forbidden Jeremiah from marrying as a symbol of God's coming judgment on the nation (16:1-9). An important shift occurs in this third lament. Jeremiah moves from complaining about God to lamenting over Judah's actions.

E.

The God Who Vindicates True Prophets Despite the hardships involved in prophesying, God vindicates His prophets by vindicating His word. When Jeremiah calls the people covenant breakers and compares the temple to Shiloh (26:2-6) he faces death at the hands of those who are wrapped up in the hollow religion of "the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD" (26:7-15). What saves Jeremiah is a favourable comparison of his message to that of Micah at the time of King Hezekiah (26:16-18). Quite correctly they conclude that messages of doom may be transformed into messages of hope through repentance (26:19). God vindicated Micah's words and at the same time Jeremiah's words as well.

F.

The God Who Promises a New Covenant The picture of God painted here is one of a Lord who begins anew with a restored people after the dust of destruction has settled. Jeremiah 30--33 revolves around promises to the people (30--31) and promises to the city (32--33). These chapters also renew the monarchy as well, so the whole nation has future hope.

Jeremiah centers the apex of this new hope on something called the "new covenant" (31:31-34). The LORD, through Jeremiah, promises a day when the covenant will no longer be broken. The reason being it will be written on the hearts of God's people (31:33). This covenant will unite the tribes of Israel (31:31). All covenant members will know the LORD and experience the forgiveness of sin (31:34). This new covenant will also last forever (31:35-37). I would suggest along with David Barker that "we have seen the inauguration of this new covenant today (per Jesus' words) with the invasion of Pentecost, and we await its final consummation and realization in the second coming of Christ."28 G. The God Who Enforces Covenant Consequences This segment of the book highlights the prophecy's close agreement with the view of history found in the Former Prophets namely that Deuteronomy 27-28 helps to explain what goes on in Israel's national life. When they obey the Lord they are blessed; when they rebel they can expect ever-escalating consequences that will culminate in exile. It is not surprising, then, that Jeremiah 34:1-7 depicts the prophet warning Zedekiah to surrender to the Babylonians. This advice in fact is repeated in 37:1-10; 37:16-21 and 38:17-28. Judah has violated God's covenant with her idolatry and her immorality so she must recognize that God will enforce his covenant curses. H. The God Who Judges the Nations Jeremiah's preaching to the nations has been fairly limited to this point. Other than the messages about idolatry in 10:1-16 and 43:8-13, the promise of Babylon's victory over Egypt's coalition in 25:7-26 and the statement on future Gentile belief in 33:9, the book remains focused primarily on Judah. Here, though, Jeremiah speaks as "a prophet to the nations" (1:5) as he addresses Egypt (46:1-26), Philistia (47:1-7), Moab (48:1-47), Ammon (49:1-6), Edom (49:7-22), Damascus (49:23-27), Kedar and Hazor (49:28-33), Elam (49:34-39), and finally Babylon (50:1--51:58). Sins such as arrogance, idolatry, and going against God's people, Israel, figure prominently in these judgments. I. The God Who Protects in Exile Jeremiah ends with a near repetition of 2 Kings 24:18--25:30. Both depict the fall of Jerusalem, the fate of Zedekiah and the kind of treatment given Jehoiachin in about 560 B. C., the thirty-seventh year of his exile.

28

David Barker "Theology of Jeremiah," (Cambridge, ON: Heritage Theological Seminary, Fall 1999), 6.

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