Friday, June 02, 2006

Hello dear hypothetcal reader I am still working on the post about Christians and the enviroment but in the mean time enjoy this little study on the life of the Biblical Prophet Jeremiah
Fire in My Bones
Lessons from the life of Jeremiah the weeping prophet
Jeremiah has a reputation for being a prophet of doom & gloom indeed although it has now fallen out of favour somewhat to call someone a miserable Jeremiah meant that they were a pessimist of the worst order. However I believe that this is a gross misunderstanding of the character of possibly the greatest prophet in the OT. To truly understand the life of Jeremiah we need to examine the times in which he ministered

Historical Background
I. His background
Jeremiah’s history covered a span of 40 years-from his call in the 13th year of King Josiah (626 bc) until the fall of Jerusalem in 587 bc. In those 4 decades he prophesied under the last five kings of Judah—Josiah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin and Zedekiah. At this time Israel had already been overthrown several decades earlier by the Assyrians and the tiny country of Judah had was all that remained of David and Solomon's kingdom. The Assyrian empire was on the point of collapse Babylon and Egypt were struggling against each other for the leadership of the area.
Jeremiah’s life and times which fall within this all-important period are remarkably well documented, and the intimacies of his personality are more vividly portrayed than those of the Minor Prophets or even of Isaiah and Ezekiel.
When Jeremiah was called to the prophetic office he was still ‘a child’ (naÔar, 1:6), an ambiguous term descriptive of infancy (Ex. 2:6) and advanced adolescence (1 Sa. 30:17). If Jeremiah simply meant he was spiritually and socially immature the word might indicate that he was not the average age of a prophet, at his call Jeremiah was in his early 20s his boyhood was spent in the reigns of Manasseh and Amon. Doubtless many in Judah yearned for the dawn that would end the night of 60 years’ moral degeneracy. Jeremiah grew up in a pious priestly home (1:1). His name, Jeremiah means either ‘Yahweh exalts’ or ‘Yahweh throws down’, which when considering the call that God had placed on his life was a remarkably appropriate name.

Jeremiah’s early life & call
1 The words of Jeremiah son of Hilkiah, of the priests who were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, 2 to whom the word of the Lord came in the days of King Josiah son of Amon of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign. 3 It came also in the days of King Jehoiakim son of Josiah of Judah, and until the end of the eleventh year of King Zedekiah son of Josiah of Judah, until the captivity of Jerusalem in the fifth month.
Jeremiah’s Call and Commission
4 Now the word of the Lord came to me saying,
5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
6 Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.” 7 But the Lord said to me,
“Do not say, ‘I am only a boy’;
for you shall go to all to whom I send you,
and you shall speak whatever I command you.
8 Do not be afraid of them,
for I am with you to deliver you,
says the Lord.”
9 Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the Lord said to me,
“Now I have put my words in your mouth.
10 See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms,
to pluck up and to pull down,
to destroy and to overthrow,
to build and to plant.”
11 The word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Jeremiah, what do you see?” And I said, “I see a branch of an almond tree.” 12 Then the Lord said to me, “You have seen well, for I am watching over my word to perform it.”

13 The word of the Lord came to me a second time, saying, “What do you see?” And I said, “I see a boiling pot, tilted away from the north.”
14 Then the Lord said to me: Out of the north disaster shall break out on all the inhabitants of the land. 15 For now I am calling all the tribes of the kingdoms of the north, says the Lord; and they shall come and all of them shall set their thrones at the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem, against all its surrounding walls and against all the cities of Judah. 16 And I will utter my judgments against them, for all their wickedness in forsaking me; they have made offerings to other gods, and worshiped the works of their own hands. 17 But you, gird up your loins; stand up and tell them everything that I command you. Do not break down before them, or I will break you before them. 18 And I for my part have made you today a fortified city, an iron pillar, and a bronze wall, against the whole land—against the kings of Judah, its princes, its priests, and the people of the land. 19 They will fight against you; but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, says the Lord, to deliver you.
This chapter is a perfect summation of Jeremiahs life and mission to come in Jeremiah God had the right man for the job. God had fitted him out just for this mission vs. 5

God also calls us we also have a divine mission to perform which he has fitted us out for. While our call may not be as dramatic as that of Jeremiah’s which ranks with Isaiah and Paul as one of the most dramatic of calls in the whole bible we still are called by God to fulfil our purpose in life for which he has created us .

The ministry Jeremiah may be broken down into five periods. Assuming that the call of Jeremiah took place in 627 bc, the first period began on this date and ended in 622 bc. Jeremiah was therefore called to action because of the political crisis resulting from the growth in Babylonian power after the death of Ashurbanipal. This first period ended on a good note five years later when King Josiah implemented domestic reforms following the discovery of a lost book, presumed to be a portion of the Mosaic law (2 Kgs. 22–23).

The second period might be called ‘the silent years’. Jeremiah quietly observed the reform movement of Josiah without conducting an obvious public ministry. In the meantime, Nineveh, the capital city of Assyria, was besieged and conquered in 612 bc. This further cleared the way for Babylonian domination and imperialism. Assyria and Egypt had kept the power of Babylon at bay to some extent, but after the defeat of Nineveh their resistance crumbled. By 609 bc Jeremiah could keep silent no longer. Tragically, King Josiah resisted the Egyptians as they marched through his land on the way to do battle with Babylon, and this resulted in his death. The national emergency called for a prophet, just as the unstable days of Ahab had called for Elijah (1 Kgs. 17:1).

The third period of Jeremiah’s ministry was from 609 to 597 bc. This proved to be the most trying time for the prophet, whose task it was to convince Josiah’s successor that submission to the rule of Babylon was the will of God. It was this theological conviction that provoked such serious resistance to Jeremiah’s ministry, not only by kings, but also by the populace. Josiah’s immediate successor was his son, Jehoahaz, who was deported to Egypt only three months after taking the throne. His brother Jehoiakim followed him, and became Jeremiah’s greatest enemy (22:13–23; ch. 36). During this third period, the final consolidation of Babylonian power was completed in 605 bc when their general Nebuchadnezzar, who later became king of Babylon, defeated the Assyrian-Egyptian coalition at the Battle of Carchemish. As a result, Jeremiah was commanded by God to write his message on a scroll (36:1–3).

The fourth period of Jeremiah’s ministry lasted ten years. It began in 597 bc after the death of Jehoiakim and ended in 587 bc with the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem during the reign of Zedekiah, Josiah’s third son.

The final period of Jeremiah’s ministry began after the fall of Jerusalem and extended into the 570s bc. During this time Gedaliah, a righteous Jew, was appointed acting governor of Judah by the occupying Babylonians. But Gedaliah was soon murdered by a fellow Israelite, a crime which incurred further Babylonian wrath. Finally Jeremiah was forced into Egypt against his will by his own people.

These years are when Jeremiah endured humiliation after humiliation as again and again he warned and prophesied to people who grew increasingly deaf to his entreaties he ended up in stocks thrown in cisterns people from his own home town plotted to kill him. When I was doing my research into this message I came across a Latin phrase

“veritas parit odium Truth draws hatred upon itself”
I think that Jeremiah would very much attest to the accuracy of this statement.

What Jeremiah faced
Despite the reforms of Josiah early in Jeremiahs ministry and incredibly considering the fate that had befallen Israel only 100 years before the leaders and people of Judah again fell into idolatry, worshipping baal and other false gods in the place of Yahweh. In fact they believed that Jerusalem would never fall because the temple was there. There were idols in the temple and near Jerusalem children were being sacrificed to Baal and Molech. Sad to say the temple was their God complete with false prophets who would contradict every thing threat Jeremiah declared.

As the kings of Judah tried to play Egypt and Babylon off against each other Jeremiah opposed the prevailing political climate by prophesying that Judah must submit to Babylon. He would probably be arrested for sedition if he preached a message like that in Australia today. On one occasion he wore a yoke to symbolise how Judah must submit to Babylon. Chapter 27

Jeremiah endured much physical abuse but he also suffered much mental and spiritual anguish his great love for his people was his great strength but also his great weakness. He had to be asked by God not to pray for them (14:11) some idea of the anguish that jeremiah suffered can be garnered from the famous passage in Chapter 20

The Character of Jeremiah
1 Honest see above
2 courageous temple sermon chapters 7
3 sensitive see above
4 passionate
5 hopeful 32 1-44 field in the siege
Ironically Jeremiah who received his call to prophecy in a time of relative peace and who prophesied diaster in a time of seeming calm would prophecy the return of the exiles and a time of peace at a time of diaster. As Israel moved irrevocably toward the punishment that God had prepared for them, Jeremiah's message shifted from that of warning of impending doom, to prophesy the return of the exiles and the restoration of Jerusalem and the line of David. Jeremiah truly was telling the people what they didn’t want to hear when it was peace full and telling what they didn’t believe in the diaster.

Jeremiah was a man of immense courage and fortitude enduring much to fulfil his mission and I believe that there are Four valuable lessons that can be taken from his life.

1. Jeremiah despite his initial reluctance at his call was steadfast in fulfilling his mission despite all that came at him. Can we not do the same?
2. Jeremiah suffered not only physical persecution but because of his great love for his people suffered greatly, mentally, and spiritually. Do we love, as we ought?
3. For Jeremiah the word of God burned in him like a fire in his bones he could not hold it in. Does the word of God burn in our hearts like that or is it easy to hold it in?
4. Jeremiah confronted the people of his day with the truth of God. can we not do the same?

One final challenge
Jeremiah 6:16
6:16 thus says the Lord:
Stand at the crossroads, and look,
And ask for the ancient paths,
Where the good way lies; and walks in it,
And find rest for your souls.

The rest of verse 16 revels that Judah did not

But they said we will not walk in it
Where will you walk?
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