Jeremiah was just a youth when God called him to be a prophet and carry messages from God to the Jewish people in Judah begging them to return to Him. Also, he brought God’s severe warnings of doom and gloom if they continued in their sin. The year was approximately 626 B.C. and Judah had become so corrupt that God would bring an end to their nation. Jeremiah became God’s prophet to the Jewish people during that difficult time. And Jeremiah cried out that God’s message was like a burning fire inside his body and he couldn’t keep it in. (Jeremiah: 20:9)
Jeremiah was not popular with this rebellious Jewish generation. They did not want to hear what he had to tell them. They had turned away from worshipping the God of their fathers and they had hardened their hearts against God. So, they took out their anger on Jeremiah as he traveled from town to town begging his people to change their evil ways.
False prophets claiming to be from Baal were also traveling from town to town, telling the people what they wanted to hear. And the Jewish people listened to them. The false prophets were telling the people that it was good that they were worshipping idols and burning and sacrificing their little children to heathen gods. It was good that they were ignoring the poor and living sexually immoral lives. The whole world was doing these things and they were just doing what was smart and popular. The false prophets assured the people that there would be no judgment or punishment from God.
Jeremiah was commanded by God not to marry or have children, because the next Jewish generation would die or be carried off into slavery. God’s punishment would fall on the Jewish people when they refused to turn from their sins. (Jeremiah 16:2) Jeremiah suffered a great deal to be God’s prophet. In this spiritual battle it was God that the Jewish people were fighting and not Jeremiah. Scripture says that we will suffer persecution if we do God’s work. (2 Timothy 3:12)
Year after year Jeremiah was mocked and persecuted as he went about giving God’s warnings to his people – a people who refused to listen. All alone, for sixty long years, Jeremiah went about his difficult job of prophesying. Begging, crying and warning Judah to come back to God or destruction would follow. Sixty long years of being laughed at and rejected!
Here are some of the messages God gave to Judah through Jeremiah, His prophet or messenger: God told the Jewish people that He (God) was the Fountain of Living Water and that they had forsaken the Living Water for broken cisterns that can hold no water. (Jeremiah 2:11-13)
Another message God gave the Jewish people in Judah through Jeremiah was this: God compares Israel to a harlot that is shameless. “Have you seen what backsliding Israel has done? She has gone up on every high mountain and under every green tree, and there played the harlot.” (Jeremiah 3:6b) (The high mountains and the green trees are where heathen nations sacrificed to their idol gods) God continues His message: “Then I saw that for all the causes for which backsliding Israel had committed adultery, I had put her away and given her a certificate of divorce, yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but went and played the harlot also.” (Jeremiah 3:8)
Earlier, the ten tribes of Israel had forsaken God for a long period of time. Finally, they were attacked by the Persians and carried off into captivity, losing their Promised Land and their good life. Now only two tribes are left and that is Judah. Jeremiah is telling Judah that this will happen to them if they continue rejecting God and sacrificing to all the heathen gods.
Another of God’s messages to Judah was this: “Run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem: See now and know. And seek in her open places. If you can find one man, If there is anyone who executes judgment or anyone who seeks the truth. Then I will pardon her (Jerusalem).” (Jeremiah 5:1) God is saying that if He could find just one person in all of Jerusalem who tried to follow Him that He would save Jerusalem from punishment. Are we learning here that just one person who trusts in God can make a big difference? Scripture says: “The prayers of a righteous person avails much” (James 5:16)
Bible scholars believe that this story in Jeremiah 5:1 was used to illustrate the wickedness of the city of Jerusalem. If just one man in the whole city seeks the truth, then God will pardon the city! It seems that God wanted so badly to save the Jewish people from punishment that if just one person in the city of Jerusalem followed God, Jerusalem would have been saved. Likewise, when Abraham prayed that the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah be saved if there were just ten good people living there, the Lord answered him this way: “I will not destroy them for the sake of ten people.” (Genesis 18:32b) Unfortunately God could not find ten good people in Sodom and Gomorrah and those ancient wicked cities were destroyed!
Another message Jeremiah was called to deliver to the Jewish people was a message telling them that they should not trust in the temple to save them. Even though the Jewish people worshipped other gods in 626 B.C., they still believed that God’s temple would save them from disaster! Solomon’s magnificent temple was in Jerusalem and many of the Jews believed that, like a good luck charm, the temple would save them!
God’s Spirit had been in that temple when their forefathers had worshipped there, but His Spirit had departed since the people had rebelled. So, in 626 B.C. their priests and religious leaders liked to dress up and play like they were godly, but they refused to really follow God. They wanted God’s blessings without worshipping Him in their hearts and lives. And it doesn’t work that way.
God speaks to the people through Jeremiah: “Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, burn incense to Baal, and walk after other gods whom you do not know. And then come and stand before Me in this temple which is called by My name and say, ‘We are delivered to do all these abominations’?” (Jeremiah 7:9-11)
The Jews in 586 B.C. were proud of their sins and brought them into God’s temple before His altar! God felt that they had polluted His house. God continues: “They have set their abominations in the house (the temple) which is called by My Name to pollute it.” (Jeremiah 7:30b) God tells His people that their sacrifices are worthless without their faith in Him and without their obedience. (Jeremiah 7:21-23)
Next week we will study more of the many messages God gave to His wayward people so long ago. Hopefully we can learn from the mistakes that that rebellious Jewish generation made back then and not repeat them.