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Saturday, June 20, 2015

Jeremiah, the Weeping Prophet

Jeremiah, the Weeping Prophet

The year was 626 B.C. and the Jewish people and their religious leaders had forgotten God and had become altogether corrupt.  They had built idols everywhere and were worshipping them.  God was heartbroken and angry with His people and He had a lot to say to them.  He was threatening to bring an end to their nation if they did not come back to Him.  So God called Jeremiah to be His prophet and deliver His messages to the Jewish people.  To call His people back to Himself and to warn them of punishment if they continued in their evil ways.

When Jeremiah was very young the Lord came to him and said: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.  And before you were born, I set you apart.  I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”  (Jeremiah 1:5)   Shocked and surprised that God was calling him to be a prophet, Jeremiah argued with God that he was just a child and he did not know how to speak to the people. 

But God answered him: “Do not say, ‘I am only a child.’  You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you.  Do not be afraid of them for I am with you and will rescue you.”  (Jeremiah 1:7)   Then God reached out his hand and touched Jeremiah’s mouth and said: “Now I have put my words in your mouth.  See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.”  (Jeremiah 1:9-10)   

God assured Jeremiah, “I will make my words in your mouth a fire.”  (Jeremiah 5:14)  Years later there was a time when Jeremiah was tired and just wanted to take a break and relax, but he said that he couldn’t do that because: “His word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones:  I was weary of holding it back, and I could not.”  (Jeremiah 20:9)  The fire of the Holy Spirit was burning in Jeremiah’s bones. Jeremiah was a timid person but God promised to give him the strength to be a strong and courageous man.  (Jeremiah 1:18: 6:27: 15:20)  God had given Jeremiah a big job to do, but God had also given Jeremiah the strength and the “fire” to accomplish that job.  And God will do the same for us, if we let Him.

 For forty years or longer Jeremiah traveled back and forth throughout the land of Judah calling the Jewish people and their kings and priests to repent and to turn from sacrificing their children to idols.  To stop taking advantage of the poor and to stop worshipping idols and to come back to their God or to face being destroyed.  Jeremiah had few friends and was not popular because the people did not want to hear his message of doom.  He loved his people and wept over them because no one would listen to him and be saved from the coming punishment. Over the years several kings persecuted and imprisoned him. 

  The Jewish people ignored God’s warnings given to them through Jeremiah, and laughed at him, calling him names.  False prophets came out and told the people what they wanted to hear.  They laughed at Jeremiah and told the people that it was good to worship idols and to forget God.  That this was a new day and all would be well.  That the people could do their own thing and God would never punish them for their actions as Jeremiah had predicted.  These false prophets prophesied peace and prosperity at a time when death and destruction were on the way.
 These false prophets with their positive messages were popular with the religious leaders and the kings and the people.  But Jeremiah, with his long sad face and his messages of doom, was ridiculed and treated badly.  Even so, Jeremiah loved his people and constantly wept over them because he could see the destruction and death that were coming their way.  Jeremiah was called the “weeping prophet.”

Here are some of the messages that God gave to the Jewish people through Jeremiah: 
“Has a nation ever changed its gods?  But my people have exchanged their Glory for worthless idols. ….My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken Me, the spring of living water, and they have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”  (Jeremiah 2: 11, 13)

“The house of Israel –the kings, the officials, the priests and prophets, they say to wooden idols, ‘You are my Father.’  And they say to stone idols, ’You gave me birth.’  They have turned their backs to Me and not their faces:  Yet when they are in trouble, they call to Me, ‘Come and save us!’  Where then are the gods you made for yourselves?  Let them come if they can save you when you are in trouble!  ….’Why do you bring charges against Me?  You have all rebelled against Me,’ declares the Lord.”  (Jeremiah 2:27, 28a, 29)

“So I will go to the leaders and speak to them: surely they know the way of the Lord, the requirements of their God.  But with one accord they too had broken off the yoke of the Lord  and torn off the bonds.”  (Jeremiah 2:5)  “Their ears are closed so they cannot hear.  The word of the Lord is offensive to them.  They find no pleasure in it.  I am full of the wrath of the Lord, and I cannot hold it in.”  (Jeremiah 6:10, 11)   “They do not defend the rights of the poor.  Should I not punish them for this? declares the Lord.”  (Jeremiah 5:28b, 29)

“This is what the Lord advises: ‘Stand at the crossroads and look: Ask for the ancient paths.  Ask where the Good Way is, and walk in it.  And you will find rest for your souls.  But you answer, ‘We will not walk in it.’”  (Jeremiah 6:16)

God speaks: “Why should I forgive you?  Your children have forsaken me and sworn by gods that are not gods.  I supplied all their needs, yet they committed adultery and thronged to the houses of prostitutes. “(Jeremiah 5:7)   “The harvest is past, the summer has ended and we are not saved.”  (Jeremiah 8:20)  

“A lion has come out of his lair: a destroyer of nations has set out.  He has left his place to lay waste to your land.  Your towns will lie in ruins without inhabitants.  So put on sackcloth, lament and wail, for the fierce anger of the Lord has not turned away from us.”  (Jeremiah 4:7, 8)

Judgment was one of the main themes of Jeremiah’s prophesies to the Jewish people.  He wept as he begged the people to turn back to God.  He cried and pled with the people to repent otherwise their nation would be destroyed. That a country from the north (Babylon) would come and destroy their nation and carry them away.  He wept when the people refused to listen.
 Jeremiah’s prophesy was fulfilled in approximately 605 B.C. when the city of Jerusalem was destroyed along with all of the nation of Judah and the Jewish people were either killed or carried off to Babylon in chains as slaves.  But God was merciful and eventually brought His people back to their land. Approximately seventy years later the Jewish people were allowed to return to their homeland and re-build.     
God’s messages through Jeremiah are relevant to us today because they are timeless.  Sin will always be punished.  But turning back to God always brings restoration and forgiveness.  We may not worship idols of wood and stone today as the ancient Jewish people did in Jeremiah’s day, but our idolatry can consist of such things as worshipping wealth, talent or position.  We sacrifice our children to these idols as well.  Anything we love and worship more than God is an idol.  (Exodus 20:3) And we have plenty of false prophets around telling us that it is all right and even fashionable to sin.  That the Bible is outdated and we have grown past it anyway.  God called for His people to come to Him and to obey His Word in Jeremiah’s time and He calls for that from us today.



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