The English word prophet in the Old Testament comes from the Hebrew word “nabiy” which means “spokesman” or “speaker”. The Greek word for prophet is “prophētēs”, which can mean “one who speaks forth” or “advocate.” Prophets are also called “seers,” because of their spiritual insight or their ability to “see” the future, as directed by God.
LikeIsaiah, the subject of the last post in this series, Jeremiah warned Judah time and again about the coming destruction of Jerusalem and captivity of the Jewish people.
As the son of a priest Jeremiah would have been expected to follow in his father's footsteps however, there is no record that he served in that capacity. God chose him to be His prophet.
Jeremiah 1:1-3 NIV The words of Jeremiah son of Hilkiah, one of the priests at Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin. The word of the Lord came to him in the thirteenth year of the reign of Josiah son of Amon king of Judah, and through the reign of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, down to the fifth month of the eleventh year of Zedekiah son of Josiah king of Judah, when the people of Jerusalem went into exile.
God forbid him to marry or have children
Jeremiah 16:2-4 NIV “You must not marry and have sons or daughters in this place.” For this is what the Lord says about the sons and daughters born in this land and about the women who are their mothers and the men who are their fathers: “They will die of deadly diseases. They will not be mourned or buried but will be like dung lying on the ground. They will perish by sword and famine, and their dead bodies will become food for the birds and the wild animals.”
He is called the “weeping prophet” because he cried tears of sadness, not only because he knew what was about to happen to the nation but because, no matter how hard he tried, the people turned their backs and would not listen to him.
Jeremiah 32:33 NIV They turned their backs to me and not their faces; though I taught them again and again, they would not listen or respond to discipline.
So, along with the burden of the knowledge of impending judgment, he also must have felt very lonely.
Jeremiah was nearly twenty years old when he began to prophesy, and he served in that office all of his adult life from 627 BC to about 582 BC. He was based in Jerusalem. During his prophetic ministry Judah was under constant threat from Assyria, Egypt, and their eventual conquerors, Babylon.
Rather than responding to the warnings from Jeremiah with humility and repentance, the people of Judah disregarded both the Lord’s commandments and the increasing danger that resulted from their disobedience.
What We Learn From Jeremiah
The prophecies of Jeremiah offer us a unique insight into the mind and heart of one of God’s faithful servants. The book of Jeremiah includes an honest and transparent look into his feelings and emotions. It shows him as not only God’s prophet but a real human being who felt compassion for his people, desired judgment for evildoers, and was concerned about his own safety as well.
Jeremiah 1:4-8 NIV The word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” “Alas, Sovereign Lord ,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.” But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ 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,” declares the Lord .
Jeremiah 11:18-20 NIV Because the Lord revealed their plot to me, I knew it, for at that time he showed me what they were doing. I had been like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter; I did not realize that they had plotted against me, saying, “Let us destroy the tree and its fruit; let us cut him off from the land of the living, that his name be remembered no more.” But you, Lord Almighty, who judge righteously and test the heart and mind, let me see your vengeance on them, for to you I have committed my cause.
Jeremiah gives us one the clearest glimpses of the new covenant God intended to make with His people once Christ came to earth.
Jeremiah 31:31-34 NIV “The days are coming,” declares the Lord , “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them, ” declares the Lord . “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord . “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord ,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord . “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
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.
Hebrews 8:6 NIV But in fact the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, since the new covenant is established on better promises.
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. 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.