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Personal History of Prophet Jeremiah

For all times and for every generation God has anointed a prophet to speak to the nations and
kingdoms of the earth. In this passage we will study the calling of Jeremiah. He was among the
thousands of mourners who attended King Josiah’s state funeral in Jerusalem; probably no one was
more unnoticed, unhappy, or unsettled than a young and unmarried son of a priest from the city of
Anathoth. He was unnoticed because of his youth, unhappy because of Josiah’s death, unsettled
because God had previously called him to assume the office of a prophet. Never had there been a
more unwilling candidate. His timid protests, however, were of no avail whatsoever. God had, even
from the womb, closely observed and sanctified this young man for special service.

Such was the condition of Jeremiah in the year 610 B.C. After a long, hard, and hectic ministry,
Jeremiah was forced against his will by his own countrymen into Egypt. In addition to the Books of
Jeremiah and Lamentations, the weeping prophet which he  probably wrote and autobiography
entitled, “Who Have Heard Me, for he prophesied under Judah’s final four kings, plus Nebuchadnezzar
the Babylonian monarch, and finally Gedaliah and Johnanan, Judah’s two post-Captivity governors.

Jeremiah at first protested this call (as Moses once did, Ex. 3-4), pleading his youth as an excuse. But
he was quickly reassured by God (Jer. 1:4-10).

As Jeremiah began his ministry, God showed him three things, which underlined the nature and
importance of his call. God’s sovereign direction of Jeremiah’s life tells us something of the divine
operation of God’s will. God has a master plan for Jeremiah before the prophet was conceived in his
mother’ womb. God’s call to the prophetic office was effectual; Jeremiah responded to the sovereign
call. God gave Jeremiah all he needed to fulfill his ministry. Jeremiah’s excuses to avoid fulfilling God’
s call for his life were silly and unworthy. Moreover, Jeremiah was not able to keep from prophesying
even when he decided to remain silent (20:9).

Jeremiah either was lacking in confidence or lacking in a willingness to become a prophet when God
called him. His excuse was that he was only a youth (twenty years of age) A tender age is no reason
to refuse to speak for God.  Samuel was a mere child when he conveyed God’s message to Eli.

God showed Jeremiah an almond tree rod. Because it flowered earlier than the other trees, the
almond signified the near fulfillment of God’s proposed judgment. For I will hasten [“watch over”] my
word to perform it, i.e., “I will surely carry out my threats of punishment,” said The Lord.

He saw a pot of boiling water, tipping southward from the north. This vision from the Lord symbolized
the Babylonian invasion.

He then saw two baskets of figs in the temple. One basket had fresh, well-ripened figs, figs, but the
other contained rotten ones. God explained that the fresh figs represented the Israelites in exiles in
Babylon (men such as Daniel and Ezekiel), while the rotten fruit depicted Zedekiah and his corrupt
officials.

God informs Jeremiah about his responsibilities. He is told to gird up his loins, i.e., to free himself
from anything that would hinder him in his work of God. He is to declare the whole counsel of God.
Every word from God is weighty; nothing is to be left out. He is to appear against kings, princes, and
priests, thus he has much to fear. But he is not to be dismayed, for God will be with him. “The fear of
God is the best antidote against the fear of man.” And he who has the world for his enemy but God for
his friend is safe and secure. God prophesies that Jeremiah will be assaulted by those to whom he
preaches, but he is guaranteed that the enemy will not overcome him. God will deliver him.

Jeremiah was ordered to make a yoke and fasten it on his neck with leather thongs. He was then to
send messages to the kings of Edom, Moab, Ammon, Tyre, and Sidon, through their ambassadors in
Jerusalem, warning them that God had given their nations over to Babylon. Those who submitted and
wore the yoke of punishment with true repentance would be spared, but those who refused would be
destroyed. After God had used Nebuchadnezzar to punish Judah and neighboring nations, He would
chastise Babylonian Captivity and Israel would be gathered back to Jerusalem.

Jeremiah was commanded by God to “run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, and see now
and know, and seek in the broad places thereof if ye can find a man, if there be any that executed
judgment, that seeks the truth, and I will pardon it” (5:1). God had once made a similar arrangement
with Abraham concerning Sodom (Gen 18:23-33).

God told Jeremiah that his message would not only be to Judah but also the nations (Jer. 1:10). His
prophetic coin would have two sides—one negative (root out, pull down, destroy—God’s judgment)
and one positive (build and plant—God’s mercy). Jeremiah admitted this dreadful condition existed
among the poor and ignorant, but felt he could find honest men within the ranks of Judah’s educated
and rich rulers. But they too had utterly rejected God.

After a fruitful 31-year reign, Josiah died. A weeping prophet attended his funeral. Judah’s last good
king had gone, and it would be downhill spiritually from that point on. When the effects of Josiah’s
revival wore off, Judah plunged into idolatry and unbelief. Jeremiah was called to warn the people of
impending judgment—the great theme of his book. Jeremiah saw Babylon as the instrument of God’s
judgment. Judah would be conquered. Since their sin was indelible, divine judgment was inevitable.
The only course of action, therefore, was to surrender to Babylon. For this Jeremiah was considered a
traitor and persecuted by his friends (Jer. 11:21), the priests and prophets (26:8-9), the civil leaders (36:
19, 26; 38:4) and even his family (12:6).

Jeremiah visited the settlement where the Rachabite families lived. These individuals belonged to a
religious order and were founded by Jonadab, son of Rechab, during the reign of Jehu (841-814 B.C).
They assisted in the eradication of Baalim from Israel. Avoiding city life, they lived as shepherds,
drinking no wine.

God commanded Jeremiah to test them by offering them wine. They immediately refused saying:
“We will drink no wine; for Jonadab, the son of Rechab, our father, commanded us, saying, “Ye shall
drink no wine, neither ye, nor your sons forever’” (Jer. 35:6).

Jeremiah then related this sterling example to Judah and contrasted the obedience of the Rechabites
to the disobedience of Jerusalem. While in prison because he would not prophesy to King Zedekiah
what he would like to hear (Jer. 32:1-5), Jeremiah was ordered by God to buy a field from his cousin
Hanameel. This was to illustrate that in spite of the advancing Babylonians armies, “houses and fields
and vineyards shall be possessed again in this land” (Jer. 32:15).

The background of all this was interesting. God told Jeremiah that his cousin Hanameel was soon to
visit him, attempting to sell the prophet a farm he owned in Anathoth. Jeremiah was to buy it for 17
shekels of silver. Baruch was then to place the sealed deed in a pottery jar and bury it. All this was to
demonstrate that someday people would once again own property in Judah and buy and sell.
Jeremiah was comforted at this time in prison by God’s gracious promise: “Call unto Me, and I will
answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not” (33:3). These
tremendous and thrilling “things” were listed in chapters 30-31. They included the following: In spite
of the impeding Babylonian Captivity, the time was coming when God would heal Jerusalem’s hurt
and give her prosperity and peace; He still loved Israel with an everlasting love; and Israel would be
gathered into Palestine from the earth’s farthest ends.

“They shall come with weeping, and with supplications will I lead them; I will cause them to walk by
the rivers of waters in a straight way, wherein they shall not stumble; for I am a Father to Israel” (31:9)  
“Therefore they shall come and sing in the height of Zion. . . .  a watered garden and they shall not
sorrow any more at all” (v. 12).

The New Covenant of Jeremiah

It would embrace the entire house of Israel and be totally unlike the old Mosaic Covenant.
God would inscribe His laws on their hearts. Israel had always suffered with self-inflicted spiritual
heart trouble. Note the divine diagnosis: “The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron and with the
point of a diamond; it is engraved upon the table of their heart” (Jer. 17:1).
But under the New Covenant the heavenly Physician would offer them perfect and guaranteed
successful heart transplants. This nation with the new hearts would then once again become God’s
people, and He their God.

The Name of The New Covenant

It will go into effect “after those days” and following the “time of Jacob’s trouble.” Both these terms
refer to the coming of Great Tribulation. Thus, this New Covenant will begin to function after the time
of Jacob’s trouble, at the start of the glorious Millennium.

The Superiority of the New Covenant

It will be immutable, unconditional, and eternal, as opposed to the Mosaic Covenant. The Old Covenant
was the Law covenant grounded in legal observance. The New Covenant (Heb. 8:8-12) will be entirely
on the basis of grace and the sacrificial blood of Jesus Christ, which will be the foundation of Israel’s
future inward regeneration and restoration to God’s favor. Israel’s entering into the blessings of the
New Covenant (Rom. 11:1-26; Zech. 12:10), will insure her being an everlasting nation.

God himself assured Israel of the duration of this New Covenant when He declared: “If heaven above
can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the
seed of Israel” (31:31).

Prophet Jeremiah and His Pain

Apostle Paul had his own share of pains and sufferings, for which he wrote to the Galatians saying,
“from henceforth let no man trouble me, for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.”

In matters of pain and persecution, Jeremiah the prophet may be considered the Paul of the Old
Testament. Perhaps no other pre-Calvary prophet suffered as much for God as did Jeremiah. The truth
is, in many ways his sufferings foreshadowed the sufferings of the Savior. Consider: both Jeremiah
and Jesus were hated by the religious world (Jer. 26:7-8), John 11:47-53); both were plotted against by
the citizens of their own hometowns (Jer. 11:21; Luke 4:28-30); both were denounced by the
synagogue leaders of their day (Jer. 20:1-2); John 18:13, 24); both wept over the city of Jerusalem
(Jer. 9:1; Luke 19:41); both were accused falsely and beaten (Jer. 37:12-15); Matt. 26:61; 27:26).
Were Jeremiah’s sufferings because of his stand for God worth it? They were indeed. Surely his
conclusion would have been that of Paul’s along this line: “For I reckon that the sufferings of this
present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18).

The Sufferings of Jeremiah

He was persecuted by his own family
He was plotted against by the people of his hometown
He was rejected and reviled by his peers in the religious world
Pashure, the chief temple priest, had him whipped and put in stocks.

He was almost murdered by a wild mob of priests and prophets after one of his messages. He
preached a sermon at the temple gate and was nearly killed by an angry mob for predicting the temple
would be destroyed. He was defended by some of Judah’s wise old men who reminded the angry
mob that Jeremiah’s message was like that of the Prophet Micah. See Jer. 26:1-19.

Jeremiah was accused of lying by a false prophet named Hananiah who had predicted the Babylonian
Captivity would only last for two years and that those already in exile (such as King Jehoiachin,
Daniel, Ezekiel, etc) would be returned along with all the temple treasury which had been taken. To
dramatize his accusation, Hananiah broke the yoke worn by Jeremiah. Jeremiah predicted Hananiah’s
death in the near future by God’s hand for his lying ministry. Within two years, he was dead.

Jeremiah was threatened By King Jehoiakim

He was Arrested, Flogged and Accused of Treason. Jeremiah attempted to visit the land of Benjamin
on one occasion to inspect some property he had bought. However, a guard named Irijah arrested him
at the city gate and accused him of defecting to the Babylonians. Jeremiah denied this, but was
flogged and thrown into prison he was soon secretly sent for by Zedekiah the king. Zedekiah placed
him in the palace prison instead of returning him to the dungeon he was in formerly.

Jeremiah was Cast Down into an Empty Filthy Cistern

In the palace, however, pressure from the religious officials who despised Jeremiah eventually forced
Zedekiah to return the prophet to a more crude confinement. This time he was lowered by ropes into
an empty cistern in the prison yard where he soon sank down into a thick layer of mire at the bottom.
Eventually, an Ethiopian friend, Ebed-melech, persuaded Zedekiah to remove him from this filthy
place. It took 30 men to haul him from the cistern. He was returned to the prison palace. Jeremiah
again predicted the fall of Jerusalem. He remained in prison until the city was taken.

Jeremiah Saw His Original Manuscript Burned By Wicked King Johoiakim

He was ordered to have his scribe, Baruch wrote down all those oral messages he had been given for
the past 23 years. Baruch did this and read them to the people in the temple. He then was invited to
read them to the religious officials. When he finished they were badly frightened and decided King
Johoiakim should hear them.

An official named Jehudi read them to Johoiakim as the sullen king sat in front of his fireplace. As
Jehudi finished reading three or four columns, Jehoiakim would take his knife, slit off the section of
the roll, and throw it into the fire. Finally, the entire scroll was destroyed. Jeremiah was then
commanded by God to rewrite the burned sections plus a good deal of additional material, including
these fearful words:

Then the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah, after that the king had burned the roll, and the words
which Baruch wrote at the mouth of Jeremiah, saying, "Take thee again another roll, and write in it all
the former words that were in the first roll, which Jehoiakim the king of Judah hath burned.  And thou
shalt say to Jehoiakim king of Judah, Thus saith the LORD; Thou hast burned this roll, saying, Why
hast thou written therein, saying, The king of Babylon shall certainly come and destroy this land, and
shall cause to cease from thence man and beast?"
Therefore thus saith the LORD of Jehoiakim king of Judah; "He shall have none to sit upon the throne
of David: and his dead body shall be cast out in the day to the heat, and in the night to the frost.  And I
will punish him and his seed and his servants for their iniquity; and I will bring upon them, and upon
the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and upon the men of Judah, all the evil that I have pronounced against
them; but they hearkened not."
Then took Jeremiah another roll, and gave it to Baruch the scribe, the son of Neriah; who wrote
therein from the mouth of Jeremiah all the words of the book which Jehoiakim king of Judah had
burned in the fire: and there were added besides unto them many like words. (Jer. 36:27-32).

After Jehoiakim had burned the scroll, Baruch became despondent. It had probably taken him a year
to write the material. God then warned both and encourage him through Jeremiah.

Jeremiah Experienced Frustration and Depression

Jeremiah had become frustrated over his inability to call Judah. “Then I said, ‘I will not make mention
of Him, now speak any more in His name’ But His word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in
my bones, and I was wary with forbearing, and I could not stay” (20:9. (see al 1 Kings 19:3-4; Jonah 1:1-
3; 1 Cor. 9:16.

At this time he uttered one of the most despondent prayers in all the Bible: “Cursed be the day
wherein I was born. Let not the day wherein my mother bare me be blessed. Cursed be the man who
brought tidings to my father saying, ‘A man child is born unto the’, making him very glad. And let that
man be as the cities which the Lord overthrew, and repented not; and let him hear the cry in the
morning, and the shouting at moontide. Because He slew me not from the womb; or that my mother
might have been my grave, and her womb to be always great with me. Wherefore came I forth out of
the womb to see labor and sorrow, that my days should be consumed with shame?” (Jer. 20:14-18).

The Weeping Prophet - Conclusions

Jeremiah was called by God to the prophetic office during the darkest days of Old Testament history.
Since his primary message was that of judgment, he was rejected by the many and received by the
few. Because of his immense sorrows over the sinful people of God, he has been called “the weeping
prophet.”

Like many great men, Jeremiah was despised in life, but applauded in death. He was rejected by
family (12:6), friends (11:21), and rulers 20:1-3); 26:7-9; 37:11-16; 38). He suffered more than perhaps
any other prophet in the Old Testament. Jeremiah's suffering does not compare in any way to what
Jesus Christ suffered to redeem us. Jeremiah was simply a true prophet of God, but Jesus is one with
God and our savior.

Pashur, the chief of the temple police, arrested Jeremiah after his message on the “Sign of the Porter”
(19:14-20:18). Harassment now turned to physical abuse. Jeremiah was beaten with 40 stripes. In Paul’
s day, the number of stripes was reduced for fear of exceeding the legal limits of he law (Deut 25:3; cf.
2 Cor. 11:24). Jeremiah was then placed in the “stocks,” a scaffold affair which half the prisoner’s
hands and legs in a contorted position causing great pain (cf. Jer. 29:26; Acts 16:24). The “chief
governor” (Jer 20:1) was the chief officer of the temple in charge of security.

The reaction to Jeremiah’s temple sermon was so great that he was nearly killed by a
mob of priests
and false prophets
(26:1-24). Arrested and falsely accused, Jeremiah was finally acquitted by the
testimony of Ahikam and some of the other wise court officials. The king’s wrath was not yet
appeased. He, therefore, vented his anger against a lesser adversary, the Prophet Urijah, who had fled
to Egypt for protection. Urijah was arrested by Elnathan, returned to Jerusalem, and executed by King
Jehoiakim.

When Babylon lifted the siege of Jerusalem for a short time, Jeremiah took advantage of the reprieve
to visit Anathoth, his hometown. He was falsely accused of treason by Irijah, one of the sentinels,  and
placed in prison (3:11-38:13)

While in prison King Zedekiah secretly (for fear of the princes) inquired of Jeremiah if there was any
further word from the Lord. Again , the reply was one of the inevitable judgment. Jeremiah, however,
was moved from the dungeon of Malchiah (38:6).  This was one of the cisterns so common in the
ancient Near East, where water was collected during the rainy season to be used during the long dry
summer (cf. 2 Kings 18:31; Prov. 5:15) There was no water in this cistern, however, and Jeremiah
would have suffocated in the min except for the intervention of an Ethiopian, Ebed-melech.

Jeremiah’s persecution was not only physical but also mental. Both message and messenger had
been rejected and persecuted. The most poignant example of the rejection of Jeremiah’s message
came during the fourth year of King Jehoiakim’s reign (Jer.36:1-32). God had commanded Jeremiah to
write down his prophecies. Once completed, Baruch, Jeremiah secretary, read the scroll to the people
at the temple. The princes then read the scroll to the king, who violently reacted to the prophecy by
cutting each column and burning it in the fire. The “winterhouse” (v. 22) was the winterized portion of
the palace. In the typical two-story Palestinian house, the ground floor was used during the winter,
while the second floor with its superior ventilation was used during the long hot summers. The
“penknife” (v. 23) was the typical knife scribes used for sharpening reed pens and trimming the
scrolls. Jeremiah’s prophecy had been rejected, but God told him to compile a new scroll with
additional prophecies.

The sufferings of Jeremiah brought on depression. The Word of God, however, was his comfort and
strength. He could not remain silent. He had to declare the Word of the Lord (20:7-9).
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