Hello! We are nearly 1/3 of the way done with the Bible; how exciting!
Today we stayed in Jeremiah, so I'll do a quick overview of the book of Jeremiah, and tomorrow will do a quick overview of the book of Lamentations and Ezekiel.
Jeremiah was written during 626-586 B.C. and is a conglomeration of literary devices, including oracles, visions, and historical narrative. Like much of Isaiah, Jeremiah was written to a generation in Judah about destruction they were yet to face. He warns Israel to repent and turn to God, and the entirety of the book yields illustrative admonition of what will happen if they continue in their sin (and eventually what does happen).
Jeremiah can be divided into different parts.
1. Jeremiah is called by God to speak to the nation of Judah about their unrepentant sin, and their faithlessness. How old was Jeremiah when he was called? He refers to himself as a child in Jeremiah 1:6. This could mean a few different things. The age of fourteen was probably the last year that someone would refer to themselves as a child. Scholars suggest that Jeremiah was likely even older than that, as it was common to regard oneself as a substandard of the actual age, a sign of humility. Jeremiah was likely a young man when he was called by God and began his ministry, potentially late teens or early twenties. His response to God is also consistent of different prophets. Moses said he was not an eloquent speaker (Exodus 4:10), and Isaiah said "Woe is me!" (Isaiah 6:5).
2. Jeremiah addresses the nation of Judah to repent, and informs them of God's wrath that will come if they don't. God was righteously indignant about Judah's worship of idols and other foreign gods, and he wanted their undivided devotion-- a reasonable request for the Creator.
3. Chapters 39-52 give an account of the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. The fall of Jerusalem and the captives taken to Babylon is an important time in history and in the Bible, and Jeremiah writes to the captives in Babylon about their impending return. However, he tells them to hope in God and to make a home for themselves. The quick-fix solution is that they wait for God for 70 years to be brought back to Zion under the reign of King Cyrus. One famously misquoted passage ensues from this time period: Jeremiah 29:11. 11 "For I know the plans I have for you”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. You will call to Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart."
This passage is spectacular, and shows God's compassion and the insurmountable glory of his presence. However, this is not written to the 21st century Christian. In fact, This is not God promising us a future of hope or welfare at all. This is Jeremiah speaking the words of God to the Babylonian captives. Jeremiah tells the exiles in Babylon to make homes, have children, and sit tight. He tells them of God's promise to redeem them and bring them back out of captivity, but says that it won't happen for quite some time. The "hope" and "a future" is encouragement to them that they will be brought back to Zion. Can we use this scripture to illustrate the mighty hand of God? Of course. Can we show how God is gracious and involved in the welfare of people's lives, especially those who love him? Yes. We should be careful, though, that we don't use this scripture with our friends to say that it tells about their hope and future in Christ. We will find God when we seek him, because that is the nature of God (Matthew 6:33, Acts 17:27, and others), but Jeremiah isn't writing to us, and the scripture should thus be used correctly. Should we seek God? Of course! Every day. But this scripture isn't telling us to seek God; though it is a scripture that is characteristic of the reasons we should seek God continually. I hope the difference is making sense. If not, please comment below for further explanation. Much can be said.
Another scripture I've heart misused on several occasions:
"The heart is more deceitful than anything else, and incurable—who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17:9)
This scripture falls into poetic literature, and should thus be examined poetically. I've found that many people use this scripture when referring to someone's feelings, or even personal intuition. While there are many times we should seek advice, surrounding ourselves with wise counselors, there are also times we should be confident and trust God to bless a decision we make in faith. I often find that we can become more insecure and more fearful of decision-making as disciples than we might be if we weren't in a relationship with God at all. Our heart is not actively deceiving us. We should listen to our feelings, seek advice if the situation calls for it, make decisions, and move on in faith.
Like Isaiah (and as we'll see in Ezekiel tomorrow), there is much to be said about the book of Jeremiah, but I simply can't fit it all into one day. Stay tuned for more information at my website, and feel free to contact me through commenting or through the "contact" page on my website. I will always answer as thoroughly as I can.