Isn’t it weird how the players in these stories become more real as you get older? I feel like Jeremiah is a relative from back in the day. Each time I read this book penned by him I feel like I get to see him just a little bit better, a little closer up. He was called early on, given visions that no one understood in the moment but would later come to know that God Himself had spoken through him. His prophecies are so spot on and fulfilled, they are mentioned throughout the New Testament. He’s a Biblical prophet and hero, but it wasn’t always like that.
Jeremiah was pretty vocal about his faith. He believed with all of his heart that those who loved God needed to set aside the Sabbath to worship and honor Him. He was glad the Book of the law had been discovered and reformation had come but deeply sad that people were doing rituals from obligation instead of from the heart. He wrote much about the importance of putting God first. Instead of suggesting just people straighten up, he called them to “repent”! That never seems to go over very well I’ve found. Whether it was spelling out judgements or telling people to break up their fallow ground, he was concerned that they would miss God’s heart. Jeremiah did not just have a small vision for his family; he was concerned about an entire nation that was seeking other gods. Wiersbe says he reminds him of Thomas Jefferson who once said, “Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, and that His justice cannot sleep forever.”
Jeremiah and his writings remind us that God does not look favorably on our sin. When the nations changed gods, as frequently as they changed their togas, it broke God’s heart. When the people followed with lip service and not with their whole hearts it grieved the righteous God. Jeremiah wanted to be faithful to deliver God’s word but probably did not count the cost to him personally. One guy threw him in a pit filled with mud, leaving him there to starve to death. He was accused of being a liar and a manipulator by people convicted of their own shortcomings and sin. The more Jeremiah stood up for God’s law, the more he was hated. His best life was not now, but it was more mature than then.
I love hearing God’s instructions and plans but this time around I identified with this weeping prophet. He didn’t set out to be rejected, he really was trying to follow after God. Things turned out much differently than he planned. He empathized so much with the people he was serving that he kind of lost his own identity and took up God’s, at least long enough to prophesy to them. The more he tried, the less results he got, the less they loved him, the smaller his circle of friends.
While worship should have started in the home and become a source of stability and bonding, the families of Jeremiahs day started accepting and worshipping idols. They were very syncretistic. Not only did it become acceptable but people were promoting it. I never thought I’d see the day where idols were more popular than Jesus but check out the home décor in Target, Marshalls and that’s what you will find. God is a jealous God and those who serve Him are asked to serve Him alone. How much has crept in when we were unaware? How much has crept into our lives when we were? Like boiling a frog, it happens one degree at a time and no one notices. Jeremiah rebuked those who knew and those who were caught off guard and called them to re-surrender, return and repent to a holy God. He stood his ground and would not get off that topic. Did he miss their slams and innuendos due to mental deficiency or possibly was he just decidedly going to serve a God that required absolute loyalty?
Though being expelled from the temple, thrown in a pit, depressed, fearful and weary, Jeremiah clung to a God who He believed had all power, authority and answers. I wonder if Jeremiah was sheltered from fighting while in his mud bath? Sheltered from danger? Jeremiah was on “papers”, a prisoner and yet God was not hindered from speaking to him even in his darkness. He would foreshadow another prophet that “wept” revealing not only his humanness but the Father’s heart. My husband noted that God ALWAYS had Jeremiahs best interest in mind, even when circumstances obscured Jeremiahs view.
Jeremiah shows us a range of emotions – anger, fear, depression, sorrow. He probably questioned why the wicked were prospering, why the bad guys seemed to be winning. Wiersbe (Be Decisive, p.63) states “God’s reply to Jeremiah, however, wasn’t what he expected. God’s focus was not on the wicked; it was on the servant Jeremiah. As most of us do when we’re suffering Jeremiah was asking, “How can I get out of this?” But he should have been asking, “What can I get out of this?”
“God’s servants don’t live by explanations; they live by promises.”
“Understanding explanations may satisfy our curiosity and make us smarter people, but laying hold of God’s promises will build our character and make us better servants. “
This wonderful book of the Bible has been quoted thru the years. We all love to land on the text “For I know the plans I have for YOU declares the Lord, plans to prosper, not to harm you.” It feels good, it sounds good, and it looks good on graduation plaques. The context for it however is much more expanded. Speak for God, endure criticism, live for God, get thrown in mud and out of the temple. Messy, exiled, alone. That just doesn’t sound right. No wonder no one wants to model Jeremiah for a business school or ministry success training. “You too can get stabbed in the back for just 19.99- just prophesy to someone who doesn’t want to listen, call now.” Wouldn’t go over well – unless the One you are trying to please is God. Then it works, then it makes sense.
I believe in God and loving Him alone. I believe in family – worshipping together a holy God and bonding over His promises. I believe in a nation that honors God and rejects following other loves. Just writing that feels a bit scary as not everyone agrees with those thoughts and values. I would much rather be celebrated than stoned however I would also rather stand alone than go with the crowd that denies Christ and His power. The one who stands alone for God stands in Good company.
Religion won’t get us into Heaven, nor will following rituals. Remembering God and making Him a priority does not earn us salvation but it does promote joy and satisfaction. Laws and rules don’t gain entrance to the throne but delighting in God through relationship yields eternal results on this earth and in Heaven. Choosing God’s ways is not easy short term, but brings LIFE and PEACE long term.
Let me know if you hold these values, if your life is postured to repent and love with your whole heart, soul and mind. I could be wrong but I’d rather live under a bridge connected to the One who flung the stars in space than have full access to a Temple where He said He would not dwell. God’s ways are not popular or for the faint-hearted and are often very at odds with our plans for the future.
However, they are best –because God knows best.
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek Me and find Me when you seek ME with ALL your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.” These Promises that were backed by the ONE who saw and heard everything.
May we be faithful like Jeremiah, faithful to the Word, faithful to the Lord, faithful to God’s process and may God give us the strength to endure, as we carry out His plan.
Renae Roche 2019