‘…These nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years.’ Jeremiah 25:11
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it” (Jeremiah 17:9)
In the last lesson, we saw that the prophet Isaiah wrote much about the Messiah who was to come.
700 years before the birth of the Messiah,
God put into Isaiah’s mind how this Saviour of sinners would come from the presence of God, be born of a virgin, live a holy life, and do miracles that no one else could do. However, Isaiah also prophesied that the Messiah would shed His blood, like a sacrificed lamb,
to pay for the sins of the world.
And once His sacrifice was completed, He would conquer death and rise from the grave, providing eternal life to all who believe in Him. In this lesson we plan to study about another great prophet of God—
the prophet Jeremiah.
Jeremiah lived about a hundred years after the prophet Isaiah. As we have seen already, the nation of Israel was no longer a unified nation. It had become two nations:
In Jeremiah’s day, the kingdom of Israel, which was to the north, was destroyed. God delivered the people of Israel into the hands of their enemies, because they did not believe the message of the prophets and repent of their sin. Thus, of the nations of the Jews,
only Judah remained.
Judah was the nation to the south; its capital was Jerusalem where the temple that Solomon had built was located. As we have already learned, Judah was the tribe through which God had promised to bring the Messiah into the world.
Jeremiah was a Jew.
He was born in a small town just five kilometres from Jerusalem. Jeremiah’s father served as a priest in the temple in Jerusalem. In that time, most of the Jews in Jerusalem were still very religious, following the traditions of their ancestors, but they did not heed the Word of the LORD God. Jeremiah, however, was a man who cherished the Word of God
and obeyed it;
he was looking forward to the day when God would send the Messiah into the world.
Now let us see how God called Jeremiah to be a prophet. In chapter one of the book of Jeremiah, he wrote: (Jer. 1:4-10) “Then the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Before I formed thee in the womb,
I knew thee;
and before thou camest forth out of the womb, I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations. Then said I, Ah, Lord God! Behold, I cannot speak; for I am a child. But the Lord said unto me, Say not, I am a child; for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak. Be not afraid of their faces; for
I am with thee to deliver thee,
saith the Lord. Then the Lord put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. And the Lord said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth. See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant.”
Thus God called Jeremiah to be His prophet.
and tell them that God would judge them if they did not repent of their sin and turn back to the LORD and His holy Word. Jeremiah’s task was heavy and difficult, because the Jews did not want anyone to tell them that their religious works did not please God. However, the prophet Jeremiah was not a man-pleaser. Thus, for
Jeremiah preached in Jerusalem and throughout the land of Judah, saying: “God wants me to warn you that if you do not repent of your sins and obey the word of the LORD–God will allow the army of the nation of Babylon to come,
destroy and burn both the city and the temple! And
they will take you as captives to a faraway land!”
That is the message Jeremiah proclaimed to the Jews living in Judah.
Let us read a few verses from the writings of Jeremiah where he warned his fellow Jews. (Jer. 7:1-10) “The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying, Stand in the gate of the Lord’s house, and proclaim there his word, and say,
Hear the word of the Lord,
all ye of Judah, that enter in at these gates to worship the Lord. Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, Amend your ways and your doings, and I will cause you to dwell in this place. Trust not in lying words, saying, The temple of the Lord, The temple of the Lord, The temple of the Lord, are these. For if ye thoroughly amend your ways and your doings; if ye thoroughly execute justice between a man and his neighbour; if ye oppress not the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and shed not innocent blood in this place, neither walk after other gods to your harm; then will I cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers, forever and ever. Behold,
ye trust in lying words that cannot profit.
Will ye steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and burn incense unto Baal, and walk after other gods whom ye know not; and come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, We are delivered to do all these abominations?”.
Thus Jeremiah rebuked the Jews who pretended to know God but denied Him
by their actions.
In chapter seventeen, Jeremiah adds: (Jer. 17:5,9-10) “Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord …
The heart is deceitful above all things,
and desperately wicked; who can know it.
I, the Lord, search the heart,
I test the conscience, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings” Thus Jeremiah warned the people of Judah, informing them: “If you do not repent of your sins and return to God, the armies of Babylon will destroy the city of Jerusalem and this temple, and you will become their slaves!”
Do you think the people of Judah respected and heeded the word which the LORD had spoken to them through the mouth of Jeremiah?
Most of them did not heed the warning!
Not even the priests believed the words of Jeremiah. In fact, when the priests heard what he said, they arrested him, whipped him, and put his feet in chains for the day. The priests could not believe that God would allow their enemies, the Babylonians, to enter Jerusalem and destroy the city and the temple that Solomon had built. In their thinking,
this could never happen!
They were angry with Jeremiah because he predicted the destruction of Jerusalem and wrote God’s words in a book.
Not only did the people and the priests refuse to accept the words of God’s prophet, Jeremiah. The king of Judah also rejected them. In fact, when the king read the book which Jeremiah had written, he cut up the book with a knife and threw it into the firepot in the courtyard so that
the entire book was consumed!
That is what the king of Judah did. He did not repent of his sin, and he did not accept the word of the LORD. Yes, the king burned the book of Jeremiah, but he could not change God’s decree. God simply directed Jeremiah to rewrite all His words in another book.
If you study the book of Jeremiah, you will see how the king and the priests and the people of Judah greatly persecuted Jeremiah,
imprisoning him often.
Once they put Jeremiah in a deep, muddy pit. But God came to his rescue, sending to him an African man who pulled him out of the pit.
Something important to consider is that although most Jews refused to listen to the prophet Jeremiah, this does not mean that they were not listening to anyone! They were listening to men who called themselves prophets—but they were
The Scriptures tell us about many men who made themselves out to be prophets of God, but in reality they were hypocrites and deceivers, because
their messages did not come from God.
Consequently, while Jeremiah was proclaiming God’s judgement which was to befall Jerusalem,
the false prophets were speaking to the people of Judah,
saying, “No, no! The disaster Jeremiah is predicting will not happen! Babylon cannot destroy Jerusalem! No one can destroy the temple of God! You will not see disaster! You will only have peace! Nothing but Peace!”
But Jeremiah spoke to all the Jews saying, (Jer. 23:16,21-22) “Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you. They make you vain; they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the Lord … I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran;
I have not spoken to them,
yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in my counsel, and had caused my people to hear my words, then they should have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings”
Thus Jeremiah warned the Jews to beware of the words of those who preached falsehood. However, unfortunately, most of the people of Judah did not heed the warning of God’s prophet, Jeremiah. Instead they believed the words of the false prophets. Nevertheless, in the end,
after it was too late,
the king, the priests, the people, and the false prophets found out who had proclaimed the true word of God! They found out because everything that Jeremiah had announced concerning the destruction of Jerusalem came to pass. God’s Word always comes true.
Listen to what the Scripture says: (Jer. 52:4-8,9-11,13-16,27) “In the ninth year of his reign … Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, came, he and all his army, against Jerusalem, and encamped against it, and built forts against it round about it. So the city was besieged … in the ninth day of the month, the famine was great in the city, so that there was no bread for the people of the land. Then the city was broken up … then they took the king, and carried him up unto the king of Babylon at Riblah … where he gave judgement upon him. And the king of Babylon slew the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes … then he put out the eyes of Zedekiah; and the king of Babylon bound him in chains, and carried him to Babylon … [Then Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon and his soldiers] burned the house of the Lord, and the king’s house; and all the houses of Jerusalem … and broke down all the walls of Jerusalem round about. Then Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, carried away captive certain of the poor people, and the residue of the people who remained in the city, and those who fell away, who fell to the king of Babylon, and the rest of the multitude. But Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, left certain of the poor of the land for vine-dressers and for farmers … Thus, Judah was carried away captive out of his own land”
Thus we see how God fulfilled everything that He had predicted through the mouth of Jeremiah, His prophet. Now all the Jews knew that the words of Jeremiah had been the words of truth. However, this knowledge was of little benefit to them, because they were now captives in the hands of the Babylonian soldiers!
How should we conclude this lesson? Perhaps we can finish with this thought: In the Day of Judgement, every descendant of Adam will finally know what is true and what is false. However, God wants you to discover what is true and what is false now—because on Judgement Day it will do you no good to know the truth which you shunned during your lifetime on earth! On the Day of Judgement it will be too late to repent, because you will have perished in your sins! That is why the word of God says:
“Now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation!” (2 Cor. 6:2)
“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world!” (1 John 4:1)
In the next lesson, we will see what happened to the Jews who were carried away to Babylon.
God bless you as you consider this promise from the LORD, and penned by the prophet Jeremiah. The LORD God says,
“Ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart” (Jer. 29:13)
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