Read the Bible in a Year
This week, read: Jeremiah 1-21
At Least Know This
Jeremiah spoke to a people who thought they no longer needed God.
Author and Date
According to the first verse of the book, Jeremiah prophesied between the years 626-587 BC. The book is a collection of his prophesies (the chapters are not in chronological order).
Jeremiah pounded away against the people’s idolatry and their spiritual hollowness. Jeremiah never married, was lonely, constantly rejected, and he wondered why God had given him this lonely and heavy message. Peppered through the narrative are Jeremiah’s conversations with God, where he confesses to God that he is not the right person for the job.
The Assyrian Empire, which had ruled the Near East for such a long time, was dying. There was a surge of national pride in Judah, facilitated by the reforms of King Josiah, who got rid of all the idols and foreign religions. However, Josiah’s reforms were too little, too late. In place of the Assyrian Empire, the Babylonians were rising. The people of Judah found themselves going from the oppression of the Assyrians right to the oppression of the Babylonians. Jeremiah warned that the Babylonians would come—but that a remnant would survive and return to God.
Chapter 1 describes Jeremiah’s call to be a prophet.
In chapter 2, God (through Jeremiah) describes a people who were given everything. But instead of being thankful, they forgot God entirely.
Jeremiah hated the temple, because it had become a giant good luck charm for the people. We see that in Jeremiah 3:14-18. He begs the people to return to God.
In chapter 5:26-31, Jeremiah tells the people what they have become: Instead of pleading the case of the fatherless and defending the rights of the poor, the prophets tell lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way. And then comes the terrible punchline: But what will you do in the end?
Chapter 7:1-26 is one of the most important chapters in the Old Testament. He tells the people that the temple is worthless. He calls it the temple that you trust in.
Chapter 9:23-24, is a beautiful passage of what’s meaningful in life. In our culture today, we tend to boast about wealth or success, or strength. But Jeremiah tells us what’s really important.
In Jeremiah 20:7-18, we see one of Jeremiah’s “confessions.” He tells God what he’s really feeling: God called him to speak these words, but no one listens, and he’s rejected at every turn. Jeremiah shouts that God deceived him. Jeremiah curses the day he was born.
Frequently, our prayers are simply a pious rendition of our needs. But here, Jeremiah speaks with startling frankness. He lays himself bare before God—and is honest with God about all the complexities and twists and turns of life. That’s what trust is—when you can tell God what you really feel. Jeremiah suffers, and he tells God so. But he also clings to God. Perhaps prayer is simply clinging to God, no matter what happens in life.
If you run across a passage that you have questions about, feel free to email the question to me.