Updated January 5, 2006
Chapter 1: 9,10
1:9-10: 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."
Like most prophets of his time Jeremiah was born during a time when the everyday life of the Jewish people was dictated by world events. The people of God were mere pawns in a world wide contest for power that shuffled God's people around like so many chess pieces on a game board, sacrificed and lost in the pursuit of world dominance.
The major world players were Assyria, Babylonia, and Egypt each of whom sought to be the dominant world power to secure its own independence and position. As the big nations struggled for power, the people suffered.
To respond to the crises God caused Jeremiah to be born with one intent, which was to declare the word of the Lord and to tear up, uproot, destroy and build up at the command of God. He was to turn the world upside down.
Jeremiah irritated and vexed six kings of Judah: Manasseh, Amon, Josiah, Jehoiakim, Johoiachin and Zedekiah. Jeremiah often angered the kings as he challenged them to remember God's people. Once King Jehoiakim, cut up all of Jeremiah's writings as he tried to silence the ideas of the powerful voice of God's messenger.
Jeremiah really turned things upside down.
5:1 Run ye 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 executeth judgment, that seeketh the truth; and I will pardon it.
This text focuses on Jeremiah as he delivers a message from God to Jerusalem to find a single man who would stand for what is right.
Jeremiah was one of the most controversial of the prophets. He was loved, yet respected. He was both feared and revered at the same time. He lived in
constant friction with the authorities of his people. At one time or another, he would challenge religious leaders, political leaders or both of them together.
Jeremiah prophesied to the Southern Kingdom and to Jerusalem in particular. He warned the people that they were abandoning the old way and were adulterating themselves so much that God was becoming angry and would use their enemies to humble them. He encouraged leaders to keep promoting truth and providing leadership, but they would not hear him. He warned them that they had morally degenerated to the point that there was not one man in whole city that would stand up to champion the cause of truth.
This text finds Jeremiah, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, challenging the city to find just one man who would stand against the moral degeneration of the city and God would save it from destruction. In verse one Jeremiah charged the people to look in the broad places and find just one man that would "execute judgment", that is, one man that would do something. If one man could be found, the city would be saved.
Jeremiah challenges Jerusalem to produce one man. One man who would stand for something and the people could be saved!
Unfortunately, for Jerusalem, not one man would step forward and Jerusalem fell victim to the Babylonians. The people were carried off into exile. The temple was ruined. In Exile, God spoke through the prophet Ezekiel to tell Israel that he attempted to save them if he could have found one man to stand up. In Ezekiel 22:30-1 God says,"And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none. Therefore have I poured out mine indignation upon them; I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath: their own way have I recompensed upon their heads, saith the Lord GOD."
The devastation of their homeland and exile of their people was a painful part of the Jewish experience. However much of it could have been avoided if just one man had risen to stand for the Lord.
Chapter 9: 23,
9:23-24 "Thus saith the LORD, let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: but let him that glorieth in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise loving kindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD."
Jeremiah warned Judah not to become too confident in their own accomplishments.
The people of Judah were caught in the middle of world history. It was a prosperous nation that survived under the world domination of the Assyrians and the
Egyptians before them. A new world power was on the scene, Babylon. The people were confident that they could not be conquered because they had three things about which they boasted and bragged. They bragged about their intellect, knowledge, and reputation that was earned under Solomon. They bragged about their armies and fortified cities. Jerusalem itself was surrounded by mighty walls.
Even if their own armies failed, they had political alliances with other nations such as Egypt to insure they could stand. Moreover, they had money. Lots of money! Its king kept great storehouses of gold and silver and bragged about its wealth. If trouble came, the nation's leaders felt they had enough money to buy themselves out of danger.
Jeremiah spoke to the leaders and people of Judah about a coming judgment from God because of their sinfulness. Jeremiah's words were often ignored because the people were self-confident. They could not imagine the downfall of the kingdom. They pointed to their superior knowledge and wisdom, their strength and political alliances, and to their vast riches as evidence that they were able to ward off any impending attacks by would be enemies.
Yet Jeremiah chided them for boasting. He said the wise man should not boast in his wisdom, nor the strong man in his strength nor the wealthy in their riches. All of these come from God. The man who wants to boast should boast about God, because it is God that exercises judgment and dispenses blessings as a part of his loving kindness and mercy.
They were encouraged not to revel in their own achievements because those achievements were attainable only by the grace of God. Jeremiah reminded that when the same God that allowed them to achieve gets angry at their actions he could, just as easily, take away the very strengths they boasted about.
Chapter 12: 5
12:5 .."how wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?"
This text raises the question of preparation for life and for the
life to come.
It asks a very pointed question: "How standest thou?"
The crossing of bodies of water in scripture has nearly always been
used as an illustration of crossing from one sphere of existence into
another. Since Israel spent 400 years in bondage in Egypt and was delivered by the
hand of God, its crossing of the Red Sea was seen as a crossing from one life
style to another.
It crossed from slavery to freedom.
It crossed from the old land to the new land.
It crossed from its past life to a new life.
It passed from hopelessness to hope.
When Israel reached the River Jordan it paused at its banks for 40 years and sat pondering the good things that lay in store for them but they did not have the courage to move in and claim that which had already
been promised to the them by God almighty. By the banks of Jordan they waited and watched the waters swell to mighty streams and floods. They contemplated how difficult such a move might be. In the face of an overflowing Jordan and a land filled with giants that made them appear as grasshoppers to themselves many of the Hebrews cowered and became
Jeremiah, in this text, asks his generation and also this generation
the question: "How wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?" Taken personally the question only asks us today how we will stand when we come to the great river that separates this life from the next.
Chapter 18: 4,
18:4 And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the
hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to
the potter to make it.
This text considers Jeremiah as he considers the plight of Judah. He
preached to the kingdom about its back sliding ways. He uses the term back sliding 13 times in describing Judah's relationship with God.
Jeremiah prophesied the destruction of the kingdom, its eventual enslavement
and even its return from captivity.
When God spoke to Hosea on the same subject he gave him the picture of an
unfaithful wife as an illustration. However, when God spoke to Jeremiah, the illustration was changed to that of the potter and the clay.
The Lord said to Jeremiah, Go down to the Potter's House and observe what
you see being made on the wheels. At the Potter's house Jeremiah noticed that the potter formed his pot and
began shaping it on the wheel, but when he encountered a flaw in the clay he
simply tore it down and reshaped it again!
The point that God wanted Jeremiah to see was noted in verse six, "cannot I do
with you as this potter? saith the Lord"
At the potter's house, Jeremiah saw the clay being shaped and molded into a vessel. As he watched he also saw an amazing thing, an imperfection in the clay spoiled it in the potter's hand, and the potter crumbled it up, and began anew the process of shaping it into a vessel that pleased him.
Observing the Potter, Jeremiah understood that God was the Great Potter, with absolute right over the clay to make it what he wanted it to be. Paul argues this with keen and clear logic in Romans 9: "Will what is molded say to its molder, 'Why have you made me thus?' Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for beauty and another for menial use?" Of course he has.
So Jeremiah, watching, learned that an individual or a nation is clay in the Great Potter's hands. He has a sovereign right to make it what he wants it to be. And if there is some imperfection in the clay, something which mars the design, spoils the work, the potter simply crushes the clay down to a lump and begins again to make it a vessel according to his own mind.
Jeremiah saw the wheel turning constantly, bringing the clay against the potter's hand. That wheel stands for the turning circumstances of our lives, under the control of the Potter, for it is the potter's foot that guides the wheel. The lesson is clear. As our life is being shaped and molded by the Great Potter, it is the circumstances of our life, the wheels of circumstance, what Browning called "this dance of plastic circumstance," which bring us again and again under the potter's hand and molding finger that shapes the vessel according to his will.
18:6 O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the LORD. Behold, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel.
God tells the prophet Jeremiah to visit the Potter's House to understand how Israel and each person is in the hand of God. Jeremiah went to this house and noticed a man who worked with clay, called a potter. The man molded and shaped the clay in a variety of ways. On some occasions, the potter noticed that there was trash or a foreign object in the clay so he tore it all down and rebuilt his creation. In verse six God asks, "Cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the LORD. Behold, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are ye in mine hand."
The lesson young believers learn first about the real world is that we are all in God's hands. He makes us, shapes us and molds us. Why would God want to do that? Because in the new world he is creating for us only certain kinds of people will live there. Galatians 5:22-23 gives us a clue as to the spirit of these people. They will possess love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, and temperance. Like a piece of clay, God molds us and shapes us to prepare us for a life in the kingdom.
Chapter 20: 9
20:9 “Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor 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 weary with forbearing, and I could not stay.”
The Holy Spirit motivates; that’s what Jeremiah learned. Sometimes, just as he did Jeremiah, he motivates us to continue. There are other times when he has to take extraordinary means to motivate us. Jonah tried to go in the wrong direction. He ignored every warning. It took three days in the belly of a whale before he was motivated to do what he should do. The same was the case with Saul who had to be stricken on the Damascus Road. After three days and nights of blindness, he was motivated to do the right thing. The Holy Spirit directs us and motivates us. Those moments when we found ourselves in a slump were impossible times. We came to a complete halt and it was only the Holy Spirit that prompted us to get going again. The same is true when we were saved from big mistakes. Sometimes it was the stumbling block that frustrated us that saved us from the troubling situation. When we have been motivated to go the right direction by the Holy Spirit, it is no problem for us to “give it up for God.” When we has picked us up and turned us around and place our feet on solid ground, it’s not hard at all to “give it up for God!”
Chapter 32: 27
32:27 Behold, I am the Lord,the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me?
Jeremiah had been placed under house arrest by King Zedekiah because of his prophesies but still continued to tell the king that Jerusalem would be taken and that the king himself would be taken back to Babylon.
For raising the brash possibility that Jerusalem could be defeated Zedekiah tried to silence the man of God by placing him prison. His crime was to suggest that there was a power that could cause the fall of Jerusalem; which sat invincible overlooking a low and vulnerable plain. Jerusalem, which stood fortified by walls of stone and secure by armies of soldiers; Jerusalem, which was fabled to be impregnable and even safe from siege because of its underground channels that tapped into water outside its wall...To raise the prospect that there was a power that could topple this great city was worthy of jailing, in the mind of Zedekiah.
In response, God himself speaks in chapter 32 and lists off the sins of
Judah and scoffs at the king's confidence in his great city by asking a question in verse 27: "..is there anything too hard for me?" Can Jerusalem build walls so high that I cannot scale them? Can you build defenses so secure that I cannot breach them? Can you protect yourself so well, that I cannot get to you? Is there anything too hard for God?
Jerusalem soon found the answer to this question. God helped the Babylonians
to invade the city. The temple was desecrated. The walls were destroyed and despite its towering military defenses, it fell into the hands of those used
by God to bring them down. As they marched in defeat with chains upon their legs they probably heard God's question ringing in their ears..."is there anything too hard for me?
Chapter 50: 4,
50:4-5 "In those days, and in that time, saith the LORD, the children of Israel shall come, they and the children of Judah together, going and weeping: they shall go, and seek the LORD their God. They shall ask the way to Zion with their faces thitherward, saying, Come, and let us join ourselves to the LORD in a perpetual covenant that shall not be forgotten."
This text focuses on Jeremiah as he foretells the day in which God's people would return home through the eventual fall of Babylon.
The Jews were held captive in Babylon for many years. They had become the vassals of the Babylonian Empire. They were in a strange land in which they could not rejoice or find any hope. Every waking moment of their day seemed spent thinking about home, talking about home and praying for God to get them home.
The prophet Jeremiah, known as the weeping prophet, often cried over the Jew's predicament. He cried so much that his Lamentations consume an entire book of the bible.
Judgment was foretold upon Babylon, the empire that appeared to be invincible. But its magnificent splendor and fortifications posed no doubt in the heart of the faithful prophet Jeremiah, who said, "The Lord spoke against Babylon (the capital) and against the Land of the Chileans. Declare among the nations . . . Babylon is taken, Bel (patron god) is confounded (put to shame), Merodach (Bel) is broken in pieces. . . .For out of the north there comes up a nation (Media) against her, which will make her land desolate, and none will dwell there (50:1-3).
Even today, more than 2500 years later, the ruins of Babylon remain a witness to the accuracy of Scripture. Almost as much space in the Bible is given to the judgment upon Babylon as to all the other nations combined. Babylon was destroyed so the people could go home.
Following the prophecy of the destruction of Babylon and the release of Israel from captivity, Jeremiah showed the people the road home. There must be a genuine repentance and conversion. Then and only then would God show them the road home.
"They shall ask the way to Zion" Jeremiah said in Jeremiah 50:5. They will want to know the way home. They resolved to join themselves together in what was called a perpetual covenant or a new pledge to worship, praise and obey God that will never be forgotten.
In response, God started a miraculous work that would result in the people finding their way home.
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