“We acknowledge our wickedness, Lord, and the guilt of our ancestors; we have indeed sinned against You. For the sake of Your Name do not despise us; do not dishonor Your glorious throne. Remember Your covenant with us and do not break it.”
Jeremiah 14:20-21 (NIV)
What’s Going On?
The book of Jeremiah, like the book of Isaiah, is about God speaking through a prophet to give His message to the people of Judah. Josiah is king of Judah at the beginning of Jeremiah’s ministry. During the years between the two prophets Judah’s king was Manasseh, a really, really bad king who served for 55 years and led Judah away from God and reinstated the worship of the false idols of the foreign nations that Hezekiah had removed.
As a young king, Josiah had begun seeking God’s will and ten years later a copy of the Law was found and read publicly, turning the nation of Judah toward a spiritual awakening (2 Chron 34-35). Unfortunately, the revival didn’t last long and the people once again fell away from God. Jeremiah is then called to deliver several messages warning about the devastation to come to Judah.
Jeremiah is often referred to as “The Weeping Prophet.” Coming from a family of priests, he was chosen by God even before he was born and commissioned as prophet as a young man, possibly even in the same age range as Josiah who also served as king at very young age. Jeremiah was hesitant to accept his calling. You can’t blame him, he had already seen how other prophets had been persecuted and he knew he would likely be treated badly as well. He was right, too. His life would be filled with opposition, rejection, and persecution. By this time, the Northern Kingdom of Israel had already heard from Elijah, Elisha, Amos, and Hosea and had fallen to the Assyrians. Jonah and Nahum had also already spoken concerning the plans God had for Nineveh which will also fall to the Assyrians during Jeremiah’s lifetime. Judah had already heard from Isaiah and Micah; Habakkuk and Zephaniah will speak to Judah about the same time that Jeremiah begins his ministry. Remember that the order of the prophets in the Bible is not chronological. As we read through the section, I’ll do my best to help you see the order in which they happened.
In the book of Isaiah, when we read about Israel, it sometimes meant both Israel and Judah. This time, when we read about Israel, we ARE talking about the northern kingdom who has already been overtaken by the Assyrians and ceased to exist as a nation. God will condemn Israel for falling away from Him and use them as an example to the people of Judah, saying, “Don’t be like Israel! Turn to Me now before it is too late!” He is clear that it is because of their SIN that they will experience hardship and will fall to the nations of the north (Babylon).
When and Where Are We?
The story begins in 626 BC, about a hundred years after Israel fell to the Assyrians in 722 BC, and will tell about the last generation to live in the Kingdom of Judah before it falls to the Babylonians in 586 BC. In this week’s reading we will mostly be in Jerusalem during the reign of King Josiah. There is a grand battle for land as the Assyrians, the Babylonians (Chaldeans), Egyptians, and later the Persians are all fighting for control, not only of Israel and Judah, but for all of the areas in what we know as the Middle East lands of Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, and Persia. Babylon is gaining power and will swallow up the Assyrian Empire in 605 BC when Nineveh is destroyed.
- Jeremiah – a young priest who is called to speak for the Lord to the people of Judah
- Josiah – King of Judah.
- Baruch – we learn at the end of the book that he was Jeremiah’s secretary who wrote as Jeremiah dictated to him. He was likely one of the few Jeremiah could call a friend.
Weekly Reading Assignment:
- Monday: Jeremiah 1-3
- Tuesday: Jeremiah 4-6
- Wednesday: Jeremiah 7-9
- Thursday: Jeremiah 10-12
- Friday: Jeremiah 13-15
- Saturday: Jeremiah 16-19