sexta-feira, 12 de agosto de 2011

The Prophet Jeremiah

I. Introduction:

Jeremiah, the son of Hilkiah, is introduced as a prophet called from the womb by the Lord to prophesy the Lord’s words of judgment and restoration from the reign of Josiah until the captivity of Judah even through the people will resist him 1:1-19 

A. Preface to the Book of Jeremiah:

This book contains the words of Jeremiah, the son of Hilkiah, which were communicated by the Lord to him from the thirteenth year of Josiah’s reign (627/6 B.C.), through the eleventh year of Zedekiah until the exile of Judah in the fifth month4 1:1-3

B. Call and Commission of Jeremiah: 

Jeremiah was called to be a prophet to the nations before his birth and encouraged to speak His words of judgment and restoration even through the people will resist him 1:4-19

1. Call of Jeremiah:

Jeremiah was chosen by the Lord before his birth to be a prophet of his words to the nations and is encouraged to speak his words of judgment and restoration 1:4-10

2. The Clarification of Jeremiah’s Call: 

Through two visions Jeremiah is told of coming judgment for Judah which the people will resist, but which the Lord will bring to pass 1:11-19

a. Two Visions: 1:11-16

The Rod of the Almond Tree--The Lord is Watching to Do His Word:6 1:11-12

A Boiling Pot--Coming Judgment by the Nations from the North: 1:13-16

b. Charge to Jeremiah: Jeremiah is urged to gird himself up and to begin prophesying with the knowledge that even though he will be resisted, God’s promises will prevail 1:17-19

I I. Prophecies to the Nation - Judah: 

Through a series of messages and historical illustrations Jeremiah demonstrated the rebellious character of Judah and which explained his prophesies of her coming judgment under the hand of Babylon also noting that she will be delivered one day by the Lord 2:1--45:5

A. Ten Messages of Judgment:

Ten Messages of Judgment upon Judah’s Kings and False Prophets so that They Might Repent:

Through a series of ten messages, Jeremiah exposes the disobedience of the people of Judah and pronounces necessary judgment as a consequence for them and the nations of the world as they refuse to head the word of Yahweh 2:1-25:38

1. Message One: 

Israel is accused of breaking the covenant by forsaking God and trusting in idols 2:1-3:5

a. The Nations Israel’s Past Love: 2:1-13

Introduction: 2:1

Yahweh’s separation of Israel to Him at the Exodus: 2:2-3

Israel’s Forgetfulness of Her Love for Yahweh when She Entered the Land: 2:4-8

Yahweh’s Charge against Israel--Doubly Guilty: 2:9-13

b. Israel, the Unfaithful Wife Will Be Judged 2:14-3:5

Object Lesson of the Northern Kingdom whose Sin Brought Her into Captivity: 2:14-19

Judah’s Spiritual Idolatry Is a Stain that Will Not Go Away: 2:20-25

Judah Will Be Ashamed when Judgment Comes: 2:26-28

Judgment Will Come: 2:29-37

A Plea For Judah to Repent from the Heart: 3:1-5

2. Message Two:

Judah will be judged due to its rejection of Yahweh and its refusal to repent: 3:6-6:30

a. God Calls His People to Repent: 3:6-4:4

b. God’s Wrath Will Come upon Judah and Jerusalem: 4:5-31

c. The Destruction of Jerusalem Will Come because It Has Turned Away from God: 5:1-31

d. The Complete Rejection of the Lord by the People Requires Judgment: 6:1-20

3. Message Three: 

Ritual will not save Judah, only Yahweh can save her; man’s foolishness leads to judgment9 7:1-10:25

a. The Temple Address--Salvation Will Not Come through Ritual: 7:1-8:3

The False Trust of the Nation: 7:1-28

Jeremiah’s Lament for Judah: 7:29-8:3

b. Salvation Will Not Come through Man’s Foolishness: 8:4-9:22

Apostasy only Leads to National Destruction 8:4-9:1

Man’s Foolishness Leads to Destruction: 9:2-22

c. Idol Worship vs. the Wisdom of the True God: 9:23-10:25

The Wisdom of Knowing the Lord: 9:23-26

Foolishness (idols) vs. Wisdom (true God): 10:1-25

4. Message Four: 

Rebellion against Yahweh leads to judgment, but God will restore His people and the nations will praise Yahweh 11:1-12:17

a. The Conspiracy against the Covenant: 11:1-17

b. The Conspiracy against Jeremiah: 11:18-12:17

The Plot: 11:18-23

Jeremiah’s Complaint: 12:1-4

God’s Response: 12:5-17

5. Message Five: 

Jeremiah gives five warnings to Judah of judgment due to pride which reveal Israel’s idolatrous character: 13:1-27

a. The Loincloth--Idolatry Brings Certain Ruin: 13:1-11

b. The Wine Jugs--God’s Wrath Will Fill the People: 13:12-14

c. The Warning against Pride: 13:15-17

d. The Warning to Rulers: 13:18-19

e. The Warning that Sin Brings Punishment: 13:20-27

6. Message Six: 

Judgment will come because of self-trust instead of faith in Yahweh, and God is asked to remember the covenant 14:1-17:27

a. The Lord Does Not Allow Jeremiah to Intercede for Judah 14:1-15:9

Jeremiah’s Petition for Deliverance 14:1-9

In a Discussion between the Lord and Jeremiah, the prophet asks the Lord to remember the covenant relationship 14:10-22

The Lord Tells Jeremiah of Certain Coming Judgment 15:1-9

b. The Lord Deals with Jeremiah by Proclaiming His Purpose for Him, Proclaiming Him is a Living Symbol of Judah’s Coming Judgment, and Proclaiming His Ultimate Plan of Restoration for the Nation: 16:1-21

c. The Lord Proclaims that the Consequences for Judah’s Sin of Idolatry Is to Serve the gods, Causing Jeremiah to Pray for Salvation and Justice 17:1-27

7. Message Seven: 

Since God is sovereign, the nation is to submit to His way--judgment is coming 18:1-20:18

a. God is Sovereign like a Potter with Clay: 18:1-23

b. The Destruction of the Nation Will Be Like the Breaking of an Earthen Vessel: 19:1-20:18

8. Message Eight: 

Jeremiah emphasizes that the city is going to be judged by God and their is no way out, so to be in God’s will, they must leave the land 21:1-14

a. Zedekiah Requests Mercy in His Time of Trouble: 21:1-2

b. Jeremiah Affirms that the Lord is at War with Jerusalem: 21:3-5

c. Jeremiah Urges the Nation to Surrender to Babylon or to Fight and Die: 21:8-10

d. Jeremiah Urges the House of David to Obey God’s Law 21:11-14

9. Message Nine: 

Jeremiah affirms that the wicked leaders (kings, lying prophets) are leading the people astray, but that the good shepherd gathers the people resulting in the principle that obedience leads to blessing, but disobedience leads to cursing 22:1--24:10

a. A Warning to the Wicked Kings: 22:1-30

An Exhortation to Zedekiah: 22:1-9

The Destiny of Shallum (Jehoahaz): 22:10-12

The Curse from Jehoiakim’s Evil: 22:13-23

The Destiny/Curse of Coniah (Jehoiachin): 22:24-30

b. The Work of the Good Shepherd--The Righteous Branch:10 23:1-8

c. Prophesy against the Wicked Prophets: 23:9-40

d. The Symbol of the Two Baskets of Figs Speaks of the Good Who Will Be Regathered and the Bad who Will Not: 24:1-10

10. Message Ten:

Judgment is certain from Judah to the whole world because there is a refusal to head the word of God 25:1-38

a. The Refusal to the People to Listen: 25:1-7

b. Judgment from Nebuchadnezzar (“my servant”) because the People Refuse to Head the Word: 25:8-11

c. Hope--A Seventy Year Captivity Only: 25:12-14

d. Judgment upon the Whole World: 25:15-38

I I I. The Opposition which Jeremiah Faced Due to His Messages:

The ten messages of judgment are vindicated through the hostile opposition which Jeremiah received from the religious leaders to his true messages 26:1--29:32

A. Consequences of the Temple Address: 

When Jeremiah spoke a message at the temple of repentance or necessary judgment, the priests and false prophets wanted his death, but he was spared 26:1-24

1. The Death Penalty Is Demanded for Jeremiah: 26:7-11

2. Jeremiah’s Defense--He is from the Lord: 26:12-15

3. The Verdict--Confirmation: 26:16-19

4. Unlike Uriah, Jeremiah was Spared from Death: 26:20-24

B. The Yoke of Babylon: 

Jeremiah exhorted the foreign countries, Zedekiah, and the people to submit to Babylon for life, otherwise they would die 27:1-22

1. Hananiah vs. Jeremiah: 

Jeremiah rebuked Hananiah’s prophecy by affirming that Hananiah’s act of breaking the yoke will cause a harsher bondage, and by prophesying and authenticating Hananiah’s death 28:1-17

2. Jeremiah’s Letters to the Exiles: 

When Shemaiah opposes Jeremiah’s open letter to the exiles concerning conduct et cetera, Jeremiah predicts Shemaiah’s death as a sign to the people 29:1-32

a. Setting--When the Upper Middle Class Had Been Taken into Captivity in Babylon (597 B.C.) 29:1-3

b. Jeremiah’s Open Letter to the Exiles: 29:4-23

Concerning Their Conduct: 29:4-23

Concerning the Lord’s Promise:13 29:10-14

Concerning Those Left in Jerusalem: 29:15-20

Concerning False Prophets among Them: 29:21-23

c. The Reaction to the Letter: 29:24-32

Negative - Shemaiah: 29:24-28

Another Letter From Jeremiah: 29:29-32

I V. Messages of Consolation to Judah:

Jeremiah confirms for Judah that although she will go into captivity that the Lord will yet fulfill His promises to her through direct affirmation, prophesying of a new exodus, a new covenant, buying property in the land, and predicting the restoration of the Davidic line 30:1--33:26

A. Punishment and Restoration: 

Although Judah was punished for her sin, the Lord promised to restore her, punish her enemies and restore Jerusalem 30:1-24

B. A New Exodus: 

The Lord promises to restore Israel to the land in a new exodus experience at the right time 31:1-22

1. Israel Will Be Restored: 31:1-6

2. Israel Will Return to Her Land in a New Exodus Experience: 31:7-14

3. Comfort for Israel as She Weeps over Those Who Have Been Deported: 31:15-20

4. Exhortation to Return to the Land at the Proper Time: 31:21-22

C. A New Covenant: 

The Lord will restore a unified nation which will flourish under a new covenant and be holy to the Lord 31:23-40

1. A Restoration Under the Lord’s Blessing: 31:23-26

b. Flourishing Physically and Morally: 31:27-30

c. Under a New Covenant: 31:31-34

d. Certainty of Restoration: 31:35-37

e. The Restoration Period: 31:38-40

D. Buying a Field: 

Jeremiah demonstrated his faith in Yahweh to restore the people to the land by buying a field affirming that the sovereign God will judge and restore 32:1-44

1. Setting:

Jeremiah is in Prison for Proclaiming that Zedekiah and the Nation would go into exile 32:1-5

2. An Illustration:

Jeremiah buys a field proclaiming that there will be a restoration 32:6-15

3. Jeremiah praises the Lord

When Jeremiah praises the Lord and yet asks “why” about the nation’s situation, he is told that the Lord will sovereignly give the nation over to Babylon and then will sovereignly restore the nation from captivity 32:16-44

E. Covenant Promises: 

Jeremiah affirms that God will keep his promises by restoring for unified Israel the people, the land, and the Davidic line 33:1-26

1. A Restoration of the People: 33:1-8

2. A Restoration of the Land: 33:9-13

3. A Restoration of the Davidic Line: 33:14-26

V. A Display of Judah’s Disobedience 

A Display of Judah’s Disobedience which Qualified them for Judgment:15 In spite of the words of consolation which preceded this unit, Jeremiah demonstrated the necessity of judgment upon Judah because her kings, unlike the Recabites, disobey God 34:1--36:32

A. Disobedience

Zedekiah and the Mistreated Slaves: When Zedekiah and the people took back the slaves which they had let go, they broke the covenant with Yahweh and were given over to Babylon 34:1-22

1. Setting: 

Babylon was getting ready to attack the city when the Lord told Zedekiah through Jeremiah that Jerusalem would fall and he would not die but be deported and then die of natural causes 34:1-7

2. The Broken Oath of Release:

Zedekiah convinced the people to enter into covenant and release their Hebrew slaves, but then they took them back into slavery 34:8-11

3. The Lord’s Response: 

After restating His commands after the Exodus about releasing slaves every seven years, and seeing the duplicity of Judah, he decided to “release” the nation into the hand of Babylon 34:17-22

B. Obedience

The Rechabites Not Drinking:17 The Rechabites became an example to Judah through their obedience in not drinking wine and were established 35:1-19

1. A Test by the Lord: 

The Lord had Jeremiah test the Recabites by trying to get them drunk, but they refused and continued in their obedience to the Lord

2. An Example to Judah:

Judah should obey the Lord just as the Rechabites did their founding fathers, but judgment is coming for disobedience 35:14-16

3. The Rechabites are promised a line that continues 35:18-19

A. Disobedience

Jehoiakim’s Destruction of God’s Word: When Jeremiah and Baruch wrote a scroll so that Judah would turn to Yahweh, Jehoiakim destroyed it, so it was rewritten and Jehoiakim was cut off 36:1-32

1. The Writing of the First Scroll: 36:1-7

2. The Reading of the Scroll: 36:8-9

3. Jehoiakim’s Burning of the Scroll: 36:20-26

4. The Writing of the Second Scroll: 36:27-32

V I. The Final Days of Jerusalem 

The Final Days of Jerusalem Up To and Including Its Fall to Babylon:18 When Zedekiah opposed Jeremiah’s exhortations to surrender to Babylon, Jerusalem fell causing the people to be deported and the city to be destroyed, but Jeremiah was protected and Ebed-melech, the Ethiopian, was spared for trusting in the Lord 37:1--39:18

A. Zedekiah’s Opposition to Jeremiah: 

When Zedekiah opposed Jeremiah, threw him into prison, and refused to surrender to Babylon during the siege of Jerusalem, Jerusalem was taken by Babylon 37:1--38:15

1. Setting: 

a. Egypt has pushed Babylon back for a time from Palestine, so Zedekiah asks Jeremiah to pray for the nation 37:1-5

b. Jeremiah Prophecies a Babylonian Victory: 37:6-10

c. Jeremiah Is Imprisoned for Being Anti-nationalistic: 37:11-16

d. When Zedekiah asks for a word from the Lord from Jeremiah, he is told that Babylon will be victorious and Jeremiah asks not to be placed back in prison, whereupon he is placed in the court of the guardhouse 37:17-21

e. Jeremiah is Placed in Prison Again for Speaking of Destruction by Babylon: 38:1-6

f. Ebed-Melech receives permission from Zedekiah to rescue Jeremiah from the cistern and place him again in the court of the guardhouse 38:7-13

g. Zedekiah Speaks Again with Jeremiah and Babylonian Judgment is confirmed: 34:14-26

h. Jeremiah Does Not Tell of His Conversation with the King and Remains in the Guardhouse until the Fall of Jerusalem 38:27-28

B. The Fall of Jerusalem:

With the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon the king and people were deported, Jerusalem was destroyed, Jeremiah was protected, and Ebed-melech was spared for trusting the Lord 39:1-18

1. A Summary of the Fall of Jerusalem: 39:1-3

2. The Deportation Zedekiah after His Attempted Escape: 39:4-10

3. The Destruction of Jerusalem: 39:8

4. The Taking of Most People to Babylon: 39:9

e. The Poor Are Left in the Land: 39:10

f. Jeremiah is Protected by Nebuchadnezzar: 39:11-14

g. Ebed-melech is Protected for His Faithful Saving of Jeremiah: 39:15-18

F. The Rebellious Activity 

The Rebellious Activity of Those Left in Jerusalem after the Fall of the City to Babylon:20 40:1--44:30

1. Death of Gedaliah: 

Palestine was politically unstable with Ishmael’s assassination of Gedaliah and the captivity of the people, but Johanan, the son of Kareah, freed the people while Ishmael escaped to Ammon and the remnant under Johanan fled to Egypt 40:1--41:18

a. Jeremiah Remained in the Land:21 40:1-6

b. The People in the Land Gathered around Gedaliah:22 40:7-12

c. The Assassination of Gedaliah and Its Consequences: 40:13--41:18

The Plot: 40:13-16

The Assassination: 41:1-3

Ishmael Takes the People Captive:23 41:4-10

Release of the Captives by Johanan: 41:11-18

2. The Flight to Egypt:

Out of fear of Babylon’s reprisal, Johanan and the people desired to go to Egypt, but the Lord told Jeremiah that they should not flee; nevertheless, they disobeyed and went to Egypt where Babylon would soon come to conquer 42:1-43:13

a. Jeremiah was Asked about Fleeing to Egypt, and Gave God’s Warning against It: 42:1-22

b. The People Went to Egypt which Babylon Would Soon Control: 43:1-13

People Fled to Egypt: 43:1-7

An Object Lesson from the Lord about Babylon’s Soon Control of Egypt: 43:10-13

3. Jeremiah prophesied against the People in Egypt:

Jeremiah confronted the refugees in Egypt and rebuked them for their evil deeds, but the people worshiped idols and Jeremiah prophesied destruction 44:1-30

a. Jeremiah’s Message: Jeremiah reminds the people of their past experiences due to disobedience, their present sinful activities and God’s future judgment of the wicked 44:1-14

b. The People’s Response Was to Honor Their Other gods for Prosperity: 44:15-19

c. Jeremiah’s Response: Jeremiah Responded by exposing their wrong thinking, foretelling future judgment, and proclaiming that a sign will be in the death of the current Pharaoh at the hand of the Babylon 44:29-30

G. The Lord’s Message to Baruch:

The Lord gave a message of encouragement to Baruch that although Judah would fall, he would be kept safe 45:1-5

1. Setting (605/4 B.C.): 45:1

2. Introduction: A Word from God to Baruch: 45:2

3. Baruch Was Depressed: 45:3

4. The Lord’s Response: 45:4-5

a. The Nation Will Fall Soon: 45:4

b. Do Not Seek Self Recognition: 45:5a

c. You Will Be Kept Safe: 45:5b

V I I. Prophecies of Judgment to the Nations: 

Jeremiah prophesied nine messages of judgment against the nations who were located in an Arch from South-West to North West, and down to South-East to Encourage Judah:26 46:1--51:64. This unit provides that which came to Jeremiah through the word of the Lord about the nations 46:1 

A. Message One:

Message One against Egypt:27 The defeat of Egypt by Babylon is prophesied as judgment by God, and comfort is given to Judah in Egypt (regathered) 46:2-28

1. The Defeat of Egypt at Carchemish (605 B.C.): 46:1-12

2. The Defeat of the Land of Egypt: 46:13-26

3. Comfort for the People from Judah in Egypt

They Will Be Regathered and Restored: 46:27-28

B. Message Two:

Message Two against Philistia: Jeremiah prophesied against Philistia that she will be destroyed in judgment from God causing the nations to mourn 47:1-7

1. Introduction: 47:1

2. Conquest: 47:2-4

3. Results of Conquest: 47:5-7

C. Message Three

Message Three against Moab:28 Jeremiah prophesied against Moab because of its pride and false worship, but there is a promise of restoration in the latter days 48:1-47

1. The Destruction of the Nation: 48:1-10

2. Moab’s Complacency Will End: 48:11-15

3. Judgment Will Come Suddenly: 48:16-20

4. The Cities of Moab Will Fall: 48:21-25

5. Moab’s False Worship Will Fall: 48:26-35

6. A Lament for Moab: 48:36-39

7. A Complete Destruction of Moab: 48:40-46

8. *A Promise of Restoration for Moab: 48:47

D. Message Four:

Message Four against Ammon: Jeremiah prophesied against Ammon that judgment would come because they caused false worship in Israel, but restoration is promised 49:1-6

1. Caused False Worship in Israel: 49:1

2. Israel Will Control Ammon: 49:2

3. Destruction Will Come: 49:3-5

4. *A Promise of Restoration: 49:6

E. Message Five:

Message Five against Edom: Jeremiah prophesied judgment against Edom affirming that in arrogance they do not realize it, but judgment and exile are coming 49:7-22

1. Judgment Will Come: 49:7-13

2. Arrogance Prohibits Their Realization of Judgment Coming: 49:14-19

3. Destruction and Exile Are Coming: 49:20-22 

F. Message Six:

Message Six against Damascus: Jeremiah prophesied judgment against Damascus affirming that it will become helpless and fall 49:23-27 

G. Message Seven:

Message Seven against Kedar & Hazor:29 Jeremiah prophesied judgment against Kedar and Hazor affirming that these places will remain desolate 49:28-33 

H. Message Eight:

Message Eight against Elam: Jeremiah prophesied judgment against Elam affirming that it would be destroyed, but there is a promise of restoration 49:34-39

1. Introduction: A Prophecy at the Beginning of the Reign of Zedekiah (597 B.C.) 49:34

2. Elam Will Be Destroyed: 49:35-38

3. A Promise of Restoration: 49:39 

I. Message Nine:

Message Nine against Babylon: Jeremiah prophesied judgment against Babylon because of its arrogant attitude, and Israel will return home 50:1--51:64

1. Babylon’s Fall Will Mean Deliverance for Judah: 50:1-20

2. Judgment and Condemnation upon Babylon: 50:21-46

3. A Sovereign Shift of Political Power (the Medes): 51:1-19

4. The Final Fate of Babylon--Destruction: 50:20-33

5. Babylon’s Destruction for Destroying Judah: 51:34-40

6. The Lord’s Destruction of Babylon: 51:41-58

7. Jeremiah’s Instructions to Seraiah:

Jeremiah’s Instructions to Seraiah to take the scroll with the judgments upon Babylon, to read it there and to symbolize its destruction by throwing the scroll into the Euphrates River 51:63-64

V I I I. The “Confessions” of Jeremiah

Study by zachbardon (see site below) 

A. Introduction

Scholars have identified several passages in Jeremiah that can be understood as “confessions;” they occur in the first section of the book (chapters 1-25) and are 11.18-12.6, 15.10-21, 17.14-18, 18.18-23, and 20.7-18. In these passages, Jeremiah expresses his discontent with the message he is to deliver, but also his steadfast commitment to the divine call despite the fact that he had not sought it out. Additionally, in several of these “confessions,” Jeremiah prays that the Lord will avenge his persecutor (for example, see Jeremiah 12.3).

Jeremiah’s “confessions” are a type of individual lament. Such laments are found elsewhere in the psalms and the book of Job. Like Job, Jeremiah curses the day of his birth (Jer. 20.14-18 and Job 3.3-10). Likewise, Jeremiah’s exclamation “For I hear the whispering of many: Terror is all around!” (Jer. 20.10) matches Psalm 31.13 exactly. However, Jeremiah’s laments are made unique by his insistence that he has been called by Yahweh to deliver his messages. These laments that are attributed to Jeremiah “provide a unique look at the prophet's inner struggle with faith, persecution, and human suffering”

B. Confession 1 11:18-23

The way Jeremiah now reads, this passage is the first of Jeremiah's confessions, the first of several heartfelt passages throughout the book where, speaking in first person, he presents his case to Yahweh. Here Yahweh has evidently revealed to Jeremiah (through some means or another) a plot against the prophet's life. This is quite possibly the first major threat to Jeremiah's life, and it brings with it a great insult. These were "men of Anathoth" plotting against Jeremiah, and Anathoth was Jeremiah's hometown! And, as J. A. Thompson points out, "for any man of Israel, rejection by his society was a great grief."

Moreover, these men make reference to destroying the "tree and its fruit," so that "his name be remembered no more." They no doubt meant that since Jeremiah had yet to marry and have offspring, by killing him they would end his line, which Thompson rightly calls "a tragic end for a man of Israel, for whom descendents demonstrated the divine blessing on his life."

The people of Anathoth must have found Jeremiah's prophecies appalling and embarrassing to resort to murder. Because he prophesied the words of Yahweh, he was a disgrace to his home. "Little wonder," says Thompson, "that he fled to God in dismay and despair. As far as he was concerned, Yahwah was the reason he faced this problem; it was therefore Yahweh's responsibility to resolve the problem.

We see here the establishment of what we are going to call the "whining" theme. Jeremiah feels victimized and downtrodden, an unfair recipient of the injustice of the wicked, due entirely to his faithfulness in proclaiming the word of the Lord. The Lord, therefore, ought to turn the tables and deliver justice. And, in this case, he is probably afraid. If home is not safe, where is?

Yet, as in Job and some of the Psalms, we see a full confidence in God's ability to render justice. The very fact that he beseeches God, "let me see your vengeance upon them" indicates that he knows Yahweh is able to exact that vengeance. Jeremiah displays a confidence that has been slightly rattled, like a child when someone tells him something other than what his parents taught him. The child goes to his parents and says "isn't it so? Bob said it wasn't so, go tell him it's so." Reality is showing Jeremiah a different concept of justice than the concept he had believed God upheld, so he goes to God and says, "Aren't you just? Those men are wicked. Well?"

In this first of Jeremiah's laments, God gives a response that Thompson calls "decisive," one that must have satisfied Jeremiah's longing for certain justice. God assures Jeremiah of justice, promising a severe punishment for these wicked men, remarkably strong in its thoroughness. Yahweh very rarely punishes so completely.

When He says "Not even a remnant will be left," this is serious stuff.

C. Confession 2 12:1-6

The occasion of this lament is unsure. Perhaps Jeremiah was feeling overwhelmed, perhaps he was impatient with God's apparently delayed justice, or perhaps he was just whining (again) about his mistreatment. Most likely it was not a specific event, but rather the culmination of Jeremiah's observations on the sad unfairness of life. In any event, its premise fundamentally addresses the problem of theodicy: "Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do the faithless live at ease?" Jeremiah addresses a problem with the world that believers in God must address even today -- sometimes the wicked flourish, while the righteous are downtrodden, yet God promises justice. "Instead of the wicked," writes Thompson, "it was Jeremiah, the man called by God and the faithful servant of God, who was suffering."

Jeremiah minces no words, bringing his "case" (legal terminology) before God, and requesting that God "drag them [the wicked] off like sheep to be butchered!" The "lamb to the slaughter" simile shows up again, but this time as an ideal for the fate of the wicked. Perhaps Jeremiah wanted lex talionis, an eye for an eye, and since the wicked had made him the helpless lamb, he felt God ought to do the same to them.

The tone of this lament seems a little more impatient. Certainly the words are strong, addressing God as though He were not holding up His end. In v. 1 Jeremiah displays again his love of justice, which may have been strengthened by the apparent dearth of said justice. Consistent with his love of justice is his focus on true worship; he is truly upset by fakes. Jeremiah points out false worship (cf. his well-known "temple sermon"), saying "You are always on their lips | But far from their hearts." This alone was enough, in Jeremiah's view, for them to be punished.

We must here mention that an Old Testament mindset pays little attention to an afterlife. When Jeremiah beseeched God for justice, he was not asking for a "final judgement" after the end of his life, or the world. He did not have a modern Christian's assurance of such a final judgement. Justice in his day was much more immediate. The Proverbs are full of this practical justice -- live righteously, and your life on Earth will be blessed. When the wicked were flourishing, this was seen as a serious problem in God's application of justice, and Jeremiah felt that God's reputation was at stake, and He ought to do something about it.

It is almost endearing how Jeremiah points out to God, "Moreover, the people are saying, 'He will not see what happens to us.'" This seems like a strong hint that God ought to show them that He does see, that He is in fact the all-seeing all-powerful God in which Jeremiah has placed confidence.

Now let us examine God's response. His response here is very different from His response to Jeremiah's first lament, and I'm sure Jeremiah found it very unsatisfactory. In God's first response, He promises the utter destruction of the wicked. This time He doesn't mention the wicked at all, instead merely gives Jeremiah a warning. "It will get worse," He basically says, "so quit whining and buck up." Thompson describes God's response as "vigorous metaphors," and is eloquent in describing the first of them:

The first metaphor is concerned with athletic prowess. If running a footrace had worn the prophet out, how would he hope to vie with horses? In this context running with men seems to refer to Jeremiah's encounters with other prophets. The other prophets, false prophets in Jeremiah's eyes, seem to have given him a 'good run' and to have provided strong opposition. But he had yet to compete with horses.

Interestingly, God never mentions the wicked, while his first response was entirely assurance of the wicked impending judgment. We might suggest, reading between the lines, that God had given Jeremiah assurance and the prophet did not need further reassurance; God's earlier word must still stand. "God's words to Jeremiah," observes Thompson, "were a warning to him both to be on his guard and to prepare for more severe trials yet to come."In human terms, this is an unsatisfactory response, because it doesn't answer the question asked.

But it does show a parental concern for the prophet, warning him of danger.

D. Confession 3 15:10-11

This is a short but intense lament, where Jeremiah wishes he'd never been born. Thompson points out that "to curse the day of his birth was tantamount to a rejection of his very mission" a very strong lament. Rather than focusing on the wicked, this lament is very inwardly focused. As opposed to his earlier charges that Yahweh make good on His promise of justice, this is more of a wallowing, Jeremiah feeling at war with the world and for no apparent reason.

And in this case, when Jeremiah is feeling truly low, God answers Jeremiah, this time offering further reassurance of his earlier promise, and including this time a personal promise: "I will deliver you." God reminds Jeremiah of his earlier promise of future justice, and of the purpose in his calling. God's varying responses make these confessions truly an interesting study. Jeremiah says much of the same "whining" things, but God's responses differ, while always displaying a concern for His prophet.

E. Confession 4 15:15-21

This is Jeremiah's most dangerous lament, and the only one which earns a rebuke from God. His previous feeling of worldly oppression grows bitter and turns outward towards God. The oppression is all for His sake, and in a sense God is answerable for it, so he grows impatient with Yahweh's delayed justice. His earlier righteous love of justice becomes entangled in his embittered sense of self-pity. Both laments are tied together.

Jeremiah briefly outlines his history, making his case, pointing out that he "never sat in the company of revelers," he "suffer[s] reproach." His lament culminates with the plea, "Why is my pain unending..? Will you be to me like a deceptive brook, like a spring that fails?" This after his earlier prophecies about the people of Israel digging broken cisterns (pursuing false gods) rather than drinking from the spring (following Yahweh).

It is remarkable that despite his bitterness towards God, Jeremiah turns to God to make his lament. Often, bitterness leads to a lack of communication. But as a pastor named Frank Logue once said, "God can deal with our anger better than our silence."

The response Yahweh gives may have satisfied Jeremiah. The prophet was clearly upset, and his laments to this point seemed intent on provoking Yahweh to action. Getting a rebuke from Yahweh was a kind of action, plus it provided Jeremiah with a direction. "If you repent," begins Yahweh, "I will restore you." And again, "If you utter worthy, not worthless words, you will be my spokesman." Yahweh goes on to describe how he will strengthen and aid Jeremiah in his calling, concluding with a promise of redemption: "I will save you from the hands of the wicked, and redeem you from the grasp of the cruel."

Jeremiah really gets off pretty easy. The rebuke was not very strong, couched in a conditional promise of restoration, and full of direction for the future. God's responses thus far have all been directed towards the future, while all Jeremiah's responses have been focusing on the present. Maybe sometime soon Jeremiah will get the picture. Also of note is the fact that God again mentions the wicked, but here He does not discuss their destruction. Yahweh promises not that He will punish the wicked, but rather that he will deliver Jeremiah from them.

F. Confession 5 17:12-18

Confession 5 is something of a triumph. Particularly after the direction the last lament took, this is a refreshing change. Gone is the whiny self-pitying tone we've seen until now. Gone is the myopic focus on his own sufferings. "All who forsake you will be put to shame," declares Jeremiah confidently, looking toward the future for once. His focus, as often is the case (and probable occasion) for these laments, is the wicked, but we now see a new focus on Yahweh coming in alongside his focus on the wicked. "Those who turn away [the wicked]," declares Jeremiah, "will be written in the dust [future outlook], for they have forsaken the LORD, the spring of living water [no longer the deceptive brook]."

Jeremiah displays that same concern that God's justice is not presently evident (he's suffering and the wicked are not, yet he serves God and they do not), but now that he is finally understanding the future emphasis of God's justice, he is far less whiny. "There is an underlying confidence in Yahweh here," observes Thompson.

This confession is perhaps the best example of Jeremiah's unwavering faith in God's existence and his power to affect all things in the world.

Significantly, Yahweh gives no response. Perhaps He smiled. Since Jeremiah begins to reflect Yahweh's ideas in this confession, Yahweh perhaps felt no need to offer those ideas to Jeremiah again.

G. Confession 6 18:18-23

This confession is a reaction to the plots of the people to kill Jeremiah. Here Jeremiah reiterates his newfound confidence in Yahweh's future justice, while demonstrating his continuing concern at the success of the wicked. He here requests, "hear what my accusers are saying!" and follows their words with his requests for justice. His idea of justice is very stark. "Give their children over to famine," he asks. "Let their wives be made childless and widows; let their men be put to death... let a cry be heard from their houses."

Jeremiah is asking for judgement on all aspects of the families; men, women and children, displaying the same "focus on the family" that shows up elsewhere (cf. 7:18). Thompson also mentions that "famine, death by the sword in battle, bereavement, and screams of terror were all concomitants of an enemy invasion," pointing out Jeremiah's sometime references to the "foe from the north."

Some have observed that the plots against him indicate that his message is being heard and understood.

Jeremiah reminds God of his service and, after venting a bit in anger that people actually want to kill him for doing what is right, he hands the wicked over to God.

Again, Yahweh offers no spoken response to this confidence, or if He did, it was not necessary for the readers of Jeremiah.

H. Confession 7 20:7-13

Jeremiah's near bitterness surfaces again in this confession; it begins with strong words to Yahweh: "you deceived me" and expresses his feelings on the unfairness of his persecution for Yahweh's sake. "The word of the LORD has brought me insult and reproach all day long," he whines. The word of Yahweh which delights him in the end brings him only torment, and he is quite frustrated by this. He feels succored into the role of prophet against his will and against what is good for him.

The prophet's call is very poignantly described in this confession: "If I say, 'I will not mention him,'" says Jeremiah, "his word is like a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot." These are very colorful words presenting a powerful picture of the divine call.

Jeremiah was consistently in a position of conflict, particularly with Yahweh. Thompson is eloquent on this matter:

He was engrossed in controversy with Yahweh. His sensitive nature was deeply hurt by the ridicule and sarcasm with which his preaching was received by the people. But he could do no other because of his deep commitment to his prophetic vocation. He was under a profound compulsion to expose the nation's rejection of Yahweh and his covenant. Yet he loved his own people deeply. Little wonder that deep emotional tensions and conflicts arose within him which led him at times to give expressions to the intense feeling which is found in these poems.

Despite Jeremiah's frustration, his faith in God remains unshaken. He still believes in the future downfall of the wicked, saying "they will fail and be utterly disgraced." Perhaps his confident statements are a hopeful reminder to Yahweh, for Jeremiah longs to live to see God's justice. "Let me see your vengeance upon them," he asks again.

Unlike his earlier requests for vengeance, this confession concludes with praise, a ray of light at the end of the storm.

I. Confession 8 20:14-18

In these words the spirit of the weeping prophet is laid bare at one of his particularly low moments. Unable to curse his actual parents, he curses all the circumstances surrounding his birth. "Cursed be the day I was born!" he begins. He curses the man who told his father "A child is born to you" and wishes he had been killed at birth. Thompson remarks on Jeremiah's pitiless curse of an innocent man: "such an expression must owe more to literary convention that to actual hatred of an innocent man, but well shows the intensity of Jeremiah's despair."

This kind of bitter lament, regretting that he had ever lived, is one that humanity has expressed in some form or another through the ages. In colloquial terms, life sucks. A lot of the time the equation of life adds up to a negative, which led the prophet Jeremiah to ask God why he was ever born. "To this poignant question Yahweh gave no answer," Thompson concludes. "But what answer could he give?"

J. General reflections

Jeremiah's confessions all stem from Jeremiah's commitment to justice. Much of his lamentation is requesting that God make good on his word, that He prove to the people that the wicked will see judgement. While he would often assume a bit of a whiny tone, his laments by and large were not concerned solely with his own trouble.

His desire for vengeance on the wicked stemmed from his indignation that people should behave contrary to the covenant and thrive, that those whose worship was false should find life so pleasurable. He was offended on behalf of himself, yes, but at the center he was offended on behalf of Yahweh. "It was not simply a matter of wounded pride demanding revenge," states Thompson, "but rather of Jeremiah's profound identification with Yahweh and the demands of the covenant."

I was once asked by a Bible teacher, "do we have any rights?" And after much discussion, the teacher eventually argued that no, as Christians we do not. As Americans we are extended rights, but as Christians we know that we do not deserve any of God's mercies, from our eternal celestial future to our next breath. We are given them, not as our due, but as a gift. One cannot claim the right to a gift. The teacher's point was that if this mindset inundates our lifestyle, we will extend grace more readily and take offense at much less, since we really have no rights to be infringed. I thus found it interesting to see Jeremiah's perpetual indignation with the wicked, for their wickedness and its affront to Yahweh, which happened to take the form of persecuting the Lord's spokesman.

I mentioned above the notion that God would prefer our anger to our silence. I think we must qualify this with an understanding of one's relationship to Yahweh. In human relationships, close friends and loved ones are permitted to express frustrations and anger, since there is an understanding and a knowledge that such expressions are tempered by (or even a result of) love.

One simply does not express anger to a stranger (at least not without presenting a very poor image). Jeremiah's laments are permissible because he had a close relationship with Yahweh. Indeed, Thompson claims that "only one who walked intimately with God would dare to speak as Jeremiah did."

A further lesson we can learn from Jeremiah's voicing’s of his battles with despair and his prophetic call is the way he sank into bitterness. When Jeremiah's laments were focused mostly on his own sufferings, Yahweh became the caretaker reneging on his pledge, the guardian who failed to guard, the judge who was unrighteous lenient. Bitterness turns us towards worthless words.

It is only natural for mortal humanity to desire God's justice in the present. Jeremiah certainly wanted to "see" God's vengeance on the wicked. And I feel similarly at times; I want the final judgment to happen on a daily basis. But we, as modern Christians, have the assurance of that final judgment, not just in God's response to our first and third laments (and Jeremiah's, incidentally) but in the New Testament as well. We therefore have much less "right" to be impatient with the problem of theodicy.

The last reflection I will mention has to do with insecurity. Jeremiah was assured from his very first lament of the destruction of the wicked, without even a remnant left to them. Yet he kept asking God for the destruction of the wicked, despite that first assurance. Yahweh did not always answer him, certainly not always about the wicked, and when he did, it was usually to turn Jeremiah's attention toward the future (whether He was saying "it will get worse" or "I will deliver you").

But I think this insecurity is true of all of us. We believe what we see, and want ressurance of what we can't see. We don't see God's justice yet, so we want reassurance. Mothers are notorious for asking their children about details several times, just to make sure. Lovers want (maybe need?) to hear "I love you" over and over from their beloved, as though needing some kind of reassurance of something they already know. I believe Jeremiah's laments were mostly this kind of seeking reassurance. He never evidenced lack of confidence in

God's ability to render justice, nor in His concept of justice itself. His laments were merely entreaties for reassurance of God's justice in his present, something I believe it is permissible for all believers to do.

Provided we be on our guard against bitterness, and our focus remains on the future more than wallowing in our own insecurity, it is perfectly permissible (albeit unnecessary) for Christians to seek reassurance from God.

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