Would you please explain who Jeremiah is? Thank you.
I recently taught an almost-year-long Bible class on Jeremiah. I hope I can keep this much shorter. I have long admired Jeremiah for his persistence and endurance.
According to Jeremiah 1:1 he was a priest from the Benjamite town of Anathoth. He was called by God to be a prophet to the people of the tribe of Judah, and particularly the city of Jerusalem. He started his preaching almost 100 years after Isaiah and several years after the northern tribes of Israel were defeated and taken captive by Assyria. The last we know of him was after Babylon took the city of Jerusalem captive in 586 BC.
Jeremiah was a reluctant prophet. When God first called him he said he was too young (Jer 1:6). Later he said he would rather be an innkeeper in the middle of the desert than a prophet (Jer 9:2). But he had such a love for his people, and for God, that he continued to preach an unpopular message for seventy years. His life was threatened by his own kinsmen (Jer 11), he was thrown in prison by a king of Judah, and while in prison was thrown into a muddy cistern. At one time he had to go into hiding and let his secretary deliver messages for him. A number of times he questioned why God wanted him to keep preaching, since nobody appeared to listen to him. Yet he kept following God and delivering the messages God gave him.
The message of God through Jeremiah was primarily for the people of Judah at his time. He told them that God would destroy the nation because of their sins. Particularly, he specified the sins of social injustice, idolatry, and going through the motions of worshipping God without sincerity of heart. He accused Judah of not learning from the Assyrian captivity of their brothers in Israel. In the later years of his preaching he specified that Babylon would be God's tool for the punishment of Judah. He also preached that the punishment would end, and Israel would be restored to the land, which happened as predicted within seventy years.
He is known as the "weeping prophet" because of his love for his native land. After the fall of Jerusalem he is credited with writing all or part of the book of Lamentations. In that book he shows his great sorrow that his people would not listen to his message, and therefore received punishment.
We learn several lessons from Jeremiah and his message. From the man himself we learn the value of obeying God in the face of persecution. We learn to love the sinner while hating the sins that they commit. (Preachers can also learn from him that an object lesson may be more effective than mere words in a sermon.) From his message we learn that God wants our total devotion, and that such devotion to God includes helping our fellow man. We also learn that although God loves men, through our continual rebellion God will reach a point at which he can no longer tolerate our acts and must punish. We learn that punishment is itself an act of love. We also learn that even in the darkest of times there is hope, for he preached also about the Messiah who would bring peace and prosperity.
Follow-up question and answer
Thank you for the information on Jeremiah. I am intrigued by Jeremiah 29:11. Now with the background that you have given me, I understand the verse a lot more. Jeremiah's telling the King what the Lord wants for his people and to remind them of his love for them and to tell them what will happen to those who have gone against him. Right? What about the last thing that you mentioned? You said that Jeremiah preached about the Messiah. Where does he talk about the Messiah?
Yes, in the verse you mention God is telling them that He is a God of love and mercy. Actually, in its context He is saying that after 70 years in Babylon those taken captive will return to God and to the land. When they turn to Him, God will remember his love for them and bless them again in their homeland.
There are several prophecies of Messiah in Jeremiah. Some people see a prophecy of the Messiah in Jeremiah 23:5-"Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth." In its context I am not sure he is talking about Messiah, here. But almost every scholar accepts that Jeremiah 31:31-34 speaks of the Messianic Age. "Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more." (Quoted in Hebrews 8:8-12 as being a prophecy of the Messiah.)
In Matthew 2:18, Matthew quotes Jeremiah 31:15 as a prophecy about the slaughter of the children around Bethlehem when Herod the Great heard where the Messiah was supposed to be born. So this also is considered by some to be a prophecy of the Messiah.
Jeremiah's main focus was Judea at his time, and not the distant future. However, he did include some predictions concerning the coming of Jesus the Messiah.