The book of Jeremiah is an interesting and emotional book to read. There are ample reasons why he is called “the weeping prophet.” Throughout the book, amid hard preaching about coming judgment, there is an underlying broken heart that seems to influence everything Jeremiah says. Throughout the book, we see God presented as benevolent, angry, and in great emotional pain because of Israel’s sins. God is pained so deeply because His people had repeatedly violated His covenant and commandments.
Jeremiah was a giant among the prophets who worked during the time of the destruction of Jerusalem. Ezekiel, a fellow priest, who was somewhat younger than Jeremiah, preached in Babylon with the captives an almost identical message as Jeremiah. Daniel was also contemporary with Jeremiah and was the man on the inside of the palace. Habakkuk and Zephaniah were helping Jeremiah in Jerusalem while Nahum was preaching the fall of Ninevah and Obadiah was preaching the ruin of Edom.
By the time Jeremiah begins his prophetic ministry the Northern Kingdom of Israel (the 10 tribes) had fallen and much of Judah. They had suffered loss after loss until Jerusalem was left alone. Despite such overwhelming evidence of God’s judgment, they continued to ignore the warnings of the prophets and grew harder and harder in their hearts.
Jeremiah lived about a hundred years after Isaiah who was able to bring the people back to God and save Jerusalem from Assyrian captivity. Jeremiah tried to pull off the same impossible task, but they refused. Eventually, Jerusalem along with the temple were both destroyed.
Israel had digressed into a spoiled child that was rebellious and ungrateful to the One who gave her everything she enjoyed. The God who loves and showed “Amazing Grace” was taken for granted and now they would have to face His judgment. He preached repentance and hope that God would save them from the hands of Babylon. Eventually, the message shifted to from hope to there is no longer any hope of being saved. At this point, Jeremiah’s message shifted from salvation from Babylon to alone of submitting to Babylon as an act of submission to God’s chastening hand. Despite the ominous tone of the book, there is always a thread of hope. Judah once destroyed can recover and once again dominate the world. Babylon will eventually be destroyed.
The message of Jeremiah needs to be heard in today’s times. The people of God had repeatedly rejected God and His commandments. Choosing instead to do whatever they wanted and now judgment day is coming for them. In the same way, many today depend on the gracious and loving nature of God while totally ignoring (either by choice or ignorance due to a lack of teaching) the requirements of being His people. As God’s people, we are never free to live or act however we like without facing our God. As Amos says in chapter four verse 12, “… prepare to meet your God, O Israel” (ESV). God always places expectations on our life that we must strive to live up to.