Commemoration of Jeremiah: Prophet
The holy prophet Jeremiah is counted as one of the four “major prophets” of the Old Testament, along with Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. His name means “Established (or Raised up) by Yahweh (the Lord).”
He was active as God’s prophet to the southern kingdom of Judah ca. 627 to 582 B.C. As he fulfilled his calling, he predicted, witnessed, and lived through the Babylonian siege and eventual destruction of Jerusalem in 587 B.C.
In his preaching he often used symbols such as an almond rod (Jeremiah 1:11-14), wine jars (13:12-14), or a potter at work (18:1-17). His entire prophetic ministry was a sermon, communicating through word and deed God’s anger toward his rebellious people. He suffered repeated rejection and persecution by his countrymen. As far as can be known, he died in Egypt, having been taken there forcibly. He is remembered and honored for fearlessly calling God’s people to repentance.
Jeremiah also is credited by many as the author of the Book of Lamentations. The book consists of five separate poems, of which the first four are acrostics consisting of verses whose first words begin with successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet. In English translations, of course, this style completely disappears.
Chapter Three is an especially well-developed acrostic. There are twenty-two letters in Hebrew and the other chapters have 22 verses. However, this chapter has sixty-six, grouping sets of three verses under each letter of the alphabet. Thus, verses one through three begin with א (aleph), verses four through six with ב (beth), seven through nine with ג (gimel), and so-on down the line. Chapter Five, while not an acrostic, still has 22 verses.
The themes of the book unfold as follows: Chapter 1 treats the fallen and desolate city of Jerusalem as a widow weeping over her loss. Chapter 2 connects her misery with the sins of the nation and her people which brought God’s judgment. Chapter 3 expresses hope that the Lord’s punishment will result in blessing for His people and affirms His goodness: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.’ (vv. 22-24)” Chapter 4 is a lament on the destruction of city and temple but lays the blame upon the people’s sins. The final chapter outlines the city’s continuing troubles and prays that the Lord will finally restore Zion and not abandon His chosen people, although their sins are great and they certainly deserve it. HT: Aardvark Alley.
The book of Jeremiah similarly proclaims harsh judgment upon persistent sin while also reminding the Lord’s people of His faithfulness. It looks to a time when the need for the Law’s commands and punishments will cease and all will be made right. The clearest expression of this thought is in 31:31-34, where a “New Covenant” of grace is promised, a covenant established by the blood of the coming Messiah: “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord.
“But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
Scripture says nothing of how prophet’s life ended. Chapter 43 reveals that Johanan took Jeremiah, the prophet’s faithful scribe Baruch ben Neriah, and a remnant of Judean people, to live in Egypt. This directly contradicted the Word of the Lord Jeremiah had just spoken in Chapter 42, forbidding such a move and warning of dire consequences. Since Jeremiah 52:31 mentions the reign of Evil-merodach, the son of Nebuchadnezzar, many think that he may have been at least 90 years old when he died. Some ancient traditions claim that he was stoned to death in Babylon. Others say that he finally went to Babylon with Nebuchadnezzar’s army.