Scriptures are cited from the King James (Authorized) Version, unless stated otherwise.
“His word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay.”
Jeremiah 20: 9
The Bible tells us more about the personal experiences of Jeremiah than of any other prophet. His father’s name was Hilkiah, a priest from Anathoth (Jeremiah 1: 1). Jeremiah was called to be a prophet during the reign of Josiah, king of the southern kingdom of Judah. His ministry lasted forty years, and also covered the reigns of the four last kings of Judah – Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin and Zedekiah. Jeremiah wrote the book that bears his name.
Jeremiah’s call is recorded in Jeremiah 1: 4-10. God declared that He had ordained him to be a prophet unto the nations before his birth (v. 5). Jeremiah responded that he lacked the ability to speak and that he was only a youth (v. 6). But God replied that he was not being called because of his ability or youth, but because He had chosen him (v. 7), and that he need not be afraid of his enemies, for God was with him (v. 8). God then put His words in Jeremiah’s mouth, and from that moment the words that Jeremiah spoke were the words of God (v. 9). His ministry was to consist of declaring God’s purposes concerning the overthrow or restoration of kingdoms and nations according as they should persist in or repent of their sins (v. 10).
Jeremiah’s Message and Ministry
Jeremiah’s prophesying evidently had a marked effect and greatly influenced the king, the princes and the people in cleansing the land of its idolatry and in re-establishing the worship of God. Yet he was not permitted to compliment the people on those measurable reforms and to promise them a return of Divine favor, which was considered unpatriotic.
On the contrary, Jeremiah kept pointing out to Israel the flagrant sins of the past, and their natural tendency to leave the Lord and to follow other gods in idolatry. Under various pictures he represents Israel as wholly indifferent to the Lord’s goodness of the past, wholly negligent of the covenant relationship entered into with Him as a nation, except when they got into adversity. Then their repentance would be but for a short time, and only from the selfish motive of desire to escape the troubles which their own course had brought upon them.
The Lord’s messages through Jeremiah practically held out no hope for a permanent return of Divine favor in the near future, but on the contrary predicted that Judah would be carried away captive as Israel (the ten tribes) had been. Thus Jeremiah was esteemed as a prophet of evil, of calamities. It is not surprising, therefore, that in his faithfulness in speaking forth the Word of the Lord, he became greatly disesteemed by his fellow countrymen.
At one point Jeremiah became disheartened because his declaration of the Word of God concerning Israel had been so despised and rejected. He even declared “the word of the LORD was made a reproach unto me, and a derision, daily. Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name” (Jeremiah 20: 8, 9). But Jeremiah had a burning zeal in his heart. The Lord’s message had to be spoken, so he responded with the words of our text.
The Jeremiah Class of Today
As Jeremiah faithfully proclaimed the coming overthrow of the kingdom of Judah, so the Lord’s people of the present time, the Jeremiah class, who have God’s Word of “present truth,” cannot disguise or withhold the fact that a great time of trouble is now upon the world (Daniel 12: 1) (Matthew 24: 21, 22), and that it will eventually mean the complete obliteration of the present order of things in anarchy. On this account we are esteemed by many to be pessimists, and prophesiers of evil, of calamitous things only. But our opponents overlook and ignore the fact that we also present from the same Word of the Lord the most glorious optimism conceivable – and show most clearly that the present and coming trouble is merely the precursor of the great blessings which God has promised will come to all the families of the earth, not through the imperfect powers of fallen man, but through the perfect powers of our glorious Lord and His glorified Church.
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