How Did Jeremiah Respond to God’s Call?

Jeremiah 1:5-6

In Jeremiah 1:6 we see how Jeremiah responds to God’s call to be a prophet to the nations. I would label his response as age-based doubt.

We Can Sympathize With Jeremiah’s Doubts

Now, again if Jeremiah is about thirteen to sixteen years old – which I argue is likely the case – then this protest is a little more understandable than if he were – say – forty years old.

But Excuses Are Inexcusable

And yet, we need to recognize that this kind of excuse is ultimately inexcusable.

So what if you’re thirteen? If God has prepared you for something – what does age matter?

To Paraphrase Jeremiah’s Doubts

You might remember that in Jeremiah 1:5 God says that he knew Jeremiah before he was born.

It’s ironic then that Jeremiah responds back to the Lord here – “I don’t know how to speak”. “You may have known me before I was born, Lord, but I don’t even know how to speak!” “You knew me before I was a baby. Well, I still feel like one!

Was Jeremiah a Prophet or a Priest?

Jeremiah 1:1

The answer to the question “was Jeremiah a prophet or a priest” is yes! Jeremiah was both a prophet and a priest.

Jeremiah was a Prophet

We tend to think of Jeremiah more for his prophecies – and we should.

We know of Jeremiah primarily through his book of prophecies in the Old Testament.

But even outside of the book which bears his name, Jeremiah is known throughout the Old Testament as a prophet who delivered God’s message to his people (2 Chronicles 35:25; 36:12,21,22; Ezra 1:1; Daniel 9:2).

And even in the New Testament, Jeremiah is known as Jeremiah the prophet (Matthew 2:17; 16:14; 27:9).

So, nobody’s doubting Jeremiah’s credentials as a prophet. It’s his identity as a priest that might surprise some.

Jeremiah was a Priest

Jeremiah 1:1 states that Jeremiah was a priest from Anathoth. We discussed that city before, but basically Anathoth was a city in Benjamin which had been given to the Levitical priests. So, Jeremiah comes from a city of priests.

Going along with that, Jeremiah’s father was named Hilkiah. And while it’s not certain that this is the Hilkiah who was the high priest in Josiah’s day (2 Kings 22:8) he certainly could be that same Hilkiah. And if Jeremiah’s father is a priest, he would be a priest, too.

So, Jeremiah is from the priestly city of Anathoth. His father is possibly the famous high priest of Josiah’s day. Jeremiah 1:1 states that Jeremiah is a priest. So, yes, Jeremiah is a priest!

So, he’s a prophet and priest, but is he a king too?

Jeremiah Was Not a King

Now, I don’t want to go too far afield, but Jeremiah did not hold the office of king in addition to that of prophet and priest.

In the Old Testament there were at least a few prophets who were priests and vice versa. There were even kings who prophesied (King Saul’s unusual circumstance comes to mind).

But never until Jesus Christ has there been a prophet who is a priest who is a king.

Summary

So, in conclusion, Jeremiah the Prophet is also a priest. But not a king.

What is the Message of the Book of Jeremiah?

Jeremiah's Message

So how would you summarize all of what we’ve considered in the summaries of Jeremiah 1-6, 7-2021-2627-29, 30-35, and 36-52?

In other words, what is the book of Jeremiah really about?

Punishment?

Is it about punishment?

It is. But there’s more to it than that.

After all, we see in Jeremiah 36-52 that both Ebed-Melech and Baruch are singled out for reward in this book – not punishment.

And if the book of Jeremiah could be summed up in the concept of punishment, then where would the Book of Encouragement fall? Much of that section is not about punishment. It’s about deliverance and restoration.

(Un)Faithfulness?

What else? The unfaithfulness of Judah and the faithfulness of God? Those concepts are surely here as well.

But these concepts don’t justify the presence of – for example – the prophecies to the nations.

So, punishment is prominent. God’s faithfulness is on display. His people’s unfaithfulness is also very apparent. But I think these concepts don’t fully describe this book and convey its message.

Authority

So let me propose something. Everywhere I look in the book of Jeremiah I see one thing. God’s authority. His authority and control of every situation. And not only his control of the current situation in Jeremiah’s day – but his control of the future.

Think about it…

  • God sovereignly calls Jeremiah to be his spokesman.
  • God has the authority to call his people to account for their abandoning him.
  • God has authority to dole out punishment for those who reject his authority.
  • Interestingly enough, God’s authority even allows for people to reject that authority!
  • But the people who do reject his authority meet with a bitter end.
  • While those who submit to God’s authority live and are blessed.
  • In Jeremiah’s day the nations of the world had long ago thrown off God’s authority.
  • But God is still ultimately in control and he would punish those nations that rebelled against his authority.
  • And what do you know – the very last chapter of this book shows the blessings of one of those kings who actually submitted to God’s authority. King Jeconiah submitted – however imperfectly – to that one authoritative command of God about going over to Babylon. And as a result Jeconiah lived.

So, then I think that God’s authority is undeniably at the heart of this book. And our responsibility as creatures of this sovereign king is to submit to that authority. And we see several instances in this book in which someone actually gets it right and submits to God’s authority. And the result is – life.

And so, I think that’s the message of the book of Jeremiah. Submit to God’s Authority and Live.

A Summary of Jeremiah 36 – 52

Jeremiah 36-52

Jeremiah 36–45 | The Bitter End

Now, I have labeled Jeremiah 36-45 as The Bitter End.

What we have in these 10 chapters is generally chronological with a few flashbacks. And it details the temporary end of the nation of Judah’s occupation of the Promised Land at the hands of Babylon.

Within this section I see 6 sub-sections.

Jeremiah 36 | Jehoiakim Didn’t Tremble at God’s Word

First, Jeremiah 36 shows us that King Jehoiakim Didn’t Tremble at God’s Word.

God sends his message of punishment to the people in the days of Jehoiakim in hopes that the people will repent and he could spare them.

Jeremiah somehow by this time is not allowed into the Temple. So he sends the message with Baruch his scribe. On a fast day a few months later Baruch gives the message to the people.

The people hear but we don’t know their reaction. The officials hear and tremble. They relate the message to the king… who burns it up.

God promises then to bring all the punishment that was contained in that burned-up message.

Jeremiah 37–39:14 | Zedekiah Wavers

The second sub-section jumps forward quite a bit to Zedekiah’s reign. This sub-section chronicles the Wavering of Zedekiah in Jeremiah 37-39:14.

Zedekiah wavers between protecting Jeremiah and handing him over to his enemies. In addition, Zedekiah is faced with trusting God and going over to the Babylonians. But he won’t do it.

As a result he ultimately witnesses the murder of his children and then experiences the blinding of his own eyes. Ultimately Jerusalem is taken by Babylon and all the people – besides the poorest of the poor – are exiled.

But Jeremiah is treated well.

Jeremiah 39:15-18 | Flashback: Ebed Melech Saved by Faith

At the end of Jeremiah 39 there’s an interesting flashback. And it seems that the message of this flashback in Jeremiah 39:15-18 is Ebed-Melech Saved by Faith.

As opposed to Zedekiah’s terrible and yet merciful fate, Ebed-Melech who helped Jeremiah and trusted God is promised deliverance.

So, that’s the third sub-section of this Bitter End of Judah.

Jeremiah 40–43 | Gedaliah / Johanan

Then fourth, in Jeremiah 40-43 we have The Gedaliah/Johanan Fiasco.

After deporting most of the Jews from the land Babylon appoints Gedaliah to govern Judah. But one of the king’s relatives kills him and takes the captives to the nation of Ammon. Johanan rescues them and brings them to Bethlehem intending to escape to Egypt. They ask God’s counsel – “should we go to Egypt or stay in the Promised Land?” – while fully intending to go to Egypt. God and Jeremiah rebuke them for this. But the remnant won’t listen and they proceed to Egypt. God sends word in Egypt to Jeremiah that he will send Babylon against Egypt.

Jeremiah 44 | To the Jews in Egypt

The fifth sub-section — which consists of Jeremiah 44 — is God’s Message to the Jews in Egypt.

God sends a message to the Jews who rebelled by going to Egypt. They will meet their end there. God would rather have them repent and stop worshipping idols.

However, Israel doesn’t care what God wants and defies God’s message as delivered through Jeremiah. So God will overthrow all of Egypt on account of his rebellious people there.

Jeremiah 45 | Flashback: Baruch

Then we have one last flashback in Jeremiah 45. And in this shortest chapter of Jeremiah, we see Baruch Rewarded with Life.

At the end of this main section that details the historical catastrophe that came upon the Jews for their disobedience, we’re brought back to the 4th year of Jehoiakim and we’re reminded of a promise that God made to Baruch, Jeremiah’s scribe.

It turns out that Baruch was seeking great things in a society that was crumbling to pieces. And so God told him to stop doing that, since God was going to uproot the whole nation in which he lived. But God would deliver Baruch.

Jeremiah 46–51 | Prophecies Concerning the Nations

Then in Jeremiah 46-51 we have Prophecies Concerning the Nations.

God foretells the destruction of 8 nations at the hands of Babylon. Finally he tells of the future destruction of Babylon at the hands of the Medes.

And as I mentioned before, the end of chapter 51 ends the “words of Jeremiah”.

Jeremiah 52 | God’s Promises Fulfilled

And then the absolute last section of this book. Jeremiah 52. It’s the Conclusion: God’s Promises Fulfilled.

All of what God spoke through Jeremiah concerning the punishment of Judah came to pass. Jerusalem was taken. Zedekiah and the Jews were exiled. The city was burned with fire. But the one king who had willingly gone over to Babylon – Jeconiah – was eventually treated well in captivity.

A Summary of Jeremiah 30 – 35

Jeremiah 30-35

Jeremiah 30–34:7 | Book of Encouragement

And at this point — having summarized Jeremiah 1-6, 7-20, 21-26, and 27-29 — you need to admit that things are looking pretty bleak. Sin has brought God’s punishment and no one is getting out of this unscathed.

But this is exactly where God nuances his tone a bit. In Jeremiah 30-34:7 God still does recognize his need of judging the sinful rebels in Judah. But he looks beyond that immediate judgement to a time of restoration. And it’s for this reason that these 4-plus chapters are often called in the academic literature on Jeremiah the Book of Consolation or the Book of Encouragement. And within this larger Book of Encouragement there are a few sub-sections.

Jeremiah 30:1-3 | Introduction

Jeremiah 30:1-3 serve as a short introduction to this Book of Encouragement.

Jeremiah 30:4-31 | Concerning Israel & Judah

Following that to the end of chapter 31 we have Encouragements Concerning Israel and Judah. God gives prophecies of future restoration and a new covenant with Israel and Judah in the midst of his current punishment for their sin.

Jeremiah 32 | Jeremiah Redeems a Field

Then in Jeremiah 32 we have a story about Jeremiah Redeeming a Field.

As a continuation of the book of consolation, Jeremiah is told by God to buy a field in Anathoth from his relative – though Jeremiah himself is in prison. God is signifying by this that in the future God will restore Judah to its land and that people will buy fields once again.

This is all in the context of the last year before Jerusalem was taken by Babylon.

Jeremiah 33 | David, Levi, & Jacob Will Never End

Next in Jeremiah 33 God promises that David, Levi, & Jacob Will Never End.

Jeremiah – still imprisoned like he was in the last chapter – receives word from the Lord that God will restore Judah. In particular, he will restore the cities of Judah and preserve sons of David and sons of the Levites to minister to himself.

Also promised – just like in chapter 23 – is the coming of the Righteous Branch of David.

Jeremiah 34:1-7 | Zedekiah Will Not Die

And the last part of this Book of Encouragement is in Jeremiah 34:1-7 where God says that Zedekiah Will Not Die.

In the midst of the great siege of Babylon against Jerusalem, God sends Jeremiah to King Zedekiah to relay a message. The message is that God will not allow Zedekiah to die. Zedekiah will lose to Nebuchadnezzar, but he will live and even have a decent burial.

And that ends the Book of Encouragement.

Jeremiah 34–35 | Promise Keeping

Then in the rest of Jeremiah 34 and to the end of 35 we’re taught The Importance of Keeping Promises. And this breaks into two sub-sections.

Jeremiah 34:8-22 | Jubilee Covenant Violated

First in Jeremiah 34:8-22 we see The Jubilee Covenant Violated.

King Zedekiah and the officials in Jerusalem apparently released their Hebrew servants in keeping with the law of Jubilee. But it seems that when Nebuchadnezzar left briefly they took their servants back by force.

God was not pleased that they broke the covenant they made with their former servants in keeping with Jubilee. So God promises to destroy them.

Jeremiah 35 | Rechabites

And then the second section that teaches the importance of keeping promises – Jeremiah 35 where we see the Rechabites’ Obedience.

In contrast to the broken covenant of Zedekiah’s day just previously related, the Rechabites obeyed a relatively obscure command of their ancestor to not drink wine. They serve as an example to Judah of how to obey.

And yet Judah has not obeyed God like the Rechabites obeyed their ancestor. So God needs to punish Judah. But the Rechabites will always have someone to stand before God as a result of their obedience.