Recently I preached on the prophet Jeremiah. In reading through The Bible in 90 Days my assignment on February 27 was to preach from the whole of this book. Actually, we read the last third of Isaiah and all of Jeremiah that week so I told the congregation that if I simply read my text it would likely take five hours. So in twenty-five to thirty minutes I tried to give a big picture view of things. It was a challenge!
I began by giving an overview. I said you cannot understand a book like Jeremiah unless you know that God is Yahweh (Exodus 3;14). The word means, “I Am Who I Am.” The ten commandments make it clear that the name of God, and his character, are essential to divine revelation and worship. God will not share his place with tribal gods and national divinities who are represented by the moon, the stars, the sun, animals, fearful objects, etc. Baal, a god who often proved difficult to Abraham’s children, was “the god of thunder.” Baal worship continually threatened Israel’s existence and well-being so God made it clear to Abraham, Moses and their offspring that Baal could not be tolerated as a mini-god, a kind of helper along the way.
We often think that this problem of other gods is no longer an issue in the New Testament story but in Acts 14:11-15, when Paul and Barnabas preached the gospel with signs and wonders, the people tried to make them gods along with Jesus.
But why is Yahweh such a big deal to Israel? Because he is the only living and true God. To understand and believe this is to: (1) Fear God in the right way; (2) Place our confidence and trust in the true and living God, thus we will fear no one and nothing else. This means the true God is not whimsical or constantly changing. He is, rather, a rock, the God of our salvation. And there is only one mediator between this God and us, the man Christ Jesus.
Now Jeremiah is filled with warnings about judgment because the people forgot the true and living God. He was not always easy to understand but what truly mattered was clear to all who listened. Jeremiah was sent to make things clear and what was clear was that God was going to judge his people. One of the more interesting texts is found in Jeremiah 7. We call it “The Temple Sermon.” Here the prophet warns the people about claiming the temple as their mark of identity, thus they were safe in their disobedience because they had the external marks of God; e.g., the temple, the city and the nation. What God says they should have experienced was shame. This theme continues in 9:12-16.
When we read about these people sinning and them paying a price for their sin we think this is somehow inconsistent with the grace we see in the New Covenant. But Galatians 6:7-8 says that we too “reap what we sow.” So what hope do we have of ever being reconciled to God?
The answer is in the covenant. But the covenant says, in Jeremiah 11:7-8, that we must trust and obey. These are the terms of the covenant. But what hope is there in this since these people had all disobeyed? Jeremiah answers by appealing to a covenant that seems to offer only condemnation. In 9:23-24 he says it is pure folly to depend on riches and human strength. So to what can we appeal? The answer comes in Jeremiah 29:13 (cf. Isaiah 65:1): “You will seek me and find me if you seek me with all your heart.” God is ready to be found if you seek for him.
Jeremiah’s prophecy ends with Israel’s destruction but in the middle of this agonizing context appears one of the most glorious promises in all of Scripture; Jeremiah 31:31-33. Here the prophet promises that a new covenant will be written on the hearts of God’s people and his law will become internal to them. His Spirit will indwell them, from the greatest to the least. This promise is fulfilled in Christ and us.
All who desire to know God, all who thirst, can and should come to the water of life. He will meet you if you humbly seek him for his grace.