Jeremiah was a special spiritual leader. He was not like any other spiritual leader.

[Note: This word refers to the part of life that relates to God.]

Jeremiah was one of the greatest men of the Old Testament. He was a prophet for forty years. His work started in year 13 of King Josiah's rule. This was in 626 BC (Before Christ). And his work continued until the defeat of Jerusalem city. That was in 587 BC.

God called Jeremiah at a time when the people were not following him. Instead, they pretended that they were following God. There was much religious activity. And they were very eager to show interest in:

  • the Temple (7:1-4)
  • sacrifice (7:21-22)
  • the idea of a prophet (2:8, 26; 4:9; 5:30-31; 6:13-14; 8:10-11 and 23:11-12. Compare Lamentations 2:14). The prophets that these passages mention were false prophets. They were not serving other gods. But they were saying wrong things about the true God. So they were false prophets.

God called Jeremiah at a time when his people did not care. They did not care about moral matters. And their human duties did not matter to them. The people were neglecting those who were poor. And they did not care about being fair to other people. (Read 5:1, 27; 7:5-6; 9:2-6 and 22:3.) Judah was the Southern Kingdom of the land of Israel. And the people of Judah were refusing to follow God (2:19; 3:8).

It is better to study the subjects that are in the book. It would be difficult to study each chapter.

There are three main subjects:

The People whom God Corrected

The people of Judah were refusing to follow God. They were just pretending. So God had to punish this sin. He wanted the nation to be holy. God wanted the people to repent. Then he could forgive them.

So Jeremiah had one main message. It was about judgement. It would be final. And Judah could not avoid it. This was why Jeremiah was not popular. And the people did bad things to him. This was because they wanted to hear nice things. They might not be true things. But they still wanted to hear them! (Compare 6:13-14 and 8:11). Ezekiel, too, would have similar problems. (Read Ezekiel 33:30-32.) And it is the same today.

We can describe the people of Judah as:

People who had many advantages. The prophet remembered a time in the past when the people loved God. And they followed God. They knew that God was very kind to them (2:1-3). If only they would realize now that God's love is generous. Then they might return to him (3:4).

People who were not loyal. There are two important words in the book of Jeremiah. They are ‘leaving’ and ‘forgetting’ (2:13, 17, 19, 32; 3:20, 22; 4:1; 5:7, 19; 9:13; 13:25; 16:11; 18:15 and 19:4). The covenant was of vital importance to Jeremiah. There was a special agreement between God and the people of Judah. It was a covenant of love. But the people of Judah had left God. They had promised to be loyal, but they were not loyal (3:6-7, 20).

People who had followed false teachers. There were many false prophets and bad leaders (14:13-16; 23:9-11). Hananiah was an example of this sort of prophet. He offered a false security. But God had not spoken to him. God did not approve of him. (Compare 28:1-17.)

The Prophet whom God Used

The opinions of other people affected Jeremiah very much. So when God chose him, Jeremiah was afraid. He did not want to do the task that God gave him to do. He had an excuse for God. He said that the people would not accept him. They would think that he was too young (1:6-7).

God chose him to deliver:

A painful message. Judgement was coming (1:14; 4:6; 11:11-12; 12:14; 15:1-9 and 16:11-13). The people could not avoid it. It was sure to come. Everyone thought that Jeremiah was an enemy of his people and of his country. This was because of what he told them all to do. Their enemies, the people from the land of Babylon, were coming to attack them. And Jeremiah said that God was sending these people from the land of Babylon! God would use them to correct his people (21:3-10; 25:9-11). So they should accept their punishment. There should be no resistance.

Nebuchadnezzar was the king of Babylon. Jeremiah insisted that the king was God's servant. God would use him in this matter (25:9; 27:6). And that was why the authorities put Jeremiah in prison. They thought that he would have a bad effect on the nation. The people would not be confident. And they would think that they could not defeat the enemy (32:1-5).

This was a painful message for the people. And it was very painful for Jeremiah too. He wished that he could stay silent (20:7-9).

A hopeful message. The people of Judah could not escape God's punishment. And Jeremiah knew it. The people must have the experience of exile. But he also knew that God is a Father (3:4, 19; 31:9). God knew that his correction was for their good. So Jeremiah expected a time when things would improve. And the people would return to their own land.

Chapters 29-33 record this message of hope. Chapter 32:6-14 tells the story about Jeremiah's purchase of land. This was a sign. It showed that the people would return to their land after the exile (32:15-25).

Jeremiah suffered much. He probably suffered more than any other Old Testament prophet.

He obeyed God. But this brought:

  • spiritual suffering (36:5). [Note: This word refers to the part of life that relates to God.] Jeremiah could not worship God in the Temple. The authorities would not let him.
  • social suffering (16:2). God did not let Jeremiah marry. And his single state was a message to the people. He was showing them that they should not establish themselves. They should not become too comfortable in their present lives. This was because judgement was near.
    God also told Jeremiah not to attend special occasions (16:8). He must not go to meals at funerals either. He must not cry. And he must not sympathise with the family of a dead person (16:5). There was a reason for this. Dead people would be in a better state than those who were alive.
  • Physical suffering (11:21; 20:1-2; 26:7-9; 30:1-2; 37:11-16 and 38:1-13). Jeremiah's life was often in danger. He was often in prison too. People would watch secretly even in those days. The name for a person like that is a spy. (Read 38:24-28.)
  • Emotional suffering. Some passages record Jeremiah's pain and despair. This pain was both mental and emotional. (Read 8:18-9:6; 10:19-25; 11:18-20; 12:1-4; 15:10-18; 18:19-25 and 20:7-18.) At the beginning, God told Jeremiah that the people would fight against him (1:19). God told him that the people would not obey his word (6:17; 25:4). Jeremiah knew that this would happen. But he was still very sad about it. (Compare 13:15-17.)

The Nations that God Judged

God chose Jeremiah. Then God gave him a title. God described Jeremiah as ‘a prophet to the nations’ (1:5). This showed that God is in control. It also showed that God is fair.

Most of what Jeremiah said was for the people of Judah. There was a reason for this. It was because the people of Judah were not following God. And they were not obeying God. But there was a message for other countries too. It came from the only God (25:15-31; 27:1-11). In the last chapters especially, there are messages for eight countries (46-51).

The last chapter (52) has details about the exile. The exile was God's punishment. Jeremiah understood events that were happening in the world. And he showed this by what he said to other countries. He also showed it in his continuing care for a certain group. They were the group of Jews who had to go to Babylon. (Read Jeremiah's letter to the Exiles, 29.) Then there were the Jews who escaped to Egypt. Jeremiah told them not to go (42-44). But they refused to listen. They even forced Jeremiah to go with them (43:6-7).