Tuesday, 10 June 2014

JEREMIAH 1:1-3

JEREMIAH - 'A PROPHET TO THE NATIONS'
Have you seen Michaelangelo's picture of Jeremiah in the Sistine Chapel - 'the weeping prophet'. There is some justification for this image of the prophet:
Jer 9:1 Oh that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!
Jer 13:17 But if you will not listen, my soul will weep in secret for your pride; my eyes will weep bitterly and run down with tears, because the LORD’s flock has been taken captive.
Jer 14:17 “You shall say to them this word: ‘Let my eyes run down with tears night and day, and let them not cease, for the virgin daughter of my people is shattered with a great wound, with a very grievous blow.
Jeremiah wept over the people's refusal to repent and the coming judgement they would face.
Yet, we must not be fooled into thinking that Jeremiah was a weak man. No one survives as a prophet for the length of time he did, with the opposition he faced, without a certain toughness and strength of character. Jeremiah was no softy!
In the 4th Century Athanasius stood virtually alone against the onslaught of heretical teaching ravaging the Church of his day. Athanasius the world is against you they said. To which he replied then: "Athanasius contra mundum", that is, "Athanasius against the world". Jeremiah exhibited this same spirit as he stood virtually on his own. In addition to this, it takes an inner spiritual strength to weep for a nation.
I'm not going to call our series: 'Jeremiah the weeping prophet' because he was far more than that, and that image may colour our understanding of his message. I'm using the title God gave him in Jeremiah 1:3b "I appointed you a prophet to the nations.
JEREMIAH A PROPHET TO THE NATIONS
His ministry extended beyond Jerusalem, Judah and the Jew to the nations. Not just the nations of his day, but as he spoke God's word his written messages live on and address the whole world today.
What is the longest book in the OT? (Psalms)
The second longest? (Jeremiah)
JEREMIAH 1:1-3 THE WORD OF THE LORD CAME AND KEPT COMING OVER THE REIGN OF THREE KINGS
1 The words of Jeremiah, the son of Hilkiah, one of the priests who were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin,
2 to whom the word of the LORD came in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign.
3 It came also in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, and until the end of the eleventh year of Zedekiah, the son of Josiah, king of Judah, until the captivity of Jerusalem in the fifth month.
A. MEET JEREMIAH & FAMILY
[1] He is the son of Hilkiah is not the high priest of the same name in 2 Kings 22:4. Hilkiah is a....well a nobody!
[2] Jeremiah is of a priestly family and may have been a priest himself, but this is unlikely as unlike Ezekiel he makes no mention of this in his writings.
[3] He comes from a small village, Anathoth, located 3 miles north-east of Jerusalem, close to the wilderness that leads to the Dead Sea.. Look up Anathoth on a map. It is still a small village today.
[4] Anathoth was one of the places set aside for the Levites in the territory of the small tribe of Benjamin.
Joshua 21:17 ..then out of the tribe of Benjamin, Gibeon with its pasturelands, Geba with its pasturelands, v18 Anathoth with its pasturelands, and Almon with its pasturelands--four cities.
Abiathar the priest had served David but after his death sided with Adonijah against Solomon. Zadok the Priest sided with Solomon. Abiathar had chosen the loser and was exiled to his home village. After that the priesthood remained in the control of Zadok and his family.
He was from a family of losers, in a tribe of losers, in a small place of even smaller significance.
You might think his family would be honoured to have one of their number as a prophet. You might also think they would support his attack on the political and religious establishment that had seen their family sidelined for so long.
Read Jeremiah 11:18-23. Small wonder that Jeremiah wept!
Don't judge a book by it's cover. Don't judge a person by their family, where they come from, the school they attended...etc.
1Sam 16:7 But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”
George Whitfield learnt that lesson and eventually John Wesley did as well. How easily we forget!
B. 627-587 BC AND ALL THAT!
v2 to whom the word of the LORD came in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign.
v3 It came also in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, and until the end of the eleventh year of Zedekiah, the son of Josiah, king of Judah, until the captivity of Jerusalem in the fifth month.
Read the ESV Study Bible introduction or something similar to get a feel for the 'history' of the times in which Jeremiah lived.
[1] Josiah: The last of the good kings. Jeremiah begun to prophecy half way through his reign.
[2] Jehoiakim: Boo every time he appears (he is a real bady!). He is the one who burned the first and at that time only copy of Jeremiah, so he had to write it out all over again - see Chapter 36.
2 Chron 36:5 Jehoiakim was twenty-five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. He did what was evil in the sight of the LORD his God.
v8 Now the rest of the acts of Jehoiakim, and the abominations that he did, and what was found against him, behold, they are written in the Book of the Kings of Israel and Judah. And Jehoiachin his son reigned in his place.
[3] Zedekiah: Weak, useless and he did evil!
2 Chron 36:11 Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem.
v12 He did what was evil in the sight of the LORD his God. He did not humble himself before Jeremiah the prophet, who spoke from the mouth of the LORD.
v13 He also rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar, who had made him swear by God. He stiffened his neck and hardened his heart against turning to the LORD, the God of Israel.
2Ki 25:7 They slaughtered the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes, and put out the eyes of Zedekiah and bound him in chains and took him to Babylon.
The final words of the introduction: until the captivity of Jerusalem in the fifth month. They take us forward to Lamentations. Jeremiah answers the question: how did it all come to this!
The answer is seen in Jeremiah's ministry, v2 to whom the word of the LORD came.
God spoke through Jeremiah. He causes his word to be written. This is not a collection of the works of Jeremiah. It is the word of the Lord through him, written first of all to those in exile in Babylon.
The first half of Jeremiah's ministry was carried out during the decline and fall of the Assyrian empire. The second half in the rise and establishment of the Babylonian empire. In short Jeremiah lived in a time of massive change in the world.
The book of Jeremiah is not in chronological order. It is in the order that best presents it's message.
The major theme of the book is the word of the Lord. This forms the bookends: Jeremiah 1v3 & 51v64. Statistics show the importance of the word - see Andrew Shead/Chris Wright
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