Taking Jeremiah Personally, Part One (Jeremiah 1:1-5)

Grateful Appreciation to Skip Heitzig of Calvary Chapel Albuquerque. I borrowed a lot from his sermon on Jeremiah from his series “The Bible From 30,000 feet,” especially the introduction and the background information. You can watch his incredible teaching here.

Good morning. Please turn to the book of Jeremiah in your Bibles.
Anyone want to guess what the number one song of 1971 was? You’ve probably guessed, just because of where we are in our read through of the Bible. But if you haven’t clued in yet, the number one song was not ”You’ve Got a Friend” by James Taylor. That was #19.
It wasn’t “Take me Home, Country Roads” by John Denver (sorry, Mike). That was #8.
No, the number one song in 1971 was “Joy to the World” by Three Dog Night. It is best known by its first line: “Jeremiah was a bullfrog, was a good friend of mine.”
“Jeremiah was a bullfrog, was a good friend of mine. Never understood a single word he said, but I helped him drink his wine. And he always had some mighty fine wine.”
It goes to show you a couple of things. First, it doesn’t take a whole lot of brain cells to write a number one song. But secondly… For every Boomer in here that’s ever complained about how dumb today’s music is, just sit down. Because our generation made “Jeremiah was a bullfrog” the number one song of 1971.
But I do wonder if Three Dog Night might be responsible for people’s misconceptions about the book of Jeremiah.
Once a student in a college level introduction to the Old Testament course was asked to summarize the message of Jeremiah. Well, he hadn’t studied, so he had no idea what the book of Jeremiah was about. So he wrote down, Joy to the World. All the boys and girls. Joy to the fishes and the deep blue sea! Joy to you and me.
And maybe you came in thinking the exact same thing. You were like, “This is going to be the best three weeks of my life. What an upbeat, positive book this is going to be!
And then you find out, it’s not!
See, Jeremiah was not a bullfrog. Jeremiah was a bullhorn. And his message was not Joy to the World. It was SHAPE UP OR SHIP OUT. It was a very unpopular message to the people of Judah. He was God’s bullhorn, announcing to anyone who would listen what was about to happen to Jerusalem.

Jeremiah is sometimes referred to as the last prophet of Judah, because it was during his forty year ministry that Jerusalem was conquered by the Babylonians in 586 BC. The temple was destroyed, and the entire population was led into exile.
Jeremiah is also called the weeping prophet. You see, unlike Jonah, who hated the Ninevites and didn’t want to see them repent, Jeremiah loved his countrymen, and he begged them to repent. Jonah didn’t want the Ninevites to repent, but they did. Jeremiah wanted to see the Jews repent, but they didn’t.

He witnessed the Babylonian invasion. He watched the city burn and the temple be destroyed. He was with the people of Jerusalem as they were led away into captivity.

And it broke his heart.
I’ve heard it said that no one has the right to preach about hell until they weep for the people who are going there. And Jeremiah wept for his people.
For 52 chapters. That’s what makes it so tough to read. The message of Jeremiah isn’t joy to the fishes and the deep blue sea. It was, “Flee from the wrath that is to come.” You could summarize the message of Jeremiah with three words: Warning, Weeping, Wrath.
So why do we study Jeremiah today? In our Bible reading plan we have three straight weeks of Jeremiah. Can’t we just do a two day overview and then move on? When are we going to get to the New Testament?
The truth is, I don’t know that I’ve met anyone that loves Jeremiah. I don’t love Jeremiah. But I also have never met anyone who doesn’t need the message of Jeremiah. It’s not just his message. You’re right—if all it was was his message, then we really could do a synopsis and move on. But I think we learn as much from Jeremiah the man as much Jeremiah the book. Jeremiah was a prophet who struggled with his call, doubted God, accused God of lying to him, got beaten up (by a priest, for crying out loud!), put in jail, slandered, thrown into a hole in the ground and left to die. At one point the king of Judah cut up his prophecy line by line and threw it in the fire.
But he never gave up. He never walked away from God. For 40 years he stayed in the same place, with the same people.
When I am having a bad day in ministry, or going through a hard season, I am encouraged by Jeremiah’s perseverance.

So over the next two weeks, we are going to look at four things: The Context of Jeremiah, The Calling of Jeremiah, Jeremiah’s Crisis, and Jeremiah’s confirmation. My prayer is that all of us will see why we need Jeremiah. So let’s pray together, and we’ll jump in.

PART ONE: The Context
I’ve already given you a lot of the context of Jeremiah and the times he lived in. But let’s read the first few verses of the book to learn more about the man himself. Beginning in verse 1:
The words of Jeremiah, the son of Hilkiah, one of the priests living in Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin. The word of the Lord came to him in the thirteenth year of the reign of Josiah son of Amon, king of Judah. It also came throughout the days of Jehoiakim son of Josiah, king of Judah, until the fifth month of the eleventh year of Zedekiah son of Josiah, king of Judah, when the people of Jerusalem went into exile.

It’s important to remember those three kings—Josiah, Jehoiakim, and Zedekiah, because the book of Jeremiah is not arranged chronologically. The book of Jeremiah was compiled by a scribe named Baruch, who compiled all of Jeremiah’s sayings, speeches, prophecies, recollections, and poems together into an anthology we call the book of Jeremiah.
So sometimes you’ll get to a section talking about the exile like it has already happened, and then a few chapters later Jeremiah’s back to warning about the coming exile.
So here’s a pro tip to help you navigate Jeremiah. Baruch usually started a new section with “This is the word that came to Jeremiah during the days of” this king or that king.[1] And so if you just remember that Josiah was king when Jeremiah first received his calling, and Zedekiah was the last king of Judah before the exile, and Jehoiakim was in between the two, then you’ll be able to sort out most of the time jumps and flashbacks in the book.
So, look how the book begins:
“The words of Jeremiah the son of Hilkiah, of the priests who were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin
Anathoth was in the tribal territory of Benjamin. Benjamin was the smallest of the allotments given to the twelve tribes of Israel. It was 304 square miles, about half the size of Autauga County. And Anathoth was a tiny village in the tiniest territory. It would be a little like saying, “The Word of the Lord came to Jimmy, who lived in Pine Level in Autauga.” Anathoth was one of the 48 cities scattered throughout Israel that the Levites were given to live in as they ministered to the people of that particular tribe.[2] It was about three miles north of Jerusalem, so a lot of the priests who served in the temple lived there.
The name Hilkiah might have jumped out to you. You may remember a couple of weeks ago when we talked about how Hilkiah the priest found the book of the law while they were repairing the temple. Now we don’t know for sure that Jeremiah’s father Hilkiah was the same Hilkiah that found the book of the law, but you can make a strong case for it. The timeline fits, and since Anathoth was so close to Jerusalem it wouldn’t have been unusual for a priest from there to be the High Priest.
2 Kings 22:3 tells us that Hilkiah found the book of the Law in the 18th year of Josiah’s reign. So look carefully at verse 2: .

“The word of the Lord came to him in the days of Josiah, the son of Amon, king of Judah, in the 13th year of his reign.
So that would mean that Jeremiah was called to be a prophet five years before his father found the book of the Law. Think about it. Maybe Jeremiah was even in the temple with his father when the book was found! Maybe it was “Bring your kid to work” day!
You may remember that the first thing Josiah did when the Book of the Law was found was to gather all the people of Jerusalem in front of the Temple to hear the word of the Lord. Jeremiah would have been there. He would have heard the words of Deuteronomy 28, which warned the people that if they turned away from God,
49 The Lord will bring a nation against you from far away, from the end of the earth, swooping down like the eagle, a nation whose language you do not understand, 50 a hard-faced nation who shall not respect the old or show mercy to the young…  
52 “They shall besiege you in all your towns, until your high and fortified walls, in which you trusted, come down throughout all your land. And they shall besiege you in all your towns throughout all your land, which the Lord your God has given you.
Maybe you are starting to see why Jeremiah was so committed to warning the people of Judah. God had already told them exactly what would happen to them, over a thousand years before this. Less than a century before this, the Lord executed His judgment on the Northern Kingdom of Israel, exactly how Deuteronomy 28 laid it out.
Josiah led the people of Judah to repent. He tore down statues and repaired the temple and reinstituted the Passover. So for the first few years of Jeremiah’s prophetic ministry, he must have been riding high. Thinking, “man, this prophet gig is going to be a cakewalk! God’s word comes to me, then the king gets confirmation of it, he repents, worship of Yahweh is restored, and God’s judgment never comes to us. I love being a prophet!”
But it didn’t last. When Josiah died in battle thirteen years later, the people went right back to their old ways. Within about twenty years, they would be carried away into exile.
Zedekiah, the last king of Judah, tried to stage a rebellion against Nebuchadnezzar that failed miserably. Nebuchadnezzar chased him down with his army, and killed his children in front of his eyes. And to give you an idea of how cruel Nebuchadnezzar was, 2 Kings 25 tells us that immediately after he made Zedekiah watch his sons be killed, Nebuchadnezzar blinded him. He wanted the last thing Zedekiah would ever see to be the death of his own sons.

And God had told Jeremiah that all this was coming. During all of that time between Josiah and Zedekiah, Jeremiah was a bullhorn: Babylon is coming, turn to God. Babylon is coming, turn to God. Don’t harden your hearts, turn to God.
But no one was listening. His warning didn’t just fall on deaf ears, it fell on hostile ears.
PART TWO: The Calling

We’ll talk more about this next week, but I’m going to do my best to help you connect with Jeremiah on a personal level. What do you do when you feel like your life isn’t making a difference? What do you do when you feel stuck? Maybe you get reassigned to a job you don’t like, or you are transferred to a place you can’t stand. Maybe you feel completely inadequate and ineffective for the role you are in. Jeremiah got to the point where he felt all of those things and more. So what do you do?
You go back to the beginning. You remember the day you were sworn in. You remember the day you took your wedding vows. You remember how on fire you were when you first became a Christian. How clear God’s word was to you then. I think maybe that’s what Jeremiah is doing when he describes his calling. Look at verses 4-5
Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying,
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
Honestly, we could spend the rest of the sermon just on verse 5, but I just want to mention two things: the first is that God “knew” Jeremiah. That’s the Hebrew word yada. It’s one of the most frequently used words in the Old Testament. It means, to know. But it usually refers to knowing a person, not knowing information. It’s more than just small-talk knowing: “What’s your name, where do you live, what do you do for a living.” And it’s personal. It’s experiential. The first time it’s used in reference to human beings is in Genesis 3:7, when Adam and Eve “knew” they were naked.
It’s intimate. The second time it’s used in reference to human beings is when Adam “knew” his wife and she became pregnant.
And so God had personal, intimate, experiential knowledge of Jeremiah—when? Before he was even formed in the womb.
Listen, there is not a more hot button issue in our country today than abortion. And the underlying question is, when does life begin? But for Jews, Christians, that question is settled 100% in the pages of Scripture. It isn’t just that life begins at conception. In the mind of God, life begins before conception. “Before you were in the womb, Jeremiah, I knew you. I knew everything about you.” In some incomprehensible way, the Sovereign, eternal God had experiential knowledge of you before you were even conceived!  
And not only did God know you before you were conceived, God had a plan for you before you were born. God consecrated Jeremiah as a prophet to the nations before he was even born.
This past Monday we gathered to celebrate the life of Vivian Carlisle. Some of you are new here and never had a chance to meet Ellis and Vivian Carlisle. They’ve been homebound since before Covid. Ellis and Vivian were married for almost 54 years. They were both born with cerebral palsy. A lot of people might look at someone with severe disabilities and say, “Oh, wouldn’t it be better if that child had never been born?” CP cannot be detected before birth. Not yet, anyway. But if medical science ever gets to the point where it can be, then people will ask whether or not it would be better to terminate that pregnancy.
Any long term members think our church would have been better off if Ellis and Vivian had never been born? You know the answer to that. You’ve never met a more dedicated prayer warrior than Vivian. You’ve never met a kinder and more loving man than Ellis. And God knew—intimately, personally, experientially—that Vivian and Ellis would have cerebral palsy before they were even born. And I am so thankful that they have been part of my life.
God has a plan for you, and it began long before you were even born. God chose this prophet when he was yet unformed. That’s how God begins with this calling. So it’s pretty exciting to know that God chose you way, way before you even came into this world.

We have to stop here. We will tackle part two next week. But we’ve got to bring this back to Jesus.

In Matthew 16, Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do men say that I am?” Do you remember their answer? They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others Elijah, still others Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. Of all the prophets to single out, why Jeremiah? Why not Isaiah, or Hosea or Ezekiel or Malachi? Why would Jeremiah be the prophet Jesus most reminded them of?

Maybe it was because, just like Jeremiah, Jesus’ ministry was also about warning weeping, and wrath. He warned Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum that they needed to repent (Matthew 11:21-24) He denounced the scribes and the Pharisees in Matthew 23. At the end of a sermon in the gospel of Luke, Jesus’ message was stark: Unless you repent, you will perish (Luke 13:3-5)
But Jesus also wept.

There is a church on the side of the Mount of Olives Called Dominus Flevit. Dominus Flevit is Latin for “The Lord Wept.” The church is unique because it is the only Catholic church in the world where the altar faces west. It marks the spot where, according to Luke 19,  Jesus stopped in the middle of His Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem and wept over the city.
41 And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side 44 and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”
Like Jeremiah, Jesus warned of Jerusalem’s coming destruction. Not at the hands of the Babylonian army, but of the Roman army.

Jesus wept because the people He loved were missing what would bring them peace.
God’s plan for Israel, which he said way back in Exodus 19:5-6 was that they would be a holy nation, a royal priesthood, a people for His own possession. They were supposed to be a blessing for all nations.
But they blew it. The entire ministry of Jeremiah was about warning the people to repent and weeping because they didn’t. And from 586 BC to 1948 AD, there was no nation of Israel.
Now, there’s not time this morning to get into why we believe that the Jews are still God’s chosen people and that there is a future hope for Israel. But I want you to notice that in 1 Peter 2, God’s Word calls followers of Jesus “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession.” It’s the same thing God called Israel through Moses!
And friends, I want you to understand that God has known us from before we were conceived. Please turn to Ephesians 1.
 just like He knew Jeremiah. But not only did God know you before you were ever conceived, God also chose you from before the foundation of the world.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us[b] for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known[c] to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
Listen, please, because this is so important. The reason the warnings in Jeremiah are so awful is because God’s plan for us is so good. Jesus wept over Jerusalem because they didn’t know the things that make for peace. Ephesians 1 tells us what those things are:
·      adoption into His family,
·      redemption through His blood,
·      forgiveness of our trespasses,
But the only way for us to receive the things that make for peace is to repent. To turn away from our sins, put away our idols, and surrender to God’s right to rule over our lives. To understand that redemption is ONLY through the blood of Jesus, shed on the cross, for the forgiveness of our sins.
The message of Jeremiah is the message of the gospel: Warning, Weeping, and Wrath. But the gospel adds one more element:
1.    God warns us to repent,
2.    God weeps when we don’t.
3.    God’s wrath is poured out
4.    God welcomes those who repent and turn to Him.
God’s wrath has been satisfied by the death of His son on the Cross. Three days later, Jesus rose from the grave, and He stands ready to welcome all those who would turn to Him. Repent. The Savior is Waiting.
Let’s stand for our time of response.

[1] See Jer. 14:1, 21:1, 32:1, 34:1, 34:8, 36:1, 36:27, 40:1, 46:1, 47:1
[2] Numbers 35:1-8



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