Jeremiah was a prophet for more than forty years: from the thirteenth year of King Josiah, 627 BC, until the destruction of Jerusalem and the beginning of the Exile in 587/6 BC. He grew up during the rule of the apostate King Manasseh, and saw some encouragement during Josiah’s reforms, but no real national repentance.
At the beginning of this period Assyria and Egypt were the two great powers. Assyria was eclipsed by Babylon in 612 BC, and Egypt similarly disposed of at Carchemish in 605 BC. From then on Jeremiah consistently urged Judah to submit to Babylon, to accept the consequence of their sins, the Exile. He knew that the Exile would end in a dramatic demonstration of Gods pardon and restoration.
Jeremiah is often called the Prophet of Doom’, But he was also the Prophet of Invincible Hope’. Punishment for sin was inevitable but beyond it Jeremiah saw God always waiting to forgive. He blasts away at three particular sins:
- idolatry: 7:30-8:3; 19:1-15;
- immorality: 5:1-9;
- lying prophecy: 7:3- 11; 14:11-16; 23:9-40.
The great lesson of Jeremiah is that it is not enough to know our sins or even to regret them. Repentance is what God demands.
I. Introduction (chap. 1)
A. The prophet’s background (1:1-3)
B. The prophet’s call (1:4-10)
C. The prophet’s confirming visions (1:11-16)
D. The prophet’s challenge (1:17-19)
II. Prophecies concerning Judah (chaps. 2-45)
A. Divine judgment on Judah (chaps. 2-25)
1. Jeremiah’s nine general prophecies of judgment (chaps. 2-20)
2. Jeremiah’s four specific prophecies of judgment (chaps. 21-25)
B. Personal conflict with Judah (chaps. 26-29)
C. Future comfort for Israel and Judah (chaps. 30-33)
D. Present catastrophe of Judah (chaps. 34-45)
1. Before the fall (chaps. 34-36)
2. During the fall (chaps. 37-39)
3. After the fall (chaps. 40-45)
III. Prophecies concerning the Nations (chaps. 46-51)
A. Prophecy against Egypt (chap. 46)
B. Prophecy against Philistia (chap. 47)
C. Prophecy against Moab (chap. 48)
D. Prophecy against Ammon (49:1-6)
E. Prophecy against Edom (49:7-22)
F. Prophecy against Damascus (49:23-27)
G. Prophecy against Kedar and Hazor (49:28-33)
H. Prophecy against Elam (49:34-39)
IV. Prophecy against Babylon (chaps. 50-51)
V. Conclusion (chap. 52)
A. The fate of Jerusalem (52:1-23)
B. The fate of certain people (52:24-34)
Jeremiah must have had an incredible childhood. The Scriptures tell us God had chosen him before his birth to be a prophet. His family was notable in their service for the LORD. Life was exciting for the son of a high priest. Jeremiah 1:1 The words of Jeremiah, the son of Hilkiah, of the priests who were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, (NASB) One of the great blessings of Jeremiah’s life was that his dad was the one who found the lost book of the Law. How Jeremiah’s love for the Word showed through in his life as God’s prophet. He was the “son of Hilkiah” (Jer. 1:1) and as 2 Kings 22:8 records: “And Hilkiah the high priest said unto Shaphan the scribe, I have found the book of the law in the house of the LORD. And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, and he read it.” Note also Jeremiah’s uncle was Shallum husband of Huldah the prophetess. Jeremiah 32:7 Behold, Hanameel the son of Shallum thine uncle shall come unto thee, saying, Buy thee my field that is in Anathoth: for the right of redemption is thine to buy it. (KJV)
Jeremiah’s woes were unimaginable to our relatively peaceful lives. He lived through the death throes of the nation of Judah. In his lifetime he saw the decay of God’s chosen people, the horrible destruction of Jerusalem and the deportation of the nation to Babylon. He preached for 40 years and saw no visible result among those he served. Instead those countrymen he warned for God sought to kill him if he wouldn’t stop preaching doom (Jer. 11:19-23); his own family and friends were involved in plots against his (12:60; God never allowed him to marry, and thus he suffered incredibly agonizing loneliness (16:20; there were plots to kill him in secret so no one would find him (18:20-23); he was beaten severely and them bound in wooden stocks (20:1-2); his friends spied on him deceitfully and for revenge (20:10); he was consumed with sorrow and shame and even cursed the day he was born (20:14-18); finally, falsely accused of being a traitor to his own country (37:13-14), Jeremiah was arrested, beaten, thrown into a dungeon, and starved many days (37:15-21). If an Ethiopian Gentile had not interceded on his behalf he would have died there. In the end, tradition tells us he was exiled to Egypt, where he was stoned to death by his own people. He had virtually no converts to show for a lifetime of ministry.
Perhaps the most striking feature of this book is the fact that despite the terrible woes of the life Jeremiah was called to (1:5), he saw that it was all at the Master Potter’s Hand (18:1-6). At the point of near despair over his failed ministry, God asked Jeremiah to go to the Potter’s house and there he would get a message from the Lord (18:2). Although Israel had failed so grievously, the heavenly Potter was able to bless them again if they would but repent and yield to his Perfect Touch.
As Jeremiah entered the potter’s house the sight was vivid in its spiritual application. The wheel revolved at the command of the potter’s foot; the clay lay piled in a pot, useless and of no value; close at hand was the water in a pot to be worked into the clay to soften and make it malleable; off to the side was the scrap pile where the unyielding clay that would not conform to the potter’s hands and failed to fulfill his design was cast; and then in the midst of all that was the quiet and skillful potter himself busily fashioning another work of art upon the wheel. Listen to the Word, Jeremiah 18:5-6 Then the word of the LORD came to me saying, 6 “Can I not, O house of Israel, deal with you as this potter does?” declares the LORD. “Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel. (NASB).
THE VESSEL SHAPED When we think of the portrait of God as the Absolute Sovereign it seems harsh and forbidding. Isaiah gives us an insight that softens the picture Isaiah 64:8 But now, O LORD, Thou art our Father, We are the clay, and Thou our potter; And all of us are the work of Thy hand. (NASB). Although God is the Sovereign Potter He is also the Loving Father. His shaping is always with love and tenderness. God is absolutely skilled in the shaping of human lives. He does not experiment, He is omniscient. He makes no mistakes, He is omnipotent. His work is never spoiled by neglect, He is omnipresent. It is only when we try to assume His role as Potter in our own lives or others that the clay is marred.
The wheel of our Heavenly Potter molding our lives represents the circumstances and events that make up each day. Our response to each event God sends to us shapes our character. The clay of our life was chosen by God, so we must not question our heredity, temperament and place in life. But through the providential dealings – the sorrows and joys, the prosperity and adversity, the trials and temptations, the blessings and bereavements of our Lord we are shaped.
THE VESSEL MARRED Jeremiah 18:4 But the vessel that he was making of clay was spoiled in the hand of the potter. . . (NASB). As Jeremiah watches the clay collapses on the wheel. No potter purposely causes an object to fail. It is a deficiency in the clay and its response to the potter’s touch. Sin of any kind mars the vessel God is making us into. Be it a resistance of His will or a wrong relationship or attitude, all bad clay must be disposed of or the shaping ends. So in our life God takes away as we yield to His Spirit, all that hides the beauty of Christ in us. 2 Corinthians 3:18 But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. (NASB)
THE VESSEL RESHAPED Jeremiah 18:4b . . . so he remade it into another vessel, as it pleased the potter to make. (NASB). What hope comes as we see the potter softening and reworking the clay. Here is the blessed message of hope God offers. He doesn’t throw us away, He reshapes. God is the God of the second chance as Peter the denier, Jacob the deceiver, Abraham the liar, Paul the murderer and John Mark the quitter would testify. The Scriptures are full of the testimonies of those that submit to the Potter and are shaped into vessels fit for His use.
The key passages of Jeremiah teach:
I. GOD IS SOVEREIGN IN HIS ELECTION Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.” (NASB)
II. GOD IS SERIOUS ABOUT HIS WORD Jeremiah 1:12 Then the LORD said to me, “You have seen well, for I am watching over My word to perform it.” (NASB)
III. GOD IS SETTLED AGAINST THE SELF-SUFFICIENT LIFE Jeremiah 2:13“For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, The fountain of living waters, To hew for themselves cisterns, Broken cisterns, That can hold no water. (NASB) This is the condemnation of the SELF-SUFFICIENT LIFE.
A. Self-seeking leads to draught in three situations:
1. A cistern goes dry when it is over-used So in our Christian life, when the demands increase we go dry, it is because of operating in our own strength.
2. A cistern goes dry when it gets hot for prolonged periods, so when life heats up and our time gets thin, we dry up spiritually.
3. A cistern goes dry when earthquakes leave cracks in the plaster walls. So in upheavals of life, spiritual dryness is a sign of self-sufficiency.
B. Self life grows up in at least seven varieties.
1. SELF-SEEKING is the constant seeking of self-advancement and promotion. Jeremiah 45:5 ‘But you, are you seeking great things for yourself? Do not seek them; for behold, I am going to bring disaster on all flesh,’ declares the LORD, ‘but I will give your life to you as booty in all the places where you may go.’ ” ; 1 Corinthians 10:33 just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of the many, that they may be saved. (NASB); Matthew 16:24-25 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. 25 “For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it. (NASB).
2. SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS or self-trust is the great obstacle to coming to Christ as Savior. Romans 10:1-3 Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation. 2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge. 3 For not knowing about God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. (NASB)
3. SELF-DEPENDENCE or self-help is our constant tendency to rely upon our own efforts rather than Christ. Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me. (NASB); Zechariah 4:6 Then he answered and said to me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel saying, ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the LORD of hosts. (NASB); John 15:4-6 “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me. 5 “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing. 6 “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch, and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. (NASB).
4. SELF-PLEASING and the resultant gratification and indulgence is perilous to our spiritual life. Romans 15:1-3 Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves. 2 Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to his edification. 3 For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached Thee fell upon Me.” (NASB).
5. SELF-WILL is at the center of all our lives. It is a carnal and selfish will, needing absolute renunciation. James 4:13-15 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow, we shall go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” 14 Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and also do this or that.” (NASB); 1 Peter 4:2 so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. (NASB); John 6:38 “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. (NASB).
6. SELF-DEFENSE IS THE DESIRE TO VINDICATE AND JUSTIFY OURSELVES RATHER THAN LEAVING IT IN GOD’S HANDS. 1 Peter 2:12,15 Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may on account of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation. 15 For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. (NASB); 1 Peter 2:19-23 For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a man bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God. 21 For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, 22 who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; 23 and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; (NASB); 1 Peter 3:16 and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. (NASB); 1 Peter 4:19 Therefore, let those also who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right. (NASB)
7. SELF-GLORY AS ALL SEEKING OF HUMAN PRAISE, DETRACTS FROM THE GLORY OF g AND IS IDOLATROUS.Daniel 5:23 but you have exalted yourself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of His house before you, and you and your nobles, your wives and your concubines have been drinking wine from them; and you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone, which do not see, hear or understand. But the God in whose hand are your life-breath and your ways, you have not glorified. (NASB); John 8:50 “But I do not seek My glory; there is One who seeks and judges. (NASB); Galatians 6:14 But may it never be that I should boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (NASB)
IV. GOD IS SEEKING OUR ATTENTION Jeremiah 2:32 “Can a virgin forget her ornaments, Or a bride her attire? Yet My people have forgotten Me Days without number. (NASB)
V. GOD IS SEARCHING FOR TENDER, RESPONSIVE AND FRUITFUL HEARTS. Jeremiah 4:3-4 For thus says the LORD to the men of Judah and to Jerusalem, ” Break up your fallow ground, And do not sow among thorns. 4 “Circumcise yourselves to the LORD And remove the foreskins of your heart, Men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, Lest My wrath go forth like fire And burn with none to quench it, Because of the evil of your deeds.” (NASB)
VI. GOD IS SHOWING THE PATHWAY Jeremiah 6:16 Thus says the LORD, “Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, Where the good way is, and walk in it; And you shall find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’ (NASB)
VII. GOD IS SPECIFIC IN HIS PLAN Jeremiah 9:23-24 Thus says the LORD, “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; 24 but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice, and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things, “declares the LORD. (NASB)
VIII. GOD IS SEARCHING OUR HEARTS Jeremiah 12:2-3 Thou art near to their lips But far from their mind. 3 But Thou knowest me, O LORD; Thou seest me; And Thou dost examine my heart’s attitude toward Thee (NASB)
IX. GOD IS SUFFICIENT FOR OUR NEEDS. Jeremiah 15:16 Thy words were found and I ate them, And Thy words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart; For I have been called by Thy name, O LORD God of hosts. (NASB)
X. GOD IS STRENGTHENING HIS OWN Jeremiah 17:7-10 “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD And whose trust is the LORD. 8 “For he will be like a tree planted by the water, That extends its roots by a stream And will not fear when the heat comes; But its leaves will be green, And it will not be anxious in a year of drought Nor cease to yield fruit. 9 “The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it? 10 “I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give to each man according to his ways, According to the results of his deeds. (NASB)
XI. GOD IS SHARING HIS BLESSING Jeremiah 29:11-13 ‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. 12 ‘Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 ‘And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. (NASB)
 Sources used are: The Word of God; Baxter, Explore the Book; Scroggie, The Unfolding Drama; Christ in all the Scriptures; The Criswell Study Bible; Walk through the Bible; The Compact Guide to The Bible, Lehman Strauss, CHM, MacArthur, Ashamed of the Gospel, p. 76-77, Sanders, Spiritual Discipleship, P. 129-136.