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Published / updated: 20 July 2010 | Author: Dele Oke

The book of Jeremiah - part 1: An introduction

Jeremiah is one of those books that most Christians dip in and out of. In this series on Jeremiah we will be looking at the message of Jeremiah and its relevance for us today.

The name Jeremiah means the 'Lord exalts'.

Firstly, a brief background on the ministry of Jeremiah is germane.

The nation of Israel had divided into two after the death of Solomon (1 Kings 12)? The northern part was called Israel and the southern part Judah. Jeremiah was a prophet in Judah. He was born during the reign of King Manasseh, one of the most godless kings in the kingdom of Judah (2 Kings 21:1-18). Jeremiah grew up at a time when idolatry was blooming and the Law of Moses was being disregarded.

By the time Jeremiah started speaking out as a prophet Josiah was the King in Judah (Jer. 1:1-3). Josiah was a God fearing King who attempted to lead the people of Judah back to God (2 Kings 22-23). Jeremiah however saw that the people of Judah were only pretending to return to the Lord as their hearts were elsewhere (Jer. 3:10).

Jeremiah's ministry lasted forty years. His contemporaries were Zephaniah, Habakkuk, Daniel and Ezekiel.

Due to the sober nature of his message Jeremiah is also known as the weeping prophet (Jer. 9:1-2). He employs a lot of pictures and metaphors to communicate his message. Jeremiah is often cited in the New Testament (Matt 2:17-18 / Jer. 31:15).

A good excuse to neglect his calling

The bible records the people God uses as coming from different backgrounds. Remember Gideon for example. Can you recall the kind of background he came from? (Judges 6:11-15). Speaking of himself Gideon said 'My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family. '

With Jeremiah things were very different. Jeremiah was the son of a priest (Jer. 1:1). Priest had reliable, stable and well paid jobs in those days. They belonged to the upper echelon of the society. Hence Jeremiah came from a very noble and highly respected background. Jeremiah would have almost certainly continued in the same career as his father if not for the intervention of God (Jer. 1:4-10).

Your background, whether privileged or not, should not be seen as a hindrance or advantage to the call of God on your life. Obedience is the vital ingredient God looks for in the people he uses - not our pedigree. God uses all sorts. The often quoted saying that God always uses the least in society is not true. He can also use the noble. The Lord looks at the heart.

Considering the climate within which Jeremiah lived, it is no surprise that he resisted the call to be a prophet. Indeed, Jeremiah, called to the ministry at a young age, thought he had the perfect excuse to avoid the call of God (Jer. 1:4-10).

4 The word of the LORD came to me, saying,
5 "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I set you apart;
I appointed you as a prophet to the nations."
6 "Ah, Sovereign LORD," I said, "I do not know how to speak; I am only a child."
7 But the LORD said to me, "Do not say, 'I am only a child.' You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you.
8 Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you," declares the LORD.
9 Then the LORD reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, "Now, I have put my words in your mouth.
10 See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.""

Have you ever talked yourself out of doing what is right by emphasising your weaknesses or your perceived inability? Or maybe you have come from such a privileged background that you think you cannot endure the hardship you imagine your task will involve. Well, Jeremiah's excuse was his youth. He thought he was too young for God's call (Jer. 1:6). Needless to say God did not buy it.

What excuses do you hide behind in order to avoid doing the things you should do?

The first truths we can glean from this initial look at the life and ministry of Jeremiah is that - our environment should not be used as an obstacle to our doing what is right.

Do you live in an environment where there is corruption all around you? Or maybe your dilemma is a band of Christians who say 'proper things' with their mouths but their lifestyle portrays their real intentions. We should not allow these external influences to shape our destiny.

If Jeremiah had refused to obey the Lord he would have been as guilty as those who were worshipping idols.

Remember this the next time you stubbornly refuse to heed to God's prompting in your heart.