Christ in All the Scriptures
by A.M. Hodgkin
V. Christ in the Prophets
3. Jeremiah --
God chooses unlikely instruments to do His work. He chose the sensitive, shrinking Jeremiah for what seemed a hopeless mission, with the words: ''Say not, I am a child: for on whatsoever errand I shall send thee thou shalt go, and whatsoever I shall command thee thou shalt speak. Be not afraid. I am with thee to deliver thee'' (Jer 1:7-9, RV). And Jeremiah proved worthy of the trust. Though his heart was wrung with the severe denunciations he had to give, and with the stubborn rejection of them by his people, though he often poured out his complaints to God, and even went so far as to say that he would not speak any more in His Name, yet we never once find him turning back from the path of duty. Imprisoned again and again, put in the stocks (20:2), lowered by ropes into a miry dungeon (38:6) -- probably an empty cistern -- mocked, derided (20:7), a man of strife and contention to the whole world (15:10), accused of treachery to his country (38:4), opposed by false propets (ch. 23, 28), confronted by an angry people who clamored for his life (ch. 26), carried, against his will, by his countrymen into Egypt (43:1-7), --under all these circumstances Jeremiah went steadily on, delivering his message with unswerving fidelity for over forty years.

Jeremiah prophesied for eighteen years during the reign of Josiah, then during the reigns of the [last] four kings of Judah, till after the capture of Jerusalem and the end of the kingdom. He was thus about a hundred years later than the prophet Isaiah. His home was in the village of Anathoth, a few miles north of Jerusalem, and he was by birth a priest. It is possible, though not certain, that his father, Hilkiah, was the High Priest who discovered the book of the Law in the Temple during the reign of Josiah (see the Cambridge Bible for Schools). In any case, the discovery had as marked an effect upon the ministry of the young prophet as upon the conduct of the young king. Jeremiah, no doubt, strengthened Josiah's hands in his work of reform and against forming an alliance with Egypt. Though Jeremiah had many enemies, God gave him some true friends, from Josiah the king down to Ebed-melech the Ethiopian who rescued him from the dungeon [38:7-13].

Courage.
Jeremiah's fearlessness in the face of danger is shown most conspiciously in chapter 26, where the Lord sends him to give His message in the Temple court and admonishes him not to diminish a word. So incensed were the priests and the people, that they took him, saying: ''Thou shalt surely die.'' ''As for me,'' replied the prophet, ''behold, I am in your hand; do with me as seemeth good and meet [ie., suitable] unto you: but know ye for certain, that, if ye put me to death, ye shall surely bring innocent blood upon yourselves: for of a truth the Lord hath sent me unto you, to speak all these words in your ears.''
 
Three Great Events.
There were three great events in the life of the prophet:
  1. The battle of Megiddo, between Judah and Pharaoh Necho, where the good king Josiah was slain, and was deeply mourned by his people, Jeremiah writing a lament concerning him.
  2. The battle of Carchemish, near the same spot, four years later, in the reign of Jehoiakim, who had become the vassel of Egypt. In this battle, the Egyptians were wholly defeated by the Babylonian forces under Nebuchadnezzar, and it was followed by the first deportation of Jews to Babylon.
  3. The third great event was the capture of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, the destruction of the city and the Temple, and the exile of the greater part of the remainder of the people to Babylon.

In such troublous times as these, Jeremiah lived. The life of the nation from the time of Manasseh, the grandfather of Josiah, was corrupt in the extreme. The reforms of Josiah seemed only to touch it on the surface, and temporarily; after his death the nation sank back into the worst forms of idolatry and into every kind of iniquity. Jeremiah's mission was to endeavour to turn his people back to their God. During the reign of Josiah, he began to prophesy the dreadful calamity threatening from the North, unless they would repent. Judah's salvation was still possible, but each year her guilt became heavier and her doom more certain.

The Lord raised up Nebuchadnezzar to execute His judgment upon Judah. He gave him universal dominion, and even called him ''My servant''. It was because God revealed this to Jeremiah, that we find him advocating submission to Nebuchadnezzar, and it was for this that his people accused him of treachery. After the destruction of Jerusalem, Jeremiah was given his choice whether he would go to Babylon or remain with the remnant that were left in the land. He chose the latter. Days of darkness followed. Jeremiah exhorted his people to obey the voice of the Lord and remain in the land, and not to flee to Egypt. But they refused to obey, and they carried Jeremiah with them into Egypt, where, tradition says, he was stoned to death.

Brickwork in Egypt. [Chapter 43]
When Johanan and the chief of the captains refused to obey the voice of the Lord by Jeremiah, and persisted in going down into Egypt with all the remnant of Judah-- men, women, and children, including the King's daughters-- they came and dwelt in Tahpanhes. At the commandment of the Lord, Jeremiah took great stones and hid them under the large platform, or pavement of brickwork, at the entry of Pharaoh's house in Tahpanhes, and prophesied that over these stones Nebuchadnezzar should one day set his throne and spread his royal pavilion. Dr. Flinders Petrie has discovered ''the palace of the Jew's daughter'' at Tahpanhes. Tahpanhes seems to have been an old fort on the Syrian frontier, guarding the road to Egypt, and evidently a constant refuge for the Jews. In front of the fort is a large platform or pavement of brickwork, suitable for outdoor business, such as loading goods, pitching tents, etc. -- just what is now called a mastaba. Dr. Petrie says: ''Now Jeremiah writes of the pavement (or brickwork) which is at the entry of Pharaoh's house in Tahpanhes; this passage, which has been an unexplained stumbling-block to translators hitherto, is the exact description of the mastaba which I found, and this would be the most likely place for Nebuchadnezzar to pitch his royal tent as stated by Jeremiah.'' [Ten Years' Digging in Egypt, pp. 50-54, Dr. Petrie]
 
The Heart.
''Jeremiah was, of all the prophets of the Old Testament, the supreme prophet of God to the human heart. In season and out of season, for a long lifetime, he laid siege to the hearts of his hearers. The cure of all your famines, he cried, and all your plagues and all your defeats and all your captivities-- the cause and the cure of them all is in your own heart: in the heart of each inhabitant of Jerusalem and each captive in Babylon.'' [Bible Characters, p. 153, Dr. Alexander White]

''His ministry was one of admonition and antagonism. Against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, against the princes, against the priests, against the prophets was he to stand. He was to gird up his loins and arise, and speak all that God commanded him. He was to be the solitary fortress, the column of iron, the wall of brass, fearless, undismayed in any presence; the one grand, immoveable figure who pursued the apostatising people and rulers, delivering his message in the Temple court or the royal chamber or the street, whether they would hear or whether they would forbear. In consequence he was the prophet of unwelcome truths, hated of all, but feared as well by all. It was a mission requiring courage, faith, strength, will; a mission no weakling could fill, no coward would undertake. Jeremiah is one of the very great men of the world.'' [Outline Studies, Moorehead]

To Jeremiah was committed the hopeless task of trying to bring back his people at the eleventh hour. He prophesied the seventy years' servitude of the Jews to Babylon, urging them to settle down to the life of that city and to seek its peace. He prophesied as certainly the restoration of his people and the unalterable love of God to them. At the very time of the siege of Jerusalem, and from his prison cell, Jeremiah, at the bidding of the Lord, purchased a field from his cousin Hanameel as a proof that Israel should be restored to their land.

Prediction.
Chapters 50 and 51 give us a picture of the whole of Babylon's future. Those who deny the miracle of prophetic prediction, for the same reason, deny that these chapters were written by Jeremiah. They suppose them to have been written by a follower of the prophet, accustomed to use similar phraseology, and that he wrote them not long before the fall of Babylon. Against this theory we have the following facts--
  1. Even those, who deny that Jeremiah was the author, admit that the style of those two chapters presents all the characteristics of the special style of the prophet.
  2. Those two chapters in particular are more carefully authenticated as being by Jeremiah than any other portions of the book: Chapter 50 beginning with the words, ''The word that the Lord spake against Babylon by Jeremiah the prophet,'' and chapter 51 closing with, ''Thus far are the words of Jeremiah.'' To impugn their authorship is to impugn their honesty.
  3. To place the prophecy at the time when Babylon was about to be taken by Cyrus does not do away with the miracle of prediction, for many of the details of the prophecy were not fulfilled [until] more than five centuries later. At the time of the conquest... the walls were not thrown down; neither sower nor reaper was cut off from Babylon; she was not deserted of her population; and the utter desolation described in these two chapters did not take place at that time, but was fulfilled to the letter long years after.
 
Sacrifice.
In Jeremiah 7:22,23 we read, ''I spake not unto your fathers, nor commanded them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices: but this one thing I commanded them, Obey My Voice.'' These words are not opposed to the history as contained in the Pentateuch, nor a proof, as some allege, that ''the Levitical Code'' was not in existence in Jeremiah's day. This sentence is a figure of grammar, of frequent occurrence in both Old and New Testaments, as scholars have pointed out over and over again. The figure is this: That a negative followed, generally though not always, by a adversative particle (generally the conjunction ''but'') is frequently not a negative at all, but a form of comparison. For instance,
 
In the New Testament, this figure of grammar occurs over and over again.

In all these places, the negative is not a literal negative at all, but is a strong and striking form of the comparative. In this form, or figure, the negative does not exclude the thing denied, but only implies the prior claim of the thing set in opposition to it (Rev. James Neil).

The essence of the covenant He made with them at Sinai was obedience: ''If ye will obey My voice, and keep My covenant, then ye shall be Mine own possession'' [Ex 19:5, RV]. The appointment of the Levitical Law was a part of the obedience which formed the essence of the covenant.

A Type of Christ.
Jeremiah was a true foreshadowing of Christ. It is hardly to be wondered at that some mistook the Man of Sorrows for the prophet of the broken heart (Mat 16:14). He wept over his people as Jesus wept over them (Jer 9:1) [cp. Luk 19:41-44]. His rebuking of sin brought him reproach and rejection and suffering as it brought our Lord [cp. Psa 69:7-13]. He compares himself to a lamb or an ox brought to the slaughter (Jer 11:19) [cp. Isa 53:7].
 
The Messiah.
Jeremiah does not unfold to us as much of the coming Messiah as Isaiah does, but we have glimpses of Christ --

At the very time that David's throne was imperiled, and justice and equity almost unknown, the prophet announced the coming of a King of the House of David, a righteous Branch, who should reign and prosper, and execute judgment and justice in the earth. ''In His days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely; and this is His name whereby He shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS'' -- Jehovah Tsidkenu [Jer 23:6]. In this majestic name the Godhead of our Saviour is predicted, and, as a descendant of David, His humanity.

The New Covenant.
God says, by His servant, that He will make a New Covenant with the House of Israel and with the House of Judah (31:31-37). In the New Testament, this is distinctly applied to the Jews of the future (Rom 11:26,27; Heb 8:8-13). Christ is the Mediator of this better Covenant (Heb 12:24). The prophecy points forward to His day, and includes, not the Jews only, but all who know Him as their Saviour and Mediator. It shows the spiritual nature of His kingdom, in which His Laws will be written on our minds to make us know them, and on our hearts to make us love them, and he will give us His Spirit to enable us to do them.
 
Backsliding.
The grievous famine of chapter 14:1-9 may be applied spiritually, as a picture of the heart that has known the Saviour and has backslidden from Him. It is a parched land. No water, no rain, no grass, no herbage (R.V.). The Lord [is] a stranger in the land, ''as a mighty man that cannot save.'' How graphically this describes many a heart whose own sin and unbelief are ''limiting the Holy One of Israel.'' Jeremiah is the book for backsliders. It reveals the tenderness of the Lord's love, and contains His gracious invitation to them, and their resolve with regard to Him:
''Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings.
Behold, we come unto Thee; for Thou art the Lord our God'' (3:22).
Questions.
The book contains various questions, the answers to which can only be found in the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
 
Gospel Texts.
[The book of Jeremiah] contains, likewise, various texts which would supply subjects for Gospel sermons. [Note that in their contexts, these passages apply directly to Israel. However, Israel's condition illustrates the need of all peoples for the salvation provided in the Gospel of Christ. The texts in brackets are suggested as possibilities for developing each theme.]
 
The Penknife. [Jeremiah chapter 36]
The Book of Jeremiah throws much light on the subject of inspiration. It is a helpful study to take one's Bible, and beginning with the first verse, to mark all the expressions which assert or imply that God spake by Jeremiah, such as, ''Thus saith the Lord,'' ''The Lord said unto me,'' ''The word of the Lord came,'' etc. Such expressions occur sometimes a dozen times in one chapter, and in them Jeremiah unhesitatingly claims inspiration.

As we read on, a scene rises before us. We see Jeremiah in prison. The rulers have bound him that they may be no longer troubled by the word of the Lord. God tells him to take a roll [ie., a scroll] and write in it all the words that He had spoken unto him from the days of Josiah unto that day. We can picture the prophet in the dimly lighted dungeon, with his faithful friend Baruch at his side, busily writing down the words on the roll as the prophet spoke them. ''And Baruch wrote from the mouth of Jeremiah all the words of the Lord, which He had spoken unto him, upon a roll of a book. And Jeremiah commanded Baruch, saying, I am shut up; I cannot go into the house of the Lord; therefore go thou, and read in the roll, which thou hast written from my mouth, the words of the Lord, in the ears of the people, in the Lord's House upon the fasting day.'' What Baruch holds in his hand, and what he reads in the ears of the princes, priests, and people, are ''the words of the Lord.'' The roll is long. It contains every prophecy which Jeremiah has uttered up to that time. But none of the words, many as they are, are given as his words. They are, all of them, God's words.

But this is not all. After Baruch had read the roll to the people, he was sent for by the Royal Council and commanded to read it to them. The great officials of Jerusalem said to Baruch, ''Tell us now, How didst thou write all these words at his mouth?'' Then Baruch answered them,

''He pronounced all these words with his mouth,
and I wrote them with ink in the book.''
[Afterwards, the rulers] brought the roll to the King.

Here another scene rises before us. We are no longer in the dark dungeon, but in the winter palace of Jehoiakim, surrounded by all the magnificent luxury of an Eastern Court. When the monarch had heard three or four leaves of the roll, he had had enough. He asked for the roll, cut it in pieces with a penknife, and cast it into the fire that was upon the hearth. ''It was his last chance, his last offer of mercy: as he threw the torn fragments of the roll on the fire, he threw there, in symbol, his royal house, his doomed city, the Temple, and all the people of the land'' (Speaker's Commentary).

Jeremiah and Baruch were ordered to be taken, and would, no doubt, have been treated with ferocity, ''but the Lord hid them.'' And now in their seclusion, another task was [given to] them. The Lord commanded Jeremiah to take another roll, and to write in it ''all the words of the book which Jehoiakim king of Judah had burned in the fire; and there were added besides unto them, many like words.'' Other words were added, but the body of the sacred book was word by word the same as the first. [The Inspiration and Accuracy of the Holy Scriptures, pp. 44-47, Urquhart.]

Man may cut God's Word to pieces with the penknife of his intellect. Like Jehoiakim, he may cast his hope of salvation in the fire. But ''the word of the Lord endureth for ever'' and by that word shall he be judged in the last day (1Pet 1:25; John 12:48).

''My Word -- Fire.'' [Jer 20:7-18]
The stern messages Jeremiah had to give were so foreign to his sensitive nature that it could only have been the deep conviction, that they were the words of the Lord, that enabled him to give utterance to them. Like Job, he deplores the day of his birth; he sits alone because of the Lord's hand; he complains that he is in derision daily; the word of the Lord was made a reproach unto him, for His sake he has suffered rebuke; cursed by every one, mocked, defamed, watched by all his familiars for his halting [ie., stumbling], -- is it likely that Jeremiah would have gone on, if he had not been certain that the Lord had commissioned him?

As we have already seen, he contemplates speaking no more in the name of the Lord, ''But,'' he says, ''His word was in my heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay [ie., I was unable to maintain silence]'' [Jer 20:9]. With such a fire burning in his heart, is it any wonder that the Lord's promise was fulfilled, ''Behold, I will make My words in thy mouth fire''? [5:14]. The Lord also promised him, ''If thou take forth the precious from the vile, thou shalt be as My mouth'' [15:19]. ''Thy words were found,'' he says to the Lord, ''and I did eat them; and Thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart'' [15:16]. In his prayers to God, Jeremiah reveals the secret workings of his heart. He was emphatically a man of prayer, a man who understood the meaning of communion with his God.


For a verse by verse study of Jeremiah, see the Book Notes on Jeremiah.

Return to the Table of Contents for Christ in All the Scriptures.

For another brief look at this book of the Bible,
see the related chapter in OT Reflections of Christ, by Paul Van Gorder.

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