The Old Testament Presents... Reflections of Christ
by Paul R. Van Gorder
Jeremiah began his ministry about 60 years after the death of Isaiah. His name means, ''whom the Lord sets or appoints.'' It might also mean, ''elevated of the Lord.'' The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah when he was very young, during the 13th year of Josiah's reign. He prophesied during the reigns of Josiah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah. He was contemporary with [the prophets] Zephaniah, Habakkuk, Ezekiel, and Daniel. He delivered his discourse at irregular intervals during a period of more than 40 years. Therefore, no chronological order or logical arrangement can be given to the prophecy.

During Jeremiah's lifetime, Judah fell and was carried into captivity under Nebuchadnezzar. The Babylonian monarch besieged and took Jerusalem. Jeremiah was first allowed to stay with the remnant in the land, but he was later taken with them to Egypt. We may presume that he died there.

Jeremiah is called the ''weeping prophet,'' but he is also a prophet of hope. The key words of his prophecy are ''go and cry...'' (2:2).

  1. Introduction (ch. 1)
    As in the prophecy of Isaiah, the first chapter is a general introduction to the book. It tells of Jeremiah's call and his commissioning.
  2. Complaints Against the Jews (2-20)
    Jehovah's bitter complaints against the Jews for their perversity, idolatry, and manifold sins are publicized. The section ends with the tearful cry of the prophet's wounded heart. He even cursed the very day he was born.
  3. Prophecies Against Individuals (21-29)
    Jeremiah records specific predictions against individuals-- Zedekiah, Shallum, Jehoiakim, and Coniah. False prophets and false priests are condemned. Included is the distinct announcement of the overthrow of the house of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar, and the 70 years of Jewish captivity.
  4. Restoration of Israel (30-33)
    The prophet looked forward to the promised restoration of Israel and their final re-establishment in their own land, at the personal return of Jesus Christ.
  5. Historical Narrative (34-45)
    Events of the day are recorded that show the false confidence of princes and people, the contempt of the king for the Word of God, the imprisonment of Jeremiah, the capture and destruction of Jerusalem, and Jeremiah's release and removal to Egypt. The continuance of God's testimony is evident throughout.
  6. Judgments of the Nations (46-49)
    The condemnation of God upon seven Gentile nations surrounding Israel is presented.
  7. Doom of Babylon (50,51)
    The fall of Babylon and the glorious redemption of Israel are prophesied. The section looks forward to a day of Jewish glory still to come.
  8. Historical Appendix (52)
    The conquest and captivity of Judah is reviewed.
Many of the details of Jeremiah's activity depict the response of the nation of Israel to the first coming and the ministry of the Lord Jesus. You could write these words of the Lord Jesus over the pages of Jeremiah: ''O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them who are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!'' (Mat 23:37).
Let me direct your attention to some key points about the call and ministry of Jeremiah. Then, we'll consider the similarities to the ministry of God's Servant, the Lord Jesus Christ.
  1. Jeremiah's call.
    God had put His hand upon the prophet before he was born (1:4-9). The sovereign, omniscient, omnipotent God had called him. What a comfort this was to Jeremiah in the difficult years to follow! An illustration is found in the response of the people after he spoke at the temple. ''Now it came to pass, when Jeremiah had ceased speaking all that the Lord had commanded him to speak unto the people, that the priests and the prophets and all the people took him, saying, Thou shalt surely die'' (26:8).
  2. Jeremiah's suffering.
    Few men ever suffered for doing good as much as Jeremiah. He was imprisoned again and again. Chapter 20, verse 2, tells us that he was put in stocks. Chapter 38 records that he was lowered by ropes into a miry dungeon (probably a cistern), accused of treason, opposed by false prophets, and surrounded by his countrymen who were clamouring for his life. He was then carried away into Egypt and not permitted to die in his beloved Judah. We can readily see that his suffering at the hands of his own people is a type and picture of the agony of Christ.
  3. Jeremiah's message.
    The words of Jehovah, when He commissioned His servant, are as follows: ''For, behold, I have made thee this day a fortified city, and an iron pillar, and bronze walls against the whole land, against kings of Judah, against its princes, against its priests, and against the people of the land'' (1:18). That was a clean sweep! It took them all in-- the throne, the politicians, the clergy, and the laity. His message was against every Jew; consequently, it turned every Jew against him. Why did God ask this of His servant?
          The nation was rushing headlong toward destruction. God thrust Jeremiah onto the scene to endeavor to save them. He was faced with a decision: should he go along with the crowd, or should he go with God?
          To the east of Palestine were the mighty Assyrians, and Egypt was a strong threat on the south. So the frightened Jews were trying to play politics. God had said, ''Go not down into Egypt for help'' (42:19). Why did He give this command? Because He alone was their help. So, Jeremiah sounded the message, ''Repent! Repent! Repent!''
  4. An illustration.
    If you want to know about the times of Jeremiah's work, look at chapter 36. The prophet is confined in prison, and his scribe Baruch is with him. God commanded Jeremiah to put into a scroll all the words that He had spoken against Israel, Judah, and the nations. Baruch transcribed this message. Did the people receive it? Jehudi, the king's servant, took the scroll, cut it with a knife, and cast it into the fire to destroy it. The record comments, ''Yet they were not afraid, nor tore their garments, neither the king, nor any of his servants that heard all these words'' (36:24).
          Why did they refuse to listen? Because wicked people hate God's Word, for it testifies against their sins. The psalmist said, ''But unto the wicked, God saith, What hast thou to do to declare My statutes, or that thou shouldest take My covenant in thy mouth, seeing thou hatest instruction, and castest My words behind thee?'' (Psalm 50:16,17). Evil men seek to destroy God's Word because it tells of their doom.
          But the wicked can no more destroy the written Word than they could the Living Word. ''Forever, O Lord, Thy word is settled in heaven'' (Psalm 119:89). Jesus spoke some very stringent words, recorded in John, when He asked the Jews, ''If He called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken, say ye of Him, whom the Father hath sanctified and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?'' (John 10:35,36). Jesus had earlier certified Jeremiah's words when He said, ''Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets; I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no way pass from the law, till all be fulfilled'' (Mat 5:17,18).
  5. A stabilizing hope.
    You might think there is no bright side to the prophecy of Jeremiah, yet there is. God gave him a hopeful picture early in his ministry.
    The word which came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying,
    Arise, and go down to the potter's house,
    and there I will cause thee to hear My words.
    Then I went down to the potter's house,
    and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels.
    And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter;
    so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it.
    (Jer 18:1-4)
    The story of the potter and his wheel, and the vessel the potter made again, describes what will happen to Israel in the future. The prophet also gave this promise:
    Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute justice and righteousness 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.
    Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that they shall no more say, The Lord liveth, who brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt,
    But, The Lord liveth, who brought up and led the seed of the house of Israel out of the north country, and from all countries to which I had driven them, and they shall dwell in their own land. (Jer 23:5-8)
    David Baron said, ''You need not speculate upon Israel's history; it is written in a book.'' Then he reverently laid his hand upon chapters 30, 31, and 32 of the prophecy of Jeremiah. Peruse these chapters again, noting that Jehovah said ''I will'' at least 33 times in these three chapters. God is determined to reshape the ''clay'' and mold another vessel that will be pleasing to Himself. All of this work concerning the nation of Israel is still future, and it centers in the person of God's Son, Israel's Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the One of whom the prophet spoke as follows:
    Their Redeemer is strong, the Lord of hosts is His name; He shall thoroughly plead their cause, that He may give rest to the land, and disquiet the inhabitants of Babylon. (Jer 50:34)

See the Book Notes on Jeremiah. for a verse by verse study of this book.

Return to table of contents for ''The Old Testament Presents... Reflections of Christ,''
written by Paul R. Van Gorder, Copyright 1982 by RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI.
Used by permission [within The Book from].
Further distribution is not allowed without permission from RBC.

For another brief look at this book of the Bible,
see the related chapter in Christ in All the Scriptures, by A.M. Hodgkin.

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