AN INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOK OF JEREMIAH
Jeremiah came from a priestly family in Anathoth, a suburb of Jerusalem. As the author of the longest prophetic book, his career spanned more than 40 years--during the reigns of Judah's last five kings and beyond. When he was still a young man, Jeremiah was called by God. And, throughout his long, turbulent life he constantly had to confront a people who had rejected God for false gods. He warned them that this would cause their eventual destruction, but they refused to repent. So, Jerusalem and the Temple were indeed destroyed, and the people were deported to Babylon. In his famous "Temple Sermon," he had told the people that the Temple was vulnerable; he nearly lost his life for making that speech. (Jesus later drew from that message.) Before Jerusalem fell, Jeremiah had to deal with lying prophets who were predicting deliverance. Jeremiah was treated as a traitor by the people for the ultimatims that he delivered from God. In a letter to those who were already in exile, he also warned about the false prophets in Babylon and told the people to settle down for a long stay, giving them instructions for preserving their identity.
When the city of Jerusalem fell, the Babylonians gave Jeremiah the option of remaining in Judah. He chose to stay, but a band of Jews forced him to go to Egypt, where tradition has it that he died. Even in Egypt he had to preach against worshiping other gods.
Jeremiah was one of the most colorful of the prophets, using visual aids to reinforce his messages. He was also one of the saddest, because his burden was so heavy. The people would not listen to him, and even some of his own townspeople and relatives opposed him and tried to kill him. He had periods of deep depression over his failures. He did not want to be a prophet in the first place, but the urgency of his message was like a fire raging within him, and he could not contain it. His was an example of total faithfulness to God, regardless of personal desires or circumstances.
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