Lesson 34: Ministry of Jeremiah – Part 1

Reading Preperation:
  • Jeremiah 1; 9-11; 14; 17
  • Lamentations 3
Lesson Notes:
1. Introduction to Jeremiah: Part I and Part II
In this chapter, we will examine the writings of Jeremiah under Part I. This will include Jeremiah’s call to the ministry as well as an in depth examination of chapters 9-11, 14 and 17. In Chapter 35, Part II, will continue our focus upon the words of Jeremiah as found in chapters 18; 23; 30-31; 33 and 36 through 45. The selection of these specific chapters is based upon the overall purpose of this text which is to better understand the writings of the Old Testament and their relevance to us in the latter days.
2. Jeremiah’s Call to the Ministry (626-586 B.C.)
Jeremiah 1:1
1 The words of Jeremiah the son of Hilkiah, of the priest that were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin.
Jeremiah was a priest of the tribe of Levi who lived in the city of Anathoth, just a few miles from the city of Jerusalem.
Sidney B. Sperry states,
“When Joshua had entered Canaan, he gave the children of Aaron, the Priest, a number of cities as an inheritance and Anathoth was one of them (see Joshua 21:13-19). It is quite probable, therefore, that Hilkiah’s [Jeremiah’s father] priestly ancestors had lived in the town for generations. Abiathr was a descendant of Eli; Jeremiah may therefore have descended from a distinguished family of priests” (The Voice of Israel’s Prophets. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1952, 150).
It was not by coincidence that Jeremiah had been raised in a home where his genealogy could be traced to those who held the Aaronic or Levitical priesthood and officiated in the office of a priest. Even more important however was that he had been set apart for his prophetic call prior to his earthly birth.
Jeremiah 1:5
5 Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.
Jeremiah, like all the prophets who have been called to this sacred calling, were set apart for their earthly ministry, before mortality.
Joseph Smith states,
“Every man who has a calling to minister to the inhabitants of the world was ordained to that very purpose in the Grand Council of heaven before the world was” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Compiled by Joseph Fielding Smith. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1976, 365).
Jeremiah’s responded humbly to the call to serve as one of the Lord’s anointed prophets.
Jeremiah 1:6-9
6 Then said I, Ah, Lord God! Behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child.
7 But the LORD said unto me, Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak.
8 Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the LORD.
9 Then the LORD put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. And the LORD said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth.
What probably occurred with Jeremiah is that the Pre-mortal Lord put his hands upon his head and set him apart as his anointed prophet. He conveyed upon him the authority to act in his name thereby sanctioning the acts of Jeremiah as if the actions had been done by the Lord Himself.
Jeremiah 1:10
10 See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, and to build, and to plant.
The Old Testament student manual states,
“It was Jeremiah’s privilege (or burden) to predict and then live through the fall of Judah to Babylon. He is one of the few prophets who have been allowed to see the fulfillment of his major prophecies come to pass. Jeremiah, like Mormon. [prophet in Book of Mormon] was called to labor among a people for whom there was no hope because they refused to repent, and ‘the day of grace was passed with them, both temporally and spiritually’ (B/M, Mormon 2:15)” (The Old Testament student manual 1 Kings—Malachi. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1981, Second Edition, 235).
The Lord now provides an outline of the events that will occur during Jeremiah’s ministry.
Jeremiah 1:11-16
11 Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying Jeremiah, what seest thou? And I said, I see a rod of an almond tree.
12 Then said the LORD unto me, Thu hast well seen: for I will hasten my word to perform it.
13 And the word of the LORD came unto me the second time, saying, What seest thou? And I said, I see a seething pot; and the face thereof is toward the north.
14 Then the LORD said unto me, Out of the north an evil shall break forth upon all the inhabitants of the land.
15 For, lo, I will call all the families of the kingdoms of the north, saith the LORD; and they shall come, and they shall set every one his thrones at the entering of the gates of Jerusalem, and against all the walls thereof round about and against all the cities of Judah.
16 And I will utter my judgments against them touching all their wickedness, who have forsaken me, and have burned incense unto other gods, and worshipped the works of their own hands.
Old Testament student manual states,
“An almond branch was evidently chosen because it is the first tree to bloom in the spring. As the almond tree hastens to come into blossom so would the word of the Lord through Jeremiah hasten to fulfillment. Next, the vision of a ‘seething pot’… symbolized the disaster and pain which like the contents of a boiling cauldron, would spill over and run down from the kingdoms of the north to overwhelm Judah… The burning incense… is a symbol of prayer… [not just offered] to false gods [but]… [t]he people were seeking help and guidance from the false gods rather than from the Lord” (Old Testament student manual 1 Kings—Malachi. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1981, Second Edition, 236).
Jeremiah 1: 17, 19
17 Thou therefore gird up thy loins, and arise, and speak unto them all that I command thee: be not dismayed at their faces, lest I confound thee before them.
19 And they shall fight against thee; but they shall not prevail against thee; for I am with thee, said the LORD, to deliver thee.
While the task that Jeremiah faced was most difficult and disheartening, he had the promise that the Lord would be with him and would deliver him against all opposition against him. It is one thing to be confronted with tremendous obstacles in one’s life, but when we have the support, guidance and direction of the Lord, our faith and hope is strengthened as we know that we are not alone. I can only imagine the comfort the Lord’s words must have been to Jeremiah as he under takes this most difficult assignment by the Lord.
Jeremiah would not have been alone during his service for Zephaniah and also Lehi were also preaching the message of the Lord during this period of time. As we have noted previously, just prior to the destruction of Jerusalem, Lehi and his family had been directed of the Lord to leave Jerusalem. This direction had been given, in part, due to threats, and possible attempts, against Lehi’s life.
Another factor that merits our response is the seeming direction Jeremiah receives “not to take a wife” (Jeremiah 16:2-4), in response to the sinful condition of the people! While some interpret this directive literally, it appears that the reference is only temporary, not permanent, due to the importance the Lord places on marriage and family.
We also learn in Jeremiah 11:21, that members of his own community, “Anathoth,” will threaten his life. We will address this matter under Jeremiah 11 in this chapter. These and other challenges that Jeremiah faced in his service as prophet would have been overwhelming were it not for the strength and comfort the Lord would provide to him. The words of the Lord, “Be not afraid… I am with thee… they shall not prevail against thee and [I will] deliver thee” must have sustained him throughout his ministry.
Jeremiah’s ministry began in the thirteenth year of the reign of King Josiah, possibly in order to support the reformations which Josiah had instituted. In conjunction with the King’s reforms, Jeremiah tried to turn the people to the Lord and away from idolatry and immorality, however the reforms appeared to affect only the outward worship of the Jews. The death of King Josiah’s death marked the end of the last good and righteous man to rule Judah. While Jeremiah would have had the support of the king for the reforms that the Lord was initiating in Judah, upon his death, and the subsequent rule of Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedikiah who supported evil, Jeremiah’s task must have become even more difficult. The last ruler, Gedeliah, served only three months as the temporary governor of governor of Jerusalem, appointed by Nebuchadnezzar following the fall of the city of Jerusalem and Jeremiah’s departure from Jerusalem.
Old Testament student manual states,
“Jeremiah… found idolatry, hill-worship, and heathen religious practices rampant among his people… The corruption of the nation’s religious worship was, of course, accompanied by all manner of immorality and unrighteousness, against which the prophet had continually to testify. The poor were forgotten. Jeremiah was surrounded on all sides by almost total apostasy” (Old Testament student manual 1 Kings—Malachi. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1981, Second Edition, 235).
It is against this backdrop that we will explore the writings of Jeremiah as represented in the specific chapters chosen for examination.
3. Jeremiah 9: Judah’s Sins will bring Sorrow and Destruction
In only a few places in the scriptures (2 Samuel 18:33), David cries over his son Absalom; (Matthew.23:37), Jesus laments over Jerusalem; and (B/M, Mormon 6:16-22), Mormon’s pain over the destruction of the Nephite nation), do we find the expression of pain over the sins of the individual/ people one is trying to call to repentance. We now add Jeremiah’s name to this list.
Jeremiah 9:1
1 Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!
As Jeremiah sheds tears on behalf of his people, he now remunerates their sins. These include: adultery (Jeremiah 9:2); “an assembly of treacherous men,” “liars.” “proceed from evil to evil,” “they know not me [Lord],” (Jeremiah 1:3). The Lord then states, “Shall I not visit them for these things”… “And I will make Jerusalem heaps, and a den of dragons; and I will make the cities of Judah desolate, without an inhabitant” (Jeremiah 9:9, 11). The Lord then states why is going to take this action.
Jeremiah 9:13-14
13 Because they have forsaken my law which I set before them, and have not obeyed my voice, neither walked therein;
14 But have walked after the imaginations of their own heart, and after Baalim [idol worship], which their fathers taught them:
The Lord continues,
Jeremiah 9:16
16 I will scatter them also among the heathen, whom neither they nor their fathers have known: and I will send a sword after them, till I have consumed them.
The Old Testament student manual clarifies,
“To be consumed does not mean to become extinct. Being consumed and destroyed, in the context of the prophecies of the scattering of Israel, meant to be utterly disorganized and disbanded so that Israel’s power, influence, and cohesiveness as a nation was gone… Israel still existed as homeless individuals” (Old Testament student manual, 1 Kings—Malachi. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1981, Second Edition, 238).
The Lord now gives counsels to the people regarding three of their serious sins. These include wisdom, might (power/authority) and riches.
Jeremiah 9:23-24
23 Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches:
24 But let him that glorieth in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise loving kindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight saith the LORD.
In all things the Lord is our exemplar. He is merciful and kind in his dealings with man, always exercising righteous judgment. He blesses those who are obedient and humble. He is concerned with the care of the poor and directs those who have means to be generous with those less fortunate. Those, who ignore his commandments and seek wickedness, including those of his covenant people, will incur his wrath for mercy cannot rob justice.
Jeremiah 9:25
25 Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will punish all them which are circumcised with the uncircumcised.
4. Jeremiah 10: Idols have no power. Only the Lord Rules
It was a common practice among the people of the Old Testament to fashion of their own hands idols who then became their images of worship. This practice was common throughout Biblical history and universally condemned by all true prophets. In most instances this practice included immorality and animal, and in some instances, human sacrifice. You will recall Abram being offered by his father upon the sacrificial altar to the gods (see Chapter Six of text, Pearl of Great Price, Abraham 1:7).
When the Lord appeared to Moses on Mount Sinai, the first commandment he gave to the children of Israel included this directive.
Exodus 20:3-4
3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:
Jeremiah in his day rebukes those who are engaged in idol worship. As in the past, their images are the result of human hands including their carpenters and metal workers.
Jeremiah 10:3-5
3 For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman with the axe.
4 They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.
5 They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, either also is in them to do good.
Contrast these images of their own workmanship with their living God.
Jeremiah 10:10-11
10 But the LORD is the true God, he is the living God, and an everlasting king: at his wrath the earth shall tremble, and the nations shall not be able to abide his indignation.
11 Thus shall ye say unto them, the gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, even they shall perish from the earth, and from under these heavens.
Only the living Lord is able to create a individual and to give them life. The images of man are without life and will eventually all be destroyed through the power of the Lord.
Unlike the Lord, who will assist Judah during times of need, their idols are without power and therefore will not intervene during Judah’s time of need.
Jeremiah 10: 14-15
14 Every man is brutish [little intelligence] in his knowledge: every founder is confounded by the graven image: for his molten image is falsehood, and there is no breath in them.
15 They are vanity, and the work of errors; in the time of their visitation they shall perish.
The extent of Judah’s apostasy includes not only her images of idolatry but also the disobedience of her people including her religious leaders. All have turned from following the Lord.
Jeremiah 10:20-21
20 My tabernacle is spoiled, and all my cords are broken: my children are gone forth from me, and they are not: there is none to stretch forth my tent any more, and to set up my curtains.
21 For the pastors (shepherds} are become brutish, and have not sought the LORD: therefore they shall not prosper, and all their flocks shall be scattered.
As a result of Judah’s unrighteousness, and her decision to turn from the guidance and protection of the Lord, their land, in the near future, will be devastated by invaders from the north. The time of their destruction draws ever nearer.
Jeremiah 10:22
22 Behold, the noise of the bruit is come, and a great commotion out of the north country, to make the cities of Judah desolate, and a den of dragons.
5. Jeremiah 11: Judah Refuses to Keep Her Covenant with God
When the Lord brought the children of Israel out of Egypt, he made a covenant with them. A covenant is a two- way promise between the Lord and man. The children of Israel promised to keep his commandments, and He promised to protect them from their enemies and to give them guidance and direction. He would bring them to a land of milk and honey and He would be their God. While they had promised to keep their covenant which the Lord made with them, they have broken their covenant with the Lord.
Jeremiah 11:8, 10-11
8 Yet they obeyed not, nor inclined their ear, but walked every one in the imagination of their evil heart: therefore I will bring upon them all the words of this covenant, which commanded them to do; but they did them not.
10 They are turned back to the iniquities of their forefathers, which refused to hear my words; and they went after other gods ot serve them: the house of Israel [Northern kingdom] and the house of Judah [Southern kingdom] have broken my covenant which I made with their fathers.
11 Therefore thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will bring evil upon them, which they shall not be able to escape; and though they shall cry unto me, I will not hearken unto them.
Due to the rampant disobedience among the citizens of Judah at this time, Jeremiah receives dire instructions from the Lord.
Jeremiah 11:14 [underline added]
14 Therefore pray not thou for this people, neither lift up a cry or prayer for them: for I will not hear them in the time that they cry unto me for their trouble.
Jeremiah was not to offer prayers on behalf of the children of Judah. As a result of their unrighteousness, the Lord would no longer respond to Jeremiah’s petitions on their behalf. The people who were humble and seeking righteousness could continue to offer their personal prayers, but the Lord’s anointed was forbidden to offer prayers for them.
Not only was it true for Judah, but it is also true for us. Personal prayers to the Lord must always be based on our willingness to be obedient to the Lord’s direction, even when that requires us to make necessary changes in our lives. Otherwise, our prayers are in vain.
The author, Samuel Longhorne Clemens, aka Mark Twain, through his character Huckleberry Finn, exemplified this concept.
“It made me shiver. And I about made up my mind to pray, and see if I couldn’t try to quit being the kind of a boy I was and be better. So I kneeled down. But the words wouldn’t come. Why wouldn’t they? It warn’t no use to try and hide it from Him. Nor from ME, neither. I knowed very well why they wouldn’t come. It was because my heart warn’t right; it was because I warn’t square; it was because I was playing double. I was letting ON to give up sin, but away inside of me I was holding on to the biggest one of all. I was trying to make my mouth SAY I would do the right thing and the clean thing, and go and write to that n—‘s owner and tell where he was; but deep down I knowed it was a lie, and He knowed it. You can’t pray a lie—I found that out” (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. New York: Arlington House, Inc., 1983, 224).
Jeremiah is told by the Lord that the men of “Anathoth,” (his hometown) are plotting to take his life.
Jeremiah 11:21
21 Therefore thus saith the LORD of the men of Anathoth, that seek thy life, saying Prophesy not in the name of the LORD, that thou die not by our hand.
It must have been discouraging for Jeremiah to learn that even those of his hometown had been so aroused to violence regarding his words that they wanted to take his life! His only concern in preaching to them was that they might heed the warning voice of the Lord, and if possible, be spared the coming devastation that was promised the wicked.
Jeremiah 11:22-23
22 Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts, Behold, I will punish them: the young men shall die by the sword; their sons and their daughters shall die by famine:
23 And there shall be no remnant of them: for I will bring evil upon the men of Anathoth, even the year of their visitation.
The word of the Lord was clear to Jeremiah. Their threat of violence and probable overt acts of wickedness was sufficient to bring about their death either in battle or by famine.
Jeremiah responds to the Lord’s action with a question that many have asked when they are being persecuted by the wicked. The question, “How much longer must I endure the persecution?” How is it, Jeremiah asks the Lord, “are all they happy that deal very treacherously?” (Jeremiah 12:1).
In reference to the death of many in his hometown, Jeremiah asks how it is that there are those who appear to be happy committing acts of wickedness. Why, he seems to be asking, are they allowed to persecute the righteous without any action being taken against them? Jeremiah’s solution is that action should be taken against them immediately.
Jeremiah 12:3
3 But thou, O Lord, knowest me: thou hast seem me, and tried mine heart toward thee: pull them out like sheep for the slaughter, and prepare them for the day of slaughter.
It is common for many that when they are persecuted by those who are wicked to want immediate retribution and retaliation by the Lord. It appears that this was also the case with Jeremiah.
Keil and Delitzsch state,
“The enmity experienced by Jeremiah at the hands of his countrymen at Anathoth excites his displeasure at the prosperity of the wicked, who thrive and live with immunity. He therefore begins to expostulate with God, and demands from God’s righteousness that they be cut off out of the land (12:1-4); whereupon the Lord reproves him for this outburst of ill nature and impatience by telling him that he must patiently enquire still worse. —This section, the connection of which with the preceding is unmistakable, shows by a concrete instance the utter corruptness of the people; and it has been included in the prophecies because it sets before us the greatness of God’s longsuffering towards a people ripe for destruction” (Commentary on the Old Testament 1. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. n.d., 219).
In the following verses, the Lord gives to Jeremiah an extended answer to his question of “How long?” I believe his reply is important not only for Jeremiah, but for each of us.
Jeremiah 12:13-17
13… they have put themselves to pain, but shall not profit:…
14 Thus saith the LORD against all mine evil neighbours, that touch the inheritance which I have caused my people Israel to inherit; Behold, I will pluck them out of their land, and pluck out the house of Judah from among them.
15 And it shall come to pass, after that I have plucked them out I will return, and have compassion on them, and will bring them again, every man to his heritage, and every man to his land.
16 And it shall come to pass, if they will diligently learn the ways of my people, to sware by my name, The LORD liveth; as they taught my people to sware by Baal; then shall they be built in the midst of my people.
17 But if they will not obey, I will utterly pluck up and destroy that nation, saith the LORD.
In other words, the Lord will remove them, and allow them to be persecuted by other nations, then he will again have compassion upon them and deliver them from their enemies. Those who willingly enter into a covenant with the Lord will receive his forgiveness for their transgressions. Those who refuse to acknowledge his offer of reconciliation through repentance and continue in their ways of wickedness will be destroyed.
It is important for each of us to patiently endure the persecution that we may experience, without retaliation, knowing that the Lord, in his due time, will intervene on our behalf.
6. Jeremiah 14: The Famine: A Punishment for Judah
On occasions the Lord uses the forces of nature to remind the people of the extent of his power and their helplessness. The skeptic dismisses these actions as coincidental and arbitrary with no connection to deity. Others recognize them as manifestations of heavenly power and a sign of warning issued by the Lord’s prophets that change in behavior is needed as a nation or individuals. The use of famine is one means used by the Lord in an effort to humble the people so that they might then seek repentance has been documented within the scriptures, both in the Bible and Book of Mormon. (see Elijah causing the heavens to withhold rain and Nephi, son of Helaman, causing a great famine (Chapter 24 in text). We read the following in the Book of Mormon.
B/M, Helaman 11:4, 7
4 O Lord, do not suffer that this people shall be destroyed by the sword; but O Lord, rather let there be a famine in the land, to stir them up in remembrance of the Lord their God, and perhaps they will repent and turn unto thee.
7 And it came to pass that the people saw that they were about to perish by famine, and they began to remember the Lord their God…
In this example the people did humble themselves and repented from their wickedness and the famine was lifted by the Lord. During the time of Jeremiah, the Lord again invokes famine as a means to humble the people of Judah.
Jeremiah states the dire conditions that exist amongst the people as a result of a wide spread famine that is upon the land. He then speaks on behalf of Judah.
Jeremiah 14:7
7 O LORD, though our iniquities testify against us, do thou it for thy name’s sake: for our backslidings are many; we have sinned against thee.
9… yet thou, O Lord, art in the midst of us, and we are called by thy name; leave us not.
There were at the time false prophets who said what the people and the king wanted to hear, “Ye shall not see the sword, neither shall ye have famine” (Jeremiah 14:13). The Lord responds to the “false prophets” through Jeremiah.
Jeremiah 14:14
14 Then the LORD said unto me, The prophets prophesy lies in my name: I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spake unto them: they prophesy unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing of naught, and the deceit of their heart.
The Lord tells Jeremiah what will occur to the people for they have not humbled themselves nor sought the Lord’s direction.
Jeremiah 14:16
16 And the people to whom they prophesy shall be cast out in the streets of Jerusalem because of the famine and the sword; and they shall have none to bury them, them, their wives, nor their sons, nor their daughters: for I will pour their wickedness upon them.
The die is cast. Neither the threat of foreign invasion or famine had brought Judah to the depths of humility necessary for her repentance. Unlike the people in the America’s who sought repentance, the penalty promised by the Lord if Judah did not turn from her wickedness will occur. While it is a painful lesson to learn, we ourselves must be prepared to bear the punishment when we fail to keep the Lord’s commandments. A period of repentance, (recognition and confession of our sins accompanied by our heartfelt sorrow and resolve to turn completely from our sins) must occur when we transgress before we can hope to obtain full forgiveness from the Lord.
It not only grieves his prophet, it also grieves the Lord when his children fail to abide his commandments and turn from Him toward wickedness. He does not delight in bringing justice upon them. The Lord now expresses, through his prophet, his sorrow to the children of Judah.
Jeremiah 14:17
17 Therefore thou shalt say this words unto them; Let mine eyes run down with tears night and day, and let them not cease: for the virgin daughters of my people is broken with a great breach, with a very grievous blow.
Once again the Lord requests of Jeremiah, “Pray not for this people for their good” (Jeremiah 14:11). Jeremiah however continues his plea to the Lord on behalf of the people he loves and serves.
Jeremiah 14:20-21
20 We acknowledge, O LORD, our wickedness, and the iniquity of our fathers: for we have sinned against thee.
21 Do not abhor us, for thy name’s sake, do not disgrace the throne of thy glory: remember, break not thy covenant with us.
7. Jeremiah 16: Fishers and Hunters. Latter day gathering
This chapter is extremely important is lieu of the events of the recent years for the prophecy of Jeremiah regarding the importance of “fishers and hunters” (Jeremiah 16:16), is being fulfilled in our day.
The Lord speaks to Jeremiah regarding the final state of Judah comparing them with those who have gone before them.
Jeremiah 16:10-12
10 … they shall say unto thee, Wherefore hath the LORD pronounced all this great evil against us? Or what is our iniquity? Or what is our sin that we have committed against the LORD our God?
11 Then shalt thou say unto them, Because your fathers have forsaken me, saith the LORD, and have walked after other gods, and have served them, and have worshipped them, and have forsaken me, and have not kept my law;
12 And ye have done worse than your fathers; for, behold, ye walk every one after the imagination of his evil heart, that they may not hearken unto me.
Every form of wickedness that man can imagine, Judah committed. Not just in isolated numbers, but “everyone” [majority]! It is for this reason that their cup of iniquity is over flowing, and the time for their repentance has passed. The Lord now details his plan for Judah.
Jeremiah 16:13, 15
13 Therefore will I cast you out of this land into a land that ye know not, neither ye nor your father; and there shall ye serve other gods day and night; where I will not shew you favour.
15 But, The LORD liveth, that brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north, and from all the lands whither he had driven them: and I will bring them again into that land that I gave unto their fathers.
Judah will be conquered by the heathen Babylonians and taken captive unto their land, “ye know not” and she will be compelled to participate in their form of worship, “serve other gods day and night.” Due to their turning away from the Lord, Judah will experience a time of captivity during which interval “I [Lord] will not shew you favour,” suggesting that the Lord will not intervene on Judah’s behalf with her captors for a period of years. The Lord will not forsake them however for he will again gather “the children of Israel… from all the lands whither he had driven them,” referring not to the return of Judah to Jerusalem after seventy years of Babylonian captivity to rebuild their city and temple, but to their gathering in the latter days.
How will the Lord gather the children of Israel from the lands [nations of the earth] wherein they have been scattered?
Jeremiah 17:16-17
16 Behold, I will send for many fishers, saith the LORD, and they shall fish them; and after will I send for many hunters, and they shall hurt them from every mountain, and from every hill, and out of the holes of the rocks.
17 For mine eyes are upon all their ways: they are not hid from my face, neither is their iniquity hid from mine eyes.
The children of Israel will be gathered from the nations of the earth by the missionaries that are sent forth authorized to preach the everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ to the inhabitants of the earth.
President Thomas S. Monson stated,
“It has scarcely been one year since I announced the lowering of the age of missionary service [18 from 19 for young men; 19 from 21 for young women]. Since that time the number of full-time missionaries serving has increased from 58,500 in October, 2012 to 80,333 today” (“Welcome to Conference” in Ensign, November, 2013, 4).
This is mean an increase of approximately 22,000 missionaries currently serving as “fishers… [and] hunters” in the lands of the earth.
8. Jeremiah 17: Trust in the Lord and Keep the Sabbath Day
One of the factors that lead to Judah’s downfall was her reliance on her own strength and wisdom, and not on the Lord. She followed her own inclinations, rather than keeping the covenants she had made with the Lord. Jeremiah reminds her of the fallacy of this decision.
Jeremiah 17:5, 7
5 Thus saith the Lord; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart is departed from the Lord.
7 Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is.
The Lord is not seeking for blind obedience on Judah’s part. He wants her to exercise her own choices regarding her obedience to his commandments, not blind obedience. The first law in heaven is free agency, meaning that each individual be able to choose for themselves to be obedient to God’s commandments or to follow the path offered by the Devil. To choose to follow the Devil is to choose a course that is in direct opposition to the plan authored by Our Heavenly Father. It is for this reason that Satan rose in rebellion against the plan authored by Our Heavenly Father and supported by his Son, Jesus Christ, during the Heavenly council. For this reason, Satan was cast out, along with his angels, who supported his rebellion.
Revelations 12:9
9 And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
The prophet Lehi, taught the doctrine of free agency to those in the America’s as recorded in the Book of Mormon.
B/M, 2 Nephi 2:27-29
27 Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the Mediator of all men [Jesus Christ], or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.
28 And now, my sons, I would that ye should look to the great Mediator, and hearken unto his great commandments; and be faithful unto his words, and choose eternal life, according to the will of his Holy Spirit;
29 And not choose eternal death, according to the will of the flesh and the evil which is therein, which giveth the spirit of the devil power to captivate, to bring you down to hell, that he may reign over you in his own kingdom.
The Lord states the importance of our being able to make choices which will ultimately determine our standing with the Lord.
Jeremiah 12:10, 13
10 I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins [agency of man], even to give every man according to his ways [choices], and according to the fruit [action] of his doings.
13 O LORD, the hope of Israel, all that forsake thee shall be ashamed, and they that depart from me [choose wickedness] shall be written in the earth, [die as to things spiritual], because they have forsaken the LORD, the fountain of living waters.
When we choose to be obedient to the Lord, then He is able to give us guidance and direction in our lives. Our obedience to His commandments provides us with His protection. When we turn from following the Lord and break our covenants with Him, we have “forsaken the LORD, the fountain of living waters” or the source of our well being and are then left on our own. It is “as if” we chose to throw away our umbrella in the middle of a rainstorm and are then surprised when we get wet and in addition blame the Lord for sending the rain!
One of the major problems of Judah is that they have forsaken the direction and protection offered by the Ten Commandments given by the Lord to the children of Israel from Mount Sinai. One of the commandments given involves keeping the Sabbath day holly.
Exodus 20:8-11
8 Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
9 Six day shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:
10 But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work…
11 … wherefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it.
The Lord gives to Jeremiah specific directions which he is give to “all Judah, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem” (Jeremiah 17:20).
Jeremiah 17:21-22
21 Thus saith the LORD; Take heed to yourselves, and bear no burden on the Sabbath day, nor bring it in by the gates of Jerusalem;
22 Neither carry forth a burden out of your houses on the Sabbath day, neither do ye any work, but hallow ye the Sabbath day, as I commanded your fathers.
If the people of Judah will heed the words of Jeremiah, and be obedient to this commandment, the Lord makes them a promise.
Jeremiah 17:24-25
24 And it shall come to pass, if ye diligently hearken unto me, saith the LORD, to bring in no burden through the gates of this city on the Sabbath day, but hallow the Sabbath day, to do no work therein;
25 … and this city shall remain for ever.
In His promise, the Lord yet offers Judah another opportunity to save her city from destruction if they will “hallow ye the Sabbath day.” If they choose not to be obedient, the following consequences will occur.
Jeremiah 17:27
27 But if ye will not hearken unto me to hallow the Sabbath day, and not to bear a burden, even entering in at the gates of Jerusalem on the Sabbath day; then will I kindle a fire in the gates thereof, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem and it shall not be quenched.
Once again, Judah turned a deaf ear to the Lord and his prophet, and as history notes, the city of Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians and her inhabitants taken captive.
9. Introduction to Lamentations
Adam Clark states,
“In all copies of the Septuagint [“The Greek translation of the Old Testament… made in the first instance for the use of Greek-speaking Jew living in Alexandria in the reign of Ptolemy Philadelphus (284-246 B.C.)… This translation proved of immense service to the Christian Church, for it taught, in the what was the language of the civilized world, the religious truths that had been the special possession of the Hebrew race” (LDS Bible Dictionary, 771)], the following words are found as a part of the text: ‘And it came to pass after Israel had been carried away captive, and Jerusalem was become desolate that Jeremiah sat weeping: and he lamented with this lamentation over Jerusalem;” (Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible. Abridged by Ralph Earle. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1967 [Nineteenth printing, March, 1991], 655).
Jeremiah had lived to see the desolation of Judah at the hands of Babylonians. The book of Lamentations, written in prose verse, is an expression of Jeremiah’s grief regarding the destruction of his nation. He had pled with all the energy of his soul for her citizens to repent from their wickedness, including the desecration of the Sabbath day, but they would not hearken to his warning voice. He had warned them of the consequence of their actions, but they would not listen. In the end, they left the Lord no choice, but to take action against them through the heathen Babylonians. This is the tragedy that Jeremiah had tried for more than forty years to prevent–and also the trauma which he now personally experienced as the end came.
We must ask ourselves individually, will we choose as did Judah and Israel before them? Will be learn from their experience and listen to the words of the prophets or will we deny the record that they have left and chose the same fate as they experienced?
10. Lamentations 3: God Gives Man A Choice between Good and Evil
As we examine chapter three, I wish to provide the following verse outline adapted from Adam Clark’s Bible Commentary.
Verse Outline:
“vs. 1-20: [Jeremiah]… enumerates his own severe trials;
“vs. 21: [and] shows his trust in God.
“vs. 22-27: [Jeremiah] encourages his people to [gain their own] resignation [acceptance] and trust in [the Lord’s]… divine and never-failing mercy;
“vs. 28-39: [Jeremiah] vindicates the goodness of God in all dispensations, and the unreasonableness of murmuring under them;
“vs. 40-66: [Jeremiah] recommends self-examination and repentance; and then… [based on]… their experience of former deliverance from God, [He] encourages them to look for pardon from their sins and retribution to their enemies”
(“Chapter Three Heading.” Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible. Abridged by Ralph Earle. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1967. [Nineteenth Printing, March, 1991], 657).
It is my opinion that this is an important chapter for us to examine. It provides important direction which we may apply as we experience disappointments in our own lives that may be the result of disobedience to God’s commandments.
We learn that Jeremiah, not withstanding he was one f the Lord’s prophet’s was called upon to bear all kinds of personal persecution during his ministry. This included:
In Lamentations 3:14, he was placed in prison and made fun of by the people.
Lamentations 3:6, 14
6 He hath set me in dark places, as they that be dead of old.
14 I was a derision to all my people; and their song all the day.
We may ask what enabled Jeremiah to be able to endure the persecution he experienced?
Lamentations 3:22-25
22 It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.
23 They are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness.
24 The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him.
25 The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him.
The Lord did not forsake Jeremiah during his trials, as he had previously promised (Jeremiah 1:19), nor will he forsake us. We must also hold on to this hope that in his own due time the Lord will also deliver us from our trails and difficulties. We must also not give up on Him and continue to seek his strength if not for the trials to pass, then that we may be able to endure them with obedience.
Jeremiah reminds Judah that even though their trials and tribulations are the direct result of their continued disobedience, their suffering will not be without end.
Lamentations 3:31-33
31 For the Lord will not cat off for ever;
32 But through he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies.
33 For he doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men.
We, like Judah, must also recognize our transgressions and follow the steps of repentance. We must as the first step, humble ourselves and seek his forgiveness.
Jeremiah 3:40-41
40 Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the LORD.
41 Let us lift up our heart with our hands unto God in the heavens.
As we seek the Lord, like he promised Jeremiah, he will not forsake us.
Lamentations 3:55, 57-58
55 I called upon thy name, O LORD, out of the low dungeon.
57 Thou drewest near in the day that I called upon thee: thou saidst, Fear not.
58 O Lord, thou hast pleaded the causes of my soul; thou hast redeemed my life.
Jo Ann H. Seely states,
“Covenant Israel will not be forgotten, but they must be patient. ‘It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not” (Lam. 3:22). And in that compassion, he has offered them the opportunity for repentance. ‘It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord’ (Lam.3:26). Zion has felt the depths of despair, but she will yet see the salvation of her Savior” (“Lamentations” in Studies in Scripture 4. Edited by Kent P. Jackson. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1993, 256).
In her breaking the Lord’s covenant, Judah was not receptive to the words of the Lord as spoken through his prophet. Only through the destruction of their beloved Jerusalem and being taken into captivity was Judah able to once again hear the words of the Lord through his prophets. Jeremiah had cried on behalf of Judah for forty years but she would not listen. His grief for his beloved Judah is sincere.
Lamentations 3:48-49
48 Mine eye runneth down with rivers of water for the destruction of the daughter of my people [innocent children?].
49 Mine eye trickleth down, and ceaseth not, without any intermission.
11. Conclusion
The Lord continues to speak to us today, just as he spoke to Jeremiah and other prophets in the past. It is striking how similar the message of today is with the words of Jeremiah and other prophets of the past.
Spencer W. Kimball stated,
“The growing permissiveness in modern society gravely concerns us. Certainly our Heavenly Father is distressed with the increasing in roads among his children of such insidious sins as adultery and fornication, homosexuality, lesbianism, abortions, pornography, population control, alcoholism, cruelty expressed in wife-beating and child-abuse, dishonesty, vandalism, violence, and crime generally, including the sin of living together without marriage.
“… We call upon our Church members everywhere to renew their efforts to strengthen the home and to honor their parents, and to build better communications between parent and child.
“… As we think back upon the experiences… [of other nations] we wonder–will history repeat itself? What of our world today? Are we forgetting in our great nations the high and lofty principles which can preserve the nations?
“… When the patience of the Lord with us is exhausted, shall we stand trembling while destruction comes upon us? Or shall we wisely see the handwriting on the wall and profit by the sad experiences of the past and return unto the Lord and serve him?” (“The Foundations of Righteousness” in Ensign, November, 1977, 5-6).
We see in our own times, the same sins that have destroyed nations in the past. As we review the history of nations, we note with abhorrence the wickedness that eventually brought about their downfall. Will we heed the words of the prophets before it is too late for us, or will we also reap destruction as a nation? Only time will tell which side we will be on.
Ezra Taft Benson observed,
“As a prophet reveals the truth it divides the people. The honest in heart heed his words but the unrighteous either ignore the prophet or fight him… As we come closer to the Lord’s second coming you can expect that as the people of the world become more wicked, the prophet will be less popular with them.
“Why? Because the living prophet tells us what we need to know and do now, and the world prefer that prophets either be dead or mind their own business. Some would-be authorities on politics want the prophet to keep still about politics. Some would-be authorities on evolution want the prophet to keep still about evolution. The list goes on and on.
“How we respond to the words of a living prophet when he tells us what we need to know, but would rather not hear, is a test of our faithfulness” (“Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophets” in Speeches of the Year, 1980. Provo: Brigham Young University Press, 28-29).
The Lord’s word through Jeremiah is the same given through other prophets to God’s people throughout history. It holds the promise of destiny or doom, prosperity or punishment. The results, individually, will depend upon our faithfulness to the commandments and covenants we have made with Our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.