No one wants to be the one to deliver bad news… especially to people who obviously won’t be receptive to it. But this was the painful ministry Jeremiah the prophet was called to… even before he was born (Jer. 1:5).
Jeremiah (“Yah Exalts”), also called the “weeping prophet”, was one of the major prophets of the Bible. Jeremiah is traditionally credited with authoring the Book of Jeremiah, and Lamentations, but also 1&2Kings; all with the assistance and editorship of Baruch, his scribe and disciple.
Jeremiah was probably only about 20years old when God called him to his special ministry of prophesying against His own people. At first, Jeremiah was reluctant… but God told him not to be afraid of the people because He would be with him (Jer. 1:17-19). Jeremiah began his ministry in the days of the godly king Josiah, but his ministry would extend through the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple at the hands of the Babylonians. All the while, he faithfully warned the people of the impending consequences of their wickedness and idolatry.
Jeremiah was often seen as a traitor by his own people, because he was constantly preaching messages of doom. Unhappy with Jeremiah’s message, his priestly kin and the men of Anathoth conspired to take his life. But, God revealed the conspiracy to Jeremiah, protected his life, and declared disaster for the men of Anathoth. When Jeremiah complained to God about this persecution, God explained that the attacks on him would become worse.
Physical persecution started when the priest, Pashur, a temple official, sought out Jeremiah to have him beaten… and put him in the stocks at the Upper Gate of Benjamin for a day. After this, Jeremiah expresses lament over the difficulty that speaking God’s word had caused him… and regretted becoming a laughingstock and the target of mockery. But, when he tried to shut the word of the Lord inside and not mention God’s name, the word became like fire in his heart and he was unable to hold it in.
Conflicts with False Prophets
At the same time Jeremiah was prophesying coming destruction because of the sins of the nation, a number of other prophets were prophesying peace. God had Jeremiah speak against these false prophets.
For example, during the reign of King Zedekiah, God instructed Jeremiah to make a yoke of the message that the nation would be subject to the king of Babylon and that listening to the false prophets would bring a much worse disaster. The prophet Hananiah opposed Jeremiah’s message. He took the yoke off of Jeremiah’s neck, broke it, and prophesied to the priests and all the people that within 2years God would break the yoke of the king of Babylon. But God spoke to Jeremiah saying, “Go and speak to Hananiah, saying, ‘You have broken the yoke of wood, but you have made instead a yoke of iron.’” (Jer. 28:13)
The Bible portrays Jeremiah as being subject to additional persecutions. After Jeremiah prophesied that Jerusalem would be handed over to the Babylonian army, the king’s officials, including Pashur the priest, tried to convince King Zedekiah that Jeremiah should be put to death… because he was discouraging the soldiers, as well as the people. Zedekiah said he would not stand in their way. So, the king’s officials took Jeremiah and put him down into a well, where he sank down into the mud. The intent seemed to be to kill Jeremiah by allowing him to starve to death in a way that might allow the officials to claim to be innocent of his blood. A Cushite, Ebed-Melech, rescued Jeremiah by pulling him out of the cistern… but Jeremiah remained imprisoned until Jerusalem fell to the Babylonian army in 587 BC. (Jer. 38)
The Babylonians released Jeremiah, showed him great kindness, and allowed him to choose the place of his residence, according to a Babylonian edict. Jeremiah went to Mizpah in Benjamin with Gedaliah, who had been made governor of Judea.
Johanan succeeded Gedaliah, who had been assassinated by an Israelite prince in the pay of Ammon “for working with the Babylonians.” Refusing to listen to Jeremiah’s advice, Johanan escaped to Egypt… taking Jeremiah and Baruch with him, and the king’s daughters.
There, Jeremiah probably spent the remainder of his life, still trying – in vain – to turn the people to God from whom they had so long revolted.
There is no authentic record of his death.
Have you ever been in a situation in which you felt you needed to warn others about the consequences of their actions? It’s not easy. And it’s not fun. But, even if the people you are warning become angry… or threaten you with harm, don’t be afraid; God will be with you just as He was with Jeremiah.
Most people have felt like giving up at one time or another: in a relationship; during an overwhelming problem at home, school, or work; or during a long, persistent illness. Jeremiah did, too.
But, like Jeremiah, we are called to endurance… to stick it out.
Instead of focusing all your thoughts and prayers and energy on trying to find a way out of the problem, ask God to help you through it.
God’s love and grace allowed Jeremiah to endure the worst of humiliations; He can see you through your problems, too.
* God may not keep you FROM difficult situations, but His promise is to see you THROUGH them.
You can read Jeremiah’s story in the Old Testament book of Jeremiah… named after him.