Have you ever wished you could see into the future? What if you saw disaster coming, and no one would believe you? Imagine trying to save your friends, but instead of listening to you they only laugh. After a while, your “negativity” gets old and your friends abandon you, or worse, they seek to silence you. This was Jeremiah’s story.
Jeremiah was chosen by God before he was born (Jeremiah 1:5) to be a prophet to God’s people in the southern kingdom of Israel called Judah, which included the city of Jerusalem. God called him while he was still young (1:6-7) to warn his friends and neighbors about coming judgment and war. The great and powerful Babylonian army would soon destroy Jerusalem and take its citizens captive because of Judah’s sin against God.
The book of Jeremiah uncovers widespread corruption in society and in the religious institutions. The people had abandoned God for idols, they were imitating other nations, and they were lining their own pockets at the expense of the poor and the weak. God would not let this go on forever.
Jeremiah saw tragedy and reckoning on the horizon. He warned the people, but instead of recognizing truth, they recommitted to lies. Judah’s leaders beat him (20:2), threatened him with death (26:11), banned him from the temple (36:5), imprisoned him (37:15), left him for dead in a storage pit (38:6), and finally took him by force into Egypt (43:6). Through all of this, Jeremiah never stopped obeying God’s call to speak what was true.
Jeremiah has been called the “weeping prophet” because he wept for the fate of Israel (8:18), but he did not lose hope in God’s goodness. He prophesied that although God would punish his people, he would not make a “full end” of them (5:10, 16 ESV).
Through Jeremiah, God declared that one day he would gather his people back to their homeland (29:13-14). He renewed his promise to raise up good king or a “righteous branch” from the family tree of David (33:15), and he declared that although the people had forgotten him, he would not forget his “everlasting covenant” with them (50:5, 32:40). God would give his people “one heart and one way” so that they would remain faithful to him and enjoy God’s goodness forever (32:39).
In other words, Jeremiah speaks a message of hope. God would punish Judah for their sin and fulfilled his promise to send them into exile, but that does not mean that sin’s consequences have the final word in Judah’s history.
Even today the book of Jeremiah pulls back the curtain to show us what the future holds.
Ironically, to find our future hope, Jeremiah encourages us to look back at what God has done in the past.
Just as God brought justice to Judah, God will not allow evil and suffering among the nations today to continue forever. A day of justice is coming. Jesus Christ will return to judge the living and the dead (2 Timothy 4:1).
Jeremiah warns those who are religious but not truly worshiping God. He still blows the whistle on those who are living for their own pleasure and profit, calling them to repent before that day of justice comes.
Jeremiah also still speaks to anyone looking for hope, who feels discouraged by the rampant unrepentant sin throughout the world, and who feels afraid of coming judgment. Ironically, to find our future hope, Jeremiah encourages us to look back at what God has done in the past, what he promised long ago.
Stand by the roads, and look,
and ask for the ancient paths,
where the good way is; and walk in it,
and find rest for your souls. (Jeremiah 6:16 ESV)
Open Jeremiah and learn to hold tight to the promises and the hand of God in the tears, in the tragedy, and when you feel all alone, so that you can look to the future with hope.