76 Sermons on the Old Testament

42 Jeremiah's Call as a Prophet of God.


Jeremiah's Call as a Prophet of God

I am here, Jesus:

About this time the nomads from the north, the Scythians, people of southwest Russia, began to make their terrifying raids into the land of Israel, and Jeremiah, like Zephaniah, felt the call to prophesy in the name of God. Jeremiah tells us it was in the 13th year of Josiah's reign, that is, the year 623 B.C. when Jeremiah was approaching his 27th year. That year had been a troubled one for the prophet in his love life, and he felt that he had been appointed for this trouble by God with a prospective bride, as God had been having His troubles with Israel, His bride, as Hosea had expressed it. It was one of the reasons why Jeremiah never did marry, as he thought that what had applied to Hosea was in a manner applicable to him as well. He also thought that the Scythians would ravage and destroy Judah and, in the terror that gripped the people on all sides, that the time for his commencement as a prophet of God had come. He hesitated for quite a while until he observed an almond tree which had begun to bloom and realized that all things must come to pass in the fullness of time, and that the time was now ripe for him to raise his voice as God might dictate. For his opening page, which tells of his call, he had recourse to Isaiah, but made some interesting changes; there is no imagery, and no references to being unclean, or being purified by a live coal in the hand of a Seraph; instead, he is converted from a "child" into a messenger of God, who touches his mouth with His hand, and assured him of God's protection. This is the first mention of direct contact of God with a mortal; it is, of course, figurative only, for God has no "Hand" in the sense that humans or spirits conceive of it to be, but it does show how close Jeremiah felt he was to the Deity. (Jeremiah, Chapt. 1, verses 7 & 9.)

For the Lord said unto me; Say not; I am a child,
For to whomsoever I shall send thee; Thou shalt go;
And whatsoever I shall command thee; Thou shalt speak.
Be not afraid of them, For I am with thee; Saith the Lord.
Then the Lord put forth His hand, and touched my mouth;
And the Lord said unto me, Behold, I have put my words into thy mouth.

These words were very important for Jeremiah to carry out the designs of the Father, inasmuch as his first sermons attacked the abuses in the sacrificial rites which his family and neighbors in Anathoth, as well as local places all over Judah and the Israel of the post-exile period, espoused and practiced as part of their religion. He saw the advance of the ruthless Scythians as the hand of God risen to strike down His people because of their continual adherence to the paganism of Manasseh and Amon.

Now Manasseh and Amon had made of religion in Jerusalem a literal inferno of heathen rites. Worship of Moloch, popularized by Ahaz in the days of Isaiah, became the accepted practice. This was human sacrifice, that terrible abomination in the sight of God, which had been practiced in the dim days of past millenniums when man was struggling to evolve to a higher order of religious concept than that of barbarian naturalism and its hideous superstitions: The first born child was brought to the Valley of Hinnon, southwest of Jerusalem, and burned alive in the arms of the idol which was heated red hot. To make things utterly detestible, this Moloch was a corruption of the name Melech, meaning King, and there were those who believed that this abomination was being practiced so as to serve God. Other forms of paganism found at this time, thanks to the baleful energy of Manasseh, but which pale beside that of human sacrifice were the worship of the Assyrian deities, Ishtar, queen of heaven and Tammuz; Adonis gardens, and the so-called dying god; the cult of heavenly luminaries sacred prostitution in the temple, fortune telling and astrology. All those people in Jerusalem and elsewhere who resisted these things had to do so in secret, and in privacy, but there were a core of such people throughout the land, and Jeremiah was one of them.

Now it happened that Josiah attained his majority as King in 625 B.C., at the age of 18, and an event took place which, after a while, enabled Jeremiah to preach reform of the sacrificial rites for some time without being put to death -- and that was the mysterious discovery of the Book of Deuteronomy. I might mention, in passing, that this year coincided with the death of Ashurbanipal, the Assyrian Monarch, when signs of deterioration were apparent in this empire, and it was thought the time for a great reform for genuine Hebrew religion was come.

The high priest at the time, Hilkiah (not Jeremiah's father), found in the collection box, located at the Temple's door, a scroll said to have been written by Moses. It was not, of course, having been written and edited by a committee of pious elders of Jerusalem who were very zealous that the idolatrous rites be eliminated in favor of true Hebrew worship of God, together with the laws dealing with social behavior, so that powerful people might not, because of their positions, be able to impede justice. The Book of Deuteronomy is, therefore, a great humanitarian document and it is only in the purely doctrinal aspect that it became rigid.

Now this committee was aware that Josiah was going to collect money for the repair of the Temple, and thus they quietly left their scroll where they knew it would be found. Hilkiah delivered the scroll to SHAPAN, the scribe who read it, and he presented it to the King. Josiah was greatly moved and inquired of a religious woman, Huldah, who was the daughter-in-law of Tivah, whose father, Harhas, was keeper of the wardrobe and a member of the committee. Huldah, who was also very much in sympathy with the reform movement, knew exactly what to say: she delivered a prophesy of disaster to Judah, in God's name, because the people had foresaken the Lord and had offered sacrifices unto other gods; but as for Josiah, since his heart was tender and had humbled himself before the Lord, he would die in peace and not see all the evil which He would bring to Judah. It is interesting to observe that Josiah was killed by Pharoah Necho at Megiddo In 608 B.C., before the Babylonian victory of 596 B.C. and the destruction of the Temple and the exile.

The Bible tells us that Josiah reigned 31 years but this is erroneous by three years; he reigned 28 years, and was only 36 years old when he met his death. Josiah therefore did die before the Babylonians came to destroy Jerusalem, and thus Huldah had an inkling into his early death; how, she could not tell, and thought it might be through illness; neither could she foresee the Egyptian advance through Judah to help Assyria, nor Pharoah Necho's defeat by Nebuchadnezzar at Carohemish In 605 B.C. and Judah's becoming a vassal to the Babylonians.

Jesus of the Bible
Master of the Celestial Heavens


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