76 Sermons on the Old Testament

43 Jeremiah's Early Sermons.


Jeremiah's Early Sermons

I am here, Jesus:

Now when Jeremiah began to preach, the reform of Josiah had been going on for more than two years; but while Jerusalem itself with its ardent reformers in the city, welcomed the changes for the most part, the country priests were reluctant to adhere to Josiah's dictates. They lost their importance as local priests, as well as their income, and were transformed to serve in minor posts in the Temple of Jerusalem. At the same time herdsmen began to make a good livelihood selling their oxen, sheep and other animals to the temple for ritual purposes, and Jeremiah was one of these. Not that he was a shepherd, but a dealer, and was well acquainted with business and trading. How well he was versed in legal terms may be seen in the document preserved in the Book of Jeremiah, Chapter 32, verses 7 - 17, when he bought property from his nephew in Anathoth, at a time when the Babylonians were attacking Judah.

Jeremiah thus began to preach under the influence of the reform of Josiah -- the destruction of the evil of worshipping false gods and the immoral practices associated with them. Like Hosea, he refers to Israel as the bride:

"I remember for thee the affection of thy youth,
The Love of thine espousals;
How thou wentest after Me in the wilderness . . . .
Israel is the Lord's hallowed portion,
His first fruits of the increase.
(Jeremiah, Chapt. 2, verses 2 & 3)

And then he goes on to complain: Saith the Lord;

. . . My people have committed two evils;
They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters,
And have hewed them out cisterns, that can hold no water."
(Jeremiah, Chapt. 2, verses 13 & 14)

Jeremiah meant that the people had forsaken the living God for idols. I made use of this imaging of God or "the fountain of living waters," in my own preachings when I came to Palestine to announce the glad tidings of the Father's Love. I used other material written by Jeremiah, because what he said was true and was applicable to my own preachings.

In the same way Jeremiah made use of Deuteronomy in its insistence that the believer in God need not be afraid to act or face trouble, for God was with him. Chapt. 1 verse 21, has Moses say. 'Behold, the Lord thy God hath set the land before thee; go up and possess it; as the Lord, the God of thy fathers, hath spoken unto thee; fear not, neither be dismayed." And later in Chapter 1, when the Hebrew exiles fear the Amorites, Moses is made to say: "Dread not neither be afraid of them. The Lord thy God who goeth before you, He shall fight for you, according to all that He did for you in Egypt before your eyes." Deuteronomy, Chapt. 1, verses 29 & 30. Thus did Jeremiah take heart to talk out against the idol. worshippers, and those priests of debased rites, even of his people in Anathoth, because he had faith in Deuteronomy and that the Father would help him to encounter and overcome evils. And Jeremiah wrote:

"Thou therefore gird up thy loins, and arise,
and speak unto them all that I command thee;
Be not dismayed at them . . .
And they shall fight against thee;
But they shall not prevail against thee;
For I am with thee, saith the Lord,
To deliver thee." (Jeremiah, Chapt. 1, verses 17 & 19).

And thus Jeremiah set forth to preach putting aside of the pagan and immoral rites and the worshipping of the Cananite and Assyrian gods, and he calls Judah the unfaithful wife who played the harlot. Thus Jeremiah took Hosea's attitude towards Israel as pertinent to Judah, and he saw as Hosea did, that God was the husband who loved with His Love, this erring wife:

"Surely as a wife treacherously departeth from her husband;
So have ye dealt treacherously with Me, O house of Israel,
Saith the Lord." (Jeremiah, Chapt. 3, verse 20).

And like the forgiving husband who still loves his wife and seeks only that she mend her ways to have his love, Jeremiah wrote with great power:

"If thou wilt return, O Israel, saith the Lord;
Yea, return unto Me; and if thou wilt put away thy
Detestable things out of My sight, and wilt not waver;
And wilt swear: As the Lord liveth, in truth, in justice,
And in righteousness; Then shall the nations bless them-
selves by Him, And in Him shall they glory.
(Jeremiah, Chapt. 4, verses 1 & 2).

But because the people do not return to the Lord, declares Jeremiah, they and the land will be destroyed. When he first wrote his tirades here, Jeremiah was thinking of the Scythians, but when their raids subsided without sacking Jersualem, he rewrote his verses many years later to conform to the Babylonian peril. Like Amos, he has a word for the overly dressed women and their arts of enticement:

And thou, that art spoiled, what doest thou?
That thou clothest thyself in scarlet,
That thou deckest thee with ornaments of gold,
That thou enlargest thine eyes with paint?
In vain dost thou make thyself fair.
(Jeremiah, Chapt. 4, verse 30).

As Jeremiah continued to talk to the common people in the market place, in the street of the Bakers, the gates of the city, and later when he lived in Jerusalem itself, he became increasingly aware of a situation which, as a resident of a small hamlet like Anathoth, he was unaware of and which affected him more and more deeply, the exploitation and the grinding down of the poor by the priestly class and the aristocrats of the city, and the relegation of the underprivileged to an inferior position as Hebrew citizens of Judah.

Jesus of the Bible
Master of the Celestial Heavens


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