76 Sermons on the Old Testament

46 Jeremiah's Conception of a Moral World.


Jeremiah's Conception of a Moral World

I am here, Jesus:

Jeremiah and all interested in preserving the purified rituals of Jehovah and the atmosphere of better ethical conduct among the people were bitter as they saw Jehoiakim seek to do away with the great reforms of his father, Josiah. Imbued with his spirit of trust in the Father, as I have pointed out in previous sermons on this prophet, Jeremiah feared not the hostility of the King and spoke out against him with daring -- declaring that Jehoiakim would die like a dog, and without burial:

"Did not thy father eat and drink, and do justice and righteousness?
Then it was well with him. He judged the cause of the poor and needy;
Then it was well. Is this not to know Me? Saith the Lord.
But thine eyes and thy heart are on nothing but covetousness
And unlawful gain and on shedding innocent blood,
And on doing oppression, and violence.
Therefore, thus saith the Lord concerning Jehoiakim,
The son of Josiah, King of Judah;
They shall not lament him.
He shall be buried with the burial of an ass, drawn and cast forth
Beyond the gates of Jerusalem.
(Jeremiah, Chapt. 22, verses 15 - 19).

Now I wish to explain that Jeremiah thought the destruction of Jerusalem imminent -- for with Necho's defeat by Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonians could come up to attack Jerusalem without an Egyptian army on any of its flanks. But no direct attack developed, for the reason that no Hebrew troops had been sent to fight with Egypt against the Babylonians, for such a policy could not be successful in a land whose King had been slain by an Egyptian Pharaoh. However, Jeremiah was convinced that, despite the delays and postponements, the day of reckoning had to dawn in the fulness of God's time. Jehoiakim died in 597, or about the time the first investment of Jerusalem was begun. He died at the early age of 36, certainly unsung and unwept by the vast majority of the people, and the others, the high priests and the false prophets, as well as some of the aristocrats, were far too practical and indifferent to shed tears over him. That part of Jeremiah's prophesy concerning him was correct, but the fact is that he just did manage to die in time to be buried with his royal ancestors.

Jeremiah thought of God as the shaper of people and events, to be molded and redone as circumstances required. In Chapter 18, through his contact with the spirit world, he was told to "go down to the potter's house, and there I will cause thee to hear My words." (Jeremiah, Chapt. 18, verse 2). He did so, and beheld the artisan laboring at a jar-making device, so called the potter's wheel, in a stall at the Jerusalem marketplace. He saw the emergence of beautifully shaped vessels, but sometimes the jar might be marred in the process. However, the potter would remake the jar, more beautiful than ever, from the same clay.

Then the sermon came to Jeremiah from God. "O House of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the Lord. Behold, as the clay in the potter's hand, so are ye in My hand, O house of Israel." (Jeremiah, Chapt. 18, verses 5 & 6).

Thus God could pluck up or destroy a kingdom or nation, if evil, but if it repented of its evil, God could undo the work of destruction, repair and rebuild. In short, God's work of rebuilding and constructing of nations as of individuals was linked with moral purpose and deed.

In this connection, one of the meanings of the passage cited in Jeremiah, Chapt. 22, verses 15 & 16 is important and appears to have been overlooked by commentators. Here is the statement to the effect that material prosperity is not to be sought in doing the Father's Will. If a man does the Will of the Father and treats man with justice and righteousness; "Is this not to know Me?" said God, through the spiritual insight of Jeremiah. To Josiah 'be well with' did not mean physical or material well being, for Josiah died at the hands of an assassin. To be well with a person in the sight of God meant 'to be well with a man's soul, and the happiness of his after-life in the Spirit World, regardless of his fortunes or vicissitudes on earth'. Jeremiah did not express himself clearly here, even though he understood that a soul must face a bar of justice in some way after death, for as a prophet he was against making known any conception of a post mortal world to his compatriots, for he felt that man in his mortal environment must overcome evil and do the will of God and walk in the path of righteousness on earth, and thus he made no reference to a period of soul remorse in the Spirit World to atone for sin, but he has Jehoiakim eventually taken from his throne and dying before a normal span of life.

Jehoiakim, I said, reverted to the abominations of Manasseh and Amon, and Jeremiah spoke in the gates of the Temple and in a place called Topheth in the valley of Hinnom, to protest against rites and offerings to pagan gods and the practices of human sacrifices to Moloch, as I have mentioned, and his sermons became increasingly effective and violent - - and he predicted that as Topheth was a place of slaughter, so should Jerusalem be, with the carcasses of the people serving as food for the beasts and the scavengers, and he included the houses of the kings of Jerusalem. And on one occasion, as he came up from Topheth from a sermon there and came to the Temple court, predicting destruction upon the city, Pashur,* the son of Immer the priest, and chief security officer of the Temple, hit Jeremiah in the face, and his guards put Jeremiah in the stocks of the Temple in the north gate of Benjamin, where he languished until the next morning. This was serious punishment because of the strained and unnatural position of the body and the enforced immobility, and for a man in his late forties, a menace to his health.

In addition, this punishment made a spectacle of the victim to be laughed at and mocked by the public, among whom many were hostile to Jeremiah, especially the false prophets. On being released the next day by Pashur, Jeremiah launched into a severe tirade against the Temple officer, predicting his captivity and death in Babylon.

* Young's Concordance says: Chief governor of the house of the Lord in the days of Jeremiah - 605 B.C.

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