Jeremiah – A Prophet to the Nations
by John C. Westervelt
As Jeremiah’s story begins, God is speaking to him, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I sanctified you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
Thus began forty years of Jeremiah telling the words of God to the people of Judah. The people, ensnared in the seeming pleasure of sin, refused to honor God’s instructions. As is often the case, the messenger suffered opposition, beatings, and imprisonment, yet he endured.
A compassionate God instructed Jeremiah, “Roam to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, and look now, and take note. And seek in her open squares, if you can find a man, if there is one who does justice, who seeks truth, then I will pardon Jerusalem.”
The Lord told Jeremiah to proclaim in Judah, “Hear this, O foolish and senseless people, who have eyes, but see not; who have ears, but hear not. Do you not fear me?”
God’s words for His prophet always held out hope for the people if they would only repent. “For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly practice justice between a man and his neighbor, if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place, nor walk with other gods, then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers.”
Jeremiah confronted the people with God’s question, “Has this house, which is called by My name, become a den of robbers in your sight?” Six hundred and fifty years later, Jesus would ask the Jews this same question. Jesus’ repetition of this penetrating question propelled Him down the path to the cross.
In Jeremiah’s time the Lord declared, “I mourn, dismay has taken hold of me. Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there?” Jeremiah’s quotes to the people show that the Lord was getting discouraged with the prospects. “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil.”
Jeremiah was getting discouraged as well, saying, “Woe to me, my mother, that you have borne me as a man of strife and a man of contention to all the land! I have neither lent, nor have men lent money to me, yet everyone curses me.” The Lord reassured Jeremiah, “For I am with you to save you and deliver you.”
Jeremiah gave it his best effort, still the people refused to repent and follow God’s laws. As a last resort, God used Babylon to carry off the sinners into exile in 586 B.C. A remnant remained in Jerusalem, and another remnant returned after seventy years in Babylon.
Jeremiah remained in Jerusalem, and wrote five melancholy poems lamenting the destruction of the city and the temple. Interlaid among many depressing words of despair are a few words of hope, “The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Thy faithfulness.”
Just like Jeremiah, I’m concerned about the moral decline of my country. My greater hope is for revival and renewal, but if this doesn’t happen, I hope to be a part of the remnant.
Meanwhile, I am holding on to what Jeremiah shared from the Lord. “And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Copyright 2003 by John C. Westervelt
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