Earlier this year I began reading in the book of the prophet Jeremiah as a part of my not-quite-daily “quiet time”/“devotional time”/“time with the Lord” 1.
I’ve read through Jeremiah several times in the past but not spending time to pause and ponder 2. These days I would read something like 10 or 15 verses - maybe a third to half a chapter at a time and make some notes as I go. Sometimes these notes are observations or questions on the text. Sometimes they are prayers that form in my mind as I read and ponder. Sometimes I ask the Lord a question directly and make a note of the impressions (answers) that come to me as a result.
As I’ve been reading this time a number of verses and ideas have struck me from the first 6 chapters that I’ve read: These quotations are all from the New American Standard Bible which is a fairly literal translation (which trades readability for accuracy).
“Has a nation changed gods when they were not gods? But My people have changed their glory for that which does not profit. Be appalled, O heavens, at this, and shudder, be very desolate,” declares the LORD. “For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, to hew for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” (Jeremiah 2:11-13)
This imagery of forsaking fresh water to instead seek water from a cistern they have hand-hewn and which can hold no water is a strong one.
“The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule on their own authority; and My people love it so! But what will you do at the end of it?” (Jeremiah 5:31)
The idea here is in seeking wisdom and comfort from prophets who speak falsely, and priests who are self-serving. But the real indictment comes in the middle of the verse - “and My people love it so!”. How tragic.
“For from the least of them even to the greatest of them, everyone is greedy for gain, and from the prophet even to the priest everyone deals falsely. They have healed the brokenness of My people superficially, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ but there is no peace. (Jeremiah 6:13-14)
This quote picks up some of the same ideas as the previous one - that if prophets and priests speak falsely then they are peddling superficial and, ultimately, powerless beliefs and practices. The priests and prophets are declaring “peace”, but there is no peace because Babylon was bearing down on Judah and would take them into exile for around 60 years until their return under Cyrus of Persia in 539BC.
Thus says the LORD, “Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; and you will find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’ “And I set watchmen over you, saying, ‘Listen to the sound of the trumpet!’ But they said, ‘We will not listen.’ (Jeremiah 6:16-17)
Here the Lord exhorts the people of Judah to seek the ancient paths (relationship with God) and, on finding them, to walk in them. But we see more rejection when the people respond “we will not walk in it”. A second exhortation is to listen for the warning sounds of the watchmen’s trumpets, but the response is similar “we will not listen”.
Jeremiah is sometimes described as the weeping prophet because his people rejected the Lord’s message that Jeremiah was sent to proclaim. The painting of him in the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo portrays some of that weight.