Spend a little time with Jeremiah and you’re likely to come away feeling depressed. Reading this book is a little like listening to Eeyore. Doom and gloom. Nothing but bad news on the horizon.
His perspective is certainly shaped by his context. The opening lines tell us exactly when Jeremiah was called into prophetic service. King Josiah was in his 13th year of ruling over Judah, which sets the date at around 627 BCE, more than 60 years after the end of Isaiah’s time as a prophet and nearly 100 years after the rest of Israel had already been taken into captivity. His ministry covers the last forty years of Judah’s independence, right up to the ransacking of the temple by King Nebuchadnezzar and the beginning of exile.
Reading through Jeremiah and Lamentations may be laborious at times, but you’ve already made it through Numbers, so this should be a piece of cake! If you listen closely, you’ll hear the sound of a man anguishing over the brokenness of his people. What pains him the most is the way they have casually dismissed the God who has always been faithful to deliver them. The reason it can be so depressing to read him is that he so desperately longs for them to wake up to reality.
In today’s chapters, we hear two different times that instead of making an honest assessment of the nation’s condition, priests and prophets are encouraging the people to merely put band-aids on the problem. The diagnosis from the Great Physician is that Judah is in a state of cardiac arrest. Their hearts are seriously diseased, but their spiritual guides are telling them, “It’s not so bad. You’ll be just fine” (Jeremiah 6:14, 8:11, The Message).
Against this backdrop, we see the importance of Jeremiah’s message. He is a lone voice of honesty in a sea of denial. Such is the nature of faithful following sometimes.