However, this same God also sent prophets to warn His chosen people and the world that serious consequences would result if His instructions were ignored and His laws were violated (see Deuteronomy 28). This crucial aspect of biblical teaching has never been popular. Sadly, most of the warnings God sent through His prophets went unheeded—and millions suffered terrible consequences as a result. Our modern world would be wise to heed the biblical prophets,
because their warnings ultimately focus on the end of the age—the times in which we are living.
In fact, God's prophetic warnings are being delivered in this generation.
Some critics assert that the God of the Old Testament was a tyrant who delighted in destroying the world with a flood; they ignore the wickedness and corruption that humanity had embraced, and fail to see that God sought, for mankind's own good, to put a stop to its evil behavior (Genesis 6:5–13).
Before sending the flood, God sent Noah, apreacher of righteousness (2 Peter 2:5) to warn the world of what was coming.
Noah's warning message lasted approximately 100 years (Genesis 5:32; 7:6). This is consistent with the actions of a loving God. Scripture proclaims: "Surely the Lord God does nothing, unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets" (Amos 3:7). Even though God provided a warning for nearly a century, only Noah and his family (eight people) heeded the message.
Everyone else continued to "do their own thing," until it was too late and they perished in the flood (Matthew 24:36–39).
God later chose to work with the nation of Israel. He blessed the Israelites and gave them His laws so they could be an example to the world (Deuteronomy 4:1–8). However, the rebellious, independent-minded Israelites forgot God, violated His laws and followed other religions (Jeremiah 7:22–26). Out of concern for His chosen people, God sent a series of prophets to warn them that unless they changed their ways they would reap severe penalties, including disastrous defeats and foreign captivity. God's prophets were instructed to: "Cry aloud… tell My people their transgressions, and the house of Israel their sins" (Isaiah 58:1).
Evidently, Instead of heeding God's warnings, the Israelites ignored, mocked, persecuted and even murdered God's prophets. Isaiah was told: "Do not prophesy to us right things [uncomfortable truths]; speak to us smooth things" (Isaiah 30:10)—and was later cut in half by his own countrymen. Yikes- heavy! Jeremiah was threatened: "Do not prophesy in the name of the Lord, lest you die by our hand" (Jeremiah 11:21). He was thrown into a dungeon several times by his own people (Jeremiah 37:14–16; 38:6). As a result of violating God's laws and despising His prophets, the nations of Israel and Judah lost God's protection, were conquered by their enemies and were carried into captivity to Assyria and Babylon. They paid a heavy price for failing to heed warnings from God.
But how does this relate to us today? Many people who "love the Lord" do not seem to realize that almost one-third of the Bible is prophecy, much of which is dual—meaning that it had an initial, partial fulfillment in the past, but its ultimate fulfillment would occur even thousands of years later! Many prophecies concern, as their major focus, the events surrounding Christ's return at the end of this age.
About 90 percent of Bible prophecy concerns the days just ahead of us! This is a sobering thought that should get our attention.
Jesus not only commissioned His disciples to preach the gospel to the world (Mark 16:15), He also gave them a message for the "lost sheep" of the house of Israel (Matthew 10:6)—the descendants of Israelites who were carried off to Assyria around 721bc. These people eventually migrated to northwest Europe, Britain, America and other choice parts of the earth, where they were blessed by God because of promises He made to their forefather Abraham (Genesis 12:1–3). Jesus' disciples were to explain to Israelite nations why they were blessed, why they were chosen by God, and what consequences they will face for compromising or rejecting His laws and instructions.
Jesus also told His disciples
that this would
not be a popular message (Matthew 10:16–20).
Jeremiah the prophet lived in the final days of the crumbling nation of Judah. He was, appropriately, the last prophet that God sent to preach to the southern kingdom, which comprised the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. God had repeatedly warned Israel to stop their idolatrous behavior, but they would not listen, so He tore the 12 tribes asunder, sending the 10 northern tribes into captivity at the hands of the Assyrians. Then God sent Jeremiah to give Judah the last warning before He cast them out of the land, decimating the nation and sending them into captivity in the pagan kingdom of Babylon. Jeremiah, a faithful, God-fearing man, was called to tell Judah that, because of their unrepentant sin, their God had turned against them and was now prepared to remove them from the land at the hands of a pagan king.
No doubt Jeremiah, who was only about 17 when God called him, had great inner turmoil over the fate of his people, and he begged them to listen. He is known as “the weeping prophet,” because he cried tears of sadness, not only because he knew what was about to happen but because, no matter how hard he tried, the people would not listen. Furthermore, he found no human comfort. God had forbidden him to marry or have children (Jeremiah 16:2), and his friends had turned their backs on him. So, along with the burden of the knowledge of impending judgment, he also must have felt very lonely. God knew that this was the best course for Jeremiah, because He went on to tell him how horrible conditions would be in a short time, with babies, children, and adults dying “grievous” deaths, their bodies unable to even be buried, and their flesh devoured by the birds (Jeremiah 16:3-4).
Obviously, the people of Israel had become so hardened by the numbing effects of sin that they no longer believed God, nor did they fear Him. Jeremiah preached for 40 years, and not once did he see any real success in changing or softening the hearts and minds of his stubborn, idolatrous people. The other prophets of Israel had witnessed some successes, at least for a little while, but not Jeremiah. He was speaking to a brick wall; however, his words were not wasted. They were pearls being cast before swine, in a sense, and they were convicting every person who heard them and refused to heed the warning.
Jeremiah tried to make the people understand their problem was a lack of belief, trust, and faith in God, along with an absence of fear that caused them to take Him for granted. It is easy to be lulled into a false sense of security, especially when the focus is not on God. The nation of Israel, just like many nations today, had stopped putting God first and had replaced Him with false gods, those that would not make them feel guilty or convict them of sin. God had delivered His people from bondage in Egypt, had performed miracles before them, and had even parted the waters of the sea for them. In spite of all these displays of God’s power, they returned to the false practices they had learned in Egypt, even making vows to the false “queen of heaven,” along with performing the other rites and rituals that were part of the Egyptian culture and religion. God finally turned them over to their idolatry, saying, “Go ahead, then; do what you promised! Keep your vows!” (Jeremiah 44:25).
Jeremiah became discouraged.
He sank into a quagmire where many believers seem to get stuck when they think their efforts are not making a difference and time is diminishing. Jeremiah was emotionally spent, even to the point of doubting God (Jeremiah 15:18), but God was not done with him. Jeremiah 15:19 records a lesson for each believer to remember in those times when he feels discouraged: “Therefore this is what the LORD says: ‘If you repent, I will restore you that you may serve me; if you utter worthy, not worthless, words, you will be my spokesman. Let this people turn to you, but you must not turn to them.’” God was saying to Jeremiah, come back to Me, and I will restore to you the joy of your salvation. These are similar to the words penned by David when he repented of his sin with Bathsheba (Psalm 51:12).
What we learn from the life of Jeremiah is the comfort of knowing that, just like every believer, even great prophets of God can experience rejection, depression, and discouragement in their walk with the Lord. This is a normal part of growing spiritually, because our sinful nature fights against our new nature, that which is born of the Spirit of God, according to Galatians 5:17: “For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.” But, just as Jeremiah found, we can know that the faithfulness of our God is infinite; even when we are unfaithful to Him, He remains steadfast (2 Timothy 2:13).
Jeremiah was given the task of delivering an unpopular, convicting message to Judah, one that caused him great mental anguish, as well as making him despised in the eyes of his people. God says that His truth sounds like “foolishness” to those who are lost, but to believers it is the very words of life (1 Corinthians 1:18). He also says that the time will come when people will not tolerate the truth (2 Timothy 4:3-4). Those in Judah in Jeremiah’s day did not want to hear what he had to say, and his constant warning of judgment annoyed them. This is true of the world today, as believers who are following God’s instructions are warning the lost and dying world of impending judgment (Revelation 3:10). Even though most are not listening, we must persevere in proclaiming truth in order to rescue some from the terrible judgment that will inevitably come.
Jeremiah was one of the major prophets of the Bible whose life and sayings are collected in the biblical book that bears his name. His prophecies, among the most stark and pessimistic in all of biblical literature, were aimed as a rebuke Israel who had surrendered to idolatry and depravity. The English word “jeremiad,” which means complaint or lamentation, is a derivation of the prophet’s name.
The main source of information concerning Jeremiah’s life is the biblical Book of Jeremiah, which records that Jeremiah was born to a priestly family in Anathoth. His ministry began in the 13th year of the reign of King Josiah, who ruled the land of Judea in the seventh century BCE.
Jeremiah lived at a time of deep upheaval in Jewish history, most significantly the destruction of the First Temple in 586 BCE and the exile of the Jewish people to Babylonia. Much of the Book of Jeremiah is a lengthy tirade against the people for their faithlessness and ominous warnings of the destruction to come if they do not mend their ways. Jeremiah himself was scorned by the people to whom he preached, arrested, beaten and left in a pit. King Zedekiah, the last ruler of Judah, had him imprisoned for warning of the fall of Jerusalem. Eventually Jeremiah was exiled to Egypt, where he eventually died. According to Jewish tradition, Jeremiah was also the author of the Book of Lamentations, the sorrowful recounting of the destruction of Jerusalem that is read on the fast day of Tisha B’av.
The early chapters of the Book of Jeremiah are laden with imagery of death and dispersion. “The carcasses of this people shall be food for the birds of the sky and the beasts of the earth, with none to frighten them off,” the prophet warns in an emblematic passage. “And I will silence in the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem the sound of mirth and gladness, the voice of bridegroom and bride. For the whole land shall fall to ruin.”
Yet his was also a vision of hope.
Laced throughout Jeremiah’s prophetic warnings are promises that returning to God shall lead to divine blessings and that God will ultimately honor his covenant with the Jewish people. In one of the most famous passages in the Book of Jeremiah, the prophet buys a field as the armies of Babylon were laying siege to Jerusalem, a gesture that has come to represent hope in God’s faithfulness to his people. The later chapters of the Book of Jeremiah repeatedly reiterate God’s promise to redeem the people of Israel and restore them to their ancient land.