|But I was like a docile lamb brought to the slaughter; and I did not know that they had devised schemes against me, saying, “Let us destroy the tree with its fruit, and let us cut him off from the land of the living, that his name may be remembered no more.”|
~ Jeremiah 11:19 ~
Each book of the Bible is a special work of art, exclusively designed by its Author. But when a book brings us into the Holy of Holies and gives us an open view of God’s thoughts and emotions, we find ourselves awestruck by how deep His relationship with us runs.
Indeed, we find Him sharing our moments and bearing our pains, even before the Cross. While the Book of Jeremiah, which is the longest of all prophetic books in the Bible, is primarily visionary in nature, it also acts as a manual in establishing our relationship with God. While on the one hand it speaks to all the nations of the world, it also supernaturally addresses itself directly to our heart – from His heart to ours. And while it is strict in doctrine, we are nevertheless fascinated at how this powerful and omniscient God desires to transcend space and time and be our Friend.
EXPECT A MIRACLE
A study of this book is often neglected. Some find it very discouraging from a human standpoint given that Jeremiah obtains no measure of success in his ministry. Others complain of its non-chronological nature, often making its understanding somewhat confusing. But one should still approach it expecting a miracle. The Word of God has a fence of protection around it, allowing only those who are spirit-driven to unlock the door to its untold treasures. The key must be chiseled with humility and a fear of the Lord. In like fashion, we see a safeguard put around the Word when Yeshua speaks in parables to those who rejected Him; as He states, because it has been given to [the disciples] to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given (Matthew 13:11).
WAILS FROM THE WOMB
Rabbis have called Jeremiah the weeping prophet. They claim that he began wailing the moment he was born. Jeremiah’s deep sensitivity is the product of his love for others, in spite of the affliction and persecution that he withstood throughout his 40-plus years of ministry. Because of his willingness to surrender to God and his deep concern for others, the Lord chose him as the channel through which His feelings would be unveiled to a nation who would soon need to be greatly consoled. After all, the Book of Jeremiah is not really about Jeremiah; it is about God.
Likewise, if we are going to have an effect on the people around us, we first need to love them and feel their pains, even if they despise us. God only hires those who employ His mindset and techniques.
Jeremiah’s life of intense suffering reminds us of Messiah’s suffering. Few have endured as much as this man, except the Messiah Himself – and the reasons for the suffering, save the redemptive aspect, are similar, as both demonstrate a loyal love for God’s Word and an astute obedience to it. When it comes to suffering, many would vote Job as the greatest human victim. We should not forget, however, that although he suffered tremendously, Job was later rewarded with double blessings, including the blessing of many offspring. Jeremiah, on the other hand, was commanded by God not to have a wife or children who might otherwise be there to offer kindred support. In fact, both Jeremiah and the Messiah endured what we can say was a total rejection from the nation of Israel.
Jeremiah 44:16-17a marks the final response of Israel when they answered the prophet with these words: As for the word that you have spoken to us in the name of the LORD, we will not listen to you! But we will certainly do whatever has gone out of our own mouth…. After 46 years of earnestly being preached to, they finally said, We will not listen to you! That same spirit of rebellion is echoed in Matthew 12 when the nation of Israel rejected the Messiah and the message of God.
Despite being persecuted, both the Messiah and Jeremiah were steadfastly committed to reach those who continued to persecute them, despite the fact that they were both falsely arrested for sedition. In Jeremiah 37:11-13 we see that the prophet was confronted by the accusation, You are defecting to the Chaldeans! while Yeshua Himself, when delivered before Pilate, faced a similar indictment: We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, saying that He Himself is Messiah, a King (Luke 23:2). Both were accused of sedition, which denotes an insurrection against lawful authority. In this case, however, the authority was fallen man. They both fought alone. They both wept.
Both Jeremiah and Yeshua were kept away from the Temple compound (Jeremiah 36:5-6 and John 7:1) in order to safeguard their lives. They were both hidden and protected from the hands of the enemies in a most supernatural way. In Jeremiah 40:6 we read that the prophet went to stay with Gedaliah. When Gedaliah’s household was struck down and all the Jews who were at his home were also killed, we find that Jeremiah was left untouched. How did he escape? No further explanation is offered. Similarly, in John 10:39 when the people wanted to seize Yeshua, we read that He escaped out of their midst, even though many eyes had been fixed on Him. These supernatural escapes demonstrate the beauty of God’s overseeing of all things. This protection is extended into our own lives as we rest under the shadow of His wings. Even though circumstances barred them from the Temple, both Jeremiah and the Messiah nevertheless prophesied about its destruction. They were both involved in decreeing an irrevocable judgment of God. With Jeremiah, the judgment corresponded to the Babylonian destruction of Israel’s first Temple. This was repeated centuries later when Yeshua decreed the destruction of the second Temple by the Romans. Interestingly enough, both began their ministry 40 years before their respective Temples fell.
HUNG FOR A SHEEP AS A LAMB
Although we know the Messiah as the true Lamb of God, we also read how Jeremiah compares himself to an innocent lamb.
|But I was like a docile lamb brought to the slaughter; and I did not know that they had devised schemes against me, saying, “Let us destroy the tree with its fruit, and let us cut him off from the land of the living, that his name may be remembered no more.” Jeremiah 11:19|
Not only is he compared to a lamb going to the slaughter, but his people wanted to blot out his name so that he would not be remembered, something they attempted to do with Yeshua as well. The cry of going to the slaughter was not an example of self-pity. Jeremiah was beaten, as was the Messiah; and in Jeremiah 38:4, he was condemned to death.
|Please, let this man be put to death, for thus he weakens the hands of the men of war who remain in this city, and the hands of all the people, by speaking such words to them. For this man does not seek the welfare of this people, but their harm.|
Similarly, in Luke 23:21 the people declared their judgment: But they shouted, saying, “Crucify Him, crucify Him!”
A PITIFUL MOMENT
Jeremiah was at one point put into a pit – the Hebrew word for pit being bor, a word synonymous with Sheol (Psalm 30:3). The pit was an unused well and Jeremiah sank in the mire. In the Book of Lamentations, Jeremiah decries the darkness of this pit (Lamentations 3:4-6). His acute perception of Sheol brings him to utter words which the Messiah Himself could have said: My enemies without cause, hunted me down like a bird. They silenced my life in the pit and threw stones at me. The waters flowed over my head; I said, “I am cut off!” (Lamentations 3:52-54). The way this phrase I am cut off is constructed – that is, without a preposition, it refers to death and destruction.
While Jeremiah was almost cut off, the Messiah took upon Himself all the pain and hurt when in Isaiah 53:8. He is described as being cut off from the land of the living. But in spite of the pit, hope is heightened as Jeremiah says this in Lamentations 5:55-57: I called on Your name, O LORD, from the lowest pit. You have heard my voice: “Do not hide Your ear from my sighing, from my cry for help.” You drew near on the day I called on You, and said, “Do not fear!’”
Even in the deepest moment of despair, Jeremiah was never left to himself. This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness (Lamentations 3:21-23). And this is where God often meets us: in the oven as with Daniel’s three friends, in the lion’s den as with Daniel or in the pit as with Jeremiah. He may allow us to fall into it, but He will always be there to strengthen us. He did not save Daniel from the lion’s den, nor did He save his three friends from the oven, nor did He save Jeremiah from the pit. He saved them in the den, in the oven and in the pit.
NOT ONLY IN GIVING BUT IN RECEIVING TOO
With an anguished spirit, Jeremiah sacrificed and gave all that he could. But he received as well. In Jeremiah 40:5 we read that Nebuzaradan gave Jeremiah three gifts: So the captain of the guard gave him rations and a gift and let him go.
Jeremiah received three gifts: first, ration, which was food, second, he received a material gift, and third, he was let go. He was given freedom. Three gifts were given to Yeshua as well: these from the wise men. While the gifts were not the same – gold, frankincense and myrrh – these gifts represented the Messiah’s life and sacrificial death, all that was needed to give us all daily supplies, our daily ration and our freedom from the bondage to sin.
While he did complain to God, Jeremiah at no time lost his faith. But the pain which he experienced on behalf of his people reminds us of our Messiah’s anguish in the Garden of Gethsemane when He pleaded with God, O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will. Similarly, here is Jeremiah’s lament of burden from Lamentations 3:48-50: My eyes overflow with rivers of water, for the destruction of the daughter of my people. My eyes flow and do not cease, without interruption, till the LORD from heaven looks down and sees.
TO ISRAEL AND BEYOND. . .
And like Messiah, Jeremiah too was not a prophet exclusive to Israel. Read these powerful words in Jeremiah 1:10 where God extends his audience to include Gentile nations as well. See, I have this day set you over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out and to pull down, to destroy and to throw down, to build and to plant. Of course the full accomplishment of this prophecy would be the Messiah’s privilege alone to carry out.
WHO DO YOU SAY I AM?
Furthermore, we should not overlook the association the disciples made between Yeshua and Jeremiah. Matthew 16:13-14 says, When Yeshua came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” Perhaps Jeremiah was identified with the Messiah because Jeremiah’s life’s story reveals a suffering love for Israel, similar to the suffering love of the Messiah as seen in Isaiah 53. Perhaps this is how the connection was made.
PRIEST AND PROPHET TOO . . .
In chapter 1:1-3 we read that Jeremiah was the son of Hilkiah, a priest. Could this Hilkiah possibly have been the High Priest who ministered during the days of Jeremiah? Many commentators report that Hilkiah was too common a name to draw any concrete conclusions, however some rabbinical commentators, such as Kimchi and Abarbanel thought Hilkiah the High Priest was indeed Jeremiah’s father.
Hilkiah the High Priest was special in that he was the one who helped young Josiah secure power as king. He also found the Book of the Law, a discovery which was instrumental in bringing spiritual revival to Israel. Under the teaching of Hilkiah, Josiah grew close to God and became one of Judah’s most successful kings. May we then surmise that Jeremiah himself may have had that same godly parental influence? It is no wonder, then, that we find him so well-prepared at such a young age. Furthermore, if Hilkiah the father of Jeremiah was the High Priest, then Jeremiah could have then perhaps been next in line as High Priest. Imagine then, prophet and high priest. Not only would Jeremiah typify the Messiah through his prophetic ministry but also through His priestly lineage, holding the same two offices that Yeshua would hold before His Second Coming. Jeremiah was more than a prophet – his position in time and his lineage makes him unique in the history of the Bible.
BUT EACH ONE OF US MUST FALL AT SOME POINT . . .
Jeremiah typified the Messiah in many ways throughout his book, but he, like Moses and David, did fall as well. His fall is recorded for us so that our eyes should always be focused on the Messiah, and not on man. When did Jeremiah fall? In Jeremiah 37:20 the prophet’s life was in danger and he asks the king for clemency, Therefore please hear now, O my lord the king.
Please, let my petition be accepted before you, and do not make me return to the house of Jonathan the scribe, lest I die there.
How did the Messiah react in a similar situation? Yeshua never turned to the Romans and asked for a lighter sentence. He turned to God as we hear Him say in Mark 14:36: Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will. He turned to God and God only. No man is perfect that he could respond to everything in total righteousness. Yeshua came to fulfill all righteousness.
CALLED TO BE LIKE HIM. . .
Why did God allow Jeremiah to experience such turmoil, with a life patterned and paralleled with the Messiah’s? Because God took a man willing to forgo all the pleasures of this life, willing not to count the cost of a lost reputation and willing to bring a message of hope to a people who would inevitably reject his appeal. He took this man and gave him the mind of the Messiah, just as we, even now, are called to take on the ways of the Messiah. We are called to imitate His intentions and desires. We never suffer needlessly and neither did Jeremiah. Because God wrote this book for us, today we can be encouraged through Jeremiah’s life that we too may walk in rhythm with Yeshua. And though we walk the beaten path, we too must not fail to see God’s mercies and faithfulness every morning of every day.
Let’s conclude with this Scripture verse from Matthew 27:9: Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the value of Him who was priced, whom they of the children of Israel priced.” You will search the Scriptures, but to no avail because these specific words will not be found in any one specific place in the Book of Jeremiah. Why was this quote referenced to Jeremiah? Because while we might not find this specific verse, the whole of Jeremiah speaks of Him. And it was given to Jeremiah to present and reflect the heart of the Messiah throughout the prophet’s own life. The torch has now been passed to us.