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15th June

Jeremiah 1-3; Psalm 11

Bible in a Year
6 minutes
In this article
15th June

Jeremiah 1-3; Psalm 11

Bible in a Year
6 minutes

Jeremiah Overview

Making our way back to the prophets, we’re now going to look at the prophets during exile. Jeremiah is on the border of this. He was alive when the exile first happened, and so much of his prophetic words were to Israel warning them of the exile was about to happen. He was, in fact, kidnapped and taken to Egypt after Jerusalem was sacked. This makes him a perfect bridge to take the ideas of the pre-exilic prophets into our reading of exilic prophets.

Like many of the pre-exilic prophets, the book of Jeremiah is a collection of Jeremiah’s sermons, preaches, and poems gathered together. We even get mention of Baruch, the scribe that Jeremiah used to compile these writings together (Jeremiah 36).

Jeremiah 1-20 - Jeremiah’s calling and accusations against Judah

Jeremiah 21-39 - Jeremiah’s ministry to Judah up until the fall of Jerusalem

Jeremiah 40-52 - Jeremiah’s ministry after the fall of Jerusalem

The themes of Jeremiah are much of what we’ve seen before in the pre-exilic prophets. God is going to bring judgement on his people for breaking their covenant, worshipping other gods, and allowing injustice to reign. He will use the nation of Babylon to bring judgement on them. But he will restore a remnant of his people, who will be led by a descendant of David. He will renew his people and restore them, and then he will punish the wickedness in all nations, including Babylon.

Jeremiah 1-3

The book opens with Jeremiah's call to ministry. God points out that he had planned this before Jeremiah was even born. Like Moses, Jeremiah suggests that he's not a very good speaker, this time blaming his age. Again, like Moses, God encourages Jeremiah, insisting that God will be with him and will protect and support him as he speaks. He charges Jeremiah with his mission, "to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant." (Jeremiah 1:10). All that is corrupt needs to be weeded out and destroyed.

But the point isn't to just stop there. Jeremiah is to help replant and lay the foundations of Judah after they've been exiled, giving them a hope for the future. God then gives Jeremiah two visions. The first is of an almond branch, one of the first trees to bud in spring. God declares that he is watching over his word, the metaphor being that it will quickly flower and bear fruit. The second is more ominous. Jeremiah sees a boiling pot to the north. This pot is the foreign, northern tribes that will soon come down to siege and destroy Judah. God warns Jeremiah that the people of Judah will fight against him whenever he brings God's word. But he does not need to worry, because God is with him and will protect him.

And so Jeremiah begins his ministry. He first focuses on the people's early relationship with God. Back when the two kingdoms were one under the name Israel, and they followed God into the promised land. Israel was like the young new bride of God. Loyal and faithful. But that quickly changed. The people forgot about God and started chasing after the foreign gods or their own wickedness. They never stopped to think about the God that had rescued them. Instead, they took the promised land that God had given them and corrupted it.

So God has set himself up against them, because they have started following other gods. It is not enough that they have abandoned him, but they have also chased after other gods. Not only that, they've also gone to the wicked nations such as Egypt and Assyria, rather than trusting that God would protect them. God himself had rescued them from oppression in Egypt. He made them pure and new, setting them up in their own land, and yet they have now become impure. They pretend to wash themselves with soap, but are morally unclean. God likens them to wild donkeys on heat, looking for anything to satisfy their lusts. Just as a thief is shamed after they have been caught, God will shame his people. They will try calling out for help, but their idols and false gods will not come to save them.

God then picks up on the imagery of a man and his wife, saying, "If a man divorces his wife and she goes from him and becomes another man’s wife, will he return to her?" (Jeremiah 3:1). This is drawing from Deuteronomy 24:1-4. The law said that if a man divorces his wife, and she marries someone else, and then divorces that man, she could not go back to her original husband. This was likely to stop wife-swapping. God uses that imagery here. His people were once married to him, but they cheated on him, chasing after the foreign gods. How could God once again take them back now?

Let's be clear, the people could always be forgiven. But as we continue through the Bible, the people of Israel and Judah never really fully return to that closeness of relationship that they once had with God. This is why in the New Testament we see God make a new bride for himself. God challenges them for their behaviour, for their adultery that has polluted the land. This is the reason that God has held back his blessing.

God compares the two kingdoms, Israel and Judah. To modify the metaphor, it was like his original wife had been replaced by two sisters, both married to God. Judah had watched as her sister Israel had affair after affair, chasing after the foreign gods of the other nations. She watched as God sent Israel away into exile, divorcing her.

Yet despite this, Judah never learnt from her sister's mistakes. Instead, she too committed adultery, chasing after other gods and not being faithful. God then calls out to the exiled nation of Israel and calls them back. He encourages them that if they learn from the mistakes and repent of their wickedness, God will gather them together and restore them. He will protect them and provide for them. He will restore Jerusalem as his holy city and he will once again join together Israel and Judah into one nation.

Coming back to his message to Judah, God mentions he had hoped that Judah would have learnt from Israel's mistakes and remain faithful. But instead, they chose an adulterous, perverted path, forgetting God. Because of this, the people of Judah will be reduced to shame.

Psalm 11

This psalm is attributed to King David and fits into the category of trust psalm. These psalms sing of confidence in who God is.

Psalm 11:1 - The Lord is our refuge

Psalm 11:2-3 - False claims on what happens to the righteous and the wicked

Psalm 11:4 - The Lord rules on high

Psalm 11:5-6 - The truth on what happens to the righteous and the wicked

Psalm 11:7 - The Lord is righteous

The psalmist is clearly going through some struggles because they feel the need to take refuge in the Lord. But the focus isn’t on those struggles. It’s firmly on God.

So much so that he challenges the claims of others, who tell him to flee because their enemies are preparing to take them out. He challenges the idea that the wicked are the ones in control, and that the righteous have no foundations or strength to stand on.

God is on the throne. He sees all things. He is in control, not the wicked. Yes, he might test the righteous, to see if they are true, but it is the wicked he will punish and deal with. God is righteous, and he will take care of those who are upright before him.

In Psalm 9 and Psalm 10, we saw two different ways of bringing God our problems. Start with praise or end with praise. Psalm 11 gives us a third option. Sometimes, it’s not even worth giving our problems the time of day. Instead, we’re better off just grounding ourselves in the foundation of the goodness of God. In these situations, our prayers are praise all the way through.

Having looked at these three psalms, you may feel like there’s a particular route you prefer, and that’s fine. But make sure you don’t completely ignore the other two. Each one is beneficial in different ways.

If you decide you are only ever going to praise, then your heart never really gets to lament. But by the same token, spend too much time on lament and you lose the will to praise.

Anything you think I've missed? Maybe you've got a question that still needs answering. Send me a message over on my Instagram (@brynjoslin). I'd love to talk it through with you some more.

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