This brief look at the ministry of Jeremiah the prophet does not do him justice. There are many wonderful sermons in the Book of Jeremiah, all longing to be told. This lesson focuses on two main concepts: how we can become an iron pillar like Jeremiah, and how important it is to listen to the words of the living prophet.
The Iron Pillar
The term “iron pillar” is not a familiar phrase in today’s society. Iron used to be the strongest metal around. To be an iron pillar can also be compared to an iron rod. (Yes, like in the word of God kind of iron rod.) Things made of iron were unbending, unyielding, and solid. Let’s take a look at the verses where the Lord tells Jeremiah what he will do for Jeremiah if he accepts his calling as prophet. This is found in Jeremiah 1:17-19.
17 Thou therefore gird up thy loins, and arise, and speak unto them all that I command thee: be not dismayed at their faces, lest I confound thee before them.
18 For, behold, I have made thee this day a defenced city, and an iron pillar, and brasen walls against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, against the princes thereof, against the priests thereof, and against the people of the land.
19 And they shall fight against thee; but they shall not prevail against thee; for I am with thee, saith the Lord, to deliver thee.
Here is a summary of what God is telling Jeremiah. ‘Prepare yourself to speak to whomever I send you to, but do not be afraid of how they look or how important they appear to be, for many will be the priests of the temple and the kings of Judah. If you are afraid, and do not deliver my message, you will find yourself unable to say anything. You can do this because I have made you into a fortified city with walls of brass. You are like an iron pillar, against whom no one can win. They shall fight against you, but will not prevail against you, for I will deliver you.’ What a magnificent promise. Jeremiah was young, and considered himself to be little more than a child, so the Lord assured him he would be well protected from those who didn’t like what he would tell them.
When Jeremiah was called to be a prophet it was during the reign of a righteous king, and between the two of them they tried to clean up the kingdom. But the king died, and the next four kings were all as wicked as they come. Each of the new kings hated Jeremiah for the words he spoke against them and their people. At one point they were going to having him stoned for prophesying against the city of Jerusalem, but they were convinced that outright stoning of the prophet might not be the best move to make. Instead they kept him under house arrest or threw him into prisons and dungeons, and at one point a mire pit where he was left to die. When the king was told he was killing the prophet in the pit, he sent thirty men to pull him out. In their kindness they moved him instead into the prison. (I’m joking. That wasn’t much of a kindness, but it was still better than letting him die in the pit.)
So what was it Jeremiah was sent to tell them that they hated him for? It was simply that they were wicked, had turned away from their covenants with God, and that if they did not repent and return to Him they were going to end up in Babylon, and their country would be destroyed. One might think that if Judah was powerful that this might be difficult to imagine, but less than 100 years earlier the northern kingdom of Israel had been captured by the Assyrians and taken into the north countries. So they should have taken Jeremiah seriously, since now Babylon was the new superpower.
Despite all the warnings, the threats against his life, the years of imprisonment, and the harsh treatment by the kings, Jeremiah was faithful to his calling, delivered the message whenever he was told to, to whomever he was told to give it to, and was fearless in his representing the Lord. At one point he took a scribe and had him write all the prophecies he had received from the Lord on the scroll. Since he was under house arrest at the time, he sent the scribe to the king to read all the prophecies against Israel for their unfaithful behavior. The king listened to part of it then took a knife, cut it into pieces and burned it in the fireplace.
When the scribe returned to Jeremiah, he had the scribe get another roll of parchment, and he not only rewrote all that he had written before, but added more prophecies and denouncements against Israel to the long and growing list. No one was going to keep Jeremiah the prophet silent.
The Aftermath of Captivity
Sure enough, the kingdom was captured by the Babylonians. Jeremiah was, of course, in prison when it happened, and the captors let him go. After they had taken all the most important people back to Babylon the leader of the few left behind came to the prophet and said, basically, ‘God be the judge between you and us if we do not obey whatever you tell us the Lord wants us to do. We will obey whatever the Lord tells you to tell us.’
Ten days later Jeremiah went back to them and told them he knew of their deceit. They had already planned on going to Egypt anyway. He promised them that if they did go to Egypt that the war they were running away from would follow them to Egypt. If they went to Egypt, the famine they were running from would follow them there, and that the Lord would destroy them in Egypt. If they stayed and obeyed the word of the Lord, He would bless them and protect them and care for them. After all their promises to the Lord, they went to Egypt anyway. There they all died. Jeremiah was left to finish his ministry to the few, the poorest of the poor, who were left at Jerusalem.
When the Lord calls us to serve our fellow men, the road is not always easy. Many times we are sent into frightening situations that requires faith and explicit trust in the commandments of God. What the ministry of Jeremiah demonstrates for us is that the Lord chooses his servants for their capabilities. He knew Jeremiah and foreordained him to be His mouthpiece before Jeremiah was ever born. The Lord likewise knows all of us, and each of us has a work to perform in this life. Only the Lord knows what that work is, and we discover it as we are obedient to the assignments the Lord gives us, and as we fulfill them bravely, and with faith. By doing this we too become as an iron pillar, unshakable and unbreakable.
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