The Circumstances of the Prophet

Discovery for Teachers

The Circumstances of the Prophet

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK

SOURCE FOR QUESTIONS
Jeremiah 34:1 through 45:5

KEY VERSE FOR MEMORIZATION
“It may be that the house of Judah will hear all the evil which I purpose to do unto them; that they may return every man from his evil way; that I may forgive their iniquity and their sin.” (Jeremiah 36:3)

BACKGROUND

Following the message of consolation contained in chapters 30-33, the Book of Jeremiah resumes the biographical narrative of the prophet. Proclamations are woven around the circumstances of the prophet during a span of time from approximately 607 B.C. to 586 B.C. This text covers Jeremiah’s experiences just prior to the fall of Jerusalem (chapters 34-36), during the fall (chapters 37-39), and after the fall (chapters 40-45), although events are not presented in a strictly chronological order.

Judah had continued in a state of rebellion against God, with idolatry and heathen practices taking place in the land in spite of repeated warnings from God’s prophets. God had been faithful and patient with His people, but the time for mercy had expired. The city of Jerusalem had twice been invaded by the Chaldean army, and a majority of the people had been taken captive to Babylon, along with many of the Temple treasures. As these chapters begin, the final collapse of the nation of Judah was imminent. The last two fortified cities of Judah, Lachish and Azekah, were about to fall (Jeremiah 34:7). The terrible penalty for sin that the prophet Jeremiah had foretold was coming upon the people.

SUGGESTED RESPONSES TO QUESTIONS

  1. Chapter 35 gives an account of the Rechabites, a nomadic people related to the Kenites and Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law. More than two hundred years earlier, their ancestor Jonadab had commanded his sons to stay away from any type of wine. How did God tell Jeremiah to test the Rechabites’s resolve to keep that instruction? How did they respond to this test? Jeremiah 35:2, 5-6

    God told Jeremiah to test the Rechabites by offering them strong drink. They refused to partake, citing Jonadab’s commandment. God contrasted the Rechabites’ steadfastness toward the commandment of their forefather with the unfaithfulness of Judah to the Lord.

    As a class, you might wish to compile a list of contrasts between the Rechabites and disobedient Judah. Following are some points that could be noted.

    • The Rechabites were given a commandment once, and faithfully obeyed it. The people of Judah were repeatedly reminded of God’s commands, and repeatedly disobeyed.

    • The Rechabites were given instruction by their earthly father. The people of Judah were commanded by the God of all creation.

    • Jonadab’s instruction was given two hundred years earlier. God’s pleading with Judah was current.

    • The Rechabites may not have suffered many repercussions if they had neglected their forefather’s wishes. To neglect God’s command has eternal consequences.

    Point out to your class that the commandment given to the Rechabites could have been considered a small thing, but God was aware of it and took note of their faithfulness. We can be sure that God is just as keenly aware of the “small” areas in our lives where we have purposed to be faithful to Him.

  2. In Chapter 36, God commanded Jeremiah to write down all the prophetic messages he had given, thus providing Judah with a written document that would reinforce his spoken words. In obedience, he dictated his pronouncements, and these were transcribed by Baruch, his faithful scribe. When King Jehoiakim heard the words of the book, he cut up the scroll and burned it. Yet he could not destroy God’s Word and God commanded Jeremiah to rewrite his words (see Jeremiah 36:27-28). What are some ways people may try to nullify or destroy God’s Word today?

    Some people ignore the Word of God. Others try to twist the Scriptures to fit their own philosophies. They may declare it to be a good book, but deny its divine inspiration. They may regard it as just another book about a religion. However they frame their rejection, likely the greatest way people try to do away with God’s Word is to deny its truth or validity. If God’s Word is not true, they can live any way they want, with no consequences. Yet God’s Word will stand forever, and it will be the standard of judgment in the final day.

    Ask your class to suggest ways in which we can respond to the arguments of those who would deny the validity of God’s Word. Some thoughts might include sharing our testimony, being armed with knowledge of archaeological confirmations, and tying events in the world today to end-time prophecies.

  3. King Zedekiah sent word to Jeremiah asking the prophet to pray to the Lord for the land. What information contained in Jeremiah 37:1-3 reveals the reason why God would not bestow His blessing upon the people, even though it was requested? What spiritual truth can we derive from this?

    Verse 2 indicates that neither the king, nor his servants, nor the people of the land hearkened unto the words of the Lord, as spoken to them by the Prophet Jeremiah.

    While several spiritual truths could be brought out based on this passage, focus on the fact that if we want God’s blessing, we must live in obedience to Him. Ask your class what it means to “hearken” to God. Discussion should bring out that it is more than focusing on an audible sound; attentive listening must also be accompanied by responding obediently to what is heard. God’s promises of blessing are conditional. King Zedekiah wanted God’s blessing, but was not willing to pay the price to obtain it. People today may call on God’s name and desire prosperity and blessing, yet not be willing to make a full commitment to Him. When we pay the price, God’s promises of blessing will never fail.

  4. Jeremiah’s message of coming destruction angered the princes of Judah, and he was put into a dungeon — likely a narrow cistern designed to catch rain water. He would have died except for the intervention of Ebed-melech, an Ethiopian. This man was willing to risk his life by asking for Jeremiah’s removal from the dungeon. (See Jeremiah 38:7-13.) What are ways we may have to take a stand that will not be popular or may cause us damage to some degree? What will be the results of taking that stand?

    Discussion should bring up a variety of possibilities. Those in school may find it difficult to bow their heads in prayer over their lunches. Someone working in an office may have to refuse to lie for the boss. Direct your class discussion toward the types of situations that may come up for the age group you teach.

    The one uniting factor for all types of persecution is the end result of blessing and victory for those who suffer for God. Ebed-Melech received God’s special blessing for his courageous act (see Jeremiah 39:15-18), and we will be rewarded too. We may pay a price in this world — some will suffer persecution, reproach, and estrangement from loved ones. Others have even paid the price of their lives. However, for those who suffer, there will be wonderful rewards in the end
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  5. God had not forgotten His promise to the prophet (see Jeremiah 1:8), and Jeremiah was freed from his bonds when the Babylonians overthrew Jerusalem. He was allowed to choose to go to Babylon with the exiles, or to stay in Jerusalem to care for the remnant there. What did Jeremiah choose, and why do you think he made that choice? Jeremiah 40:2-6

    Jeremiah chose to join Gedaliah, who had been appointed governor of Jerusalem, and to dwell in Jerusalem with the remnant of Judah.

    As your group discusses the second question, they should recognize that in Judah, the prophet would continue to face poverty and hardship, while if he had opted to live in Babylon, he would apparently have been well-treated. Scripture does not record the reason Jeremiah made the choice to stay, but we know he loved his homeland and had deep compassion for his people. Most importantly, we can be assured that he would have consulted God and received divine direction before making his decision. You might wish to note to your students that Ezekiel and Daniel were both in Babylon to minister to the exiles there, so it may be the need for a prophet of God was greater in Judah.

    You could follow up this portion of text by noting that Jeremiah faced difficult choices throughout his prophetic ministry. We, too, will face challenging choices in the course of our lifetimes. What might some of those decisions be? How should we approach those decisions and be sure that we have the Lord’s direction at such critical times? Class discussion should bring out that we need to approach major decisions with a great deal of prayer. We can ask godly friends to pray with us about the matter, seek the counsel of those in spiritual authority over us, and ask God to providentially open or close doors in order to guide us.

  6. Johanan was leading the remnant after the assassination of Gedaliah, the governor in Judah. He, the captains, and the people came to Jeremiah and begged for the prophet to find the will of the Lord concerning their plans for the future. (See Jeremiah 42:1-3.) Yet God knew they were asking with deceitful hearts and had no intention of following His way. After Jeremiah told them God’s will, they went ahead and fled to Egypt against the Word of the Lord. What were the consequences of their action? Jeremiah 44:7-12

    The people’s hearts were drawn even farther away from the Lord and toward additional heathen practices. The Lord had promised safety if they would stay in Judah, but at this point, He pronounced death and destruction to those who remained in Egypt.

    Ask your students to explain the danger of following our own way instead of God’s way. The point should be made that God alone knows the future and what is good for us. We will meet adversity when we step out of His will, but we will always be blessed if we let Him lead each step we take. The point could be made that if we are in the habit of staying in close communion with God at all times, not just when we face major decisions, we will be tuned in to His Voice and in a good position to get clear direction when the major issues come along.
     
  7. In chapter 44, Jeremiah made a final plea to the Jews in Egypt, but the people responded by saying they would do as they pleased (Jeremiah 44:17). They went so far as to say it was the heathen goddess they were serving who had blessed their lives with good in the past. These people were not ignorant of the God of Israel and His words to them. Based on this passage, do you think spiritual light can become darkness? If so, what causes that to happen?

    Class discussion should bring out that light certainly can become darkness. (You may wish to refer to Matthew 6:23 for a New Testament confirmation of this assertion.)

    As your class discusses the second question, they will no doubt bring out that one disobedience often leads to another. By disobeying and migrating to Egypt, immersing themselves in a heathen culture, the refugees’ minds became confused to what truth was. They began to believe it was not the God of Heaven who had been their Benefactor, but a heathen goddess. The point should be made that it is a risky thing to turn away from God’s truth in any way. Those who disobey and justify their actions can become confused as to what truth is. You also may wish to point your class to 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12, which states that God Himself will send a strong delusion upon those who do not believe the truth.

    A natural follow-up to this question would be to discuss how we guard our hearts against any deceitful influences. We cannot emphasize too often the importance of doing the things we know from experience will keep us strong in faith, such as reading the Word, praying often, and being in God’s house.

  8. Jeremiah is referred to as the weeping prophet because of his sorrow over the people’s rejection of God and the punishment that was coming upon the land. In the course of his prophetic ministry, he was beaten, ridiculed, starved, imprisoned, and forced to leave his homeland. Yet he was faithful to proclaim the word of the Lord. The people refused to listen or heed, yet Jeremiah kept on with his mission. What lesson can we learn from his life?

    While no doubt many lessons from the life of Jeremiah could be mentioned, lead your group into a discussion of how we can stay faithful and encouraged in our work for the Lord. There may be times when we feel weary from the responsibilities God has given us. Maybe we do not see the results we would like. Perhaps people reject us or ignore our attempts to reach out to them. Jeremiah’s life can be an encouragement to keep holding on and doing what we are called to do. Our job is to proclaim; the results belong to God. In Heaven we may be surprised by those who made it because of something we said or did in our faithful service to Him. One day it will be worth all of the heartache, sweat, and tears, for then we shall reap with joy.

CONCLUSION

Jeremiah faithfully warned the people to turn to the Lord and obey Him. We can be encouraged to faithfully fulfill our call from God and leave the results to Him. That is all He asks from us.