SOURCE FOR QUESTIONS
Jeremiah 16:1 through 25:38
KEY VERSE FOR MEMORIZATION
“O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the Lord. Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel.” (Jeremiah 18:6)
As Jeremiah gave the six discourses recorded in these ten chapters, he faced many challenges. Not only were the messages delivered to an unresponsive and rebellious people, but he also dealt with personal agony, pain, and discouragement.
The domestic lives of the prophets were often used by God as examples to the people. Chapter 16 opens with several of God’s commandments to the prophet regarding aspects of his personal life. Obedience brought loneliness, and Jeremiah became a social outcast.
In chapter 17, the prophet described Judah’s sins, and presented a series of meditations built around the theme of the heart. After appealing to God as his place of refuge, the prophet warned the people that disregard for the Sabbath was a sign of their rebellious and idolatrous spirit.
Chapter 18 begins a three-chapter discourse centered on the sovereignty of God. Jeremiah was commanded to go to the potter’s house for a spiritual lesson. God’s message was that if the people would repent, He would deliver them. However, the rejection of the prophet’s message was immediate, and the people formed a conspiracy against Jeremiah. Their hostility drove the prophet to the Lord, where he poured out his soul in what some writers describe as the bitterest prayer for vengeance recorded in the whole book.
In chapter 19, Jeremiah was commanded to shatter an earthen bottle to demonstrate the coming judgment and destruction. This was a sign that Jerusalem and its people would be broken because they had forsaken God, worshiped idols, desecrated the Temple, murdered the innocent, and offered their children to altar fires dedicated to Baal.
The reaction to Jeremiah’s pronouncement is recorded in chapter 20. Pashur, chief governor of the Temple, was so enraged at Jeremiah’s words that he had the prophet beaten and put in stocks until the next day. That night God met with Jeremiah and gave him a special message and a new name for Pashur — Magormissabib, which meant “terror on every side.” This was descriptive of the fear that would ultimately overtake Judah.
In chapters 21 and 22, the prophet gave a discourse directed against Judah’s rulers, addressing one king after another with dire pronouncements. In chapter 23, he denounced the false prophets whom he likened to shepherds that scattered the sheep. In verses 5 through 8 of this chapter, he contrasted the corrupt leaders of that day with the coming Messiah, giving one of the great Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament.
The prophet was commanded to offer another visual sign through the two baskets of figs, a vision described in chapter 24. The exiles in Babylon, who would receive God’s blessing, were represented by the good figs, while the rotten figs portrayed those who would remain with Zedekiah in Jerusalem.
The message contained in chapter 25 was a prediction of the Babylonian invasion and the captivity of the people of Judah.
SUGGESTED RESPONSES TO QUESTIONS
- What three otherwise acceptable activities did God forbid Jeremiah from participating in? (Jeremiah 16:2,5,8) What was the spiritual message portrayed by each restriction?
The prophet was instructed not to marry and have a family, not to mourn for the dead, and not to attend the ceremonial feasts.
By not marrying and having a family, Jeremiah was to be a living symbol of the coming judgment. His single and childless state provided a solemn warning to rebellious Judah that the children born into homes of that day would suffer terribly and die gruesome deaths.
He was not to mourn for the dead, as a sign that God had withdrawn His mercy and comfort from Judah. The coming judgment would be so terrible that the people would be unable to express their grief.
He was instructed not to attend the feasts of the people, portraying that there was no longer any cause for rejoicing. His absence also pictured the fact that God had long been unwelcome in the midst of the people, so His representative would also be absent from any time of festivity or gladness.
- Jeremiah used the metaphors of fishing and hunting (Jeremiah 16:16-18) to describe how God would violently punish the iniquity of His people. However, in the same pronouncement, the prophet gave a ray of hope. What was Jeremiah’s message of condolence? Jeremiah 16:14-15
Jeremiah’s message of comfort was that even though the people had been so stubborn and rebellious, God would still show mercy. The exiles would one day return to their land, and this return would be compared to the Exodus from Egypt.
Perhaps some in your class would be willing to share personal experiences of times when God gave them a message of comfort in a time of deep distress. In conclusion, you could point out that all of us have been recipients of a message of consolation — the knowledge of our opportunity to receive salvation through the Blood of Jesus Christ.
- Jeremiah faithfully and courageously delivered his messages about Judah’s sins, yet the people only hardened their hearts and stubbornly resisted God’s truth. Name at least three sins that the prophet pointed out to the people in Jeremiah 17.
The sins of the people were:
• Idolatry (verses 1-4). Even though God’s holy law should have been written on their hearts, they turned to other gods.
• Lack of trust (verses 5-10). The leaders of Judah trusted their political allies and leaned on the arm of flesh. Consequently, they made unwise decisions and plunged the nation into sin.
• Greed (verse 11). The rich exploited the poor and became richer.
• Forsaking the Lord (verses 12-13). God had not forsaken His people but they had forsaken Him.
• Rejecting God’s servant (verses 14-18). The people called Jeremiah a false prophet and continually asked when his predictions would come true.
• Profaning the Sabbath (verses 19-27). This was the day God had given to the Israelites as a special token of their relationship with Him. It was to be a day of rest for the people, and a time when they were to worship Him. Breaking the Sabbath revealed a rebellious spirit.
You might wish to follow up this question by pointing out that although the people did not accept Jeremiah or his message, God still honored him. Ask your class: How should we measure success? From a human standpoint, Jeremiah’s ministry was a failure, but from God’s perspective he was an outstanding success. We need more Jeremiahs in the world today who will denounce sin! For those who do, there is a price to pay but a crown to win.
- God had a special message for Jeremiah as he viewed the potter molding the clay. What two scenarios did the Lord present in Jeremiah 18:7-10? How could we apply these lessons today?
The first scenario presented was that if God threatened to judge a nation and the people repented, then He would not send the judgment. The second scenario was the opposite: If God promised to bless a nation, and the people did evil, then He would withhold the blessing and send judgment instead. The point made at the potter’s house was that just as the potter had power over the clay, God has sovereign freedom in His actions.
As your class discusses the second question, the point should be made that every nation is made up of individuals, and every individual has the choice to receive God’s Word or reject it. Unlike the clay on the potter’s wheel, we have the ability to resist. Discuss with the class the different “hands” God uses to mold us: godly parents, siblings, teachers, ministers, writers, etc. We can receive their messages or resist them. If we surrender, we surrender to His sovereignty, which is a blessing; if we resist, then we are fighting against God.
- In Jeremiah 19:10, the prophet was instructed to go once again to the potter’s house, this time to acquire an earthen bottle. What was he told to do with the bottle and what did his action illustrate? Jeremiah 19:10-13
Jeremiah took the bottle and broke it in the presence of the elders of the people and the priests. His action illustrated the impending disaster. As the bottle was smashed and could not be repaired, the idolatry-ridden nation would be utterly destroyed.
- The assistant to the high priest, Pashur, was angered by Jeremiah’s words, so he had Jeremiah arrested, beaten, and put into stocks until the next day. How would you summarize Jeremiah’s lament, as recorded in Jeremiah 20:7-16? When difficult circumstances come our way, how should we respond?
After facing such extreme persecution for his obedience to God, Jeremiah initially resolved to quit being a prophet and not even mention the Lord’s name again. However, the message of the Lord burned within him as a fire in his bones, and he could not hold it back. In verse 11, the focus of Jeremiah’s thoughts shifted to the greatness of God. His spirits rose and his faith took hold of God as he remembered that God sees the heart. Then he seemed to revert to despair and cursed the day of his birth.
Class discussion should bring out that when we face difficult circumstances, there is a natural ebb and flow of our human emotions. We can learn from Jeremiah that it is all right to pour out these emotions before the Lord. It will also be helpful to note that the direction Jeremiah looked made all the difference in his attitude. When he praised God and focused on the coming deliverance, his heart was uplifted. Your class should be able to enumerate other ways in which we can best respond when we face discouraging circumstances. These may include: meditate on God’s promises, sing a hymn, quote Scripture, reflect on past victories, pray for God’s help and strength, make a written list of the results of being discouraged and encouraged, do something for someone else.
- When King Zedekiah sent to Jeremiah to inquire whether God would grant deliverance from the king of Babylon, one could assume that a return to God was imminent. Instead of offering hope, however, the prophet made three pronouncements — one to King Zedekiah (chapter 21 verses 3-7), one to the people (verses 8-10), and another to the house of David (verses 11-14). What were these pronouncements?
The message to King Zedekiah — The Lord was angry, furious, and of great wrath toward His own people. Not only would He refuse to deliver the city from the enemy, but He would side with the enemy and bring Jerusalem to defeat. The king and the people would be given over into the hands of their enemies, who would show them no mercy.
The message to the people — A choice was set before them. Those who remained in the city would die by sword, famine, and pestilence. However, those who surrendered to the king of Babylon would be spared.
The message to the house of David — God reminded the kings of David’s dynasty of their responsibility to execute judgment and to uphold the rights of the weak and helpless. He warned them that His fury would be unleashed upon them if they failed to reign with righteousness and justice.
Follow-up discussion could focus on the great mercy of God. Repeatedly, He offered the rebellious people of Judah opportunities to amend their ways and turn back to Him. Ask your class how God extends mercy to people today. What are some parallels between the response of the people of Judah and the response of many in our society? Answers will likely include the thought that just as Judah refused to heed the warnings of the prophet, many today turn a deaf ear to God’s warnings of eventual judgment. Today, as in Jeremiah’s day, the response may come in the form of rejection of the messenger, persecution, defamatory remarks, ridicule of the message, etc.
- Chapter 22 relates the fate of four wicked kings: Zedekiah (verses 1-9); Jehoahaz, referred to here as Shallum (verses 10-12); Jehoiakim (verses 13-23); and Jehoiachin (verses 24-28). After Jeremiah had denounced all the leaders for the ruthless way they treated the helpless people, he introduced a King who would save Judah (see Jeremiah 23:5-8). Who was this King, and how would He reign?
The King (Jesus Christ) will be righteous and will rule justly, in contrast to the rulers of Jeremiah’s day who were exceedingly corrupt. The Northern and Southern Kingdoms of Israel will be reunited into one nation, and the people will live in peace and prosperity. This promise must have helped sustain the people during their difficult days of captivity.
Point out to your group of students that this passage is considered by Bible scholars to be one of the great Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament. The word translated branch in this passage has the meaning of “shoot” or “sprout.” The imagery is that of the stump of a tree suddenly bursting forth with new life, depicting the fact that the Davidic monarchy will ultimately live again when Christ, the seed of David, takes His place as the Messianic King.
- In chapter 24, God showed Jeremiah two baskets of figs. One basket contained very good figs and the other “naughty,” or rotten figs. What was the meaning of this vision?
The two baskets represented two different results from the same event. The people of Judah were to be sent into Babylonian exile. The good figs represented the exiles taken to Babylon. God promised to care for them, work in their hearts, and one day bring them back to their land. He would use the captivity to refine the exiles.
The bad figs represented those who remained in the land or fled to Egypt. These people would not profit from the exile, but instead would become bitter and rotten from the same event.
You might point out to your students that there were just two baskets — all the figs were either good figs or rotten figs. There was no middle ground. Times of trial and difficult circumstances will come to all. Do we let those sufferings refine us, making us good and usable to God? Or do we resist the trials that come our way, becoming bitter and resentful, and thus unusable to God? What steps can we take to make sure we respond as “good figs” in our times of trial?
- After hearing Jeremiah’s message for twenty-three years, the leaders and common people of Judah had the same response: resistance and rebellion. What did Jeremiah say would be the result? Jeremiah 25:11-14
Judah would be taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, and this captivity would last for seventy years. At the conclusion of the seventy years, God would punish Nebuchadnezzar by allowing him to be defeated by his enemies. (The fulfillment of this prophecy is described in Daniel 5, when Cyrus the Great conquered Babylon in 539 B.C. and slew the last Babylonian king, Belshazzar.)
Through the words of Jeremiah and other prophets, God had given His people repeated opportunities to admit their guilt and repent, but they refused. At this point in Judah’s history, it was too late.