Prophet to A Dying Culture (Jeremiah 20; Jeremiah 21)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 20; Jeremiah 21

Jeremiah 19

Jeremiah had purchased a clay bottle at the potter’s house (19:1) and summoned the elders of the city of Jerusalem (the leaders of the city and the priests) to meet him in “the valley of the son of Hinnom” (19:1-2). As we have noted in earlier Scripture readings, that valley was notorious for idolatry, and most infamously, the people sacrificed their sons and daughters, which is prohibited among God’s people (19:3-5).

The Valley of Slaughter (19:6-9)

Condemning the wickedness of the people, Jeremiah declared, “the valley of the son of Hinnom” would be known as “the valley of slaughter” (19:6). That valley would be the site of mass killings as the army of Babylon lay siege to Jerusalem, and the bodies of the dead lay mutilated on the ground, being carnage for birds and beasts (19:7-8). The suffering and hunger of Jerusalem would move the starving to turn to cannibalism (19:9).

A Symbol of God’s Judgment: Breaking the Clay Bottle (19:10-15)

Announcing God’s judgment in dramatic fashion, Jeremiah was instructed to “break the bottle in the sight of the men” (19:10).  The shattered clay vessel was an undeniable object lesson that what God would break, could not “be made whole again” (19:11). Jeremiah declared the bodies of the dead would be buried, until there would be “no place to bury” (19:11), and the name of Jerusalem would be “Tophet,” meaning “garbage dump” or pile of ruins (19:12).

Jeremiah departed from meeting with the elders of the city, and made his way to the Temple, where he declared in the Temple court: “15Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will bring upon this city and upon all her towns all the evil that I have pronounced against it, because they have hardened their necks, that they might not hear my words” (19:15).

Jeremiah 20

Rather than repent, the elders were enraged with Jeremiah, and one named “Pashur,” the son of the chief priest, and Temple guard, beat Jeremiah and put him in stocks in the prison (20:1-2).  Rather than silencing the prophet, the persecutions emboldened him to prophesy against Pashur and identify Babylon as the nation the LORD would send to slay and take the people captive (20:3-6).

Jeremiah’s Response to Persecution (20:7-10)

Jeremiah had boldly declared the Word of the LORD, and warned the people of God’s imminent judgment, but we are also reminded the great prophet was human and prone to struggle with insecurities and discouragements that plague all who serve the LORD (20:7-18). Jeremiah began to question his call to ministry (20:7), and in private struggled with the personal attacks and injustices he suffered (20:8).  The prophet’s state became so pathetic, he determined to resign as God’s prophet (20:9). Sensing the prophet’s discouragement, his enemies defamed him, and accused him of wrongdoing (20:9).  Even his friends and family (“all my familiars”) opposed him (20:10).

Jeremiah’s Prayer and Confidence (20:11-13)

Like all men, Jeremiah was given to mood swings, but when his thoughts and meditations turned to the LORD, his passion for serving the LORD was restored (20:11-13).  With his faith renewed, and his confidence the LORD would vindicate Him (20:11-12), Jeremiah’s despair turned into songs of praise (20:13).

Closing thought – Every believer can identify with Jeremiah’s times of discouragement and doubt. I have learned that trials and sorrows often follow on the heels of spiritual victories. I do not enjoy trials; however, I have learned God is faithful and just, and He will take me through troubles and sorrows (1 Corinthians 10:13).  In the words of Nehemiah, “the joy of the LORD is your strength!” (Nehemiah 8:10)

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Jeremiah 21

The introductory verses of Jeremiah 21 give us the time and setting of the chapter, for it was when Zedekiah was king in Judah (21:1). Jeremiah had prophesied, and warned the king of Judah and the people of Jerusalem how the city would fall to “Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon” (21:2). Perhaps it might be said that Zedekiah made a “last ditch effort” to ask the prophet to appeal to the LORD for a reprieve of His judgment (21:2).

Yet, the time for repentance was past, and God’s judgment against Jerusalem and Judah were determined (21:3-4).  The LORD declared He would Himself “fight against” His people, and they would not be pitied (21:5-7).

The Dilemma of Two Ways (21:8-9)

Jeremiah counseled the people to surrender, for if they did not, they would die by the sword, famine, and some would be captives (21:9).  The prophet warned that God had set Himself against the city, and “the king of Babylon…[would] burn it with fire” (21:10-14).

Closing thought – Taking the threat of God’s judgment from the streets, the LORD commanded Jeremiah to go to the palace (21:11). Standing before king Zedekiah, the prophet admonished the king, and declared his oppression of the poor and needy demanded God’s judgment, and the fires of the LORD’s wrath would destroy everything (22:12-14).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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