May I offer some advice? Get better acquainted with Jeremiah. We know him superficially from the preaching we have heard and the reading we have done. But I am urging that we come to know as intimately as possible this great prophet. Why? From him we can learn how to steadfastly serve God in a time of crisis, in a time of decadence and corruption, in a time of greed and stupidity, in a time when violence and vice seem to undermine society everywhere.

A priest of acute sensitivity and probing insight, Jeremiah started his public ministry under King Josiah, who was killed in battle with Egypt at Meggido. Four weak rulers came after him. Jeremiah served God during the darkest period of his people’s history—a period of degradation and tumult. The policies pursued by the government were woefully shortsighted and absolutely contrary to God’s will. The people zealously practiced their religion, which was little more than empty ritual. Paganism flourished. Egypt and then Babylon threatened to, and finally did, destroy the peace and security of Israel. Like a frail canoe caught in rock-studded rapids, the nation plunged headlong into defeat, and exile. Jeremiah in the midst of the tumult faithfully delivered Jehovah’s repeated warnings and entreaties.

But who listened as he pleaded and denounced and wept? Only a handful of people who feared God. Jeremiah was mocked, reviled, hated, and imprisoned. After the Babylonians smashed Jehoiakim, fellow Jews dragged him to Egypt. Undaunted, he stubbornly served God.

Chapter twelve describes the earlier days of the prophet’s ministry. Hated and hounded by angry neighbors in his own village, young Jeremiah became wary, discouraged, and bewildered. He turned to God ...

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