October 10, 2019
What was the time frame, message, and hope of the prophet, Jeremiah?
Jeremiah, son of Hilkiah (Jer. 1.1), was from a priestly family in Anathoth, in the land of Benjamin, the smallest of the traditional tribes of Israel, and along with the tribe of Judah, the last of the descendants of Jacob and the twelve tribes which comprised the original united kingdom under David and his son Solomon.
His ministry began under Josiah, circa 626 BC, a reformist king of Judah, and along with Hezekiah, his predecessor by about 60 years, was afforded the approbation of the Deuteronomist redactor of the Hebrew Bible: "he did what was right in the sight of God and walked in the way of his father." (2 Kgs. 22.2). Both Hezekiah and Josiah honored Yahweh, kept his temple holy, and reinvigorated adherence to the Torah.
It can be said that Josiah listened to Jeremiah. The prophet's message was both in support of proper cultic practice and the work of God to give his people a heart of flesh, rather than a heart of stone—moral, ethical, and graciousness were all a part of Jeremiah's encouragement to the people and leaders of Judah.
After Josiah's death, Jeremiah witnessed a relapse of the Jerusalemite leadership into idolatry, immorality, and false judgment. The reading for this Sunday, Jer. 29.1, 4-7, written to the exiles on Babylon is an encouragement to the Jews to trust in Yahweh, go about your business, live fully into God's protection among the Babylonians, and wait until he will lead you back to Jerusalem.
Going with God and moving into his new creation was Jeremiah's advice. It would be no different today.