It occurred to me the other day that I don't actually know all that much about the bible.
Dont get me wrong, I was a very dedicated and studious Jehovah's Witness and I studied the bible every day - or so I thought. I have now realised that during the time I spent in that religion I didn't study the bible - I studied Jehovah's Witness theology. I saw the bible and religious history through the preconceived ideas of this organisation. If someone was to ask me to explain one by one the teachings of Jehovahs witnesses with biblical support I could easily do it, quoting multitudes of verses. But if someone was to ask me about what a certain book of the bible teaches, the time period it was written in, the people who it was given to, the themes contained within, etc I wouldn't stand a chance.
This brings me to my subject title - the book of Jeremiah. I have no idea about what this book is about. I never used it on the platform or in my preaching, can hardly ever remembering it being used at the meetings, and so decided last night, that now I am free of watchtower clutches, to read it and see what it says fro myself.
So how would I summarise the book of Jeremiah?
It is a long, long, long, boring book, filled with nothing but Gods judgement and denunciations against Israel and Judah, and all the nations from Babylon to Egypt. That is all there is in Jeremiah. Gods anger against the people of the land.
Now I used to believe that the bible essentially came from God. When I went on field service I used to say to people that if you believe it's the word of God why would you not want to read it? This has come from the God who made the whole universe, you should be enthralled by it. Not only that by if God gave me a book he had wrote I would expect to read some amazing things.
What a disappointment the book of Jeremiah proved to be in that regard. 52 chapters of God saying he wants to destroy everyone. I had to pinch myself so many times to keep myself awake. Has this really come from God? Is this really what he wanted to include in the bible for my instruction? Did this fill me with awe and wonderment about my great God?
I'm getting off the point. I wanted to share with you guys the highlights of Jeremiah that I found of interest to me. There is not many. As I said, the whole book is God telling Jeremiah to tell all Israel, Judah and surrounding nations they will be destroyed. That really is it. No joke. But here are my highlights.
Jeremiah 8:8. "How can you say we have the law of Jehovah? For in fact the lying stylus of the scribes have been used only for falsehoods." How interesting to note here that in Jeremiah's day the law of Jehovah had been falsified so much. How long had this been going on for? Can we really trust the law of Jehovah that we have received today as recorded I'm the bible when the falsifying of the law of Jehovah seemed common place?
Jeremiah 10:12. This verse describes God creating the earth and heavens. Of course no mention of Jesus being used to create it. This is a thought becoming more apparent to me. Jesus was there fit at the beginning. According to JW belief God created Jesus first and spent years together before creating anything else. Then God uses Jesus to create everything in the heavens and in the earth. we were always given the impression of just how important Jesus was, before his death and after it. Yet the Old Testament and the Israelite religion is completely silent on the matter of Jesus. Even the Angel Gabriel is more well known than gods first creation, his son, Jesus.
Jeremiah 10:23-25 Jeremiah here pleads with God not to destroy his people. It reminded me of Abraham pleading with God not to destroy sodom and Gomorrah I find it amazing how imperfect humans have to plead with God for him to to show love and mercy. An imperfect man like Jeremiah showed more compassion and love than did God despite his very being being love as taught in the gospel of John - God is love. Would you not expect a God of love who is perfect to plead the case for love and compassion to an imperfect human who wants people destroyed instead of the other way around? In fact, God actually tells Jeremiah in chapter 7:16 to not "pray for them, do not offer s prayer or plead with me in their behalf." What a far cry this is from turn the othe cheek and to love your enemies and to pray for those persecuting you. What a difference we have here. In fact, later on in chapter 11 verse 20, after Jeremiah received some persecution he know agrees with jeovah to destroy the lot of them! Is this really the message God wants me to adopt? Is this really what he want to teach me?
Jeremiah 13:14 - "I will smash them against each other, fathers and sons alike." By this point after reading 13 chapters of how God is going to kil everyone you become numb to it. God is vengeful, I get it. He wants to Destroy everyone, I get it. But it's the language that God uses. In this case he says he will smash family members against each other. Is it not enough to say I will destroy you all if you don't repent? But describing exactly how you will do it to fine detail, doesn't this show someone who loves violence? Who seems to take delight in thinking and devising ways to punish his people? A God of love?
Jeremiah 26:20-23. poor Urijah. He, like Jeremiah was a prophet from God preaching gods judgment. This message of judgment and destruction was not easy. But God assured Jeremiah that he would come to no harm. But what about Urijah? Because of his judgment message the people had him killed. Where was God? That man never expected to be a prophet. But God chose him like he chose Jeremiah. But God promised Jeremiah he would be kept safe. Why didn't God keep Urijah safe? Can he only keep one person safe at any one time? Maybe Jeremiah was to busy getting into trouble that Urijah went ignored? You would expect at the very least if God chose you to prophecy a judgment message that you would be kept safe, especially when he keeps other people safe. What did Jeremiah have that Urijah didn't have? Why the inequality? The message I got from this was don't accept an assignment from God unless he promises you assurance that he will keep you safe.
Jeremiah 14:13-16. Prophets. There were two types. The ones sent from God, like Jeremiah, true prophets, and the false prophets. The one is preaching judgment and destruction. The other is teaching peace and security. Both claim to be from the true God. Now, imagine for the moment you are an Israelite. A prophet comes up to you. He says he is from the true God and that you have sinned and need to repent or you will be destroyed. Another prophet come to you and says he is also from the true God. He has seen your deeds and ha sort.aimed good things for you. Now, who do you believe? They can't both me true as their messages conflict. Only one is true and one is false. How could you tell the difference? First off, God has never spoken to you personally. So maybe you are sceptical to begin with in the belief of a God. But two people come to you saying that God gave them a message which is meant for you. Wouldn't you question why God gave them this message instead of giving it directly to you? God is all powerful and could easily give the message to the person it is intended to. But also you would find it made that people were hearing from God. Joseph smith, the founder of the ,after day saints, the Mormons, proclaimed that God sent to him an angel and gave him golden tablets. God apparently used him as a prophet. Yet how many of you reading this believes that this actually happened? How many of you have said instead that he was nuts. Would you, as the imaginary Israelite not think similarly at the time of Jeremiah?
But there is a way, biblically, to distinguish between a true and false prophet. Deuteronomy 18:20-22 gives us the answer. It says that if the word the prophet says doesn't come true then it hasn't come from God. So the way to tell if a prophet is true is to wait for the outcome. Think about how stupid that it is. There is no way of telling who the true and false prophet is until you wait for their message to come true or not. In the meantime there is no way of telling. If you had to make a choice before the outcome happened the there is a 50% chance of believing in the wrong prophet and thus receives gods judgement. Imagine again being an Israelite in jeremiahs time. The Babylonians have just chained you up to take you into exile. Oh yeah! Turns out Jeremiah was the true prophet after all. So I do need to repent and change my ways - oops to late now! If you have to wait for the outcome to know for certain who is a true prophet and who is a false prophet it could cost you your life. Does this not seem unfair? Could not God make it more obvious which prophet is true or not? Especially if time is needed for repentance to be made in order to avoid destruction? If you decided to chose between the two prophets what would God think to your listening to the wrong one? Is it really your Fault? Jeremiah 25:3 mentions that Jeremiah had been prophesying destruction for 23 years. 23 years! And during that time his message hadn't materialised. Imagine if you were 20 years old and you heard this message of destruction. You the have a child. During those next 23 years the child grows up and has a child of its own whilst Jeremiah continues to proclaim his message. Would you not think he was a false prophet as he has been prophecying for so long with no fulfilment?
Clearly, the biblical identification of a false and true p roper leaves a lot to be desired. And this way of identification apparently comes from our great and wonderful God can create the intricacies of atoms to galaxies yet cannot give mankind a better way of identifying false prophets?
Jeremiah 31:15. "Rachel is weeping for her sons". Yes we know this well. We read in Matthew of the slaughter of all young boys under the age of two. The writer of Matthew in chapter two, goes on to say that the scripture of Jeremiah of Rachel weeping for her children is fulfilled in that day. Really? Really?! This has to be one of the biggest misuse of scripture which has been used in order to provide Old Testament support to Jesus being the messiah. Read the context of Jeremiah 31. The whole nation of Israel and Judah have been destroyed and taken captive. They are now in Babylon. The symbolic Rachel is indeed at that time weeping for her children for they are captives. But then! In the very next verse God says "stop weeping! They will return!" God then promises they will return to their homeland and enjoy blessings. Did this happen - yes! They were set free after Babylon was destroyed and returned to their homeland. Rachel wept no more. Why on earth did the writer of Matthew believe this is a prophecy for the first century in regard to the death of children under the age of two? Even if this scripture was meant to be fulfilled in Jesus day, what about the part which says that Rachel needs to stop crying for they will return to their homeland? How was this part fulfilled in Jesus day? We're these children returned by the soldiers somehow? Were they resurrected by God or Jesus? No. They did not return. Why take one part of this prophecy and apply in hundreds of years later and not take the other part? This is a first century example of Old Testament scripture being taken out of context to try and support a different theology. I could do that. I could claim to be the messiah and pick random verses all over the Old Testament that I could fulfill. Here's one for you, in the same chapter of this Rachel prophecy, 31:30 - any man eating sour grapes will have his teeth set on edge. I will now go out and find some sour grapes and set my teeth on edge and then claim to have fulfilled scripture and so I must be a prophet or if not the messiah himself! Can you see how ridiculous this concept is?
This concludes my highlights of Jeremiah. This post was way longer than I ever intended. This has also given me an opportunity to reflect on what I have read to make sure I remember these points for future reference. If you have stuck with this post and read it in its entirety then I applaud you! Don't think I could have done the same. 😀