Jeremiah lived during a time of geopolitical turmoil when Israel, a small nation caught between three of the world's great political and military powers, felt vulnerable and forced to choose sides. The right answer, they should have known, was to trust God. But instead they vacillated, looking first to one and then another, trying to predict which of the three nations would win.
But, Jeremiah tells us, this wasn't the most pressing issue they faced. Israel was a mess from the inside out. Led by wicked, incompetent leaders more interested in enriching themselves than wisely leading the nation, they made mistake after mistake. And the people were no better. Disobedient, they had abandoned God to pursue the gods of their neighbors. Social injustice was everywhere with the most vulnerable among them-the poor, widows, orphans and immigrants-neglected and mistreated. And to make matters worse, they acted as if nothing was wrong.
Many years before, God made a covenant with the people of Israel: worship and obey me and I will keep you safe in the land I have given you; but if you don't, there will be consequences. Now after decades of rebellion, God, who once seemed endlessly patient, has reached the end. He tells Jeremiah to give the people one final chance to repent of their idolatry, social injustice and empty religious ritualism. If they do, he promises to protect them from their enemies and restore them to their former glory. If they don't, well, heads will roll.
What makes Jeremiah so interesting are the rich psychological and spiritual insights we have into this complex and fascinating man. Given a very difficult job, Jeremiah spent forty years telling the people what God wanted them to hear and in the end, had virtually nothing to show for it. And yet two and a half millennia later, his timeless message speaks to us today. Won't you join me these next few months in reading this very old, but surprisingly meaningful, book?