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  • Apostle Nona Parker

Jeremiah was set aside before birth to take a message to the nations, urging a change of heart and turning to the one true God. His message still applies.

Jeremiah, the son of Hilkiah, a Levitical priest, was likely born between 650 and 645 B.C. He was from the small village of Anathoth, about three miles northeast of Jerusalem in the territory of Benjamin (Jeremiah 1:1). It was through Jeremiah’s childhood training for holy service in the priesthood that God began grooming him for his future role.

In the 13th year of King Josiah of Judah (ca. 627 B.C.), God called Jeremiah when he was still a youth, (verse 2). In fact, God had already set Jeremiah apart for the office of a prophet before he was even born, in order to take God’s words to all Israel and to the nations (verse 5).

God gave Jeremiah the overview of his prophetic ministry: “Behold, I have put My words in your mouth. See, I have this day set you over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out and to pull down, to destroy and to throw down, to build and to plant” (verses 9-10). This meant that God had appointed Jeremiah to proclaim the destruction and building of nations that would eventually lead to the Kingdom of God.

Jeremiah’s life and times

Jeremiah served as one of God’s prophets through the rule of five kings of Judah (Josiah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin and Zedekiah). He even continued to plead God’s case against Judah during the time of Jerusalem’s destruction by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. (Jeremiah 1:3; 52:7-11).

His prophetic ministry extended over a period of more than 40 years, during which he wrote both Jeremiah and Lamentations. Contemporary prophets during the time of Jeremiah included Zephaniah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Daniel and Ezekiel.

Restoring God’s covenant

Jeremiah grew up in a generation that saw the tearing down of the pagan high places of worship—altars, pillars, images and even some shrines that dated back to King Solomon (2 Kings 23:10-15). At the start of Jeremiah’s prophetic ministry, Judah’s King Josiah was only 21 years old. Josiah had already begun to make major reforms in an effort to bring Judah back to proper religious observance (2 Chronicles 34:3).

Five years later, the long-missing Book of the Law was discovered hidden in the temple in Jerusalem (2 Kings 22:3, 8). Jeremiah devoted himself to preaching “the words of this covenant” to the people in Jerusalem and throughout Judah (Jeremiah 11:1-8). It was in this same year that the Passover, a festival of God that had been neglected (2 Kings 23:22-23), was observed by the nation once again.

Jeremiah’s challenge

God called Jeremiah to his prophetic ministry about one year after King Josiah began leading the nation in a great reform from the widespread idolatry promoted by his father, Amon, and his grandfather, Manasseh (2 Kings 21:10, 20). About a century earlier King Hezekiah had led religious reforms in Judah (2 Kings 18:4), but his son Manasseh promoted the vile practice of child sacrifice and worship of the “queen of heaven” (Jeremiah 7:18; 44:19). This continued into Jeremiah’s time (Jeremiah 7:31; 19:5; 32:35).

It was against this background that Jeremiah was appointed to reveal the sins of the people and the grave consequences of ignoring them. Jeremiah was among those who had hoped for a permanent spiritual revival, but tragedy came when righteous Josiah died suddenly at the young age of 39. The whole nation mourned his death, as did Jeremiah (2 Chronicles 35:25).

Ultimately, Josiah’s reforms would not be enough to preserve Judah and Jerusalem from God’s punishment because the sins of Manasseh had become so deeply embedded (Jeremiah 15:4; 2 Kings 23:26-27). Judgment would now come upon the nation for the sins of the people.

Cause and effect

God told Jeremiah to announce Jerusalem’s coming destruction by invaders from the north (Jeremiah 1:14-15; 4:6; 6:22-23). God’s people had broken their covenant with God (Jeremiah 11:10). They had forsaken God by worshipping the false gods called Baals (Jeremiah 2:8; 7:9; 11:13) and even went as far as building altars to Baal in order to burn their children as offerings (Jeremiah 19:4-5).

Jeremiah exposed some of the persistent sins of the people, including pride and ingratitude toward God’s lovingkindness. Other specific sins he identified included idolatry (Jeremiah 44:1-30); adultery (Jeremiah 5:7-9; 7:9); oppressing the foreigners, orphans and widows (Jeremiah 7:5-6); lying and slander (Jeremiah 9:4-6); and Sabbath-breaking (Jeremiah 17:19-27). (How many of these sins are being repeated in our modern world?)

Jeremiah announced that the effects of sin would be that God would withdraw His blessings (Jeremiah 16:5-10). The nation would now be faced with famine and starvation. Invaders would plunder them; and finally they would be taken captive into a foreign land (Jeremiah 14:12; 15:1-4; 16:4; 19:8-9; 25:8-9).

Jeremiah would witness the fulfillment of God’s warnings of disaster, and he would share in the sorrow and troubles that would follow the destruction of Jerusalem. In fact, very soon after Josiah died—within the 11 years of King Jehoiakim’s short reign—Babylon attacked Judah’s cities repeatedly until the total destruction of Jerusalem and the collapse of the Jewish nation came.

Jeremiah lived in Jerusalem through this terrible time, witnessing its siege and destruction at the hands of the Babylonians (Jeremiah 37:4-5; 38:2, 28; 39:1).

God forbade Jeremiah from taking a wife during his ministry. Apparently, God chose to spare Jeremiah the additional terror and worry he would have faced had he had a wife and children during this time (Jeremiah 16:1-6).

Jeremiah is persecuted

When King Josiah died, Jeremiah’s hardships as a prophet of God increased. His message aroused great hostility and death threats, especially in his native city, Anathoth (Jeremiah 11:21). Even his own relatives conspired against him and betrayed him (Jeremiah 12:6).

His persecution increased in Jerusalem when a priest named Pashhur sought out Jeremiah to have him beaten and put in the stocks at the Upper Gate of Benjamin for a day (Jeremiah 20:1-2). After this, Jeremiah lamented the hardship that had come to him for speaking God’s words. It was difficult to have become a laughingstock to the people and a target of mockery (verse 7).

Later, spiteful men obtained the king’s approval to arrest Jeremiah for prophesying disaster. These men then lowered Jeremiah by ropes into a cistern, and he sank into a layer of mud (Jeremiah 38:1-6). When another court official learned about Jeremiah’s fate, he persuaded the king to let him rescue Jeremiah before he starved to death at the bottom of the cistern (verses 7-13).

Yet Jeremiah knew he had to speak the message God had given him. He wrote how, if he tried to resist speaking what God told him to speak and tried to not even mention God’s name, God’s words became like fire in his heart. He was unable to hold them in (Jeremiah 20:9).

God told Jeremiah that if he would boldly speak His words and not shrink back in fear of the people, He would give him the strength he needed to withstand the persecution. God told him, “I will make you to this people a fortified bronze wall; and they will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you; for I am with you to save you and deliver you” (Jeremiah 15:20-21).

God’s messages through Jeremiah

The message God sent to the people via His prophet was that the people needed to return to God. Another message was God’s impending judgment upon Judah.

Even though this punishment would surely come, God also gave the encouraging promise of restoration in the future messianic Kingdom (Jeremiah 23:3-8). And before Judah was destroyed, God revealed plans that He would protect the Jewish exiles during their stay in Babylon (Jeremiah 29:5-7) and that He would cause them to return to Judah after 70 years (Jeremiah 25:11-12; 29:10; 33:6-7).

Another encouraging message in this book was God’s willingness to spare and bless the nation if the people would have repented of their sins (Jeremiah 7:5-7; 18:1-11). One of the remarkable principles of God is that even against the backdrop of the punishments He had decreed for Judah, He still offered the people a way to avert His anger:

“The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it, if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it” (Jeremiah 18:7-8).

God reminds us that the opposite is also true: “And the instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it, if it does evil in My sight so that it does not obey My voice, then I will relent concerning the good with which I said I would benefit it” (verses 9-10).

Hope for God’s people

Jeremiah lists several specific hopes to carry God’s people through the time of the Babylonian captivity and beyond:

  • God would bring a remnant back to Judah to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple (Jeremiah 29:10-14;30:2-3).

  • God would raise up a descendant of David to serve God and guide His people—a reference to Jesus Christ’s coming (Jeremiah 23:5-6; 33:14-17).

  • God would bring a remnant back to Israel a second time and would reunite the northern and southern kingdoms of Israel together as a unified people in the Kingdom of God (Jeremiah 3:18;16:14-15; 23:7-8; 30:18-22; 32:36-44; 33:23-26).

  • God would heal the spiritual wounds of His people, restore His covenant with them and build up and plant His people Israel again (Jeremiah 30:12-17; 31:27-28, 31-34; 32:38-41).

A message for us today

God is merciful and long-suffering in dealing with the sins and ignorance of men, but He will not endure their sins forever (Exodus 34:6-7). God sent many messengers to ancient Israel urging the people to turn their hearts back to God before He sent correction (Nehemiah 9:30; Jeremiah 25:4-7). This principle applies to our day as well.

Prior to their captivity, God told the people of Judah: “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:11-13).

Jeremiah was often inspired to look beyond the distressing scenes of the present to the hope of a glorious future when God’s people would return from the land of the enemy back to their homeland (Jeremiah 31:12). The final fulfillment will come when Jesus Christ returns to establish the Kingdom of God.

Dual roles

Prophets of God often performed a dual role. One was to warn a wicked nation of God’s judgments while powerfully calling on them to repent and turn from their sins. And the other was to build up and encourage the faithful of that time as well as us today to remain steadfast in living godly lives and to stay close to God in order to weather the increase in wickedness.

Such will be the conditions in the world before Christ’s return (Matthew 24:11-12). God’s servants must boldly preach a message of warning and repentance to the nations (Matthew 24:14; Mark 16:15-16) and also a message of comfort and hope to those who fear God and do His will (Romans 2:7-8; James 5:7-8, 11).

This message is called the gospel of the Kingdom, and we need to understand it and respond.

Jeremiah’s message fell largely on deaf ears. Few responded. Those few who did preserved their own lives and those of their loved ones.

Now, the question is: How will you respond?

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  • Apostle Nona Parker

Updated: Nov 19, 2020








Without doubt, COVID 19 has wrecked havoc on many churches. It has forced many churches to resort to online or streaming church. While this kind of technology has given thousands an opportunity to remain somewhat connected at least virtually, it has also been damaging and dangerous to the life of believers and the requirement to gather and assemble. One of the most dangerous effects of virtual church is the obvious stripping of the joy of congregational worship. The need to “assemble ourselves together” secretly and silently diminishes with the extended attendance of virtual church and is replaced with the convenience of “jumping online” instead of “jumping in the car” to attend a live service. Perpetuating this pattern of “convenient” church does not come without penalty. This tendency to make worship something of ease removes its sacrificial benefit and severely damaged its value. This devaluation of God’s worship is not new and is recorded in scripture in the time of King Jeroboam. Known as one of the most influential men in the history of Israel, king Jeroboam, the son of Nebat was a supporter of unauthorized worship and convenient gatherings. Jeroboam became king after the death of Solomon in about B.C. 931. After Solomon's death, the nation of Israel divided into two kingdoms. In the Southern Kingdom, also called Judah, there were only the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, plus a faithful remnant that came from other tribes. The Northern Kingdom or Israel was made up of ten tribes, and Jeroboam served as its first king, ruling for twenty-two years. His reign brought immediate moral and religious corruption into Israel. Sadly, Jeroboam's wickedness influenced the nation for generations to come as we often read this appraisal of later kings who followed in the steps of Jeroboam: "And he did evil in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the way of Jeroboam, and in his sin wherewith he made Israel to sin" (1 Kings 15:34).   As soon as Jeroboam became king, he introduced a new worship into Israel. While there are many valuable lessons to be learned from Jeroboam's life and reign in general, we want to focus our attention on the false worship that Jeroboam established. This worship is described in 1 Kings 12:25-33 and 1 Kings 13:33-34. In part these verses say, "And Jeroboam said in his heart, Now shall the kingdom return to the house of David; If this people go up to do sacrifice in the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, then shall the heart of this people turn again unto their lord, even unto Rehoboam king of Judah, and they shall kill me, and go again to Rehoboam king of Judah. Whereupon the king took counsel and made two calves of gold, and said unto them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem; behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And he set the one in Bethel, and the other put he in Dan. And this thing became a sin; for the people went to worship before the one, even unto Dan. And he made an house of high places, and made priests of the lowest of the people, which were not of the sons of Levi" (1 Kings 12:26-31). Just what was there about Jeroboam's worship that was so wrong?  First, we should note that Jeroboam did worship. He was a man who was involved in religious activity, and in the eyes of many people, that is all that matters. Yet, Jeroboam's example shows that it is possible to be religious and even be a leader in religious activity, but still not please God. Jehovah told Jeroboam, "But hast done evil above all that were before thee; for thou hast gone and made thee other gods, and molten images, to provoke me to anger, and hast cast me behind thy back" (1 Kings 14:9).  Not all religious activities are "good" in the Lord's sight. Remember, Jesus declared, "Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men" (Mark 7:7).  Jeroboam's worship was appealing to a lot of people. Just think about it. The worship he established was new! You know, many people are interested in things that are new. It does not matter what it is, it does not matter if it is right or wrong, just as long as it is new, that is what is important to many. Many consider anything new to be better. But let us never forget this clear instruction that God gave His people: "Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you" (Deuteronomy 4:2). Yes, Jeroboam's worship was new, but it was a violation of God's will because it was unauthorized. Also, the worshipping of idols was clearly against the first two of the ten commandments (Exodus 20:3-4).  In our worship today, we must not seek after that which is new, but only that which is according to the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:20; 2 John 9).  Jeroboam's worship was convenient. God chose Jerusalem as the place where He wanted His people to assemble to worship Him (1 Kings 11:32). However, Jeroboam had his own plan. He set up centers of worship in Dan and Bethel (1 Kings 11:28-29). Dan was located in the very northern section of the Northern Kingdom, and Bethel was located in the southern section of it. By going to either Dan or Bethel instead of traveling all the way to Jerusalem (which was in the Southern Kingdom), the people could save both time and energy. That was convenient! Also, God gave the Jews only one choice, Jerusalem. Jeroboam gave the people two choices, either Dan or Bethel. That was convenient!  Today some people make their decision about which religious services they will attend based solely on which group meets closest to where they live or which group does what they like. Dear reader, true worshippers worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24). We must be willing to travel whatever distance is necessary in order to assemble with faithful saints. In our service to Jehovah, let us never be so selfish as to think about what is most convenient for us. What will please the Lord? That is the question!  Without doubt, Jeroboam's worship was popular. The people liked it. Satan's ways are popular. As soon as Jeroboam established his new worship, people began to go to Dan and Bethel (1 Kings 12:30). Let us never forget that a teaching or religious practice may be popular, but that does not make it right.  Jeroboam's worship allowed more people to be involved as priests. According to Jeroboam's new arrangements, anyone could become a priest who wanted to (1 Kings 13:33; 1 Kings 12:31). God told the Israelites that only men from the tribe of Levi, and specifically those who were the descendants of Aaron, could serve as priests (Deuteronomy 18:1). Can't you just imagine what Jeroboam said to convince the people to accept his perverted worship? "We are more open-minded. We have more love. We are not ultra-conservatives who want to go exactly by the letter of the law. If you are sincere in your heart and want to be a priest, then God bless you."  We know what many say about us today. They say we are too strict because we do not have women serving as elders or preachers, or at least leading singing and prayers. People can think what they want, but we will continue to accept the teaching of 1 Timothy 2:8-3:7 about leadership in the church. They say we are too narrow-minded because we preach against drunkenness, but we will continue to show to the world and the church the evil fruits of drinking alcohol (1 Peter 4:3; Matthew 7:20). They say we are too strict because we will not fellowship those who have divorced their mate (not due to the mate's fornication) and are now committing adultery by living with a different person in a so-called second marriage. Friends, Jesus' words of Matthew 19:9 still read like they did nearly two thousand years ago, so we will not compromise one centimeter on that topic!  Brethren, let us be content with what God has told us in His word and not try to change His message so it will be easier for people to accept.  Perhaps the most dangerous aspect about Jeroboam's worship was that, in a number of ways, it was similar to the true worship Jehovah had commanded in the law of Moses. Satan, the father of lies, is such a great deceiver. He can make a lie look like the truth, and false worship look like the genuine worship of the Lord. According to the law of Moses, God commanded Israel to have priests, an altar for sacrifices, a set place of worship, special religious days, and special feasts. And, guess what Jeroboam included in his worship? He also established a priesthood, an altar for sacrifices, set places of worship, special days, and special feasts (1 Kings 12:31-33). Jeroboam could tell the people, "Look, it is not exactly like what your fathers had, but it is close enough. Remember, we are a new generation, so we need to do things just a little differently."  God commanded the Israelites to observe the feast of Tabernacles on the fifteenth day of the seventh month (Numbers 29:10). Jeroboam commanded them to observe a feast on the fifteenth day of the eighth month (1 Kings 12:32). What difference does just one month make? It is not exact, but no one is perfect, it is close enough! No, it is not close enough, not when we are talking about worshipping the Lord of heaven! We must worship and serve Him according to His Word, not according to our desires. I do not know about you, but as for me and my house, we do not want a church or worship that is close to the truth. We want only that which comes from Jehovah! Close is not good enough when we are talking about the salvation of our souls.  In summary, why was Jeroboam's worship wrong? It was wrong because:  1. It was unauthorized by God (Deuteronomy 4:2). Jeroboam substituted his own worship for the true worship of Jehovah. 2. He had the wrong motive. Do not be deceived. Jeroboam did not care about pleasing the Lord. He set up his worship simply so the Jews would not go to worship at Jerusalem, for he feared that if they went there they would begin to follow the king of the Southern Kingdom (Rehoboam), who would kill him (1 Kings 12:26-27). Thus, in reality, Jeroboam established this worship for his own benefit.  3. They worshipped the wrong object, golden calves (1 Kings 12:28). 4. They used the wrong methods, wrong priesthood, wrong feasts, wrong altar (1 Kings 12:31-33).  5. It had the wrong source of authority. Where did Jeroboam get the idea for his new worship? It was that "which he had devised of his own heart" (1 Kings 12:33). That is the bottom line: Jeroboam did what HE wanted to do, and what God commanded did not matter one bit to him!  Jeroboam did evil and caused Israel to do the same. "...He made Israel to sin" (1 Kings 15:34). Jeroboam corrupted Israel's worship, and as a result God forsook His people.  Do not think this could not happen to us today. All it takes is for a few people who are not satisfied with the simple teaching of the New Testament to begin to cry out for change in the church: change in the worship, change in the church's organization, just any kind of change. Such an attitude can destroy the church, for a little leaven can leaven the whole lump (Galatians 5:9). Would it be worth it to pervert the worship of the church like Jeroboam perverted the worship in Israel? Of course not! Let us determine in our hearts that, regardless of what others do or say, we will work together and follow what the Bible says. May God bless us as we strive to do that. 



Nona McKenzie Parker

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