Day 224: The Weeping Prophet

The Book of Jeremiah

Author and Date:

  • Jeremiah lived in Jerusalem, where he was called by God to be a prophet in the thirteenth year of the reign of King Josiah, 627 BC.

  • He remained in Jerusalem after it fell to Nebuchadnezzar in 597 BC and again in 587 BC, although he fled to Egypt with many other Mews a few years later.

  • According to the book, Jeremiah dictated his oracles to his secretary, Baruch, just before the first fall of Jerusalem and dictated them again (with some elaborations) after King Jehoiakim had destroyed the first scroll (cf. Chapter 36).

  • This book that has come down to us has many additions, including biographical narratives about Jeremiah written in the third person, probably by Baruch.

  • Jeremiah also exists in somewhat different forms in the Hebew and Greek editions.


Audience:

  • The oracles of Jeremiah came from three different periods.

  • In the first, from Jeremiah’s all in 627 BC until about 609 BC, during the reign of Josiah, he decried the idolatry and immorality of the people of Israel and urged their conversion.

  • In the second, during the corrupt reign of Jehoiakim (609-598 BC), Jeremiah preached against the idea that those left behind in Judah were the faithful ones of Israel and that the exiles were being punished for their infidelities to the Law and the covenant.


Main Themes:

  • Jeremiah’s oracles and preaching are fundamentally about the vital importance of keeping the Law and the covenant as well as the dire consequences of transgressing them.

  • His prophetic message is less about foreknowledge of events still to come than an interpretation of the present state of things in light of Revelation.

  • His oracles, therefore, express both divine punishments for sin and the promise of relief and salvation from God.

  • The covenant that binds God with his people is one of love, akin to that of a spouse, such that a breech in the covenant is like marital infidelity (cf. 2:2; 3:19-20).

  • It is sin that causes this break, and it is the refusal to repent that brings punishment upon the people.

  • Nevertheless, particularly in the section known as the “Book of Consolation” (cf. 30:1-33:26), Jeremiah announces that God promises a “new covenant” with Israel in which the Law will be written “upon their hearts,” a covenant of mercy in which “I will be there God, and they shall be my people” (cf. 31:31-34).

  • Jeremiah’s ultimate focus is on restoration and salvation in this new covenant.

  • This restoration will not simply be a return from the exile and a rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Temple but an interior change of heart, a repentance and conversion to the faith and worship of the one true God under his covenant.

  • It is God who effects this change in our hearts gratuitously; the people have only to turn away from sin and open themselves up to love and to reverence for God.

  • Finally, like Isaiah, Jeremiah speaks of the “remnant” who will remain faithful to God and who will be regathered, under new shepherds, and enjoys a new prosperity.

  • Out of this remnant will emerge a “righteous branch” of David, a king who will save Judah and rule his people in justice and righteousness (cf. 23:2-6)-in other words, a king who is not only a leader of his people but their Savior as well.

(*The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition, 2006)


Jeremiah 1:1-3 This book consists largely of prophecies attributed to the prophet Jeremiah, who remained in Judah as the more prominent citizens were carried off to Babylon following the conquest of Nebuchadnezzar. Therefore, he had firsthand knowledge of the destruction of Jerusalem (597-587 BC) and the difficulties faced by the survivors who remained behind since they did not meet the conditions to be brought to Babylon. Jeremiah proved to be a thorn in the side of those left behind during the Babylonian Exile; the prophet pointed out their sins and urged them to authentic conversion. These candid admonitions earned him near-universal hatred and imprisonment. Released after the second Babylonian conquest and deportation in 587 BC, Jeremiah likely fled to Egypt when conditions worsened. He and his devoted scribe, Baruch, maintained contact with the Jews in exile, encouraging them to repent and not lose hope for Judah’s restoration. The prophecies in this book do not have a clear chronological order, which has resulted in several different editions over the years. Nevertheless, Jeremiah was a key prophet and figure during this period and was instrumental in preparing the exiled Jews for a return to their homeland. His primary messages are the banishment of idolatry, faith in the one true God, the need for conversion, and (implicitly) the coming of the Messiah.


Ch 1:1-10 This passage refers to the mystery of personal vocation: God not only calls Jeremiah to serve him as a prophet but also preordained him for this purpose before his conception. In a similar fashion, God chose Mary from all eternity to be the Mother of Christ, and John the Baptist was designated from before conception as the precursor who would introduce the Son of God to the world. For this latter reason verses 4-10 is proclaimed as the First Reading at Mass on the Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist. (CCC 2158, 2167)


Ch 1:5 God willed the existence of each person and gave him or her an explicit calling to salvation and holiness before the creation of the world; at the same time God has a personal plan for every individual. This verse-among many others-supports strongly the Church’s teaching on the sanctity and inviolability of human life from the moment of conception to natural death. Society must respect unborn human life by providing legal protection against abortion and any other violation of human rights. It is incumbent upon civil authorities to protect and assist expectant mothers so they can provide readily the necessary care for their newborn infants. (CCC 2270)


Ch 1:6 Jeremiah’s response was not a refusal to answer God’s call. Like Abraham, Moses, and (later) Mary, he responded with humility to God’s invitation but, given his sense of unworthiness, was strongly perplexed for being chosen personally. (CCC 2584)


Ch 1:11-19 These two visions of Jeremiah are symbolic. The Hebrew, sheked, meaning “almond tree,” also means “watchful,” or “alert”; the almost tree is “alert” enough to become the first tree to bloom in late winter. The image of a rod made of almond also symbolizes God’s readiness to punish those who sin. The boiling pot is easier to understand: the political and military tensions are about to boil over as enemy forces are advancing upon Jerusalem from the north. The Lord commissions Jeremiah to speak to the people of Judah and to urge them to repent to spare themselves the punishment of yet another defeat. (CCC 707)

(*The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition, 2006)


  • So today we will hear the call of Jeremiah to be a prophet and his commission

  • Jeremiah will push back a little bit on this call by God

  • In Ezekiel, yesterday when we talked about a song that said something like “I want to love what you love and hate what you hate,” the line actually is “Break my heart for what breaks yours.”

  • Ezekiel is going to lamenting over a foreign nation, The city of Tyre


  • For the next number of days, Ezekiel is prophesying not just right now to God’s Chosen People in Judah

  • He is also preaching the Word of the Lord against TYRE

  • He is going to speak against the King of Tyre

  • He is going to give a prophecy to Egypt and its Pharaoh

  • As we know, Ezekiel has been spreading the Word of God not just simply to the People of God, or to the Exiles

  • It’s also been to the OTHER NATIONS that have been false as well

  • When it comes to The Book of Jeremiah, we leave Isaiah behind

  • Well we didn’t leave him behind, we will always have our friend Isaiah the Prophet

  • Ezekiel is the “performance art prophet” so he acts out a lot of things

  • Jeremiah does some things similar but he is also a bit different as well

  • Ezekiel was a priest who had a vision of the Lord that lasted for quite a while in the beginning of the Book of Ezekiel

  • IN FACT…

  • There are a number of visions Ezekiel has because he has this really hard message to give to the people

  • So multiple times Ezekiel has a vision of God and he’s a priest

  • Jeremiah is ALSO a priest

  • Jeremiah 1:1, “The words of Jeremiah, the son of Hilkiah, of the priests who were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin…”

  • Anathoth was a town just outside of Jerusalem, where Jeremiah was born

  • Jeremiah was a prophet under several kings

  • BUT…

  • Unlike Ezekiel, Jeremiah was a prophet IN the land of Judah for ALMOST HIS ENTIRE LIFE

  • At the end of his story, he gets carted off to Egypt (SPOILER ALERT!!)

  • That’s not great

  • The Book of the Prophet Jeremiah won’t be having a lot of “wins” in this book

  • The Great Adventure Bible Notes call Jeremiah the “Prophet of Doom”

  • He is also known as the “Weeping Prophet”

  • He has a sensitive heart to the people-HE LOVES THEM

  • He has a sensitive heart to the Lord-HE LOVES GOD

  • AND YET…

  • God, in this incredible call, spoke over Jeremiah

  • Jeremiah 1:5, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

  • This is a GREAT SCRIPTURE VERSE FOR YOU TO KNOW FOR YOURSELF

  • Yes this is to Jeremiah specifically

  • BUT…

  • THIS IS HOW GOD KNOWS ALL OF US!!

  • EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. OF. US.

  • BEFORE WE WERE FORMED IN THE WOMB

  • BEFORE WE WERE BORN

  • THERE IS A CONSECRATION

  • THERE IS A CALL THAT GOD PLACES ON EVERY ONE OF OUR LIVES

  • That is exhibited here in Jeremiah

  • That is GREAT NEWS

  • It is an ENCOURAGING WORD

  • AND YET…

  • At the same time, the Lord says this to Jeremiah KNOWING WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN

  • God says multiple times in this chapter, “Do not be afraid of them. Do not be dismayed by them. Do not be discouraged by them.”

  • Why?

  • “Because I am going to send you to these people and you are going to speak my words to them, and THEY WILL NOT LISTEN TO YOU.”

  • This is one of the reasons why Jeremiah is the WEEPING PROPHET

  • Not only because he has a HARD MESSAGE TO GIVE

  • But because this hard message WILL NOT BE RECEIVED

  • IT IS THE WORST!

  • Isaiah gives us moments of BEAUTY

  • Isaiah gives us moments of GLORY

  • Remember the Book of Woe and the Book of Consolation?

  • Ezekiel also has some REALLY POWERFUL THINGS that God says to the people

  • AND YET…

  • Jeremiah is the PROPHET OF DOOM

  • Because he is preaching in the last legs, last days, last gasp of the people of Judah before the Babylonians come in and DESTROY EVERYTHING

  • REMEMBER…

  • Ezekiel was carted off in the SECOND wave of Exile

  • FIRST wave was Daniel and his homies

  • So the third wave had YET TO HAPPEN

  • Ezekiel was preaching about this upcoming THIRD WAVE

  • It did NOT have to happen

  • The people could repent and turn back to the Lord

  • But the people weren’t listening to Ezekiel

  • So there was at least SOME hope

  • Jeremiah was living in Judah at this time

  • So he lived to see these deportations

  • He lived to see the destruction of Jerusalem

  • He also got exiled to Egypt

  • He got to be HATED

  • Jeremiah 1:5, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

  • INCREDIBLE!!

  • BEAUTIFUL!!!

  • POWERFUL!!!

  • The Lord SEES you

  • The Lord KNOWS you

  • The Lord LOVES you

  • The Lord has COMMISSIONED YOU FOR A GREAT TASK!!

  • AND YET…

  • You will go to them and they will not listen to you

  • So Jeremiah preaches for 50 YEARS

  • He was there when Josiah was the king

  • He was there when Jehoiakim was the king

  • He was there when Zedekiah was the king

  • For 50 YEARS Jeremiah preached this word of REPENTANCE to the People of Judah, the People of Israel

  • AND THEY DID NOT LISTEN

  • You can imagine as we begin Jeremiah accepts this call

  • And did he know what it would cost?

  • But this is what it is to belong to God

  • “I will do what you ask me no matter what.”

  • This is the call for EVERY ONE OF US

  • God knew YOU before you were formed in the womb

  • Before you were born, GOD CONSECRATED YOU

  • I don’t know what his mission is for you

  • BUT…

  • Belonging to the Lord basically means saying, “I am yours no matter what. I will do what you ask of me no matter what.”

  • Jeremiah is a GREAT example of this

  • We are going to walk with him for a lot of chapters, for the next 50 YEARS of his life

  • The next 50 YEARS of what the people of Judah had to endure and go through

  • As well as what Jeremiah had to go through

  • It all has to do with THIS CALL AND COMMISSION

  • WHICH IS INCREDIBLE

  • WHICH IS BEAUTIFUL

  • WHICH IS POWERFUL

  • AND YET…

  • At the same time, it is NOT one that many of us would WANT

  • So remember Ezekiel was married and we had the chapter where his wife died and he was not to mourn her because the people of Israel would not mourn when they heard about the destruction of the Temple

  • Well, Jeremiah does not marry

  • One of the ideas behind this is that Jeremiah’s life is TOO MARKED WITH PAIN for him to get married

  • People have posited that Jeremiah’s life is SO MARKED BY PAIN that God is SPARING THE POTENTIAL WIFE OF JEREMIAH

  • God is maybe saying, “I’m going to limit the amount of pain to just one person. I’m not going to have it being him and his wife.”

  • Something to reflect on

  • Not sure what it means for your life

  • Not sure what it means for my life

  • Just reflect on that for JEREMIAH’S LIFE

  • God had called him for this intimacy for HIM AND HIM ALONE

  • Knowing that Jeremiah would be VERY ALONE as he walked through this world

  • There are people who are alone EVERY DAY

  • Maybe you are one of those people, part of this community, and you walk through life alone

  • Maybe you see someone on a regular basis

  • Someone you work with

  • Someone you see at the store

  • Someone you see out on the street

  • Someone you see at church

  • And you realize that person is alone

  • Now Jeremiah didn’t have to have a wife in order to have FRIENDSHIP or RELATIONSHIP or to be ABLE TO LOVE

  • BUT…

  • To be able to have SOMEONE IN YOUR LIFE

  • A FRIEND

  • THAT FAMILY THAT TAKES YOU IN

  • CAN BE AN INCREDIBLE GIFT

  • It is a gift for many priests that have a family that takes them in

  • Fr. Mike has siblings and his family and is grateful for that gift

  • BUT…

  • There are people around us who DO NOT HAVE THOSE SIBLINGS

  • There are people around us who DO NOT HAVE THOSE PARENTS

  • There are people around us who DO NOT HAVE THOSE CHILDREN

  • Maybe this is a word that we are looking for in Jeremiah

  • We are looking for someone who walks through life alone, who has been CALLED by God, KNOWN by God, LOVED by God

  • So today we can say, “God, keep my eyes open so I can see those that you see and I can maybe get to know those that you know. And maybe you’re calling me to love those that you love. Someone walking alone that doesn’t have to walk alone because you and I can walk beside them.”

  • I don’t know if that’s the case today, but it could be

  • So let’s pray that God opens our EYES

  • Let’s pray that God opens our HEARTS

  • Let’s pray that God opens our LIVES

  • That we can maybe open our homes to those among us who are alone

  • That is something worth praying about

  • PRAY FOR FR. MIKE

  • PRAY FOR EACH OTHER


Prayer by Fr. Mike: “Father in Heaven we thank you and give you praise. Oh man, Lord, thank you so much. Thank you for this day and thank you for your words of conviction, even your words of condemnation because, Lord God, we never want to be on the receiving end of those words. We never want to be on the receiving end of your judgment, of your justice. God, we deserve your justice, but we need your mercy. And so when we hear your words to the city of Tyre, and we hear what you are going to do with Jeremiah’s life, we give you thanks that you spoke these words and you revealed your longing for justice and the fact that you are a God of justice and you do not delay in your judgment. Lord God, in the way that you do not delay in your judgment, please also do not delay in your mercy. Those of us who have failed you and have fallen, we need your mercy more than ever right now in this moment in our lives, this moment in my life I just ask you for your mercy today, Lord. Your mercy is new every morning. Help me to turn back to you. Help us all to turn back to you in whatever way, great or small, that we have wandered away or fallen away or run away. Help us always to find the way back to you in Jesus. We make this prayer in the name of Jesus. Amen.”