Introduction to Jeremiah

The different character and style of Jeremiah as compared with Isaiah must strike any careful reader. Here we have not the magnificent unfoldings of the purposes of God for that earth of which Israel was the centre, but we have the prophecy in its moral dealing with the souls of the people of God. No doubt, judgments are pronounced upon the heathen, still the intention was to act upon the conscience of the Jew, and in order to do this we see how much the Spirit of God makes of Jeremiah's own experience. Of all the prophets we have none who so much analysed his own feelings, his own thoughts, his own ways, his own spirit.

Hence Jeremiah is the only one who gives us the Book of Lamentations. These lamentations are the outpourings of his soul to God, which approach very much the character of the Psalms, as indeed his prophecy also does more than any other of the prophets, either greater or lesser.

In this way, then, Jeremiah has quite a character of his own and one of no small importance. Practically, I think, his style is very instructive for the soul of the believer. We shall find that we have the prophet's inward experiences recorded as far as this could be according to the measure of the revelation that God had made of Himself in Old Testament times.

From the very first verse we find these features. Jeremiah was the son of Hilkiah, of the priests that were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin. The word of Jehovah came to him in the days of Josiah, king of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign. That is, he was called to the work when God was working powerfully not only in the good king Josiah but in a few of the Jewish people.

Now it is clear that this partial repentance of the people was unsuited to the character of the work entrusted to Jeremiah. His was really an inward work in the conscience. But what brought out the expressions of his grief was that the effect of Josiah's reformation was merely an outward one.

Hence, therefore, this condition of the people gave occasion to the double character of Jeremiah's prophecy. They had outward pretence and profession, great appearance of good, a little real good underneath the surface with a great deal of outward show. Their condition was not precisely as shown in the fig tree that came under the Lord's curse - abundance of leaf and no fruit. In Jeremiah's day, the national state was very much what he said himself (Jer. 24). There were some good figs, and the good figs were very good; but there were very many naughty figs, and the naughty figs were very naughty. This moral character we shall find, then, in this book.