Gospel means good news. Chapter after chapter in the book of Jeremiah is bad news.
The lonely prophet, sometimes called the weeping prophet, began preaching during the reign of Josiah, one of the best kings ever. It was a time of revival, renewal of worship, and ending the evil practices of his father and grandfather. But the revival didn’t last. Josiah died and it was all down hill from there. Well, not quite…
Jeremiah preached the judgment of God on the kings of Judah and the people. He was accused of being a traitor, siding with their enemy Babylon. He witnessed the exile of Josiah’s son and successor, King Jehoahaz, to Egypt where he died. Replaced by his brother, King Jehoiakim, Jerusalem was invaded by Babylon, serving Nebuchadnezzar. Jerusalem’s days were numbered.The first exiles were taken to Babylon in 605 BC, among them Daniel and his friends. Eight years later, King Jehoichin and another group of Jews were exiled to Babylon. Eleven years later, Babylon invaded once again, destroyed the temple, tore down the city walls, and the last king in Jerusalem, Zedekiah, was captured, watched his sons being executed, had his eyes put out so that his last sight was his sons’ execution, then shackled and exiled to Babylon along with others.
Jeremiah had the choice to stay in Jerusalem or go to Babylon, but in another tragic turn, he spent his last days with a miserable remnant in Egypt.
Where is the Gospel in Jeremiah?
The first hints are in Jeremiah’s call to the prophetic office.
Now I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow… 1:9,10
And that was his message, proclaiming the judgment of God on Judah and Jerusalem, but also on Egypt and Babylon, the power brokers of the day, and on at least eight other nations.
Where is the Good News?
Jeremiah’s job description had one final section ...to build and to plant.
There isn’t much to be encouraged about in the first 28 chapters, but in chapters 29-33, we see glimmers of hope; actually more than glimmers, amazing promises for Israel that begin to express the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Chapter 29 – A Letter of Promised Return
10 This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”
I’m a bit uncomfortable the way these words are taken out of context to make the “life verses” or “class verses” for a Christian school, but they do reflect the consistent pattern of God throughout the Bible that He is intent on rescue and restoration.
Chapter 30 – Restoration Promised
2 “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Write in a book all the words I have spoken to you. 3 The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will bring my people Israel and Judah back from captivity[a] and restore them to the land I gave their ancestors to possess,’ says the Lord.”
“18 “This is what the Lord says:
“‘I will restore the fortunes of Jacob’s tents and have compassion on his dwellings; the city will be rebuilt on her ruins, and the palace will stand in its proper place. 19 From them will come songs of thanksgiving and the sound of rejoicing. I will add to their numbers, and they will not be decreased; I will bring them honor, and they will not be disdained. 20 Their children will be as in days of old, and their community will be established before me; I will punish all who oppress them. 21 Their leader will be one of their own; their ruler will arise from among them. I will bring him near and he will come close to me—for who is he who will devote himself to be close to me?’ declares the Lord. 22 “‘So you will be my people, and I will be your God.’”
Chapter 31 – The New Covenant
Glowing promises of restoration continue, bringing the exiles home from distant lands; but then it goes to a new level with the promise of transformed minds and hearts, a prophecy of the new birth that Jesus expressed to Nicodemus in John 3.This is the heart of the Gospel’s impact on all those who trust Christ as Lord and Savior.
31 “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. 32 It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to[d] them,” declares the Lord.
33 “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
35 This is what the Lord says, he who appoints the sun to shine by day, who decrees the moon and stars to shine by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar— the Lord Almighty is his name: 36 “Only if these decrees vanish from my sight,” declares the Lord, “will Israel ever cease being a nation before me.”
37 This is what the Lord says: “Only if the heavens above can be measured and the foundations of the earth below be searched out will I reject all the descendants of Israel because of all they have done,” declares the Lord.
Chapter 32 – Investing in Real Estate
Here is a test of faith. As the city is under siege, hopes for the future disappearing, economic indicators in the tank, God asks Jeremiah to declare his faith in God’s promises by purchasing real estate.
Read the chapter to see Jeremiah’s struggle. he affirms his faith in God’s ability, “7 “Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you. 18 You show love to thousands but bring the punishment for the parents’ sins into the laps of their children after them. Great and mighty God, whose name is the Lord Almighty, 19 great are your purposes and mighty are your deeds…
But he still can’t make sense of this land purchase,
24 “See how the siege ramps are built up to take the city. Because of the sword, famine and plague, the city will be given into the hands of the Babylonians who are attacking it. What you said has happened, as you now see. 25 And though the city will be given into the hands of the Babylonians, you, Sovereign Lord, say to me, ‘Buy the field with silver and have the transaction witnessed.’”
This is not what a competent financial adviser would recommend. This is not a good time to invest.
But God insists, 26 Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: 27 “I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?
After judgment, God promises restoration and Jeremiah’s land purchase would testify to God’s restorative purposes.
42 “This is what the Lord says: As I have brought all this great calamity on this people, so I will give them all the prosperity I have promised them. 43 Once more fields will be bought in this land of which you say, ‘It is a desolate waste, without people or animals, for it has been given into the hands of the Babylonians.’ 44 Fields will be bought for silver, and deeds will be signed, sealed and witnessed in the territory of Benjamin, in the villages around Jerusalem, in the towns of Judah and in the towns of the hill country, of the western foothills and of the Negev, because I will restore their fortunes, declares the Lord.”
Chapter 33 – Our Righteous Savior
As this prophecy is given, Jeremiah was imprisoned for treason, giving comfort and aid to the enemy through his preaching. But he continued to speak God’s truth.
2 “This is what the Lord says, he who made the earth, the Lord who formed it and established it—the Lord is his name: 3 ‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’ 4 For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says about the houses in this city and the royal palaces of Judah that have been torn down to be used against the siege ramps and the sword 5 in the fight with the Babylonians[a]: ‘They will be filled with the dead bodies of the people I will slay in my anger and wrath. I will hide my face from this city because of all its wickedness.
6 “‘Nevertheless, I will bring health and healing to it; I will heal my people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security. 7 I will bring Judah and Israel back from captivity[b] and will rebuild them as they were before. 8 I will cleanse them from all the sin they have committed against me and will forgive all their sins of rebellion against me.9 Then this city will bring me renown, joy, praise and honor before all nations on earth that hear of all the good things I do for it; and they will be in awe and will tremble at the abundant prosperity and peace I provide for it.’
10 “This is what the Lord says: ‘You say about this place, “It is a desolate waste, without people or animals.” Yet in the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem that are deserted, inhabited by neither people nor animals, there will be heard once more 11 the sounds of joy and gladness, the voices of bride and bridegroom, and the voices of those who bring thank offerings to the house of the Lord, saying,
“Give thanks to the Lord Almighty,
for the Lord is good;
his love endures forever.”
For I will restore the fortunes of the land as they were before,’ says the Lord
But now comes the promise, not only of restoration, not only of renewed prosperity, not only the good news of changed hearts, but the primary means of all these promises being fulfilled, the promise of a Savior.Reflecting Isaiah 11, Jeremiah finally speaks of Jesus.
14 “‘The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will fulfill the good promise I made to the people of Israel and Judah.
15 “‘In those days and at that time
I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line;
he will do what is just and right in the land.
16 In those days Judah will be saved
and Jerusalem will live in safety.
This is the name by which it will be called:
The Lord Our Righteous Savior.’
17 For this is what the Lord says: ‘David will never fail to have a man to sit on the throne of Israel,
Ultimately, the Good News for Israel is the same Good News for us. A descendant of David will the the ultimate and eternal king who rules with justice, but he will also be the Savior. Jeremiah doesn’t detail the means of this saving act, as Isaiah does in describing the suffering of Jesus, but he expresses the hope and the promises that Messiah will bring about.
This is the Gospel of Jeremiah.