The word that came to Jeremiah concerning all the people of Judah, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah (this was the first year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon), which Jeremiah the prophet spoke to all the people of Judah, and to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem: From the thirteenth year of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah, even to this day, these twenty-three years, Yahweh’s word has come to me, and I have spoken to you, rising up early and speaking; but you have not listened.
Yahweh has sent to you all his servants the prophets, rising up early and sending them (but you have not listened or inclined your ear to hear), saying, “Return now everyone from his evil way, and from the evil of your doings, and dwell in the land that Yahweh has given to you and to your fathers, from of old and even forever more. Don’t go after other gods to serve them or worship them, and don’t provoke me to anger with the work of your hands; then I will do you no harm.”
Here we learn that for 23 years Jeremiah got up early and spoke the word of God to the people. Not only that, Jeremiah reminds us that God had sent all of the prophets for many more years than that. It’s wonderful to learn that the message of all the prophets was the same. They told the people to stop doing evil and to stop worshiping other gods and to live in the land that God had given them. We even saw the same behavior in the last prophet we call John the Baptist. What can we learn from this?
I think that two of the big things we learn are these: We learn what God is like, and we learn what mankind is like. What we learn about God is that He is very, very patient. God tried to tell Israel what was wrong and what they needed to do, for a very long time. We can’t accuse God of not providing enough time to change. We also see that God is a good communicator. God sent many prophets and what we learn here is that He made them get up early to do their job! God maximized the time spent communicating with the people, so we can’t accuse God of not communicating clearly.
The problem was not God at all. The problem obviously came from man, and that is the second big thing we learn. Israel’s behavior doesn’t just show us how bad Israel is. It shows us how bad mankind is. Mankind is unable to follow God’s word no matter how clear or how long his chance to do it right is. It demonstrates that humanism is a horrible idea! If humanity were able to heal itself, it should have been able to follow God’s 10 commandments, instead, what we see is that mankind cannot apply himself to anything and get it right.
There’s another big thing we learn about God as we study what happened to Israel at the time of Jeremiah, and we read more about that next.