The first 6 chapters are believed to relate to the early years of Jeremiah’s work – most likely during the years in which Josiah was king. Josiah had initiated a refurbishment of the temple and had removed much of the infrastructure for idol worship in Judah and beyond. He is not surprisingly described as a king who ‘did what was right in the eyes of the Lord.’

The fourth chapter of Jeremiah begins where chapter 3 ended: with a call to return, but Judah did not return, and as we shall see, failure to return brings the warning of disaster from the North. Jeremiah’s response to this situation is one of great anguish and sorrow.

The sixth chapter of Jeremiah concludes the opening section which is largely concerned with warnings of judgment. Remember that when Jeremiah was given this difficult task he was just a young man. It seems likely that these early chapters of the book took place when Jeremiah was still young, the good king Josiah was on the throne and things were going relatively well for Judah.

Return

Jeremiah’s ministry has begun. The Lord is speaks through him in these first few chapters of the book. The message in chapter 2 is uncompromising and clear – Judah had turned away from the Lord and in accordance with the covenant made just before they entered the Promised Land (the Deuteronomic covenant), judgment is about to fall. The images of Judah’s disobedience are uncomfortable and distasteful. Nevertheless, there is hope – God’s plan for Israel and his promises to Abraham, Moses and David would be realised. In this third chapter, we see glimpses of hope amidst the mess of Judah’s sinful rebellion.

When we’re caught out doing something wrong our response is usually to justify our actions and then downplay them as of little consequence. “I was in a hurry officer and I was only doing three or 4 miles above the speed limit, honest!” Judah had been told of the coming judgment, in chapter 5 they are reminded why it will come but they have little concern.

God speaks

  1. Worthless idols

Jeremiah has been commissioned, he has been told that God will be watching and strengthening him for the difficult days ahead. Now, the work begins: ‘The word of the Lord came to me: Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem.’