Imagine you are on the beach and there is some of that nice  flat wet sand that is good to walk on – and you discover someone has written: ‘Peter loves Mary.’ It’s a simple statement and it would be tempting to interpret it as something written by Peter as a statement of his romantic love for Mary – probably a reasonable assumption, but it’s not the only interpretation!

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.

Lord Tebbit was Margaret Thatcher’s right hand man during the 1980s, he served as employment secretary and Trade and Industry secretary and became the chairman of the Conservative Party. In 1984, at the party’s annual conference in Brighton the leaders stayed at the Grand Hotel. What no one knew at the time was that that weeks before the conference, the Irish Republican Army had planted a bomb in the hotel, it was set to explode at 3.00 am on 12th October 1984.

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.

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.