Jeremiah spoke words of Yahweh to Yahweh’s people for over 40 years. Yahweh’s goal was to call his people back to him—to win them away from false Olympian gods once again.
In Jeremiah’s time, Yahweh’s people much prefer the Olympian gods to him. With Pluto, false god of money, the rich trick the poor out of their money and leave the poor to starve. Loyal to Jupiter, judges know this but wink at their wealthy friends as they fail to establish justice and reestablish righteousness (or a rightly ordered society).
To lead his people to repent of these wicked ways, Yahweh withholds the rain. It does no good. Too bad, because the gods on whom his people shower their affection seek only to use them until they’re used up (Jeremiah 3:2-3, 4:30, 5:23-29).
Unlike the gods, Yahweh wants all people to live and to enjoy the fullness of life that comes from him alone. He does not seek the death of the wicked but their repentance. When, for example, the wickedness of the people of Sodom had come up before him, Yahweh had agreed with Abraham that for the sake of only 10 people he would spare the entire city (Genesis 18). Now Yahweh declares to Jeremiah that he will spare all of Jerusalem if even 1 person can be found within it who seeks him first. Against Vulcan, patron god of all cities, Yahweh warns Jerusalem to turn from its practice of oppression, violence, and destruction (5:1, 6:6-8).
Against religion, Yahweh tells Jeremiah to stand before the temple and prophecy to the people as they enter it. Through Jeremiah, Yahweh tells his people they gain no advantage from him by being there. If they serve other gods and so hurt other people while they are away, then coming to the temple won’t protect them from the destructive consequences of their actions. Being good one day a week doesn’t redeem the harm done the other six days. Immediately after Jeremiah shares these words with Yahweh’s people, their leaders demonstrate their devotion to Jupiter by having Jeremiah arrested for speaking them (Jeremiah 7).
Through Jeremiah, Yahweh said and did all he could to call his people back to him and back from the brink of destruction. Sadly, Jeremiah lived to see Yahweh’s failure. He witnessed Yahweh’s temple robbed and burned, the city of Jerusalem destroyed, Yahweh’s people exiled to Babylon, and the utter end of the Kingdom of Judah.
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