Psychologists tell us that we can determine a lot about someone on our first encounter—if we know how to read the signs. Body language, facial expressions, and first words can communicate an abundance of information to those looking for it.
The first words of the book of Jeremiah are revealing as well. We are introduced to the prophet Jeremiah, whose ministry runs from "the thirteenth year of the reign of Josiah . . . down to the . . . eleventh year of Zedekiah" (vv. 2–3). Why are we given this background reference? A quick look at 2 Chronicles 34 through 36 reveals the history of Judah’s downward spiral from Josiah’s religious reforms to Judah’s exile at the hand of Babylon. And it is precisely during the history of Judah’s fall into wickedness that God proves His faithfulness by calling Jeremiah as prophet. God does not give up on His people, even in their disobedience. He was prepared for this moment long before Jeremiah was born (v. 5).
Out of this call, we discover two important themes of the book. First, there is the prominent theme of judgment that is coming upon Judah. They have forsaken the Lord and turned to worship other gods. Like a boiling pot, destruction will come from the north. This is the message Jeremiah must deliver, and one of the recurring motifs of the book.
Second, however, we see the promise of God to Jeremiah. Despite the harsh message the prophet must deliver, God promises to give him the words to say and His presence as protection. Not only is God’s word against Judah trustworthy, but His promise to Jeremiah is sure as well. The Lord is "watching to see that my word is fulfilled" (v. 12). This is the character of our God.
Apply the Word
As you embark on your own encounter with the book of Jeremiah, pray that God would open your heart to see and receive what He wants to teach you. Despite the unpopular themes of destruction and judgment throughout the book, we can learn much about the character of our God in this study. Pray for the Spirit’s guidance as you go forth.