The Epistle of Jeremiah the Prophet to the Modern Church

Before you start looking up this letter in the New Testament, let me save you time: it doesn’t exist. Before you order a copy of the Apocrypha, let me save you money: this letter isn’t in part of it. So where can you find this little known epistle? It’s in the Old Testament but before you open your Bible or conduct an internet search let me warn you: you won’t find it under that name.

Jeremiah was an Old Testament prophet.                   

His call from God, the word of prophesy he received from God as well as the historical events of that time are recorded in the Bible book that bears his name. “The word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.’” Jeremiah was actively involved in proclaiming the truth revealed to him by God. He was sent to speak to the people of Judah who were about to come under God’s discipline. The northern Jews, Israel, had fallen to captors because of their rejection of God. Judah was about to suffer the same fate for the same reasons. Still, I stand by my belief that the book of Jeremiah, with a little imagination, can pass as an epistle (letter). It is not only the warnings of God spoken to a group that identified as His followers in Old Testament times, I believe it can also serve as a warning to those who identify as followers of Christ now.

 I would never suggest that context doesn’t matter.

I am well aware of the misuse of Old Testament prophesy in churches that embrace the prophetic revelations of the Holy Spirit to God’s followers, not only in Bible times but also today. When I hear someone state that God has a word for the church or for an individual then proceed to read Old Testament prophesy as if it were written as a guarantee to us in our time I shudder. How often have you heard people claiming the word of God spoken through Jeremiah to Judah out of the context of the whole message contained in the book of Jeremiah, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)? Still, I stand by my belief that the book of Jeremiah, with a little imagination, can pass as an epistle (letter). It is not only the warnings of God spoken to a group that identified as His followers in Old Testament times, I believe it can also serve as a warning to those who identify as followers of Christ now.

Context stops us from making God’s situationally unique promises universal truths.

Most of us would not see God’s instructions for Moses to take action as applicable today. I personally would not raise my hand at the edge of a body of water and expect God to part the waters. I have never thought to strike a rock with my walking stick when I needed a drink. I do not expect plagues and pestilence to overwhelm those who stand against the true God or persecute His followers. While these miracles were the acts of the same God that loves, provides, protects and guides those who follow Him past, present and future, to expect them as regular occurrences and universal responses I think we would all agree, is ridiculous. The same goes with the word that Jeremiah prophesies. As followers of the same God we do not expect that a return to God will mean that we will be given land in Judah. Still, I stand by my belief that the book of Jeremiah, with a little imagination, can pass as an epistle (letter). It is not only the warnings of God spoken to a group that identified as His followers in Old Testament times, I believe it can also serve as a warning to those who identify as followers of Christ now.

Context has no effect on God’s universal promises because they are not situationally unique.

The Bible contains God’s interaction with His creation. The books of the Bible contain what God said and did throughout history from creation to the establishment of the church. He called people to repent and follow Him. He called them again to repent when they walked away. He took action to display His power, to direct and protect His people. The Bible is a book of books with a theme of a loving creator seeking to maintain a relationship with those He created. In it we see how far humanity is willing to drift from God and how far God is willing to go to re-establish relationship when we fail Him. Because of this, all books of the Bible have applications outside of the original audience. Because of this, I stand by my belief that the book of Jeremiah, with a little imagination, can pass as an epistle (letter). It is not only the warnings of God spoken to a group that identified as His followers in Old Testament times, I believe it can also serve as a warning to those who identify as followers of Christ now.

Jeremiah is full of warnings.

If we take the metaphors God uses in the words that He gave to Jeremiah and look for application in our time I believe we will find ourselves being challenged to repent and return to our first love. Not only will we be convicted but we too should be willing to present these truths to others in the modern church. The cost will be high.

They called Jeremiah the “weeping prophet.” We need to weep with him as we apply and proclaim God’s word. If you think the words spoken by Jeremiah were only for Judah remember God’s word to Jeremiah, ” I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

Stay tuned for more posts on applying the truths spoken by Jeremiah to the modern church.

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