So there I was, nearing the end of my 1st grade school year. Every day of that year my first grade teacher had nourished each member of this small-town public school class of kids as if they were her own. She had created a nurturing environment by means of creativity, discipline, inspiration and sacrifice – many attributes that I would not fully appreciate until years later. In addition to reading, writing and arithmetic, she had also taken time every day to share a passage from the Bible, recite the pledge of allegiance, and even distribute an assortment of vitamins to every kid in the class. She literally fed mind, body and spirit.But on this particular day, right after she concluded the bible reading, she shared a very sobering message. She explained that things would not always be the same as it had been in our first grade class. Certainly, she said, there would be many exciting experiences and wonderful opportunities, but there would also be difficult times. I remember vividly when she then specifically predicted that the bible reading would probably not be a part of the school day as we got older. "Why?" we asked. Well, because, often times the grown up world doesn't remember how important that is. As a result, she continued, not everyone you meet will be kind or considerate or truthful.
As the next few years unfolded, I recalled her words often. By the time I reached junior high, her words rang as true as fulfilled prophecy. And when I think of her now, it occurs to me that just as all highly effective teachers have responded to a calling, that the same is true for highly compelling prophets.
Jeremiah received his calling as recorded in chapter 1. In Jeremiah's calling, the Lord shatters fundamental positions of the grown-ups of that day and of today regarding the source of life: "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart…" (1:5). A thought amplified by David in Psalms 139:13 "For you created my inmost being, you knit me together in my mother's womb…"
Jeremiah was preaching to a nation that had descended from world power to captivity and whose citizens worshipped everything except God. Jeremiah repeatedly characterized Israel's unfaithfulness to God as adultery and he described the depths of their idolatry (sacrificing sons and daughters) as something that never even entered the mind of the Lord (7:31). It is sobering indeed to consider similarities in the post glory decline of our own country where millions of unborn are sacrificed on the abortion alter and fundamental laws of creation, nature and human relationships are trampled in the ever increasing frenzy to invent ways of doing evil.
Jeremiah is faithful to proclaim the judgments of God and foretell the approaching disasters (after all, Jeremiah was specifically commissioned "to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow" (1:10), but even in his often fiery delivery, his is an empathetic heart wherein he is appropriately characterized as the weeping prophet. Significantly, he does not weep for himself, but for those that perished (9:1), for the land (9:10), for the captivity of the Lord's flock (13:17), and for those exiles who will never return (22:10).
Significantly also, Jeremiah is commissioned to "build and to plant" (1:10) and so in the midst of this collection of dark and tragic convictions and judgments, there is hope for the time of a new covenant that will take the place of the old. The new covenant will be put into minds and written on hearts and result in an actual relationship with the Lord for everyone from the least to the greatest (31:31-34). The significance of this prophecy in Jeremiah is strongly emphasized in the New Testament since it is quoted verbatim within a related discussion in Hebrews 8:8-12.
One other building and planting bright spot in Jeremiah (29:10-11) may also be one of the most quoted of passages from the book, especially around graduation time. However, it is prudent to remember the context for these words: "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". The context is that these words appear in a letter that Jeremiah writes in Jerusalem and sends to the exiles in Babylon. Immediately before these words, Jeremiah reminds his readers that there are still the 70 years of captivity that must be completed. What is the takeaway within this context? Perhaps it is to remember that while God does indeed have plans for us, that His timing may be very different than ours.
So, this is obviously not a deep dive into the book of Jeremiah. But it may be fair to say that the primary lessons in Jeremiah are apparent at every level of investigation and these lessons correlate well with some timeless first grade wisdom. Hence this notion: that I may indeed have witnessed some elementary prophet sharing wherein my saintly elementary school teacher echoed some fundamental sentiments of Jeremiah - namely: the "grown up" world often abandons God and worships the creation while a genuine wisdom will cherish a constant and abiding relationship with the Lord.