Statue of Jeremiah by Donatello, Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, Florence, Italy
Jeremiah was a contemporary of Lehi, and he is mentioned in three verses in the Book of Mormon (1 Nephi 5:13, 1 Nephi 7:14, Helaman 8:20). Like Lehi, he lived in Jerusalem during a tumultuous time, after the Babylonian Empire conquered Judah and established a puppet king named Zedekiah. (See 2 Kings 24:17, 1 Nephi 1:4.) Like Lehi, Jeremiah made a lot of enemies in Jerusalem by telling the truth, especially when other “prophets” tried to paint a rosier picture of their situation. (See Jeremiah 28, Jeremiah 29:24-32, 1 Nephi 1:18-20.) He was imprisoned by King Hezekiah for prophesying that Jerusalem would be destroyed (Jeremiah 32:3-5). After the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem, Jeremiah was forced forced to relocate with the remaining residents of Judah to Egypt, even though he had advised them to stay where they were (Jeremiah 43:1-7). Throughout his prophetic ministry, he was rejected and persecuted.
This week, we will study some of the chapters in the first half of the book of Jeremiah. Here are some important topics from this week’s reading:
When God called Jeremiah to be a prophet, He explained that this decision had been made long before:
Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.Jeremiah 1:5
The Book of Mormon prophet Alma reiterated and expanded on this doctrine, explaining that priests were “called and prepared from the foundation of the world according to the foreknowledge of God” (Alma 13:3). Modern prophets have taught that we were all foreordained—chosen by God before birth to fulfill specific responsibilities and complete specific missions in this life.
Jeremiah described God as “the fountain of living waters” (Jeremiah 2:13, Jeremiah 17:13). Lehi’s dream contains the same symbol, which his son Nephi equated with the tree of life. (See 1 Nephi 11:25.) Jeremiah compared his people with “broken cisterns, that can hold no water.”
When Jesus spoke with the Samaritan woman at the well, He used the same imagery, telling her that He could provide living water : “Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14).
A Den of Thieves
Jeremiah was appalled at the lack of respect his people showed toward the temple. “Is this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, even I have seen it, saith the Lord” (Jeremiah 7:11).
When Jesus cast out the moneychangers from the temple about 600 years later, He quoted Jeremiah: “It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves” (Matthew 21:13, Mark 11:17, Luke 19:46.)
The Arm of Flesh
Jeremiah warned the children of Israel not to overestimate their own abilities: “Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord” (Jeremiah 17:5).
Nephi borrowed this terminology as he acknowledged his inability to solve the problems he faced without God’s help: “O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm” (2 Nephi 4:34).
Like Job and Isaiah, Jeremiah emphasized our fragility by comparing us to clay in the hands of a potter. (See Job 10:9, Isaiah 45:9, Jeremiah 18:6.) Likewise, Book of Mormon prophets referred to our mortal bodies as “tabernacle[s] of clay.” (See Mosiah 3:5, Moroni 9:6.)
- Jeremiah promised that, if you walk in the “good way…you will find rest for your souls” (Jeremiah 6:16). Alma used this same phrase to describe those who are never “weary of good works” (Alma 37:34). And the Savior promised the same outcome if we “take [His] yoke upon [us]” (Matthew 11:29).
- How can we find peace? Not by ignoring reality. Jeremiah complained about false prophets, who “healed the hurt…of my people slightly [or superficially], saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14, Jeremiah 8:11). The Savior can provide us with real and enduring peace, as the prophet Alma learned: “I did cry unto him and I did find peace to my soul” (Alma 38:8).
- When we are at peace, we must take care not to become complacent. “I spake unto thee in thy prosperity; but thou saidst, I will not hear” (Jeremiah 22:21). Mormon observed a similar pattern among the Nephites: “At the very time when he doth prosper his people,… then is the time that they do harden their hearts, and do forget the Lord their God” (Helaman 12:2).
- Jeremiah warned his people that, if they chose not to hear God’s words, “this house shall become a desolation” (Jeremiah 22:5). The Savior gave a similar warning to the survivors of the destruction which coincided with His death: “If [you repent] not, O house of Israel, the places of your dwellings shall become desolate until the time of the fulfilling of the covenant to your fathers” (3 Nephi 10:7). A house can be desolate even if it’s still standing, with people living in it, if those people feel alone. Happiness in family life comes from following the principles of the gospel.
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