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Lesson Plan for Jeremiah 1-3; 7; 16-18; 20

 Jeremiah = ירמיהו = "God lifts up"

Jeremiah on the ruins of Jerusalem (1844)

The prophet Jeremiah is the Old Testament prophet we know the most about because of the amount of biographical information given of him and how the book is the second longest in the Old Testament after Psalms.

His record is also not in Chronological order. There are some good study guides out there if one wishes to read the book chronologically.

Jeremiah lived from 650 BCE to about 570 BCE. He prophesied during King Josiah's reign and during the destruction and scattering of Israel by the Babylonians; being a prophet during King Josiah's reforms and during the destruction from Babylon are the pivotal events of his ministry.

Jeremiah was a contemporary of the prophet Daniel for much of his life (not sure if they had any personal interaction). As Latter-Day Saints, we also know the prophet Lehi was alive during this time. Lehi lived in Jerusalem and, if the text is read carefully, probably grew up some 30-50 miles north of Jerusalem. Therefore, the Book of Jeremiah, largely, is added context for the events of much of 1 Nephi. We learn that at least some of the prophecies of Jeremiah were contained on the brass plates (see 1 Nephi 5:10-13), which means Jeremiah was considered to be "a prophet among prophets".

We learn in 1 Nephi 1:4 that many prophets were prophesying to the inhabitants of Jerusalem at this time. I noted some above, but we know of at least 10 total: Zephaniah, Nahum, Jeremiah, Habakkuk, Huldah, Urijah, Daniel, Ezekiel, Obadiah, & Lehi. We will read about all these in the coming weeks.

Read Jeremiah 1:1-10

"1 The words of Jeremiah the son of Hilkiah, of the priests that were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin:

2 To whom the word of the Lord came in the days of Josiah the son of Amon king of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign.

3 It came also in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, unto the end of the eleventh year of Zedekiah the son of Josiah king of Judah, unto the carrying away of Jerusalem captive in the fifth month.

4 Then the word of the Lord came unto me, saying,

5 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.

6 Then said I, Ah, Lord God! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child.

7 ¶ But the Lord said unto me, Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak.

8 Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the Lord.

9 Then the Lord put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. And the Lord said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth.

10 See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant."

Jeremiah is called to be a prophet. He is told that God knew him before he was in the womb.

What kind of meaning does the pre-earth life give you? 

How can it help us to know the Father knows us?

President Joseph Fielding Smith once wrote:

"During the ages in which we dwelt in the pre-mortal state we not only developed our various characteristics and showed our worthiness and ability... but we were also where such progress could be observed... The heavenly beings were living in a perfectly arranged society. Every person knew his place. Priesthood, without any question, had been conferred and the leaders were chosen to officiate. Ordinances pertaining to that pre-existence were required and the love of God prevailed. Under such conditions, it was natural for our Father to discern and choose those who were most worthy and evaluate the talents of each individual. He knew not only what each of us could do, but also what each of us would do when put to the test and when responsibility was given us. Then, when the time came for our habitation on mortal earth, all things were prepared and the servants of the Lord chosen and ordained to their respective missions." - Joseph Fielding Smith (The Way to Perfection (Salt Lake City, Deseret Book, 1963), p. 50-51)

Notice though, this knowledge and proclamation from the Lord to Jeremiah weren't enough. Jeremiah objects and says he doesn't speak well and is too young (see verse 6).

What do we do when some of the truths of the gospel "don't do it for us", at times?

Why do you think the Lord's words to Jeremiah in verses 9 & 10 appear to, as far as we know, appease Jeremiah's anxiety?

Read Jeremiah 1:14-16 & 7:32-34

"14 Then the Lord said unto me, Out of the north an evil shall break forth upon all the inhabitants of the land.

15 For, lo, I will call all the families of the kingdoms of the north, saith the Lord; and they shall come, and they shall set every one his throne at the entering of the gates of Jerusalem, and against all the walls thereof round about, and against all the cities of Judah.

16 And I will utter my judgments against them touching all their wickedness, who have forsaken me, and have burned incense unto other gods, and worshipped the works of their own hands."

"32 ¶ Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that it shall no more be called Tophet, nor the valley of the son of Hinnom, but the valley of slaughter: for they shall bury in Tophet, till there be no place.

33 And the carcasses of this people shall be meat for the fowls of the heaven, and for the beasts of the earth; and none shall fray them away.

34 Then will I cause to cease from the cities of Judah, and from the streets of Jerusalem, the voice of mirth, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride: for the land shall be desolate."

Imagine being told to do something and then being told by that same person that your labors or efforts will not have much of an impact.

God calls Jeremiah to declare repentance to the people... If you remember, the Lord at least called 10 prophets to do this... but Jeremiah is shown that his efforts will not make much of a difference... still.

What on earth was Jeremiah's motivation then?

"We are called upon not to be successful, but to be faithful." - Mother Teresa

Read Jacob 1:19

"19 And we did magnify our office unto the Lord, taking upon us the responsibility, answering the sins of the people upon our own heads if we did not teach them the word of God with all diligence; wherefore, by laboring with our might their blood might not come upon our garments; otherwise their blood would come upon our garments, and we would not be found spotless at the last day."

How is Jeremiah's call tailor-made for Jeremiah, perhaps? Is it possible Jeremiah is being asked in a roundabout way to be faithful?

Neal A. Maxwell taught:

"If we are serious about our discipleship, Jesus will eventually request each of us to do those very things which are the most difficult for us to do... sometimes the best people have the worst experiences because they are the most ready to learn." (1)

Things are going to be so bad for Jeremiah, that the Lord gives him a very unconventional commandment.

Read Jeremiah 16:1-4

"1 The word of the Lord came also unto me, saying,

2 Thou shalt not take thee a wife, neither shalt thou have sons or daughters in this place.

3 For thus saith the Lord concerning the sons and concerning the daughters that are born in this place, and concerning their mothers that bare them, and concerning their fathers that begat them in this land;

4 They shall die of grievous deaths; they shall not be lamented; neither shall they be buried; but they shall be as dung upon the face of the earth: and they shall be consumed by the sword, and by famine; and their carcases shall be meat for the fowls of heaven, and for the beasts of the earth."

The Lord goes on to list some of the violent things that will happen among Judah when the Babylonians come for further emphasis.

We know the why of this commandment here, but what principle can be found here as to how Heavenly Father operates?

Joseph Smith once taught:

"That which is wrong under one circumstance, may be, and often is, right under another. God said, "Thou shalt not kill;" at another time He said, "Thou shalt utterly destroy." This is the principle on which the government of heaven is conducted--by revelation adapted to the circumstances in which the children of the kingdom are placed. Whatever God requires is right, no matter what it is, although we may not see the reason thereof till long after the events transpire..." (2)

Read Jeremiah 16:14-18

"14 ¶ Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that it shall no more be said, The Lord liveth, that brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt;

15 But, The Lord liveth, that brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north, and from all the lands whither he had driven them: and I will bring them again into their land that I gave unto their fathers.

16 ¶ Behold, I will send for many fishers, saith the Lord, and they shall fish them; and after will I send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain, and from every hill, and out of the holes of the rocks.

17 For mine eyes are upon all their ways: they are not hid from my face, neither is their iniquity hid from mine eyes.

18 And first I will recompense their iniquity and their sin double; because they have defiled my land, they have filled mine inheritance with the carcases of their detestable and abominable things."

Verse 16 was at one point a scripture mastery for seminary students. I, as a missionary, heard this verse often as a prophecy about the coming gathering of Israel. To interpret this scripture this way isn't bad, but it is a proof text.

What is a proof text? It is reading scripture out of context, on purpose or not, to fit one's personal theological preferences.

"... a text without a context is a pretext for a proof text."

Interestingly, this verse has been used 7 times in General Conference in the context of the gathering of Israel... BUT... it hasn't been used once in the last 16 years.

Some references that give context to what is meant by Fishers & Hunters: are Amos 4:2, Habakkuk 1:15, Ezekiel 12:13, Ezekiel 29:4, & Jeremiah 4:29.

In short, this verse in context is about scattering and removing the people of Judah from their homes.

BUT... the Savior repurposes these symbols in the New Testament. Read, Matthew 4:19 & Matthew 13:47.

What can we learn here? If the Savior can turn these violent symbols for good to accomplish his purposes, what does that mean for us?

Dr. N.T. Wright has written:

"Jesus doesn't give an explanation for the pain and sorrow of the world. He comes where the pain is most acute and takes it upon himself. Jesus doesn't explain why there is suffering, illness, and death in the world. He brings healing and hope. He doesn't allow the problem of evil to be the subject of a seminar. He allows evil to do its worst to him. He exhausts it, drains its power, and emerges with new life." (Simply Good News: Why the Gospel is News and What Makes it Good)

Jesus gives beauty for ashes; salvation for the cross; resurrection for blood; and here, the gathering of Israel and its glorious salvation for how it happened violently.

President Nelson said just this past conference:

"... my dear brothers and sisters, so many wonderful things are ahead. In coming days, we will see the greatest manifestations of the Savior’s power that the world has ever seen. Between now and the time He returns “with power and great glory,” He will bestow countless privileges, blessings, and miracles upon the faithful." (3)

The Savior will repurpose the pain, suffering, and despair we experience if we remain faithful. The fishers and hunters from Babylon are replaced by the fishers of men; Saviors on Mount Zion. This example is a good reminder of this truth.

This is a good transition to a powerful metaphor.

Read Jeremiah 18:1-10 

"1 The word which came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying,

2 Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause thee to hear my words.

3 Then I went down to the potter’s house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels.

4 And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it.

5 Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying,

6 O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the Lord. Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel.

7 At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it;

8 If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them.

9 And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it;

10 If it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good, wherewith I said I would benefit them."

Brigham Young used this metaphor for some heavy speculation, but we will keep it straightforward.

How are we personally or collectively like the clay in the potter's hand, God being the potter?

How is the scattering and gathering of Israel like a potter using and reusing the clay?

President Hugh B. Brown recounts the following in his life:

"I was living up in Canada. I had purchased a farm. It was run-down. I went out one morning and saw a currant bush. It had grown up over six feet (two meters) high. It was going all to wood. There were no blossoms and no currants. I was raised on a fruit farm in Salt Lake before we went to Canada, and I knew what ought to happen to that currant bush. So I got some pruning shears and clipped it back until there was nothing left but stumps. It was just coming daylight, and I thought I saw on top of each of these little stumps what appeared to be a tear, and I thought the currant bush was crying. I was kind of simpleminded (and I haven’t entirely gotten over it), and I looked at it and smiled and said, “What are you crying about?” You know, I thought I heard that currant bush say this:

“How could you do this to me? I was making such wonderful growth. I was almost as big as the shade tree and the fruit tree that are inside the fence, and now you have cut me down. Every plant in the garden will look down on me because I didn’t make what I should have made. How could you do this to me? I thought you were the gardener here.”

That’s what I thought I heard the currant bush say, and I thought it so much that I answered. I said, “Look, little currant bush, I am the gardener here, and I know what I want you to be. I didn’t intend you to be a fruit tree or a shade tree. I want you to be a currant bush, and someday, little currant bush, when you are laden with fruit, you are going to say, ‘Thank you, Mr. Gardener, for loving me enough to cut me down. Thank you, Mr. Gardener.’”

Years passed, and I found myself in England. I was in command of a cavalry unit in the Canadian army. I held the rank of field officer in the British Canadian army. I was proud of my position. And there was an opportunity for me to become a general. I had taken all the examinations. I had the seniority. The one man between me and the office of general in the British army became a casualty, and I received a telegram from London. It said: “Be in my office tomorrow morning at 10:00,” signed by General Turner.

I went up to London. I walked smartly into the office of the general, and I saluted him smartly, and he gave me the same kind of a salute a senior officer usually gives—a sort of “Get out of the way, worm!” He said, “Sit down, Brown.” Then he said, “I’m sorry I cannot make the appointment. You are entitled to it. You have passed all the examinations. You have the seniority. You’ve been a good officer, but I can’t make the appointment. You are to return to Canada and become a training officer and a transport officer.” That for which I had been hoping and praying for 10 years suddenly slipped out of my fingers.

Then he went into the other room to answer the telephone, and on his desk, I saw my personal history sheet. Right across the bottom of it was written, “THIS MAN IS A MORMON.” We were not very well liked in those days. When I saw that, I knew why I had not been appointed. He came back and said, “That’s all, Brown.” I saluted him again, but not quite as smartly, and went out.

I got on the train and started back to my town, 120 miles (190 kilometers) away, with a broken heart, with bitterness in my soul. And every click of the wheels on the rails seemed to say, “You are a failure.” When I got to my tent, I was so bitter that I threw my cap on the cot. I clenched my fists, and I shook them at heaven. I said, “How could you do this to me, God? I have done everything I could do to measure up. There is nothing that I could have done—that I should have done—that I haven’t done. How could you do this to me?” I was as bitter as gall.

And then I heard a voice, and I recognized the tone of this voice. It was my own voice, and the voice said, “I am the gardener here. I know what I want you to do.” The bitterness went out of my soul, and I fell on my knees by the cot to ask forgiveness for my ungratefulness and my bitterness...

I arose from my knees a humble man. And now, almost 50 years later, I look up to Him and say, “Thank you, Mr. Gardener, for cutting me down, for loving me enough to hurt me.” (4)

Elder Holland quotes C.S. Lewis to make a similar point:

"[So God is, then, something like a divine physician.] A cruel man might be bribed—might grow tired of his vile sport—might have a temporary fit of mercy, as alcoholics have [temporary] fits of sobriety. But suppose that what you are up against is a [wonderfully skilled] surgeon whose intentions are [solely and absolutely] good. [Then], the kinder and more conscientious he is, [the more he cares about you,] the more inexorably he will go on cutting [in spite of the suffering it may cause. And] if he yielded to your entreaties, if he stopped before the operation was complete, all the pain up to that point would have been useless." (5)

We can take comfort that Jeremiah appears to forget these truths like how we forget them sometimes. He is put into stocks by the "Temple President". 

Read Jeremiah 20:14-18

"14 ¶ Cursed be the day wherein I was born: let not the day wherein my mother bare me be blessed.

15 Cursed be the man who brought tidings to my father, saying, A man child is born unto thee; making him very glad.

16 And let that man be as the cities which the Lord overthrew, and repented not: and let him hear the cry in the morning, and the shouting at noontide;

17 Because he slew me not from the womb; or that my mother might have been my grave, and her womb to be always great with me.

18 Wherefore came I forth out of the womb to see labour and sorrow, that my days should be consumed with shame?"

Any honest reader of the scriptures sees that God allows his people to ask at times "Oh, God, Where art thou?"... or... "My God, My God, Why hast thou forsaken me?"



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