Jeremiah endured one of the most difficult lives assigned to any Old Testament leader. Judah was stubborn hearted, and happy about it. How could one, year after year, call them to repentance? Jeremiah 14-20 is a combination of sermons, symbolic acts/observations, and autobiographical laments and prayers that underscored Jeremiah’s difficult circumstances and portray the Lord’s righteous judgment upon His people.
When Jesus and the apostles announced God’s judgement, they cited themes from Jeremiah 14-20. How these New Testament figures employed Jeremiah’s phrases demonstrates continuity and discontinuity between the Old and New Testaments in the storyline of Scripture.
(1) Jeremiah and John proclaimed God’s sovereignty over human suffering and death. In Jer 15:2, the prophet announced the Lord’s response to his plea for relief from the famine; even if Moses and Samuel interceded for the people it would be futile. If the people asked Jeremiah where they should go, the Lord announced that the prophet should say, “Those destined for death, to death; those destined for the sword, to the sword. Those destined for famine, to famine; those destined for captivity, to captivity.” All in Judah, even the faithful remnant who would remain/return (Jeremiah 25, 29) would suffer the Lord’s wrath. These words may have resonated in John’s mind concerning the faithful ones in the day of tribulation. Those whose names were written in the Lamb’s book of life would not worship the beast, John wrote in Rev 13:10, and as a result they would suffer the same difficulties that came upon even the faithful in Jeremiah’s day. Those destined for captivity, to captivity they would go; the sword would find all who were to be executed by it. “Here is the endurance and the faith of the saints” (Rev 13:10), John wrote. While there are contextual and thematic parallels between Jeremiah’s audience and John’s, the latter suffered because of their commitment to Christ, not, like Jeremiah’s audience, because of their sin. John’s use of Jeremiah here culminates the new covenant theme of suffering for righteousness (Phil 1:29; 1 Pet 2:21-25, 3:13-17; Heb 12:3-12).
(2) Jeremiah and Peter proclaimed that though the Lord is patient, He will exact judgement. In Jer 17:15, the prophet lamented his situation and asked the Lord for deliverance. Jeremiah was sent to announce the impending judgment upon Judah but in the meantime, he had to endure the taunts of the scoffers who said, “Where is the word of the LORD? Let it come!” Peter understood that this attitude would persist in the last days. At that time, Peter said, those who opposed the godly would mock the Lord’s patience, saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they have been since the beginning of creation” (2 Pet 3:4). Peter exhorted the faithful that they should not grow discouraged at the jabs of their opponents, “but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet 3:18).
(3) Jeremiah and Jesus prophesied that the sword would come upon the guilty for their sin. After being beaten by Pashhur the priest, Jeremiah proclaimed concerning the priest’s loved ones, “They will fall by the sword of their enemies before your very eyes. I will hand Judah over to the king of Babylon, and he will deport them to Babylon and put them to the sword” (Jer 20:4). When Jesus entered Jerusalem, He lamented that the city would not heed the day of His visitation (Luke 19:41-44). While Jesus taught in the temple in Jerusalem during the last week of His life, His disciples asked about the end of the age. Jesus employed Jeremiah’s language saying that despite the beauty and fortification of the temple it would be destroyed. The inhabitants of Jerusalem, Jesus said, would be killed by the edge of the sword and be taken captive by the nations (Luke 21:23-24a).
Jesus and the apostles thus resonated with themes in Jeremiah 14-20. But one point of discontinuity should not be overlooked. In Jer 17:21-22, the prophet proclaimed the word of the Lord concerning the Sabbath, “Watch yourselves; do not pick up a load and bring it in through the gates of Jerusalem on the Sabbath day. You must not carry a load out of your houses on the Sabbath day or do any work, but you must consecrate the Sabbath day, just as I commanded your ancestors.” So significant was the Sabbath, Jeremiah proposed, that if the people of Judah honored the seventh day, they would not only maintain their place in the land but prosper in it (Jer 17:24-27). Jesus, however, proclaimed His supremacy over the Sabbath. Jesus allowed His disciples to pluck grain and eat on the Sabbath (Matt 12:1-8//Mark 2:23-28//Luke 6:1-5) and on several occasions, Jesus healed on the Sabbath (Matt 12:9-14//Mark 3:1-6//Luke 6:6-11; Luke 13:10-17; John 5:1-15; 9:1-12). From the point of Jesus’ entrance into the world onward, deliverance from God’s wrath rested entirely upon allegiance to Him and not observance of the Sabbath.