Introduction to Jeremiah and Lamentations
The fundamental issue in the book of Jeremiah is whether the people will be faithful to God in the midst of a difficult environment. Jeremiah is concerned with faithfulness in every aspect of life, including religion, family, military, government, agriculture and other spheres of life and work. We face a similar issue as workers today. We’re called to be faithful to God in our work, but it’s not easy to follow God’s ways in many workplaces.
Jeremiah had to deal with the unfaithfulness to God of virtually all of the people. From kings and princes to priests and prophets, all were unfaithful to God. They still, on the whole, came to the temple, offered sacrifices and called on the name of the Lord, but failed to acknowledge God in the way they lived the rest of their lives (Jer. 7:1-11). This is not unlike those today who attend church on Sunday, place their offerings in the collection plate, but live the rest of their lives as though God were not involved.
Within the framework of faithfulness to God, Jeremiah offers a number of passages directly related to work and many other passages that deal with faithfulness to God in the wholeness of life, with clear implications for our work.
In his work-related oracles, Jeremiah did not introduce many new principles or commands. Instead, he accepted those revealed in earlier books of the Bible, especially in the Law of Moses. He then admonished God’s people that they were not following God’s law and warned that this will bring disaster upon them. When disaster came, he taught them how to live out God’s law in their new — and bleak — situation. He encouraged them with God’s promise that he would eventually restore their joy and prosperity if they would return to faithfulness.
Although Jeremiah lived about 600 years before the apostle Paul, what he said about work could easily be summed up in the words of Colossians 3:23, “Whatever your task, put yourselves into it, as done for the Lord and not for your masters.”