If you’ve never read Ezekiel, Jeremiah and Lamentations before, a little historical background will help you tremendously as you read these books. Ezekiel wrote from exile in Babylon. In 606BC and 597BC, Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, took the rich and powerful from Jerusalem and brought them to Babylon. This was before the destruction of Jerusalem, which happened in 586BC. Ezekiel was probably involved in the 597BC exile, and as he wrote from Babylon, he was trying to get the attention of his fellow exiles. False prophets were telling them that they would all get to go back to Jerusalem in a couple of years, and that God would never allow Jerusalem to be destroyed because it was where His temple was – it was where He dwelt. Ezekiel, however, was a true prophet. He knew that Jerusalem was going to fall, regardless of the temple being there. This wasn’t because God had abandoned His people or because He was a weak God, but because His people had been committing idolatry and wickedness for centuries. He is a just God, and His judgement simply couldn’t be postponed any longer.
Jeremiah prophesied over a span of several years, prior to the fall of Jerusalem and after the fall of Jerusalem. Prior to the fall, he kept warning God’s people that if they didn’t return to Him, destruction was coming. They didn’t believe him, choosing instead to believe their own false prophets. In 588BC, Nebuchadnezzar’s army came to besiege Jerusalem. Jerusalem was besieged for at least 1-1/2 years. A siege is terrible. Jerusalem’s inhabitants were basically locked in the city with no way of getting food. The famine was so severe that women were eating their own children. Disease was also running rampant. If you’ve read Deuteronomy, you’ll know that many of these terrible things were part of the “covenant curses.” God made a covenant with His people that if they kept His covenant, they would be blessed, but if they broke His covenant, they would be cursed. After centuries of God’s mercy, Jerusalem finally experienced these curses. Jeremiah also recounts life after the fall of Jerusalem. The poorest of the poor remained in the land, but they continued to reject God and worship idols, eventually fleeing to Egypt (despite God telling them – through Jeremiah – that they were to stay put) as they feared Nebuchadnezzar would come back to attack them in Judah.
Clearly, the people of God had a long history of rebellion. Ezekiel and Jeremiah had quite a task, prophesying to a people who did not want to listen, and who wanted to go about their own way of doing things – living in wickedness, and worshiping idols instead of the One True God. Unfortunately, we are not so different from these people today. Even if we know God, we sin every single day (at least I do!). Every time we sin against Him, we are rebelling against God’s purposes, just as the people of Judah had done. The difference is that today we don’t have to endure covenant curses, because we are under the new covenant. Christ has died so that God’s justice would be poured out on Him, while we experience His grace and mercy and forgiveness.
If you’re reading the Bible along with me, our next post will be on Daniel and Ezra. You should be able to read these books in about two hours.
Main Idea: Ezekiel prophesies from exile about the way in which God’s people have been/are going to be judged, showing that the Lord will restore them so they (and all) will know He is the Lord.
Reason Written: Written to show how God would spare His people for the sake of His name.
Timeless Truth: God hates idolatry (Ezekiel 6-9,16,23).
Jeremiah + Lamentations
Main Idea: Jeremiah prophesies that destruction is coming to sinful Jerusalem via Nebuchadnezzar, but God will restore His people and judgement will fall on Babylon.
Reason Written: Written to show how God’s people were disobedient so that Jerusalem was destroyed and God’s people were taken into exile, and to show God’s faithfulness to establish a new covenant with His people.
Timeless Truth: God calls His people to persevere at what He has called them to (Jeremiah 20, 26, 28, 29:24-32, 32, 36, 38).
Timeless Truth for Lamentations: There is always hope in the Lord (Lamentations 3). * We had an “alternate assignment” for Lamentations, so I have no “main idea” or “reason written” for you, but the basic idea is that this book mourns the fall of Jerusalem in 586BC.