As Eugene Peterson has noted, Jeremiah is used by God to call the people of Israel to repentance.
God encourages Jeremiah even though he endures imprisonment, threats of assasination, and rebuke from the people of Israel, who will be led away captive into Babylon because of their sins under Manasseh & Amon, and their unwillingness to repent. The core message is that the people of Israel must repent of their decades of sin, of idol worship–just going to temple and praising God is not sufficient. They use the temple as a criminal’s hideout. The story begins with God letting Jeremiah know this is part of God’s plan to use Jeremiah, and he will lead him and guide him. God speaks through Jeremiah about the destruction of Shiloh, a sacred place that was where Jews went to worship before Jerusalem. But when the people of Israel started worshipping other gods, the Lord Almighty destroyed Shiloh as a warning to the people. If he can destroy Shiloh, he can destroy Jerusalem. God’s temple is sacred, and the people of Israel have been desecrating it. Yet God does not abandon them completely, even though they are overrun and taken to exile in Babylon. As Jeremiah preaches God’s word, the people rebuke him, threaten him, and he loses heart. God calls out to him about how he needs to recognize this is not the worst of it, and he needs to toughen up. Like a potter, God will reshape Israel and Judah.
Jeremiah 1: “Before I shaped you in the womb, I knew all about you. Before you saw the light of day, I had holy plans for you: A prophet to the nations— that’s what I had in mind for you.” ………(Jeremiah speaking) 6 But I said, “Hold it, Master God! Look at me. I don’t know anything. I’m only a boy!” 7-8 God told me, “Don’t say, ‘I’m only a boy.’ I’ll tell you where to go and you’ll go there. I’ll tell you what to say and you’ll say it. Don’t be afraid of a soul. I’ll be right there, looking after you.” God’s Decree. God reached out, touched my mouth, and said, “Look! I’ve just put my words in your mouth—hand-delivered! See what I’ve done? I’ve given you a job to do among nations and governments—a red-letter day! Your job is to pull up and tear down, take apart and demolish, And then start over, building and planting.”
Jeremiah 3: Then God told me, “Fickle Israel was a good sight better than flighty Judah. Go and preach this message. Face north toward Israel and say: 12-15 “‘Turn back, fickle Israel. I’m not just hanging back to punish you. I’m committed in love to you. My anger doesn’t seethe nonstop. Just admit your guilt. Admit your God-defiance. Admit to your promiscuous life with casual partners, pulling strangers into the sex-and-religion groves hile turning a deaf ear to me.’” God’s Decree. “Come back, wandering children!” God’s Decree. “I, yes I, am your true husband. I’ll pick you out one by one—This one from the city, these two from the country— and bring you to Zion. I’ll give you good shepherd-rulers who rule my way, who rule you with intelligence and wisdom. 16 “And this is what will happen: You will increase and prosper in the land. The time will come”—God’s Decree!—“when no one will say any longer, ‘Oh, for the good old days! Remember the Ark of the Covenant?’ It won’t even occur to anyone to say it—‘the good old days.’ The so-called good old days of the Ark are gone for good. 17 “Jerusalem will be the new Ark—‘God’s Throne.’ All the godless nations, no longer stuck in the ruts of their evil ways, will gather there to honor God.
Jeremiah 4: 1-2 “If you want to come back, O Israel, you must really come back to me. You must get rid of your stinking sin paraphernalia and not wander away from me anymore. Then you can say words like, ‘As God lives . . . ’ and have them mean something true and just and right. And the godless nations will get caught up in the blessing and find something in Israel to write home about.” 3-4 Here’s another Message from God to the people of Judah and Jerusalem: “Plow your unplowed fields, but then don’t plant weeds in the soil! Yes, circumcise your lives for God’s sake. Plow your unplowed hearts, all you people of Judah and Jerusalem. Prevent fire—the fire of my anger— for once it starts it can’t be put out. Your wicked ways are fuel for the fire.
Jeremiah 7: 1-2 The Message from God to Jeremiah: “Stand in the gate of God’s Temple and preach this Message. 2-3 “Say, ‘Listen, all you people of Judah who come through these gates to worship God. God-of-the-Angel-Armies, Israel’s God, has this to say to you: 3-7 “‘Clean up your act—the way you live, the things you do—so I can make my home with you in this place. Don’t for a minute believe the lies being spoken here—“This is God’s Temple, God’s Temple, God’s Temple!” Total nonsense! Only if you clean up your act (the way you live, the things you do), only if you do a total spring cleaning on the way you live and treat your neighbors, only if you quit exploiting the street people and orphans and widows, no longer taking advantage of innocent people on this very site and no longer destroying your souls by using this Temple as a front for other gods—only then will I move into your neighborhood. Only then will this country I gave your ancestors be my permanent home, my Temple.
Jeremiah 7: 8-11 “‘Get smart! Your leaders are handing you a pack of lies, and you’re swallowing them! Use your heads! Do you think you can rob and murder, have sex with the neighborhood wives, tell lies nonstop, worship the local gods, and buy every novel religious commodity on the market—and then march into this Temple, set apart for my worship, and say, “We’re safe!” thinking that the place itself gives you a license to go on with all this outrageous sacrilege? A cave full of criminals! Do you think you can turn this Temple, set apart for my worship, into something like that? Well, think again. I’ve got eyes in my head. I can see what’s going on.’” God’s Decree!
Jeremiah 7:12 “‘Take a trip down to the place that was once in Shiloh, where I met my people in the early days. Take a look at those ruins, what I did to it because of the evil ways of my people Israel. 13-15 “‘So now, because of the way you have lived and failed to listen, even though time and again I took you aside and talked seriously with you, and because you refused to change when I called you to repent, I’m going to do to this Temple, set aside for my worship, this place you think is going to keep you safe no matter what, this place I gave as a gift to your ancestors and you, the same as I did to Shiloh. And as for you, I’m going to get rid of you, the same as I got rid of those old relatives of yours around Shiloh, your fellow Israelites in that former kingdom to the north.’
Jeremiah 18: 1-2 God told Jeremiah, “Up on your feet! Go to the potter’s house. When you get there, I’ll tell you what I have to say.” 3-4 So I went to the potter’s house, and sure enough, the potter was there, working away at his wheel. Whenever the pot the potter was working on turned out badly, as sometimes happens when you are working with clay, the potter would simply start over and use the same clay to make another pot. 5-10 Then God’s Message came to me: “Can’t I do just as this potter does, people of Israel?” God’s Decree! “Watch this potter. In the same way that this potter works his clay, I work on you, people of Israel. At any moment I may decide to pull up a people or a country by the roots and get rid of them. But if they repent of their wicked lives, I will think twice and start over with them. At another time I might decide to plant a people or country, but if they don’t cooperate and won’t listen to me, I will think again and give up on the plans I had for them.