As we study the Bible, one of the things we learn is that Israel and the church are not the same thing. God made certain promises to Israel that He has not made to the church, and vice versa. That means that when we read the OT, we must realize that much of what we read is directed towards the nation of Israel and not to us.
But that does not mean that the lessons contained in God’s admonitions to Israel have nothing to do with us. We can learn from the things God said to them, and we can learn from the examples of the people we read about in the OT. Paul tells us as much when he writes to the church at Corinth (1 Cor 10:6, 11). The author of Hebrews also relates how believers in the OT who obeyed God are witnesses for us to follow (Hebrews 11).
Church age believers have much to learn from the prophet Jeremiah. He prophesied to the nation of Israel over 600 years before the church was born, and his ministry centered around Judah. He spoke to the people about their failure to keep the Law of Moses. NT believers are not under the Law of Moses.
But we can learn a lot from this man. He spoke to a people who had grievously sinned against the Lord. They had committed idolatry and even had sacrificed their own children to these false gods. They had mistreated the poor and needy in their society, another violation of the Law of Moses.
Jeremiah pointed out that there would be adverse consequences for those sins. They would experience drought as God withheld the rain from them. Eventually, a strong enemy would come and kill many of them and take the survivors away as slaves. These consequences had been spelled out in the Law of Moses as well. Moses said God would curse them with such things.
The prophet preached this message for around 40 years. What was his attitude as he did so? He is famously known as the weeping prophet. He did not come as a self-righteous man, simply judging the people for their sin. He grieved over what the sins of the people would bring upon them. He prayed to God that He would spare his people from this fate. He so longed for them to turn from their sins and enjoy the blessings God had promised the nation for obedience.
There are many passages in Jeremiah that describe the pain he felt over the sin around him. In Jer 9:1-3, he says he wished his head was a fountain filled with water so that he could cry day and night, without ceasing. Such remorse was the proper response for what he was seeing around him.
There are, of course, many things that a believer today can learn from such a man. First, he was a man who spoke the truth. He was faithful to the word of God, even though that message was one that carried with it punishment on the people he loved. The message caused him a great deal of pain, Surely, we should do the same. We should not water down the words of Christ. We should be faithful in proclaiming that only those who believe in Him for eternal life will be in His kingdom. There will be many people who spend eternity in the lake of fire because they have not believed in Him.
Another thing we can learn from Jeremiah is that we should desire to have the same attitude about the sin around us. We must remember that Jeremiah was speaking to God’s people. Sure, some of them were not believers. But some of them were. It broke his heart to see them walking in disobedience. He knew God was going to discipline them. He didn’t want to see it. As believers today, the same is true for Christians in our churches. It should break our hearts to see fellow believers walk in open disobedience. Paul said this very thing to the church at Corinth regarding a Christian who was living in open, sexual sin (1 Cor 5:1-2).
Jeremiah lived a long time ago and was not part of the church. He spoke to the nation of Israel. But we can learn a thing or two from his example.