1. To what blessing of the new world are you particularly looking forward?
“THE new world.” On hearing those words, do you think of some of the foretold visible blessings? Perhaps a perfect body, ample healthful food, peaceful animals, or secure housing. You can likely cite Bible verses on which you base those expectations. Do not overlook, however, this blessing—good spiritual and emotional health. Without that, all other joys would soon fade.
2, 3. Jeremiah’s writings help us to expect what special blessing?
2 When having Jeremiah foretell the return of the Jews from Babylon, God gave attention to how they would feel: “You will yet deck yourself with your tambourines and actually go forth in the dance of those who are laughing.” (Read Jeremiah 30:18, 19; 31:4, 12-14.) God added something that may touch you: “I will saturate the tired soul, and every languishing soul I will fill.” The NET Bible renders God’s promise: “I will fully satisfy the needs of those who are weary and fully refresh the souls of those who are faint.”—Jer. 31:25.
3 What a prospect! Jehovah said that he would saturate, or fully satisfy, the one tired and discouraged. Yes, and what God promises, he does. Jeremiah’s writings give us confidence that we too will be satisfied. More than that, those writings provide us with insight on how, even now, we can be encouraged and optimistic. Moreover, they illustrate practical ways that we may encourage others, helping them to satisfy their tired souls.
4. Why can we identify with Jeremiah’s feelings?
4 That promise was a basis for comfort to Jeremiah, and it can be the same to us. Why? Recall a point mentioned in Chapter 1 of this volume—that Jeremiah was “a man with feelings like ours,” even as Elijah was. (Jas. 5:17) Think of just a few reasons why, at times, Jeremiah might have felt discouraged or even a bit depressed. As you do so, imagine how you would feel in similar situations and why circumstances that you face may discourage you.—Rom. 15:4.
5. What may have been discouraging to Jeremiah?
5 Jeremiah’s discouragement may, in part, have come from his hometown. He grew up in Anathoth. That was a Levite city a few miles northeast of Jerusalem. The prophet would have had acquaintances and perhaps relatives in Anathoth. Jesus said that a prophet has no honor in his homeland, and this was true of Jeremiah. (John 4:44) The townspeople went beyond being disinterested in or disrespectful of Jeremiah. At one point, God said that “the men of Anathoth” were “seeking for [Jeremiah’s] soul.” They belligerently said: “You must not prophesy in the name of Jehovah, that you may not die at our hand.” What a threat from neighbors and possibly relatives, who should have been on his side!—Jer. 1:1; 11:21.
6. If workmates or others oppose you, how can you benefit from Jeremiah’s experience with “the men of Anathoth”?
6 If you feel pressure from neighbors, schoolmates, workmates, or even some family members, take comfort from how Jehovah dealt with Jeremiah. Back then, God said he would ‘turn his attention upon’ those in Anathoth who were opposing his prophet. (Read Jeremiah 11:22, 23.) God’s assurance certainly helped Jeremiah overcome any discouragement resulting from that local opposition. Later, God’s attention would—and did—result in “calamity upon the men of Anathoth.” In your case, be reassured that Jehovah is observing matters, or giving them attention. (Ps. 11:4; 66:7) Your ‘staying by’ Bible teachings and doing what is right may yet help some opposers avoid the calamity that would otherwise befall them.—1 Tim. 4:16.
In the book of Jeremiah, what indicates that God is interested in his people’s feelings, and how might this have helped the prophet?
ACTS THAT COULD DISCOURAGE
7, 8. What type of abuse did Jeremiah suffer, and how did it affect him?
7 Jeremiah faced far more than verbal threats from people back home. One instance centered on a notable man in Jerusalem, a priest named Pashhur.* Upon hearing a divine prophecy, “Pashhur struck Jeremiah the prophet and put him into the stocks.” (Jer. 20:1, 2) Those words probably meant far more than a slap on the face. Some conclude that Pashhur had Jeremiah beaten or flogged with up to 40 stripes. (Deut. 25:3) While Jeremiah was suffering physically, people may have been jeering him and screaming abuse, even spitting on him. It did not end there. Pashhur had Jeremiah put in “stocks” overnight. The Hebrew word used suggests that the body was twisted and bent. Yes, Jeremiah was cruelly forced to suffer a painful night, probably fastened in a wooden frame.
8 How did such treatment affect Jeremiah? He said to God: “I became an object of laughter all day long.” (Jer. 20:3-7) It even crossed his mind to cease speaking out in God’s name. You know, however, that Jeremiah could not and did not do that. Rather, the divine message he was commissioned to deliver was “like a burning fire shut up in [Jeremiah’s] bones,” and he had to speak for Jehovah.—Read Jeremiah 20:8, 9.
9. Why is it helpful for us to reflect on Jeremiah’s experience?
9 That account can help us if we face malicious ridicule from those we know, be they relatives, neighbors, workmates, or schoolmates. We need not be shocked if, at times, such opposition makes us feel a bit discouraged. That may also occur if we undergo physical mistreatment because we pursue true worship. The imperfect man Jeremiah was affected by such things, and do we not have human feelings like he did? Yet, we must not forget that with God’s help, Jeremiah recovered his joy and confidence. The discouragement was not permanent, and it need not be so in our case.—2 Cor. 4:16-18.
10. What insight does the Bible provide about Jeremiah’s mood?
10 Sometimes Jeremiah’s mood changed, even considerably. Have you too had to deal with a similar thing—perhaps feeling optimistic and positive but then feeling downcast and gloomy? Regarding the former feeling, note the words at Jeremiah 20:12, 13. (Read.) After what Pashhur put him through, Jeremiah rejoiced over being like one of the poor ones delivered “out of the hand of evildoers.” At times, you have probably felt like exulting, desirous of singing to Jehovah, whether that was after you were somehow delivered or in response to a happy development in your life or Christian service. How fine it is to feel like that!—Acts 16:25, 26.
11. If we tend to have mood changes, what should we bear in mind about Jeremiah?
11 Yet, because we are imperfect, our mood may change, as Jeremiah’s did. After exclaiming “sing to Jehovah,” he felt deep despair, perhaps with tears flowing. (Read Jeremiah 20:14-16.) His spirits were so low that he wondered what value there was in his having been born! In his gloomy state, he said that the man who had announced his birth was as lamentable as Sodom and Gomorrah. But here is a key issue: Did Jeremiah continue to despair? Did he give up, resigning himself to ongoing feelings of discouragement? No. Instead, he must have worked to overcome his discouragement, and he succeeded. Consider what is related next, according to the arrangement of the book of Jeremiah. The other Pashhur, the prince, approached Jeremiah with an inquiry from King Zedekiah about the Babylonians besieging Jerusalem. Jeremiah rose to the occasion, boldly declaring Jehovah’s judgment and what the outcome would be. (Jer. 21:1-7) Clearly, Jeremiah was continuing active as a prophet!
12, 13. What might we do to cope with notable changes in our mood?
12 Some of God’s servants today experience mood changes. These may have a physical cause—perhaps hormonal surges or a biochemical imbalance—and a qualified physician may suggest ways to limit the extent of such mood swings. (Luke 5:31) For most of us, though, the exhilaration or gloominess that we sometimes feel is neither extreme nor abnormal. Likely, most negative feelings are a part of imperfect human life. They may result from tiredness or the loss of a loved one. If we face such situations, we can recall that Jeremiah dealt with mood changes, yet he remained in God’s favor. To cope, we may need to adjust our routine to get more rest. Or we may need to give ourselves time to gain comfort after our grievous loss. However, it is vitally important that we maintain our attendance at Christian meetings and our regular share in theocratic activities. Those are keys to staying balanced and having joy in serving God.—Matt. 5:3; Rom. 12:10-12.
13 Whether your downheartedness is a singular, rare event or is part of a pattern of mood changes, Jeremiah’s experience can speak to you. As mentioned, at times he felt quite down. Nevertheless, he did not let discouragement turn him away from the God whom he loved and served faithfully. When his opponents responded to his good by doing bad, he turned to Jehovah and trusted in him. (Jer. 18:19, 20, 23) Be determined to imitate Jeremiah.—Lam. 3:55-57.
If at times you feel discouraged or gloomy, how can you apply what you find in the book of Jeremiah?
WILL YOU REFRESH TIRED SOULS?
14. How in particular did Jeremiah receive encouragement?
14 We do well to give attention to how Jeremiah was encouraged and how he encouraged others who were ‘tired souls.’ (Jer. 31:25) The prophet received encouragement particularly from Jehovah. Think of how built up you would have been to hear Jehovah tell you: “As for me, here I have made you today a fortified city . . . They will be certain to fight against you, but they will not prevail against you, for ‘I am with you,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘to deliver you.’” (Jer. 1:18, 19) With good reason, Jeremiah referred to Jehovah as “my strength and my stronghold, and my place for flight in the day of distress.”—Jer. 16:19.
15, 16. The way that Jehovah encouraged Jeremiah offers what clue as to what we can do to encourage others?
15 It is noteworthy that Jehovah told Jeremiah: “I am with you.” Do you see in that a clue as to what you can do when someone you know needs encouragement? It is one thing to realize that a Christian brother or sister or perhaps a relative has that need; it is another thing to respond effectively to that need. In many cases, the most effective course is to do what God did for Jeremiah—just be with the afflicted one. Then, at some point, offer words of encouragement, but not a torrent of words. Fewer words will likely do more good if they are words chosen to reassure and build up. What you say need not be eloquent. Use simple words that manifest interest, concern, and Christian affection. Words like that can do much good.—Read Proverbs 25:11.
16 Jeremiah asked: “O Jehovah, remember me and turn your attention to me.” Then what? The prophet relates: “Your words were found, and I proceeded to eat them; and your word becomes to me the exultation and the rejoicing of my heart.” (Jer. 15:15, 16) The one whom you want to encourage may similarly need kind attention. Granted, your words are not on the same level as those of Jehovah. You can, though, include some of God’s words in what you say. Such sincere, heartfelt, Bible-based expressions can truly make the heart of the discouraged one rejoice.—Read Jeremiah 17:7, 8.
17. What important lesson can we draw from how Jeremiah dealt with Zedekiah and Johanan?
17 Take note that beyond receiving encouragement from God, Jeremiah encouraged others. How? At one point, King Zedekiah told Jeremiah about his fear of the Jews who allied themselves with the Babylonians. The prophet spoke encouraging words, urging the king to obey Jehovah and experience a positive outcome. (Jer. 38:19, 20) After Jerusalem fell and a mere remnant of Jews remained in the land, their military chief Johanan considered taking the people to Egypt. But first, he inquired of Jeremiah. The prophet listened to Johanan’s expression and then prayed to Jehovah. Later, he conveyed Jehovah’s encouraging answer, mentioning that good would come from following the divine direction to remain in the land. (Jer. 42:1-12) In both cases, Jeremiah lent a hearing ear—he listened before he spoke. Listening is fundamental to encouraging others. Let the afflicted one open his heart. Listen to his concerns, his fears. When it is appropriate, offer encouraging words. You will not have a divine revelation to offer to the one needing encouragement, yet you can include positive thoughts from the Word of God, thoughts that focus on what the future holds.—Jer. 31:7-14.
18, 19. What pattern of encouraging others is evident in the accounts about the Rechabites and Ebed-melech?
18 Neither Zedekiah nor Johanan accepted the encouraging advice Jeremiah delivered, and some today may not seem to respond to yours. Do not let that discourage you. Others did respond favorably to the encouragement Jeremiah gave them, and likely many will respond to yours. Think of the Rechabites, a group of Kenites linked to the Jews for many years. Among the commands coming down from their ancestor Jehonadab was that as alien residents, they not drink wine. When the Babylonians were attacking, Jeremiah brought the Rechabites to a dining room in the temple. At God’s direction, Jeremiah set wine before them. Respectful of their ancestor and in contrast to Israel’s disobedience, the Rechabites were obedient and would not drink the wine. (Jer. 35:3-10) Jeremiah conveyed to them commendation from Jehovah and His promise for their future. (Read Jeremiah 35:14, 17-19.) That is a pattern you can follow in offering encouragement: Honestly commend others when possible.
19 Jeremiah also did that with Ebed-melech, an Ethiopian who evidently served as an official in the court of King Zedekiah. Judean princes had Jeremiah unjustly thrown into a miry cistern and left him there to die. Ebed-melech appealed to King Zedekiah, who authorized him to save the prophet. This foreign man did so, in the face of possibly violent interference. (Jer. 38:7-13) Having likely alienated those Judean princes, Ebed-melech may have been apprehensive about his future. Jeremiah did not remain silent, just hoping that Ebed-melech would get over it. He spoke up, passing along encouraging words about God’s future blessings for Ebed-melech.—Jer. 39:15-18.
20. What should we want to do for our brothers, young or old?
20 Truly, as we read the book of Jeremiah, we find excellent examples of how we personally can do what the apostle Paul urged our brothers in Thessalonica to do: “Keep comforting one another and building one another up . . . The undeserved kindness of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.”—1 Thess. 5:11, 28.
What lessons from Jeremiah do you plan to apply while striving to encourage tired souls?
During Zedekiah’s reign, there was a different Pashhur, a prince who petitioned the king to have Jeremiah killed.—Jer. 38:1-5.