The Lord commanded Jeremiah to warn the people in Jerusalem that unless they repented, the city would be destroyed. Because of his preaching, Jeremiah was smitten and imprisoned by the people. He wrote a letter to the captives already in Babylon, warning them against false prophets and offering encouragement.
Note: This week students studied the scripture mastery passage in Jeremiah 1:4–5. You may want to invite students to recite it together at the beginning of class.
Before class, draw or display pictures of two landscapes on the board: one of an area that is dry and parched and the other of a fertile area with a river.
If you were to live in one of these locations, which would you choose? Why?
Explain that these landscapes could represent the spiritual condition of our lives. Invite students to consider whether the spiritual condition of their lives is more like a desert or a fertile valley or if it is somewhere in between.
Invite students to look for principles in Jeremiah 17–18 that can help make their lives richer and more fruitful, like the fertile landscape.
Summarize Jeremiah 17:1–4 by explaining that through Jeremiah the Lord told the people of Judah that they would be forced out of the promised land to serve their enemies elsewhere. Invite a student to read Jeremiah 17:5–6 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for why the Jews would be cursed. Explain that a heath is a small, scraggly tree with a gnarled stem and needlelike leaves. Jeremiah used this uninviting tree to make his point.
According to verse 5, what actions would bring about the curse of being like a scraggly tree in the desert? (Write students’ responses on the board under the image of the desert landscape.)
What are some examples of the behaviors listed in verse 5?
How might doing these things be similar to living in a desert?
Invite a student to read Jeremiah 17:7–8 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the Lord’s description of those who trust in Him rather than in man.
How does the Lord describe those who trust in Him?
What could the waters represent in this description?
If possible, bring a lump of soft clay to class. Invite a student to quickly form a pot out of the clay in front of the class. If you do not have clay, ask students to imagine they are creating a pot out of soft clay.
What can you do if you do not like the look of the pot you have just made?
Ask the student to start over and form another pot. Explain that God used the art of making pottery to teach Jeremiah about the house of Israel. Invite a few students to take turns reading aloud from Jeremiah 18:1–6. Ask the rest of the class to follow along, looking for what God taught Jeremiah.
Using the art of making pottery, what did God teach Jeremiah about the house of Israel? (Even though the Israelites had been marred by sin, the Lord could reshape them into a mighty nation again.)
Invite a student to read Jeremiah 18:7–8 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Jews needed to do so that God would reshape them into a mighty nation. You may want to draw students’ attention to verse 8, footnote b, and explain that God was not repenting; He was revoking the punishment.
If the Lord has warned a nation that it will be destroyed, what can the people do to be spared and reshaped by Him instead?
If we liken ourselves to the Israelites, what can we do to allow God to mold or reshape our lives? (Students may use different words, but make sure it is clear that if we choose to repent, the Lord can mold and reshape our lives. Using students’ words, write this principle on the board under the image of the fertile landscape.)
Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder Hugh W. Pinnock of the Seventy. Ask the class to listen for phrases that give them hope in the Savior’s ability to help them change for the better.
“The Lord explained to Jeremiah that when we make mistakes, as ancient Israel was making, we can take what we have marred and begin again. The potter did not give up and throw the clay away, just because he had made a mistake. And we are not to feel hopeless and reject ourselves. Yes, our task is to overcome our problems, take what we have and are, and start again.
“Some of you who are listening have sinned in ways that are significant, embarrassing, and destructive. Yet, by following the simple instruction given by the Master, you can talk with your bishop, when necessary, and begin again as a renewed person” (“Beginning Again,” Ensign, May 1982, 12).
Which teachings from Elder Pinnock offer hope that we can overcome our mistakes and change for the better?
Invite a student to read Jeremiah 18:11–12 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the Jews’ response to Jeremiah’s message of hope.
How did the Jews respond to Jeremiah’s message of hope?
Summarize Jeremiah 18:13–23 by explaining that because the people rejected the words of the Lord, He said that they would suffer and be scattered. The Jews then plotted to harm Jeremiah. Though he mourned over their wickedness, Jeremiah asked the Lord to let the Jews suffer for their sins.
Ask students the following questions: What is the purpose of a watchman on a tower? How are prophets like watchmen on a tower? Then explain that Ezekiel used objects and physical symbols to teach the people in ways that would help them understand and remember God’s teachings. Ask students if they have ever had the chance to explain their belief in living prophets to someone. Explain that in the coming unit, students will have the opportunity to learn more about the important role of prophets.