Lesson 41: “I Have Made Thee This Day … an Iron Pillar”

Old Testament: Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual, (2001), 194–97


Purpose

To encourage class members to remain faithful in times of opposition and adversity.

Preparation

  1. 1.

    Prayerfully study the passages from Jeremiah that are discussed in this lesson. This lesson focuses on the courage and commitment of Jeremiah as he faced opposition from everyone around him.

  2. 2.

    If you use the attention activity, bring a metal bar to class.

Suggested Lesson Development

Attention Activity

You may want to use the following activity (or one of your own) to begin the lesson.

Display a metal bar and invite a class member to try to break it. Then ask the following questions:

  • If this object represented a person’s characteristics, what would it suggest about him or her?

  • Ask class members to read Jeremiah 1:17–19. What phrases does the Lord use in verse 18 to describe Jeremiah? What do these phrases suggest about the kind of person Jeremiah was? How would you feel if these words were used to describe you as you set out to fulfill a calling or assignment from the Lord?

Explain that kings, princes, priests, and all the people of the land opposed Jeremiah in his mission, but he valiantly did as the Lord commanded. Refer to the metal bar and explain that Jeremiah was an “iron pillar” who had great strength in times of adversity and did not bend or break.

Scripture Discussion and Application

As you teach the following scripture passages, discuss how they apply to daily life. Encourage class members to share experiences that relate to the scriptural principles.

Jeremiah ministered during the reigns of five kings, from Josiah to Zedekiah (626 to 586 B.C.). With Josiah, he tried to turn the people from idolatry and immorality. But the kings after Josiah ruled in wickedness, and the people were in total apostasy. Jeremiah’s mission was to raise a voice of warning to these people, and his denunciations of their wickedness are among the strongest in all scripture. His was one of the last voices of warning before Judah was conquered by the Babylonians.

Jeremiah’s life was full of sorrow, but his response to trial can teach and inspire us. He was beaten and imprisoned for prophesying against the kingdom of Judah. His life was constantly threatened. But through all the adversity and opposition, Jeremiah was like an “iron pillar” (Jeremiah 1:18). The book of Jeremiah provides a personal, faith-promoting record of the prophet’s response to his life’s sorrow and frustration.

1. Jeremiah is called of God to be a prophet.

Review the account of Jeremiah’s call to be a prophet as recorded in Jeremiah 1:4–10.

  • What does Jeremiah’s call teach us about the doctrine of foreordination? (See Jeremiah 1:5.) How do you think it helped Jeremiah to know that in the premortal existence he had been foreordained to be a prophet?

    The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “Every man who has a calling to minister to the inhabitants of the world was ordained to that very purpose in the Grand Council of heaven before this world was” (History of the Church, 6:364).

  • What did the Lord do when Jeremiah felt inadequate to fulfill his calling? (See Jeremiah 1:6–10.) How have you been reassured by the Lord when you have felt inadequate?

2. Many people oppose Jeremiah and try to prevent him from fulfilling his mission.

Use the following scriptures to discuss the opposition Jeremiah faced as he fulfilled the mission given to him by the Lord:

  1. a.

    Jeremiah 20:1–6. Displeased with Jeremiah’s prophecies, Pashur, the chief governor of the temple, had Jeremiah beaten and put in the stocks. Jeremiah prophesied that Pashur, his family, and his friends would be taken captive by the Babylonians and would die in Babylon.

  2. b.

    Jeremiah 26:7–15. Most of the people in the land, including the priests, opposed Jeremiah and his message (26:7–11). However, Jeremiah courageously delivered the message the Lord had commanded him to give (26:12–15). Jeremiah was even opposed and hated by his neighbors and relatives (11:19–21; 12:6; note that Jeremiah was from the city of Anathoth).

  3. c.

    Jeremiah 36:1–6, 20–32. The words of Jeremiah’s prophecies were written down and read to the people (36:1–6). The king burned these words, and the Lord commanded Jeremiah to record them again (36:20–32).

  4. d.

    Jeremiah 37:12–15; 38:4–13. Jeremiah was accused unjustly and put into prison (37:12–15). He was later cast into a dungeon, where he sank into the mire (38:4–6). By order of King Zedekiah, Jeremiah was released from the dungeon and put back in prison (38:7–13).

  • What does Jeremiah 20:14–18 reveal about how Jeremiah felt as he endured such overwhelming opposition? What can we learn from Jeremiah to help us when we experience adversity? (Answers may include that Jeremiah continued to obey the Lord and fulfill his calling even when he was persecuted and discouraged; see Jeremiah 26:12–15.)

  • In Jeremiah 2:13, what two evils did the Lord say his people had committed? (They had forsaken him, the fountain of living waters. And they had made for themselves broken cisterns that could not hold the Lord’s living water, meaning they had sought fulfillment and security in worldly things.) Why would people with these characteristics have difficulty accepting the words of Jeremiah? Why would they be unable to respond to adversity as Jeremiah did? How do we sometimes create “broken cisterns” that cannot hold the Savior’s living water?

    Elder Marion D. Hanks said:

    “Material objectives consume too much of our attention. The struggle for what we need or for more than we need exhausts our time and energy. We pursue pleasure or entertainment, or become overinvolved in associations or civic matters. Of course, people need recreation, need to be achieving, need to contribute; but if these come at the cost of friendship with Christ, the price is much too high.

    “‘For my people have committed two evils,’ said the Lord to Israel; ‘they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.’ (Jer. 2:13.)

    “The substitutions we fashion to take the place of God in our lives truly hold no water. To the measure we thus refuse the ‘living water,’ we miss the joy we could have” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1972, 127; or Ensign, July 1972, 105).

Jeremiah’s prophecies that the Babylonians would destroy Jerusalem were fulfilled, as recorded in Jeremiah 39–40. Jeremiah had been in prison during the siege, but afterward the Babylonians freed him and allowed him and a remnant of the Jews to remain in the land of Judah. Johanan, the leader of those who remained, asked Jeremiah to seek the Lord’s will for them and promised to obey it (Jeremiah 42:1–6). Through Jeremiah the Lord told the people to stay in the land of Judah and promised to bless them if they would do so (Jeremiah 42:9–22). But Johanan led the people into Egypt, where most of them continued in their wickedness (Jeremiah 43–44).

3. Jeremiah is strengthened in adversity by his love for the word of God.

Discuss the following scriptures, which show how the word of God helped Jeremiah remain strong in times of adversity.

  • As recorded in Jeremiah 1:9, what did the Lord put in Jeremiah’s mouth? As recorded in Jeremiah 15:16, what did Jeremiah do with the words of the Lord? (He ate them, which is poetic language meaning that the word of God became part of him.) How did Jeremiah feel about the words of the Lord?

  • How can we “eat” the words of the Lord as Jeremiah did? (By studying the scriptures and the counsel of latter-day prophets.) The Book of Mormon prophet Nephi said to “feast upon the words of Christ” (2 Nephi 32:3). How can feasting on the words of the Lord strengthen us?

  • In Jeremiah 20:9, how did Jeremiah describe the word of the Lord inside him? What do you think it means to have the word of the Lord be a burning fire in your bones? Why do you think Jeremiah could not hold back from teaching the word of the Lord?

Conclusion

Express your feelings about the example of Jeremiah and the need to be faithful in times of adversity. Encourage class members to search and ponder the words of the Lord until these words become fire in their bones, strengthening them as they do the Lord’s work. If you used the attention activity, display the metal bar and challenge class members to become, like Jeremiah, an iron pillar for the Lord.

Additional Teaching Ideas

The following material supplements the suggested lesson outline. You may want to use one or more of these ideas as part of the lesson.

1. “Clay … in the potter’s hand” (Jeremiah 18:6)

  • Review the account of Jeremiah’s visit to the potter, recorded in Jeremiah 18:1–4. What did the Lord teach his people through Jeremiah’s experience? (See Jeremiah 18:5–10. The Lord showed them that if they would repent, he would mold them into something better, just as the potter had reshaped the marred vessel. He also reminded them that he had the power to destroy them if they did not repent.)

  • How does this comparison apply to us today? How can we become better clay in the Lord’s hands? (By being humble—by obeying, repenting, trusting the Lord, and seeking his will. Invite class members to share experiences that show how the Lord has shaped and prepared people to fulfill his purposes.) What happens when we resist being molded by the Lord?

    President Heber C. Kimball provided the following insights into the comparison in Jeremiah 18:1–10:

    “All [who] are pliable in the hands of God and are obedient to His commands, are vessels of honor, and God will receive them” (History of the Church, 4:478).

    “There are many vessels that are destroyed after they have been moulded and shaped. Why? Because they are not contented with the shape the potter has given them, but straightaway put themselves into a shape to please themselves; therefore they are beyond understanding what God designs, and they destroy themselves by the power of their own agency. [These people] have to go through a great many modellings and shapes, then … have to be glazed and burned; and even in the burning, some vessels crack” (in Stanley B. Kimball, Heber C. Kimball: Mormon Patriarch and Pioneer [1981], 270).

2. Jeremiah preached at the same time as the Book of Mormon prophet Lehi

The prophet Jeremiah was teaching and warning the people of Judah at the time Lehi left Jerusalem. Both Jeremiah and Lehi prophesied that Jerusalem would be destroyed.

  • Where was Jeremiah when Lehi and his family left Jerusalem? (See Jeremiah 37:15–16; 1 Nephi 7:14.)

  • Jeremiah spent much time counseling with Zedekiah, the king of Judah, but Zedekiah refused to obey the words of the Lord delivered by Jeremiah. What happened to Zedekiah as a result of his disobedience? (See Jeremiah 39:4–7.)

  • From the Book of Mormon we know that one of the sons of Zedekiah was not slain by the Babylonians. What was his name? (See Helaman 8:20–21.) Where did he go? (See Omni 1:15.)