SCRIPTURE: Jeremiah 26:1-12
Jeremiah’s Prophecies in the Temple
1 At the beginning of the reign of King Jehoiakim son of Josiah of Judah, this word came from the Lord: 2 Thus says the Lord: Stand in the court of the Lord’s house, and speak to all the cities of Judah that come to worship in the house of the Lord; speak to them all the words that I command you; do not hold back a word. 3 It may be that they will listen, all of them, and will turn from their evil way, that I may change my mind about the disaster that I intend to bring on them because of their evil doings. 4 You shall say to them: Thus says the Lord: If you will not listen to me, to walk in my law that I have set before you, 5 and to heed the words of my servants the prophets whom I send to you urgently—though you have not heeded— 6 then I will make this house like Shiloh, and I will make this city a curse for all the nations of the earth.
7 The priests and the prophets and all the people heard Jeremiah speaking these words in the house of the Lord. 8 And when Jeremiah had finished speaking all that the Lord had commanded him to speak to all the people, then the priests and the prophets and all the people laid hold of him, saying, “You shall die! 9 Why have you prophesied in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘This house shall be like Shiloh, and this city shall be desolate, without inhabitant’?” And all the people gathered around Jeremiah in the house of the Lord.
10 When the officials of Judah heard these things, they came up from the king’s house to the house of the Lord and took their seat in the entry of the New Gate of the house of the Lord. 11 Then the priests and the prophets said to the officials and to all the people, “This man deserves the sentence of death because he has prophesied against this city, as you have heard with your own ears.” 12 Then Jeremiah spoke to all the officials and all the people, saying, “It is the Lord who sent me to prophesy against this house and this city all the words you have heard.
Matthew Henry offers for his readers’ consideration that “We have here the sermon that Jeremiah preached, which gave such offence that he was in danger of losing his life for it. It is here left upon record, as it were, by way of appeal to the judgment of impartial men in all ages, whether Jeremiah was worthy to die for delivering such a message as this from God, and whether his persecutors were not very wicked and unreasonable men.”
And Lawrence O. Richards echoes Henry’s observation where he writes “The dominant theme of Jeremiah is that of national sinfulness and looming judgment. Jeremiah’s 40-year ministry spanned the final days of Judah’s existence as an independent nation. He constantly warned his nation to submit to Babylon, a nation which God had appointed to discipline His people. As a result he was hated as a traitor to his people, and his life was often threatened. Yet Jeremiah lived to see his words come true. This man, often called the weeping prophet because of the personal anguish he knew in his ministry, witnessed the utter destruction of Jerusalem and of the temple that he, like other godly Jews, loved.”
In all four Gospels, there is a reference to Jesus saying something to the effect of “no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown” (Matthew 13:57, Mark 6:4, Luke 4:24, John 4:44). In these instances, he says this after being rejected in his hometown, but as we can see in this passage from Jeremiah it is not limited just to Jesus’ experience. We actually see this reality with many of the Old Testament prophets’ stories. But in a way, we probably should not be too surprised about this. Prophets are called by God to speak truth to power. And more often than not, the truth being spoken to the power is not “happy truths.” Many pastors and church leaders will feel the same way when they feel called to deliver a message to a congregation or faith community that they know may not be well received. What is important to remember is that when God calls us to deliver these kinds of messages, God is always by our side.
Have you ever felt called to deliver a challenging message to a faith community? How did you feel, how did you do it, and what was the outcome? Have you ever been on the receiving end of one of these kinds of messages? How did you feel, how did you handle it, and what, if anything, changed for you?
God of all truth and power, you are always walking with us in our lives, during the good and bad times. Grant us the courage to share messages of truth you give to us, and also the strength to listen and accept those messages from others you have called. Amen.