Monday, August 10, 2015

An Attempt to Silence Jeremiah

Jeremiah 26:1-24

“In the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah came this word from the LORD, saying, Thus saith the LORD; Stand in the court of the LORD'S house, and speak unto all the cities of Judah, which come to worship in the LORD'S house, all the words that I command thee to speak unto them; diminish not a word: If so be they will hearken, and turn every man from his evil way, that I may repent me of the evil, which I purpose to do unto them because of the evil of their doings.

And thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the LORD; If ye will not hearken to me, to walk in my law, which I have set before you, To hearken to the words of my servants the prophets, whom I sent unto you, both rising up early, and sending them, but ye have not hearkened; Then will I make this house like Shiloh, and will make this city a curse to all the nations of the earth.” (Jeremiah 26:1-6)

Jehoiakin was originally made king of Judah by Pharaoh Necho of Egypt.  Eleven years later Judah was conquered by Nebuchadnezzar and he was carried away captive.  Shortly after he became king, God directed Jeremiah to deliver a message to the people of Judah who came to worship at the temple, warning them of the consequences of their disobedience.  He was to give them every detail, and if they would change their behavior, God would still change his plans and have mercy on them.

If they refused to listen to him or to obey the law, and continued to ignore the warnings from the prophets he had sent them, then the temple would be like Shiloh, and Jerusalem would be a curse to the rest of the world.  When Israel first conquered the promised land, under Joshua’s leadership they had set up the Tabernacle at Shiloh.  In Eli’s day in I Samuel, The ark of  the Covenant was take away by the Philistines who conquered the land and controlled Israel for several years.  Though Samuel continued to minister there, the ark was never returned and Shiloh lost most of its influence.  A hundred years later, David moved the Tabernacle to Jerusalem and Shiloh was completely deserted. 

In Psalm 78:56-61, David describes what happened.  “ Yet they tempted and provoked the most high God, and kept not his testimonies: But turned back, and dealt unfaithfully like their fathers: they were turned aside like a deceitful bow.  For they provoked him to anger with their high places, and moved him to jealousy with their graven images.  When God heard this, he was wroth, and greatly abhorred Israel: So that he forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh, the tent which he placed among men; And delivered his strength into captivity, and his glory into the enemy's hand.”  God would do the same thing to Jerusalem and the Temple if they continued in their sin.

“So the priests and the prophets and all the people heard Jeremiah speaking these words in the house of the LORD. Now it came to pass, when Jeremiah had made an end of speaking all that the LORD had commanded him to speak unto all the people, that the priests and the prophets and all the people took him, saying, Thou shalt surely die.  Why hast thou prophesied in the name of the LORD, saying, This house shall be like Shiloh, and this city shall be desolate without an inhabitant? And all the people were gathered against Jeremiah in the house of the LORD.” (Jeremiah 26:7-9)

Because Jeremiah was speaking publicly in the Temple courtyard to those who came to worship, the religious leaders of the day heard his message.  They didn’t like his message and challenged his statements.  They were sure they were God’s people and pronouncements that Jerusalem would be abandoned like Shiloh were considered treasonous. They wanted to execute him. 
“When the princes of Judah heard these things, then they came up from the king's house unto the house of the LORD, and sat down in the entry of the new gate of the LORD'S house.  Then spake the priests and the prophets unto the princes and to all the people, saying, This man is worthy to die; for he hath prophesied against this city, as ye have heard with your ears.” (Jeremiah 26:10-11)

The civil authorities were contacted and a hearing was called to decide Jeremiah’s fate.  The religious leaders declared he ought to be killed for contradicting what they stood for and accusing them of wrong doing, referring to what the people had heard him say.  

“Then spake Jeremiah unto all the princes and to all the people, saying, The LORD sent me to prophesy against this house and against this city all the words that ye have heard.  Therefore now amend your ways and your doings, and obey the voice of the LORD your God; and the LORD will repent him of the evil that he hath pronounced against you.  As for me, behold, I am in your hand: do with me as seemeth good and meet unto you.  But know ye for certain, that if ye put me to death, ye shall surely bring innocent blood upon yourselves, and upon this city, and upon the inhabitants thereof: for of a truth the LORD hath sent me unto you to speak all these words in your ears.” (Jeremiah 26:12-15)

Jeremiah was permitted to speak for himself as the Law required and he reminded them that what he had said was that if they would make the changes and do what the Law required they would be spared.  He went on to make it clear that executing him would not change God’s plans, except to add another layer of judgment to them.  He knew it was God who had sent them and killing him would not change that.    

“ Then said the princes and all the people unto the priests and to the prophets; This man is not worthy to die: for he hath spoken to us in the name of the LORD our God.  Then rose up certain of the elders of the land, and spake to all the assembly of the people, saying,  Micah the Morasthite prophesied in the days of Hezekiah king of Judah, and spake to all the people of Judah, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Zion shall be plowed like a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the house as the high places of a forest.  Did Hezekiah king of Judah and all Judah put him at all to death? did he not fear the LORD, and besought the LORD, and the LORD repented him of the evil which he had pronounced against them? Thus might we procure great evil against our souls.” (Jeremiah 26:16-19)

Jeremiah had not actively tried to destroy the city or hurt anyone and the political and civil leaders concluded he had not committed any crime justifying a death sentence.  They reminded the people that a little over a hundred years before Judah had been threatened by the Assyrians, and a prophet names Micah had delivered a similar message to the people.  Instead of having Micah killed. Hezekiah listened to the message and turned the nation to God, becoming one of Judah’s greatest kings.  As a result, the destruction Micah had prophesied was avoided.  To ignore Jeremiah or kill him might well result in making his prophecy come to pass.  

“And there was also a man that prophesied in the name of the LORD, Urijah the son of Shemaiah of Kirjathjearim, who prophesied against this city and against this land according to all the words of Jeremiah: And when Jehoiakim the king, with all his mighty men, and all the princes, heard his words, the king sought to put him to death: but when Urijah heard it, he was afraid, and fled, and went into Egypt; And Jehoiakim the king sent men into Egypt, namely, Elnathan the son of Achbor, and certain men with him into Egypt.  And they fetched forth Urijah out of Egypt, and brought him unto Jehoiakim the king; who slew him with the sword, and cast his dead body into the graves of the common people.  Nevertheless the hand of Ahikam the son of Shaphan was with Jeremiah, that they should not give him into the hand of the people to put him to death.“ (Jeremiah 26:20-24)

About the same time Jeremiah made his prophecy, another man by the name of Urijah made a very similar prophecy.  King Jehoiakim and the civil leaders gave orders to have him killed and he fled to Egypt to escape them.  A unit was dispatched to Egypt to arrest him and return him to Judah where he was executed.   That Jeremiah was not killed was largely due to the influence of a powerful political leader named Ahikam.

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