Jeremiah's Message in the Temple
1 Soon after Jehoiakim became king of Judah, the Lord said:
2Jeremiah, I have a message for everyone who comes from the towns of Judah to worship in my temple. Go to the temple courtyard and speak every word that I tell you. 3Maybe the people will listen this time. And if they stop doing wrong, I will change my mind and not punish them for their sins. 4Tell them that I have said:
You have refused to listen to me and to obey my laws and teachings. 5Again and again I have sent my servants the prophets to preach to you, but you ignored them as well. Now I am warning you that if you don't start obeying me at once, 6 I will destroy this temple, just as I destroyed the town of Shiloh. Then everyone on earth will use the name “Jerusalem” as a curse word.
Jeremiah on Trial
7The priests, the prophets, and everyone else in the temple heard what I said, 8-9and as soon as I finished, they all crowded around me and started shouting, “Why did you preach that the Lord will destroy this temple, just as he destroyed Shiloh? Why did you say that Jerusalem will be empty and lie in ruins? You ought to be put to death for saying such things in the Lord's name!” Then they had me arrested.
10The royal officers heard what had happened, and they came from the palace to the new gate of the temple to be the judges at my trial. 11While they listened, the priests and the prophets said to the crowd, “All of you have heard Jeremiah prophesy that Jerusalem will be destroyed. He deserves the death penalty.”
12-13Then I told the judges and everyone else:
The Lord himself sent me to tell you about the terrible things he will do to you, to Jerusalem, and to the temple. But if you change your ways and start obeying the Lord, he will change his mind.
14You must decide what to do with me. Just do whatever you think is right. 15But if you put me to death, you and everyone else in Jerusalem will be guilty of murdering an innocent man, because everything I preached came from the Lord.
16The judges and the other people told the priests and prophets, “Since Jeremiah only told us what the Lord our God had said, we don't think he deserves to die.”
17Then some of the leaders from other towns stepped forward. They told the crowd that 18 years ago when Hezekiah was king of Judah, a prophet named Micah from the town of Moresheth had said:
“I, the Lord All-Powerful, say
Jerusalem will be plowed under
and left in ruins.
Thorns will cover the mountain
where the temple
19Then the leaders continued:
No one put Micah to death for saying that. Instead, King Hezekiah prayed to the Lord with fear and trembling and asked him to have mercy. Then the Lord decided not to destroy Jerusalem, even though he had already said he would.
People of Judah, if Jeremiah is killed, we will bring a terrible disaster on ourselves.
20-24After these leaders finished speaking, an important man named Ahikam son of Shaphan spoke up for me as well. And so, I wasn't handed over to the crowd to be killed.
Uriah the Prophet
While Jehoiakim was still king of Judah, a man named Uriah son of Shemaiah left his hometown of Kiriath-Jearim and came to Jerusalem. Uriah was one of the Lord's prophets, and he was saying the same things about Judah and Jerusalem that I had been saying. And when Jehoiakim and his officials and military officers heard what Uriah said, they tried to arrest him, but he escaped to Egypt. So Jehoiakim sent Elnathan son of Achbor and some other men after Uriah, and they brought him back. Then Jehoiakim had Uriah killed and his body dumped in a common burial pit.
It is one thing to speak the truth and to have people simply reject your message but it is quite another thing to be threatened with death for doing so. Such was the case with Jeremiah who again declares God’s message of warning to his listeners (vv. 4-6). This time, rather than ignoring Jeremiah, the community together with its prophets and priests grab Jeremiah and say that he should die. What offends them is that Jeremiah would dare to speak against their place of worship suggesting it would be like Shiloh, another prominent worship centre that was in ruins.
On the witness stand Jeremiah holds firm and despite being under the threat of death, repeats God’s message: “…change your ways and start obeying God” (v. 13). Incredibly he continues by saying “You must decide what to do with me. Just do whatever you think is right” (v. 14).
Jeremiah had other options; he could have retracted his words or at least tried to tone them down. He could have passionately pleaded for his life or he could have simply given up. He did none of these things and therefore stands as an example to us of courage in the face of confrontation, integrity in the midst of dire circumstances and complete trust in God in the face of death. His response not only challenges us but foreshadows the response of Jesus centuries later.
Lord God of truth and righteousness, in this passage I am reminded again of the courage of Jeremiah. He stands as a great example to me so that when I face opposition, I am always in your hands. Grant me your grace through Jesus Christ our Lord, amen.