Scripture reading – Jeremiah 26-29
Jeremiah 26 – Kill the Prophet!
The nation of Judah has suffered the humiliation of Babylon taking away King Jeconiah in chains (Jeremiah 24:1), and having the treasuries of the Temple and the king’s palace plundered. Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, has also taken away Judah’s brightest youth (Daniel 1:3-5) and skilled laborers (Jeremiah 24:1; 29:1-2). With a succession of wicked kings on Judah’s throne, and the nation cursed with false prophets and priests, there is a foreboding death and destruction that hangs over the land.
Jeremiah 26:1-10 – “Thus saith the LORD…Diminish not a Word”
Jeremiah has been a faithful prophet of the LORD; however, he has grieved the scorn of his people, and the wrath of Judah’s leaders. In spite of the hardships he has suffered, the LORD commands His prophet to return to “Stand in the court of the LORD’S house (Temple) and…diminish not a word” (26:2).
When Jeremiah’s courageous declaration of God’s Word was ended (26:3-7), the priests and the prophets stirred up the people who said to the prophet, “Thou shalt surely die” (26:8). The uproar was so great that the “princes of Judah” (i.e. leaders) intervened and established a public trial for Jeremiah “in the entry of the new gate of the LORD’S house” (26:9-10).
Jeremiah 26:11-24 – God’s Prophet on Trial
The wicked priests and false prophets accused Jeremiah of preaching a message of doom against Jerusalem, which they justified him being put to death (26:11). Jeremiah, however, rose to his own defense and declared his authority as God’s prophet saying, “The LORD sent me to prophesy against this house and against this city all the words that ye have heard” (26:12).
Knowing the “princes of Judah” held in their hands the power of life or death, Jeremiah boldly declared the conditions of God’s loving forgiveness. He encouraged the people to, “amend [their] ways [i.e. do good] and [their] doings, and obey the voice of the LORD” (26:13) and God would withhold the judgment he had determined against them.
The leaders of the people considered two cases to justify Jeremiah’s acquittal (26:16-23). The first was the case of the prophet Micah (26:18-19) who prophesied during the reign of Hezekiah and whose life was spared because the king and the people had repented of their sins (Micah 3:12). The second case for acquittal was that of the prophet Urijah (also known as Uriah) who prophesied during the reign of Jehoiakim (26:20-23). Urijah had fled to Egypt; however, the king’s men returned him to Judah and the king slew him and cast his body into a commoners grave (26:23).
Jeremiah, by contrast with Urijah, had not fled nor failed to execute his office as God’s prophet. One man named Ahikam, interceded that the judges would not “give [Jeremiah] into the hand of the people to put him to death” (26:24).
Note – There is much history that transpires in Jeremiah 27-28 and I hope to return to this passage in another year. For the sake of context, this devotional commentary will consider the prophecy found in Jeremiah 29.
Jeremiah 29 – The Prophecy of Seventy Years of Captivity in Babylon
Jeremiah 29 records a letter Jeremiah sent to those whom Nebuchadnezzar had first taken captive to Babylon (29:1-4). Jeremiah prophesied to those in captivity that seventy years would pass before they would be restored to their homeland (29:10).
Rather than allow all hope to fail, Jeremiah instructed his people in Babylon to set their roots in Babylon for a season and “build ye houses…plant gardens…Take ye wives…bear sons and daughters…seek the peace of the city…and pray unto the LORD for it” (29:5-7).
Jeremiah encouraged the people to dismiss the false prophets who predicted a brief captivity (29:8-9). The prophet foretold their captivity would last seventy years (29:10). Assuring the people of God’s love and forgiveness, Jeremiah declared the LORD’S assurances of His benevolent thoughts, His longing for the people to repent of their sins and call upon Him, and His promise to restore them (29:11-13).
False prophets would become the scourge of the exiles in Babylon and not only raised the false hope of a short captivity (29:15-23), but also attacked the integrity and ministry of Jeremiah (29:24-29). One false prophet named Shemaiah, sent a letter from Babylon to Jerusalem and accused Jeremiah of being a mad man, a false prophet, a man who had preached a message of hopelessness and counseled the people that the captivity would be long (29:26-29).
Shemaiah’s letter to Jeremiah must have been a great discouragement to the prophet. God, however, counseled his prophet to send a letter to the people in Babylon saying, “Shemaiah hath prophesied unto you, and I sent him not, and he caused you to trust in a lie… he [Shemaiah] hath taught rebellion against the LORD” (29:31-32)
Like some of you, I identify with the sorrows of Jeremiah. God’s command to “diminish not a word” of the LORD (26:2) put him on the receiving end of personal attacks that were unreasonable in nature. Shemaiah’s letter, meant to disparage the prophet and stir an uprising against him, was resolved when the LORD vindicated Jeremiah by exposing Shemaiah as a false prophet (29:31). Shemaiah and his family would be punished (29:32).
1 Samuel 26:9 – “Who can stretch forth his hand against the LORD’S anointed, and be guiltless?”
Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith