Scripture reading – Jeremiah 26

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Jeremiah began his prophetic ministry as a young man who struggled with fears of inadequacy and the fear of man (Jeremiah 1:6). Nevertheless, the LORD exhorted Jeremiah, “Be not afraid of their faces” and promised him, “I am with thee to deliver thee” (Jeremiah 1:8). With the Word of the LORD on his lips (Jeremiah 1:9), and the assurance that he would be empowered to be as strong as a walled city, Jeremiah obeyed the LORD. 

In Jeremiah 7, the LORD commanded His prophet to “Stand in the gate of the Lord’s house, and proclaim there this word” (Jeremiah 7:1). Because Jeremiah 26 hearkens to the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah” (Jeremiah 26:1), it is possible that the two chapters record the same event.

 

The LORD commanded Jeremiah: “Diminish not a Word.” (Jeremiah 26:1-10)

Jeremiah’s prophecy against Jerusalem and Judah continued in chapter 26 when the LORD commanded His prophet to “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” (Jeremiah 26:2).

Perhaps, out of fear of the people, Jeremiah might have been tempted to soften the blow of the words the LORD told him to speak. Therefore, he was warned, “Diminish not a word” (in other words, speak everything I have told you, Jeremiah 26:2). Ever longsuffering, the LORD placed before Jeremiah the longing that the people would “turn every man from his evil way,” that He might turn from His judgment (Jeremiah 26:3).

Thou shalt surely die

The Rejection and Persecution of Judah’s Leaders (Jeremiah 26:7-11) 

Jeremiah warned those coming to the Temple that if they did not repent, the Temple would be destroyed, as had Israel’s place of worship in Shiloh (the location of the Tabernacle which the Philistines destroyed, Joshua 18:1; 1 Samuel 1:3). Tragically, the opposite occurred when the response of the leaders was not to repent, but to threaten Jeremiah saying, “Thou shalt surely die” (Jeremiah 26:8).

The uproar was so great that the “princes of Judah” (civic leaders) intervened and established a public trial for Jeremiah “in the entry of the new gate of the LORD’s house” (Jeremiah 26:9-10). (In ancient times, the “gates” were a public stage for transacting business and holding trials.) The wicked priests and false prophets accused Jeremiah of preaching a message of doom and asserted he should be put to death (Jeremiah 26:11).

Jeremiah’s Fearless Defense (Jeremiah 26:11-15)

Jeremiah, however, rose to his defense and declared, “The LORD sent me to prophesy against this house and against this city all the words that ye have heard” (Jeremiah 26:12).

Jeremiah challenged the people, “amend your ways [i.e. do good] and your doings, and obey the voice of the LORD” (Jeremiah 26:13), and He would withhold the judgment He had determined against them.

Two Legal Precedents for Freeing Jeremiah

Two Legal Precedents for Freeing Jeremiah (Jeremiah 26:16-24)

Some of the elders of Jerusalem argued that Jeremiah had done nothing worthy of death, saying, “he hath spoken to us in the name of the LORD our God” (Jeremiah 26:17). The leaders of the people then considered two cases to justify Jeremiah’s acquittal (Jeremiah 26:16-23). The first was the case of the prophet Micah (Jeremiah 26:18-19), who prophesied during the reign of Hezekiah. Micah’s life was spared because the king and the people repented of their sins (Micah 3:18).

The second example was that of the prophet Urijah (also known as Uriah), who prophesied during the reign of Jehoiakim and about the same time Jeremiah was questioned (Jeremiah 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 commoner’s grave (possibly the valley of Kidron, Jeremiah 26:23)

Jeremiah’s Life Spared (Jeremiah 26:24)

One man, Ahikam, sided with Jeremiah and reasoned that “they should not give [Jeremiah] into the hand of the people to put him to death” (Jeremiah 26:24).

Unlike Urijah, who fled from Judah and sought safety in Egypt, Jeremiah had not fled nor failed to execute his office as God’s prophet. I close with a question for any who dare abuse the faithful servants and preachers of God’s Word:

“Who can stretch forth his hand against the LORD’S anointed, and be guiltless?” (1 Samuel 26:9)

Copyright © 2024 – Travis D. Smith 

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