Jeremiah was a very unpopular prophet.
Actually, he was a full on traitor.
At a time of extreme national crisis, when the very existence of the nation of Israel was at stake, he openly and consistently advocated surrender to the enemy (Jer.38:2, 17).
Throughout his prophecies, he warned people that God was bringing on disaster if they did not repent (e.g. Jer. 17:27, 18:11). Later, as it became obvious that no one was listening (Jer. 18:12 – 17) and when they turned against him (Jer. 18:18), his prophecies became more ominous and certain (Jer. 19).
We now know that God was indeed speaking through Jeremiah as he consistently said He was. But at the time the Word of God through Jeremiah was rejected on every side by both the kings of the time and many of the people.
In one particularly telling scene, Jeremiah gets his assistant to write down all the prophecies that God had given him. During a time of national fasting, his assistant reads from the book the words of Jeremiah (Jer. 36:9-10) in the house of he Lord. These words are full of specific warnings against Israel about the judgements that God was bringing upon them (36:2) and were written by the Lord in the hope that people hearing them might turn back to Him (v.3).
A man called Michaiah, son of Gemariah, hears the words and declares them to the princes of the land (v. 11-13). After hearing these words the princes become afraid (v.16) and decide to bring them to the king (v.20). However, the words that Jeremiah is bringing are so unpopular and against the nation that the princes advise him and his assistant to “Go and hide, you and Jeremiah, and let no one know where you are.” (v.19).
The king’s response is scary. He listened and every few minutes he cut the read sections out with a scribe’s knife and threw them in the fire. Eventually, he burnt up the whole scroll. (v.23).
The bible goes on to say that neither the king nor his close advisors were afraid or showed any symptoms of repentance despite hearing all these words (v.24). Some brave upright men who are called out by name (v. 25) pleaded with the king not to burn the scroll but he would not listen to them. He even commanded that Jeremiah and Baruch be seized but the Lord hid them (v.26).
This story is typical of Jeremiah. Throughout the book the same themes arise again and again:
- God warns the people that He is bringing destruction on them because of their sins.
- Jeremiah faithfully repeats God’s words. He is also instructed by God on exactly how to make them clear to everyone through everyday life pictures like a potter’s wheel (chap. 18) and smashing a clay pot (chap. 19).
- The kings (Jeconiah and Zedekiah)* and many of the people reject the words of the Lord.
- Disaster ensues. The enemy comes in, takes over the kingdom and the people of God are reduced to a remnant.
This theme is repeated in graphic and shocking fashion with the people left in the land (Jer. 42-44) after the loss of the king and their nobles to Babylon. They ask Jeremiah for the Word of the Lord (42:1-3) and promise to do whatever he says (v.5). But when they hear what God has said they reject it (43:2-4)!
One of the scariest parts is that they completely misinterpret what happened and why.
They say that the kingdom was taken by the enemy because they had stopped sacrificing to a false god (the “queen of heaven” 44:18). They determined to keep going to Egypt despite God’s words to the contrary. Eventually, even there, the enemy overtakes them and they are destroyed. Only a very small remnant escape as a warning to the others (44:28-30).
Of course, Jeremiah was not the only prophet of God who was right and rejected by the kings of the day. Micaiah, the son of Imla, suffered in a similar way (2 Chron. 18).
All this goes to show is that it is very easy to get it wrong when we are looking at impending disaster or are in difficult situations.
The most important thing to learn from all of this is that you, the President (elect or current) and all his and your friends could be wrong.
And that applies to whatever side of the divide you find yourself on. It was pride – specifically national pride – that caused the people of Israel to reject God’s will for them.
Ask yourself, are you on the Lord’s side? Really? If you are confused and don’t know which side to choose then you might be closer to the Truth than you think.
*Jeconiah rejected God’s words from the beginning and was consistently opposed to Jeremiah. He is sent as a captive to Babylon where he eventually dies. Zedekiah wavered and moved back and forth between supporting Jeremiah and abandoning him to his enemies. The king of Babylon catches him while he is fleeing Jerusalem, kills his sons in front of him, blinds him and takes him captive to Babylon. Neither of them do well.