Read: Jeremiah 20-23
Jeremiah can’t help but preach what God has put in his heart and as a result he bears physical pain at the hands of those who don’t want to hear his message. In the midst of the reading today, we see a ray of hope, the coming Righteous Savior, a sermon that must have been lost to the ears of those who only heard criticism.
Our Jewish ancestors appear to be so well organized as to have a priest in charge of punishing troublemakers — that’s a job worth fighting for! (see Notes at the end of this post.) In Jeremiah 20:1-6, Pashhur punishes Jeremiah for the offensive words and undesirable parable from the previous chapter.
When the priest Pashhur son of Immer, the official in charge of the temple of the Lord, heard Jeremiah prophesying these things, he had Jeremiah the prophet beaten and put in the stocks at the Upper Gate of Benjamin at the Lord’s temple. Jeremiah 20:1-2
He is released the following day. Not surprisingly, Jeremiah has words that let Pashhur know this was a mistake he will regret:
And you, Pashhur, and all who live in your house will go into exile to Babylon. There you will die and be buried, you and all your friends to whom you have prophesied lies.’” Jeremiah 20:6
Jeremiah is not a violent person, he simply tells it like it is (or will be). In my mind, he’s articulate and resolute like Billy Graham or perhaps calm and passionate like Jimmy Carter. I’m not sure because neither Graham or Carter seem like the kind that would cry out to God the way Jeremiah does:
I am ridiculed all day long;
everyone mocks me.
Whenever I speak, I cry out
proclaiming violence and destruction.
So the word of the Lord has brought me
insult and reproach all day long.
Jeremiah was an emotional guy that vented his thoughts in words, certainly in writing, most likely verbally and without restraint. Not the best way to make friends, but honest and transparent, something we rarely see in church these days. For example:
Sing to the Lord! …
Cursed be the day I was born…
Back-to-back verses give us a glimpse into Jeremiah’s personality.
Why did I ever come out of the womb
to see trouble and sorrow
and to end my days in shame?
The beauty of the Bible is revealed in verses like these. If I were creating a document to capture profound thoughts and impress the world with my wisdom, I’m sure I would not paint one of my main characters with such words. Many times throughout scripture we are presented with such open and transparent views of our ancestors, words that are unashamed to show flaws. How do we read these words and then put on our masks for Sunday morning? (or any other day for that matter).
The story continues. When King Zedekiah reached out to Jeremiah, hopeful to hear that God would save them from Nebuchadnezzar, God’s answer was not what they expected to hear. Essentially, Nebuchadnezzar will sweep you into exile, so leave Jerusalem or die.
“Furthermore, tell the people, ‘This is what the Lord says: See, I am setting before you the way of life and the way of death. Whoever stays in this city will die by the sword, famine or plague. But whoever goes out and surrenders to the Babylonians who are besieging you will live; they will escape with their lives. Jeremiah 21:8-9
Jeremiah 22 speaks specifically against those kings of Judah who chose wicked paths; they will not end well. Shallum will never return, Jehoiakim will have the burial of a donkey, dragged away and thrown outside the gates of Jerusalem. Jehoiachin will be delivered into the hands of those who wanted to kill him.
Jeremiah 23: The Righteous Branch
Finally, a breath of fresh air! The days are coming when the people will no longer speak of the past as a distant history; rather, they will speak of the present with complete joy and excitement for the Lord will send the Messiah, the Righteous Savior.
“The days are coming,” declares the Lord,
“when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch,
a King who will reign wisely
and do what is just and right in the land.
In his days Judah will be saved
and Israel will live in safety.
This is the name by which he will be called:
The Lord Our Righteous Savior.
This message provides hope as the people will surely be carried off into exile. They are surrounded by prophets that lie, that only speak what the people want to hear.
“Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you;
they fill you with false hopes.
They speak visions from their own minds,
not from the mouth of the Lord.
They say, ‘I had a dream! I had a dream!’ How long will this continue in the hearts of these lying prophets, who prophesy the delusions of their own minds? Jeremiah 23:25-26
Lord, help us to discern between those who speak thoughts of their own mind and those who speak your words of truth. My prayer is that by learning to hear your voice in the words of the Bible, the difference between these two groups will be black and white, no chance for misinterpretation, but many times it all seems gray. Don’t let me be colorblind!
Notes from NIV Study Bible: Pashhur. One or more different men with the same name appear in Jeremiah 21:1; 38:1. The name Pashhur occurs on an ostracon (see note on Jeremiah 34:7) found at Arad and dating to the time of Jeremiah. Immer. Perhaps a descendant of the head of the 16th division of priests in the Jerusalem temple (see 1Ch 24:14). official in charge. The priest in charge of punishing troublemakers, real or imagined, in the temple courts (see Jeremiah 20:2; 29:26). The position was second only to that of the chief priest himself