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In the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah.
Afflictions, distresses, tumults
Jehoiakim was, perhaps, the most despicable of the kings of Judah. Josephus says that he was unjust in disposition, an evil-doer; neither pious towards God nor just towards men. Something of this may have been due to the influence of his wife, Nehushta, whose father, Elnathan, was an accomplice in the royal murder of Urijah. Jeremiah appears to have been constantly in conflict with this king; and probably the earliest manifestation of the antagonism that could not but subsist between two such men occurred in connection with the building of Jehoiakim’s palace. Though his kingdom was greatly impoverished with the heavy fine of between forty and fifty thousand pounds, imposed by Pharaoh-Necho afar the defeat and death of Josiah, and though the times were dark with portents of approaching disaster, yet he began to rear a splendid palace for himself, with spacious chambers and large windows, floors of cedar, and decorations of vermilion. Clearly, such a monarch must have entertained a mortal hatred towards the man who dared to raise his voice in denunciation of his crimes; and, like Herod with John the Baptist, he would not have scrupled to quench in blood the light that cast such strong condemnation upon his oppressive and cruel actions. An example of this had been recently afforded in the death of Urijah, who had uttered solemn words against Jerusalem and its inhabitants in the same way that Jeremiah had done. But it would appear that this time, at least, his safety was secured by the interposition of influential friends amongst the aristocracy, one of whom was Ahikam, the son of Shaphan (Jeremiah 26:20-24).
I. The divine commission. Beneath the Divine impulse, Jeremiah went up to the court of the Lord’s house, and took his place on some great occasion when all the cities of Judah had poured their populations to worship there. Not one word was to be kept back. We are all more or less conscious of these inward impulses; and it often becomes a matter of considerable difficulty to distinguish whether they originate in the energy of our own nature or are the genuine outcome of the Spirit of Christ. It is only in the latter ease that such service can be fruitful. There is no greater enemy of the highest usefulness than the presence of the flesh in our activities. There is no department of life or service into which its subtle, deadly influence does not penetrate. We meet it after we have entered upon the new life, striving against the Spirit, and restraining His gracious energy. We are most baffled when we find it prompting to holy resolutions and efforts after a consecrated life. And lastly, it confronts us in Christian work, because there is so much of it that in our quiet moments we are bound to trace to a desire for notoriety, to a passion to excel, and to the restlessness of a nature which evades questions in the deeper life, by flinging itself into every avenue through which it may exert its activities. There is only one solution to these difficulties. By the way of the cross and the grave we can alone become disentangled and discharged from the insidious domination of this evil principle, which is accursed by God, and hurtful to holy living, as blight to the tender fruit.
II. The message and its reception. On the one side, by his lips, God entreated His people to repent and turn from their evil ways; on the other, He bade them know that their obduracy would compel Him to make their great national shrine as complete a desolation as the site of Shiloh, which for five hundred years had been in ruins. It is impossible to realise the intensity of passion which such words evoked. They seemed to insinuate that Jehovah could not defend His own, or that their religion had become so heartless that He would not. “So it came to pass, when Jeremiah had made, an end of speaking all that the Lord commanded him to speak unto all the people,” that he found himself suddenly in the vortex of a whirlpool of popular excitement. There is little doubt that Jeremiah would have met his death had it not been for the prompt interposition of the princes. Such is always the reception given on the part of man to the words of God. We may gravely question how far our words are God’s, when people accept them quietly and as a matter of course. That which men approve and applaud may lack the King’s seal, and be the substitution on the part of the messenger of tidings which he deems more palatable, and therefore more likely to secure for himself a larger welcome.
III. Welcome interposition. The princes were seated in the palace, and instantly on receiving tidings of the outbreak came up to the temple. Their presence stilled the excitement, and prevented the infuriated people from carrying out their designs upon the life of the defenceless prophet. They hastily constituted themselves into a court of appeal, before which prophet and people were summoned. Then Jeremiah stood on his defence. His plea was that he could not but utter the words with which the Lord had sent him, and that he was only re-affirming the predictions of Micah in the darts of Hezekiah. He acknowledged that he was in their hands, but he warned them that innocent blood would bring its own Nemesis upon them all; and at the close of his address he re-affirmed his certain embassage from Jehovah. This bold and ingenuous defence seems to have turned the scale in hie favour. The princes gave their verdict: “This man is not worthy of death, for he hath spoken to us in the name of the Lord our God.” And the fickle populace, swept hither and thither by the wind, appear to have passed over en masse to the same conclusion; so that princes and people stood confederate against the false prophets and priests. Thus does God hide His faithful servants in the hollow of His hand. No weapon that is formed against them prospers. They are hidden in the secret of His pavilion from the strife of tongues. (F. B. Meyer, B. A.)
When Jeremiah had made an end of speaking all that the Lord had commanded him, the people took him, saying, Thou shalt surely die.
The characteristics of a true prophet
I. The true prophet has a stern message to deliver (4-7). If they ally themselves with Egypt, the Temple will be made desolate, as Shiloh had been destroyed by the Assyrians at the deportation of Israel after the fall of Samaria, 710 b.c. Jerusalem will become a curse to all nations (will be recognised by all nations as having fallen by the curse of God). To prophesy smooth things in a sinful world is to be false to God. How often does even our blessed Lord denounce sin, and remind men of the wrath of God for it! (Matthew 11:21-24; Matthew 12:41-42; Matthew 23:31-38, &c.)
II. The true prophet may not “diminish a word” of God’s message, however unpopular, or unpleasant, or personal.
1. This message referred to the public policy of the nation. The morality of a nation as imperative as that of an individual
2. Other messages assail the sins of classes, from the king to the humblest citizen.
III. The true prophet will speak fearlessly.
IV. The true prophet is promised the support of God.
V. The true prophet never was and never can be popular, but must raise up enemies against himself.
IV. The true prophet will speak peace as well as wrath if men repent. (J. Cunningham Geikie, D. D.)
“The Lord sent me to prophesy against this house.” In this apology of the prophet thus answering for himself with a heroic spirit, five noble virtues, fit for a martyr, are by an expositor observed.
1. His prudence in alleging his Divine mission.
2. His charity in exhorting his enemies to repent.
3. His humility in saying, “Behold I am in your hand.”
4. His magnanimity and freedom of speech in telling them that God would revenge his death.
5. His spiritual security and fearlessness of death in so good a cause and with so good a conscience. (John Trapp.)
A Saint’s resignation, meekness, and cheerfulness in persecution
One thousand eight hundred years ago an aged saint was being led into Rome by ten rough Roman soldiers, to be thrown to the wild beasts in the amphitheatre. Can you imagine anything more dreary and deplorable? Was he unhappy? Did he count cruelty and martyrdom as evil? No. In one of the seven letters that he wrote on his way, he says: “Come fire and iron, come rattling of wild beasts, cutting and mangling and wrenching of my bones, come hacking of my limbs, come crushing of my whole body, come cruel tortures of the devil to assail me! Only be it mine to attain to Jesus Christ! What are those words of St. Ignatius but an echo of the apostle’s, “What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss that I may win Christ”? How well the early Christians understood these things by which we opportunists, cringing cowards, effeminate time-servers, as most of us are in this soft, sensuous, hypocritical age, have so utterly forgotten! (Dean Farrar.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Jeremiah 26". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11