Today’s Scripture continues to go backwards in time, covering events that occur during the first year of King Jehoiakim where Jeremiah barely escapes execution at the hand of the priests and scribes.
Jeremiah Chapter 26
Lessons from the text
Deliverance versus Death
Jeremiah was not the only prophet speaking against Jerusalem. At the same time that he was prophesying, God had called another prophet, Urijah, to speak similar words. The false prophets and priests responded to both in the same way: they sought to kill them. Urijah tried to escape but was dragged back and murdered. Jeremiah, however, was delivered. Why?
God had promised Jeremiah that He would make him a defenced city over which his enemies could not conquer (Jer. 1:18-19). The few verses in this chapter are the only record in the Bible concerning the ministry of Urijah, but the question still arises, why would God protect one of His prophets and allow the other one to be killed?
The answer requires a shift of perspective. What does God deliver people from? Sin. Does He promise to deliver from troubles? No. In fact, He promises the opposite, stating that if you claim His name you will be hated by men (Lk. 21:12-19). Despite this persecution, Jesus says that not a hair of your head will perish. Is He referring to physical harm? No. All the apostle except for John were martyred.
Instead of physical deliverance, God promises spiritual deliverance. If you follow Him, then He will deliver your soul from eternal damnation and ensure that your spirit and heart is healed of all of its wounds. Taking this into consideration, we can see that what we might call an untimely death has nothing to do with a man of God’s relationship with the Lord. On the contrary, we are told that whatever happens to God’s people in this life, God will protect them in the life to come as long as they remain faithful until death. Urijah was killed because it was his time to go to be with the Lord. Jeremiah was delivered because he had not yet completed his earthly assignment. Yet both have been delivered by God from the spiritual damnation of eternal separation from God in the lake of fire.
Verse by Verse Commentary
1-6 This sermon comes four years prior to the previous’ chapter’s prophecy. Egypt has just come and put Judah to tribute (II Ki. 24:33-35). God intends for the recent events to act as a stern warning of the coming judgment if the people continue to refuse to repent.
2 God has Jeremiah proclaim this message from the Temple. Supposedly, the ones who are coming to worship God in the Temple are the ones who are actively seeking Him and will therefore listen to God’s warning.
3 God wants Jeremiah to speak every word which He gives him. God wants the people to have every opportunity to understand their condition and, being made aware of their sin, to turn from it.
4-6 God’s message is short and simple: turn from evil or judgment will come. So far the people have not hearkened to this message, but God is gracious enough to give it to them again and again.
Shiloh was the original resting spot for the holy tabernacle of Moses in the promised land (Josh. 18:1). Yet because of the sins of the people, God removed His presence from the tabernacle and allowed the ark of the covenant to be taken by the Philistines, thus leaving the tabernacle empty and void of glory (I Sam. 4:12-17, Ps. 78:56-64).
7-11 Because Jeremiah speaks openly, he is targeted by those who do not wish to hear of the consequences of sin. They accuse Jeremiah of speaking in God’s name falsely, a sin worthy of death, on the basis that Jeremiah is proclaiming judgment against God’s people. In their minds, since they are in a covenant, and therefore in a “right” relationship with God, anyone who speaks against them must be in the wrong.
12-15 Jeremiah responds to the accusations against him by declaring that he has truly been called of God and is not speaking on his own behalf. If he is a true prophet of God, then killing him would mean killing an innocent man, thus bringing a curse against the city (Gen. 4:10-12, Deut. 21:6-9, 29:25). Jeremiah does a particularly noble act by submitting himself to their judgment. Instead of Urijah who runs, he stands boldly before his accusers.
16 Seeing the reaction of Jeremiah, the princes defend the prophet. Since Jeremiah is prophesying about events to come, according to the law of Moses he cannot be dismissed as a false prophet; the people must wait until his words fail to come to pass before executing him (Deut. 18:20-22).
17-19 The elders further defend Jeremiah by mentioning a previous prophet who spoke messages similar to what Jeremiah has been speaking; since Micah has been acknowledged historically as a true prophet, Jeremiah should be given the same credibility least they rashly kill him and be found guilty of murdering God’s messenger. The elders acknowledge that if God’s words to the people are to repent or be destroyed, then they had best consider whether or not they are in sin and, if they are guilty, repent as King Hezekiah did. In this way they are more receptive to God’s words than the priests and prophets.
20-23 This is the only mention of Urijah’s ministry. For an unknown reason, God spared Jeremiah but allowed Urijah to be killed for his work for the Lord. One’s service for God should not be built around the assumption that God will deliver one from all earthly difficulties. One is to stand for the Lord even if He does not deliver one in this life, and He will reward those who are faithful to death with eternal life (Rev. 12:11, 2:10-11).
Noteworthy is that Urijah is not the only prophet slain by rulers; King Josiah’s had Zechariah stoned for speaking on God’s behalf against the sins of the people (II Chro. 24:20-23).
24 Jeremiah does not suffer the same death as Urijah because he has men of authority supporting him. Ahikam was a servant to King Josiah and therefore has great political power with King Jehoiakim (II Ki. 22:12-14). God promised that He would defend Jeremiah from all his accusers; Ahikam is fulfilling this promise, revealing that God often works through people to accomplish His plans for the world. In a certain sense, God would rather orchestrate willing people than step down and do it Himself because no one will stand for what is right.
Thank you for your faithfulness in studying God’s word.
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