Jeremiah 26:1, 4-15
The prophet Jeremiah was called when he was at a young age and prophesied through the reigns of four kings of Judah: Josiah, Jehoiakim, Jehoiakin, and Zedekiah. No mention is given to Jeremiah prophesying during the reign of Josiah’s son, Jehoahaz, who reigned only three months (II Kings 23:31). In the text before us, Jeremiah prophesied against the the house of the Lord at the onset of Jehoiakim’s reign (his reign began following the imprisonment of Johoahaz by the king of Egypt).
In verse 3, the Lord told Jeremiah that He would not bring evil upon Judah if every man would turn from his evil way. The evil that the Lord would require them to turn from is stated in verses 4 and 5. Judah need to walk according the the law of Moses and Judah would need to hearken to the words of the prophets whom God sent.
Moses had given the law to the children of Israel some 750 years earlier at Sinai. Not keeping the law was never an option. When God made His covenant with Israel, He stated that the people would be required to keep the law. Failure to keep the law would result in Israel being delivered into the hands of their enemies (see Lev. 26:25). In addition to keeping the law, Judah was to hearken to the words of the prophets whom God would send. The nation of Judah had not kept the law, nor, had they hearkened to the prophets whom the Lord sent.
Jeremiah delivered the words which the Lord gave him to all who came to worship in the Lord’s house (see v. 2). He told them that God would make this house (the temple) like Shiloh. Nothing is stated in scripture concerning Shiloh and the state of affairs at Shiloh following the Philistine capture of the ark of the Lord, some four hundred years before Jeremiah prophesied (see I Sam. 4:11). Before the loss of the ark, Shiloh was the home of the tabernacle. After the Philistines returned the ark to Israel, it was never brought back to Shiloh (I Sam. 7:2). Scholars believe that the ark was not returned to Shiloh because the Philistines likely had destroyed the city and the tabernacle.
If Judah were to fail to keep the law and to refuse to hearken to the prophets, the temple would disappear as the tabernacle at Shiloh had disappeared.
The priests, the prophets, and the people heard Jeremiah’s words and they were distressed. They asked: “Why hast thou prophesied in the name of the Lord, saying, This house shall be like Shiloh, and this city shall be desolate without inhabitant?” (v. 9). They had heard Jeremiah’s words but they had not heard what Jeremiah said. Jeremiah had just told them why God told him to say that which he said — Judah had not kept the law and Judah had not hearkened to the words of God’s prophets.
The priests and the prophets declared that Jeremiah should die because he prophesied against Jerusalem (v. 11). Jeremiah had spoken in the name of the Lord. God’s word provides a test for those who prophesy in His name. “When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing not follow, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken” (Deut. 18:22). Deuteronomy 18:22 also states that Israel was not to fear prophets who would fail this test. The priests and prophets, in calling for Jeremiah’s death, did not consider that which God spoke in Deuteronomy.
In verse 13, Jeremiah repeated that which he had just said. He told them that they needed to do that which God had told them to do. Jeremiah said that God would not bring destruction upon them if they would obey His voice. God is a God of second chances. New Testament believers have been made free of the law but we are not without sin. The Lord has commanded us to love one another as He loves us. We know to do good but fail to do so. We know that He is a God of second chances because when we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us (I Jn. 1:9).
Jeremiah’s response to the call for his death was: “I am in your hand: do with me as seemeth good and meet to you. But know ye for certain, that if ye put me to death, ye shall surely bring innocent blood upon yourselves” (v. 14, 15). Jeremiah, then, said: “. . . for of a truth the Lord hath sent me unto you to speak all these words in your ears.”
Jeremiah had just delivered God’s message to Judah. He had obeyed God’s instruction. Failure to follow instruction can lead to disaster. Disaster avoidance, however, is not the only reason to follow instruction. One follows instruction because adherance to instruction produces desired results.
Jeremiah did not fear death because he had done as God had instructed him. In announcing to the princes of Judah that they would bring judgment upon themselves by taking innocent blood, Jeremiah revealed that he wanted what God wants. God wanted Judah to avoid His judgment. It was for this reason that He had instructed Jeremiah to issue the warning of coming judgment.
In viewing Jeremiah’s actions, believers can glimpse our better relationship with God. Knowing that Christ has satisfied (past tense) the wages of our sins, we do not fear death. We keep His commandments, not out of fear, but, because we desire that His will be done in us. We look to the day in which we may cast our crowns before His feet.