Written by Pastor Ed
Please note the link below should be viewed prior to listening to Pastor Ed’s message:
Jeremiah: The Reluctant Prophet
April 19, 2015
Books of the Bible Series
A First person Account
Yes, there was that incident and of course my secretary, Baruch, faithfully recorded it so everyone would remember my humiliation, but… what’s one more incident. After all my life has been one of misery and struggle. Well, not my whole life. Everything was just fine until that day when God spoke to me.
I was minding my own business, carrying on the tradition of my father, Hilkiah the priest there in Anathoth, when God said I was called to be a prophet. Now, I knew a little bit about prophets, there had been Hosea and Amos, and Isaiah as well and I had heard some of their preaching – and I didn’t think I was up for it. I protested, “look, I’m just a kid. You can’t expect much from me.” But it’s pretty hard to say no when God says don’t worry, I’ll tell you what to say. And it was like words burning in my mouth.
So I became a prophet. Now God had said I would be prophet to the nations, so I figured I’d get to call down fire from heaven on all those heathen nations around us and actually I was sort of looking forward to that. I mean, it can be kind of fun chastising other people, foreigners.
But do you know the first thing I had to do? Who I had to call to account right off the bat? My own people! The people I had been working with, even friends. Well, former friends. They didn’t stay friendly very long.
“Who has even heard of people who changed their gods?” “Why do you go seeking alliances with foreign nations and won’t trust the God who brought you out of Egypt?” Now you want to go back and become partners with Egypt? How stupid can you be?
Well, I’ll tell you words like that don’t make you many friends! And God just kept pouring it on, comparing my people, my people! to wild donkeys and camels in heat going after other gods. I mean, those were pretty harsh words and a bit too graphic for my taste. But I did as I was told and proclaimed God’s word with all the strength I could muster. And sometimes that wasn’t much. It’s really hard proclaiming such a message.
But of course God wanted the people to repent and come back to worshipping the true God alone. At least I think that’s what God wanted – no, I’m sure that’s what God wanted, but God seemed to know that that wasn’t going to happen. Sometimes people just won’t listen.
And then there was the threat from Babylon. I saw it coming, well it wasn’t hard to see it coming. After all they were sweeping in from the north with horses and swords, swallowing everything in their path. And everybody else was saying, “Don’t worry, God will deliver us just like he has in the past.” I mean at least they thought God was powerful enough to do that.
But, wouldn’t you know it, this time God gave me a different message and that’s when I really got into trouble. How do you tell people that this time, it’s too late? God’s going to let Babylon, no God’s going to use Babylon to teach Israel a lesson – destruction is coming. And there’s nothing you can do about it. In fact, the best thing to do is to give up, surrender! And you thought I wasn’t popular before?! What would people think of you if an enemy was about to overrun your city and you went around saying, “you’re best hope is to just surrender, give up and let them take over.” How do you think that would go over?
I was called all kinds of things. I was accused of being a pacifist, unwilling to fight. And even of being a traitor or an enemy agent! I was laughed at, mocked. I was arrested, several times and accused of all kinds of things. I think the king was a little afraid of me, because the first time I was arrested he kind of let me off easy, but the second time, they didn’t bother with the king, they just took and threw me in an old dry well, and it wasn’t all that dry. I was in mud up to – well you don’t want to know. And if it hadn’t been for Ebed-melech, an Ethiopian who overheard what was going on, I probably wouldn’t have survived, but he came and hauled me up with ropes.
And to top it all off, God came up with these little “object lessons” – you heard about the one, walking around in dirty shorts and then hiding them in a rock – like what God was going to do to the people by sending them into exile. God said I couldn’t get married or have children, because if I did, they would just die of starvation and disease.
God sent me to the potter’s house and I had to watch him make pots, and rework the clay when it didn’t come out the way he wanted it to, just like God said he would remake Israel into something new. God even made me walk around with a yoke on for a while to symbolize how Babylon would lead my people off into exile.
And when those other so called prophets challenged me and broke my wooden yoke, I had to go get an iron one so they couldn’t break it! It wasn’t that I liked the message any more than they did, but it’s what God told me to say and it made sense. How could you stand against such a great army? The message was clear, if you want to survive as a people, you had to surrender. In order to save your life you had to lose it, in a sense, and trust in God.
Well, at one point God told me I should write all this down, so I called on my friend, Baruch, who could write much better than I and I dictated all that God had said to me and he wrote it all on a scroll. And then God said I should read it to the king, as though he hadn’t already heard enough from me. Well, I couldn’t go read it to the king, they wouldn’t let me near him since they thought I was a traitor, so I sent Baruch to read it.
And you know what he reported. He came back to tell me how the king said, sure go ahead and read, and then after Baruch would read a section, the king pulled out his knife and cut that part off and threw it in the fire! Just like that, until he had burned the whole scroll! I can’t imagine how Baruch kept on reading, but he did until he had finished the whole thing – and the king burned it all.
So we had to write it all over again, and Baruch added in all the other stuff that had been happening to me along the way as well, just to back up what I was saying. And it was hard on him too. Not just the writing, but actually being associated with me. He could have had a good career as a writer, made good money writing for those other guys, but he stuck with me as difficult as that made life for him.
Yes, he did complain to me once and pointed out how difficult I had made his life. All I could tell him was that, even though the city was going to be destroyed, like I said, he would escape with his life. Cold comfort that was.
Now, don’t get me wrong, the message was not all gloom and doom, at least if you took the long view. God really is concerned for his people, but while others were saying the exiles would be back shortly, just a year or two and everything would be ok, it was clear to me this was not going to be the case. So it was kind of a mixed message.
When my kinsman from Anathoth came and offered to sell me a field, I bought it. It seemed like a strange thing to do since I had been telling people we were going to be overrun by Babylon, but it was a sign that in the future things would return to normal; fields would be bought and sold again. But then I told Baruch to take the deeds and seal them up in clay jars so they’d last a long time. It was going to be awhile.
And those exiles who were already in Babylon and thought they would be coming home soon. Well, I dashed their hopes as well. I wrote them a letter and told them to settle down, have families, make the best of where they were because they were going to be there awhile. Babylon wasn’t going to go away anytime soon.
And then, finally, vindication – of sorts, but oh, how it hurt. Jerusalem did fall, just like I said it would. But do you know the pain of being right? How I wished it weren’t the case, even though I knew it was coming. But people were starving, disease was running rampant, some people even turned to cannibalism to survive the siege – it was awful, -If only the king had listened and surrendered earlier.
And so the city was taken. The walls were reduced to rubble and burned. The temple was sacked and all the precious items were hauled off, along with many of the people. Even I was taken captive, but then I was given a choice. I could either go with everyone else to Babylon, or I could stay behind in Judah.
Well, it really wasn’t much of a decision. Judah was my land, where I had grown up just outside Jerusalem, of course I would stay. The Babylonians put a puppet governor in place, Gedaliah, and left to conquer other lands. But it wasn’t long before a band of rowdies overthrew him, killed him and all those in charge along with some Babylonian soldiers. And then they got scared and came to me asking what they should do, stay or flee to Egypt.
But of course, they didn’t really want my advice, because they didn’t listen to me anyway. I told them to stay in Judah, but they were too afraid of the Babylonians and decided to flee to Egypt – and took me and Baruch with them. So here we sit in Egypt, among the Hebrew settlers that have been here for years. And they still don’t listen to me. I told them that being in Egypt wouldn’t protect them from the Babylonian empire. Nebuchadrezzer was going to conquer Egypt as well. All they were doing was following in the footsteps of their parents and adopting the worship of other gods, relying on Egypt’s gods to protect them – a lot of good that will do them.
But then, I’m getting old and no one listens to me anymore, as though they ever did. The life of a prophet certainly hasn’t been an easy one. I think you can only do it if you really feel God has called you and given you the message, because otherwise you’d give up. It’s easy to proclaim what everyone wants to hear –“ don’t worry, be happy, everything will work out ok.”
But that wasn’t the message I was given to deliver. Just like the potter can decide what to do with the clay, so God can decide the course of history, and it won’t always be the way we think it should be. Our job is to trust in the one true God, and please, listen to the prophets, even when you don’t like their message.
At one point a rival prophet asked me what proof I had that my message was right and theirs was wrong. And I had to admit, I couldn’t prove it. Only time would tell. And it did, I was right – but oh the pain of being right.
(Walking off, shaking head) “Buy a pair of shorts!”