Jeremiah’s Early Naivety

Everyone grows up in social, moral and religious environments. It’s natural to accept one’s surroundings as the norm.[1] Same for young Jeremiah. A godly king was ruling on the throne. King Josiah removed the idols, purified the temple and reestablished God’s law as the focus of civil and religious life. From outward appearances the nation was in good spiritual shape; far better than before. And young Jeremiah was oblivious to what lurked under the surface until forced by his Commander to face the facts.

The Challenge

Early on, God gave a challenge to his rookie prophet with a hefty reward if successful. Perhaps he could set aside his mantle and retire before he hardly even started!

“Run up and down every street in Jerusalem,” says the LORD. “Look high and low; search throughout the city! If you can find even one just and honest person, I will not destroy the city.” 5:1.

Wow. No destruction. Life as we know it goes on. “The pot boiling in the North” can be dismissed, if only Jeremiah can find one person of integrity.

But no. Not even one just person. So, empty-handed and out of breath he kind of blames God[2] and says:

“LORD, you are searching for honesty. You struck your people, but they paid no attention. You crushed them, but they refused to be corrected. They are determined, with faces set like stone; they have refused to repent.” 5:3

Rationalization

Jeremiah thinks harder and has a brilliant thought: The common people simply don’t know better, they are ignorant, can’t expect too much from them. But the leaders know God’s ways; surely some must qualify as “honest”.

Then I said, “But what can we expect from the poor? They are ignorant. They don’t know the ways of the LORD. They don’t understand God’s laws. So I will go and speak to their leaders. Surely they know the ways of the LORD and understand God’s laws.” 5:4-5.

The Discovery

However, his naivety quickly becomes obvious. The leaders are detaining the people in ignorance and disobedience.

“But the leaders, too, as one man, had thrown off God’s yoke and broken his chains.” 5:5.

The young man is hit with a jarring truth. These fellow priests and prophets are acting all righteous and godly, but “Their rebellion is great.” 5:6.

To understand the book of Jeremiah, we must meet a truly evil people.

Jerusalem “is wicked through and through. She spouts evil like a fountain.” Jer. 6:6-7.

To understand the book of Jeremiah, we must meet a ferocious God.[3]

So this is what the Sovereign LORD says: “I will pour out my terrible fury on this place. Its people, animals, trees, and crops will be consumed by the unquenchable fire of my anger.” Jer. 7:20.

Family

The result of standing on the side of truth and righteousness, and speaking the forceful words of God, was that Jeremiah made many enemies. He spoke publicly. He spoke privately. He confronted sins that were hidden and sins that were public.

His family turned against him and literally wanted him gone:

The men of Anathoth… wanted me dead. They had said, “We will kill you if you do not stop prophesying in the LORD’s name.” 11:21.

Even your brothers, members of your own family, have turned against you. They plot and raise complaints against you. Do not trust them. Jer. 12:6.[4]

Co-workers

The prophets and priests, who should have been his allies, also worked to get rid of him:

The priests and prophets presented their accusations to the officials and the people. “This man should die!” they said. 26:11.

Kings and Palace Officials

Even kings saw him as a pesky nuisance and wanted him gone:

So these officials went to the king and said, “Sir, this man must die! … This man is a traitor!” King Zedekiah agreed. “All right,” he said. “Do as you like.” 38:4-5.

Summary

This is the environment, the severity of conflict that Jeremiah endured. It stretched his coping powers to the limit. He suffered battle scars. He ended up saying,

“I am hated everywhere I go. I am neither a lender who threatens to foreclose nor a borrower who refuses to pay – yet they all curse me.” Jer. 15:10.

The rest of this section focusses on these battles or escapades and their resultant scars. Jeremiah recorded these episodes not to gain notoriety or sympathy for himself, but for the truths they reveal about the wickedness of the people and leaders, and the incredible longsuffering of his God.


[1] The old “Frog in a pot” syndrome.

[2] “You struck your people… You crushed them…” i.e. Your strategy only made things worse!

[3] But Divine anger is a vastly different breed from human anger, so different that it deserves an entirely different term.

[4] For a Jew in Jeremiah’s day, rejection by your family had to be the severest of hardships. Everyone grew up among a very large extended family which provided a sense of stability, longevity, and belonging; a safety net no one wanted to be without.

Philip Yancey

I met this man some years ago in Atlanta. Fumbling for something to say, I mentioned the interest of his books across the world in Papua New Guinea. He looked me in the eyes and talked with me like I was a normal human being. A memorable moment for sure.

NOW HE IS READING MY BOOK

Did he really say that he is learning “a lot” from it?

.

That ugly sounding “thud” followed by the squealing siren?

My fainting head hitting the floor followed by an ambulance rescue.

Typing from the E.R. right now…

Wave after Wave of Opposition

Last section, Stumbling onto the National Stage, emphasized a major tragedy. The death of King Josiah brought stark repercussions to the nation and God’s Spokesperson. The “glory” days of Josiah were swallowed up by the “gory” days of his four offspring. A mere twenty-two years of compromise caused total failure of the state, and deportation of its citizens.

After Josiah’s funeral, opposition comes to Jeremiah in waves.

“Conflict” in the book of Jeremiah is not just a series of random events. It is an environment within which the prophet lives and breathes daily. Always swimming upstream. Continually walking a steep incline. It took extra-human effort to trudge on.

This level of conflict was disclosed when God first enlisted Spokesperson:

You will stand against the whole land – the kings, officials, priests, and people of Judah. They will fight you… 1:18-19.

Former prophets faced similar opposition,[1] but Jeremiah experienced an acute dosage to the point of inhumane abuse.[2] This was due to the obstinate rebellion of God’s people, and unrelenting efforts by God and his Spokesperson to win them back.

This section presents several major events in Jeremiah’s life. Let it serve as a window to understanding the oppressive environment in which he lived, served, and wrote. The man’s strength of purpose and character shine bright amidst the darkness surrounding him. He withstood each opposition and fulfilled his duties as the true spokesperson for God.

This section includes seven parts:

  1. His Early Naivety
  2. Temple Mob Pacified[3]
  3. Broken Pot, Night in Stocks
  4. Prophet on the Run – Burnt Scroll
  5. Showdown of Two Prophets
  6. Stuck in the Mud
  7. Reluctant Landowner

“Conflict” is an amazing and enlightening storyline woven throughout the book of Jeremiah. The man is caught in the crossfire between truly obstinate people and their ferocious, unyielding God. Jeremiah is attacked by family, common people, fellow priests, fellow prophets, and by the kings and their officials. He is threatened, mocked, whipped, put in stocks, beaten, thrown in jail, had his hard work destroyed, and was even thrown into a muddy pit to die.

The Book of Jeremiah gives us a portal or window not only into the events of the day, but also deep into the heart and thoughts of God’s abused Spokesperson.

“Among the most moving – and startling – passages in Scripture are Jeremiah’s forthright complaints to God, his tender confessions and prayers, mingled with expostulation and challenge, protesting God’s having snared him into a prophet’s responsibilities, tensions, and anguish.

Yet for over forty years Jeremiah maintained his obedience, reiterated his message, and fulfilled his mission.”[4]


[1] See Exo. 5:20-21; 6:9; 14:11-12; 16:2-3; Num. 14:1-4; 1 Kin. 18:4a; 19:2; 2 Kin. 17:13-14; Mat. 23:20, 37; Luk. 11:50; Act 7:52.

[2] Perhaps the worst two physical abuses inflicted on Spokesperson were the night in the stocks and imprisonment in a muddy cistern. Both occasions are covered later in this section.

[3] This story, along with the next five in this section, is told using the genre of Creative Nonfiction. If you are new to this genre, please see Appendix 1. What is Creative Nonfiction? The Bibliography includes resources that explain, regulate and teach these techniques. But the Biblical record is what really counts and should always be both the first and last words studied.

[4] White, p. 11.

Mobbed was Jeremiah, After Co-worker Murdered

Temple Mob Pacified

This story took place a couple years after king Josiah died. Judah was subservient to a foreign power[1], paying heavy taxes to insure their “independence.” The 100% true and accurate account of this incident is found in Jeremiah 26. An elaborated version is offered below in the form of an ancient newspaper article. It had to be, of course, an underground newspaper because of the volatile monarch on the throne.

Underground Newspaper: Clandestine Communiqués, Jerusalem[2]

Article Title: Turmoil outside the Temple

King Jehoiakim is quickly establishing himself as an enemy of Israel’s God![3] Details have come to light which solve the mystery of that dead body reported recently; the one that was dragged out of the palace, taken out of the city, and buried in the middle of nowhere. Our king is guilty of murder! And not just murder of anyone, murder of an anointed prophet of God! Here are the details.

Prophet Uriah,[4] son of Shemaiah of Kiriath-jearim, was performing his duties as a prophet of the LORD. He denounced the wickedness of the people and announced that God planned to punish the whole nation of Judah, and even destroy the Hoy City. When the king learned of this “slander” and “treason” he sent some unnamed thug to kill him. Uriah was forewarned and escaped to Egypt. This upset the king even more, so he sent the trusted son of Acbor, Elnathan by name, with a posse that hunted him down. They tied him up and dragged the poor man before the king. Without further ado our king took a sword and shot it through (literally) the “rebellious” prophet.

Horrible as this was, it spurred a different, most remarkable event that took place yesterday. Here are the details.

Prophet Jeremiah, bold and unflinching, went to the temple steps yesterday and drew a large crowd. Hundreds of people listened to him as he bravely spoke these words:

This is what the LORD says: If you will not listen to me and obey my word I have given you, and if you will not listen to my servants, the prophets – for I sent them again and again to warn you, but you would not listen to them – then I will destroy this Temple as I destroyed Shiloh,[5] the place where the Tabernacle was located. And I will make Jerusalem an object of cursing in every nation on earth. 26:4-6.

These accusations and threats were even more barbed and inflammatory than what spurred Uriah’s murder. He was stating that “Jerusalem will be so badly decimated it will become a swear word for all other nations!”

There were rabble-rousers in the crowed, emboldened by the king’s obvious stance against such public pronouncements, and they worked at stirring up the crowd. They started shouting “traitor”, “infidel”, and “blasphemer.” And the whole crowd joined the hostility.

The priests and prophets and all the people at the Temple mobbed him. “Kill him!” they shouted. 26:8.

This ruckus was loud enough to reach ears in the palace. Officials rushed over before things escalated beyond repair. They quickly set up a formal court hearing right there at New Gate, hoping to keep control.

The priests and prophets looked confident and excited as they presented their accusations against the solitary prophet. They were seeking nothing less than a death sentence.

“This man should die!” they said. “You have heard with your own ears what a traitor he is, for he has prophesied against this city.” 26:11.

The crowds gave their boisterous support.

This could easily have been the end of the prophet. Certainly the king won’t interfere with a second kill. Might as well exterminate all the troublemakers.

One thing saved Jeremiah; the Hebrew law that guarantees the accused an opportunity to defend himself. [6]

Jeremiah didn’t back down one inch. No placating, no apologies, and no humming and hawing. He made direct eye contact with each accuser and everyone in the crowd. This is what he said:

“The LORD sent me to prophesy against this Temple and this city,” he said. “The LORD gave me every word that I have spoken. But if you stop your sinning and begin to obey the LORD your God, he will change his mind about this disaster that he has announced against you. As for me, I am in your hands – do with me as you think best. But if you kill me, rest assured that you will be killing an innocent man! The responsibility for such a deed will lie on you, on this city, and on every person living in it. For it is absolutely true that the LORD sent me to speak every word you have heard.” 26:12-15.

Transformation in the crowd was remarkable. One eye witness expressed it well:

Was it his stance? His willingness to look everyone in the eye, unashamed and unafraid? Was it the fearless authority and surety of his voice? Or was it the words themselves, that he was indeed ready to die but the guilt of innocent blood would remain on all of us?

I cannot figure it out. I cannot forget the scene.

His last sentence was, “For it is absolutely true the LORD sent me to speak every word you have heard.” Never in my life have I seen such magnetism, maybe even hypnotism. The crowds and officials were mesmerized. The animosity they started with went full-swing to support and loyalty. The royal court seemed bewitched into forgetting even to consider the wishes of our king!

The officials gave their verdict by saying to the priests and prophets for everyone to hear:

This man does not deserve the death sentence, for he has spoken to us in the name of the LORD our God. 26:16.[7]

Some elders stepped up to support the judges and related an incident of 100 years ago. Prophet Micah spoke much the same words as Jeremiah. The elders gave this advice:

But did King Hezekiah and the people kill him for saying this? No, they turned from their sins and worshiped the LORD. They begged him for mercy. Then the LORD changed his mind about the terrible disaster he had pronounced against them. So we are about to do ourselves great harm. 26:19.

If any doubt remained, it was silenced when the most honorable Ahikam, son of the late King Josiah’s close friend, Shaphan,[8] took matters into his own hands. He personally guaranteed refuge for the battered prophet of the LORD.

The mob was pacified. The prophet escaped certain death. The priests were stung by this public defeat; a lost opportunity to eliminate their arch enemy. Inflamed. Not willing to forget the defamatory words uttered against them.

 One priest we interviewed had this to say:

Horrible! How long will this disbarred priest, this insufferable windbag, be allowed to rant and rave and, above all things, abuse us priests of the Most High God? He accuses us of greed,[9] pretense,[10] superficiality,[11] bullying the people,[12] and even used the word “wicked” of us, and accuses us of committing “despicable acts right in the temple.”[13] Our only road to sanity is to find another way to snuff him.

So, what a remarkable day in the heart of the city: A near death experience. Narrow escape by a speech of conviction. Fickle mob doing a 180-degree turnaround. Government officials contradicting a murderous precedent set by the king. And the priests and prophets having a proverbial “pie” thrown in their face.

Things to Note:

1. The prologue[14] in this story is very significant. The time is mentioned, “early in the reign of Jehoiakim.”[15] The Lord tells Jeremiah exactly where to stand, “in the courtyard in front of the Temple of the Lord.” And pedantically tells him exactly what to say, “Give them my entire message; include every word.”

2. The Lord tells Jeremiah His precise motive in giving this assignment: “Perhaps they will listen and turn from their evil ways. Then I will change my mind about the disaster I am ready to pour out on them because of their sins.”[16]

3. These detailed instructions, along with God’s stated motive, must have boosted the prophet’s confidence as he addressed the nobles in the outdoor courtroom by the gate of the Temple. Note his final line, “It is absolutely true that the Lord sent me to speak every word you have heard.”

4. Jeremiah’s rebuttal was so powerful that it persuaded the nobles and the crowd.

5. The whole story is superbly written and stands as a unified whole.

Prologue 1-3

Content of the message, 4-6

Riotous response to the message, 7-9

Court in session, accusations, 10-11

The accused rebuts, 12-15

Pinnacle verse, 16

A case study presented, 17-19

Relevant back-story provided, 20-23

Final resolution, 24.

Jeremiah may not have experienced physical harm, but the acute intensity of the incident had to leave emotional scars. The mob wanted him dead! (Much like a later mob wanted an even greater prophet crucified). It may have been soon after this “angry mob” event when Jeremiah did suffer severe physical harm and public humiliation. See the next incident.


[1] The incident is dated as taking place “early in the reign of Jehoiakim” and either Egypt or Babylon held domination over them.

[2] We are extremely fortunate to have obtained a copy of this article since only 3 copies were ever made (they had to be copied by hand and were dangerous if ever discovered by the authorities).

[3] These events took place “early” in his reign, Jer. 26:1.

[4] There is nothing fictitious about this character, mentioned only one place in scripture, Jer. 26:20-23.

[5] Shiloh was only 20 miles north of Jerusalem. From the time of Joshua to the time a Solomon, Shiloh was the religious center of the nation, and the people gathered there three times a year for the major feasts. But now it was obviously in a state of ruins.

[6] Hebrew law led the way in judicial fairness around the globe, Due. 19:16-19.

[7] Truly amazing.

[8] 2 Chr. 34:8, 16-18; Jer. 26:24.

[9] Jer. 6:13; 8:10.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Jer. 6:14; 8:11.

[12] Jer. 5:31.

[13] Jer. 23:11.

[14] Jer. 26:1-3.

[15] The severity of response against Jeremiah in this incident shows how quickly the spiritual condition of the nation changed after the passing of Josiah. This was probably within the four years of the good king’s death.

[16] Sounds like the outcome is unknown, and the Lord Himself will react to the people’s choices.

A Well Read Book

So encouraged this past weekend to hear from several people who have been touched by my book.

I asked one of them how many times he fell asleep reading it, he said, “Not at all!” and commented on things that have greatly challenged his thinking.

Another said he always skips introductions, “But man, this introduction is incredible.”

Someone else told me the book opened up discussions with his brother about some of the deepest spiritual things.

These happenings are the greatest reward for an author.

Incredible Jeremiah

A life changer, this book ushers you before a hurting God and his wounded prophet. “Night and day my eyes overflow with tears. I cannot stop weeping, for my virgin daughter-my precious people- has been struck down…” (Jer. 14:17).

As a reader said, “But, again and again, Reggie, I see now just why you wrote this book. I feel in many ways a very foolish and self-centered slob in the realization of how I, like most of us I guess, am so self-centered in never ever thinking about the Lord’s deep hurt and pain for being ignored and not treated as a Father, as I long myself to be treated by my own daughter.”

260 pages of challenging, transformational presentation of an outstanding historical figure, and his ultra-outstanding God.

“I simply don’t have the words, Reggie, to express my gratitude to you for opening up my understanding of God’s heart towards His “Chosen People” and us, His kids grafted into His Olive Tree.”

Available on Amazon and all other book and eBook sellers worldwide.

For a discount on the print book, click the link below and enter the code “5off” and it will be shipped direct from the printer.

Happy encounters with incredible Jeremiah!

Reading the Bible with God at your side

This heading may seem strange, unusual, perhaps irreverent. Yet, reading the Bible while conscious of its Author’s physical presence will make a huge difference to your reading. He becomes the proverbial “elephant in the room.”[1] You can’t ignore Him. He doesn’t go away. You are obligated to relate everything you read to HIM.  You must respond.

An Example

Words that have become so familiar suddenly take on a new light. What is your response to Genesis 1:1 (when the Creator is there in the room with you)?

                “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

You might start with a simple “Thank you Lord, for creating this universe and giving me the opportunity to live in it.” 

But have you really recognized the “elephant in the room”? 

Isn’t the above response rather flippant and casual? 

Fall on the ground before Your/The Creator!  Be in awe! Stay on the ground for a few hours in the presence of such a One! Recognize this Living, Personal Being who created all things and is aware of little-ol’-you, and is there at your side!

This is a taste of what “Reading the Bible with God at your side” is about. The Bible is His book, His message, His truth, His word to you and everyone else on this planet.


[1] Large, out-of-place, unavoidable, can’t get out of your mind, makes one feel awkward, small, vulnerable,….