I’m reading through Jeremiah this week, the third-longest book in the Bible with 52 chapters. Jeremiah was the son of a priest, so in my mind, that makes him a “preacher’s kid.” He prophesied in the days of King Josiah, King Jehoiakim, and King Zedekiah, right up until the time when Jerusalem fell to Babylon.
Jeremiah had a special call of God on his life, even before he was born. God told him, Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations (Jeremiah 1:5). That verse alone tells us that unborn children are precious and known to God and have a purpose. Jeremiah’s purpose would be to go to God’s people and speak the words of coming judgment, calling them to repentance. He would be unsuccessful in the world’s eyes, as the nation of Judah would not heed the warning, but God would consider him a faithful, obedient servant.
Today I read about one incident in Jeremiah’s life that demonstrates the kind of faith he had. In Jeremiah 26, God told him to go and stand in the temple court and speak to all those who had come to worship God. He was speaking to the religious group, those who outwardly were performing the sacrifices and had the appearance of worship, but their hearts were far from God. As a people, they were participating in idol worship, oppressing the poor and afflicted, failing to care for widows and orphans, and disobeying the laws of God. Their sins had polluted the land that God had given them, and He was calling them to repent.
In fact, God had proclaimed judgment against Judah but said that if they would listen and turn from their evil ways, He would change His mind and relent.
Remember, Jeremiah is speaking to the religious group – the ones who still make the effort to come to church, as it were. Their response is quite severe.
The priests and the prophets and all the people heard Jeremiah speaking these words in the house of the Lord. When Jeremiah finished speaking all that the Lord had commanded him to speak to all the people, the priests, and the prophets and all the people seized him, saying, “You must die!” (Jeremiah 26:7-8).
They gave him the death sentence for speaking the truth! They never considered that his words might be true. They were angry that he dared to confront them and suggest that God would turn against them and judge them – after all, they were God’s chosen people.
I love Jeremiah’s response because it reveals the kind of faith he had. He doesn’t hesitate. He doesn’t back down. He doesn’t water down his message to appease the mob. He doesn’t retract his words in fear.
Instead, he stands firm, declaring in no uncertain terms that he has spoken what the Lord sent him to prophesy against the city. He urges them to amend their ways and deeds and obey the voice of the Lord so that God will change his mind about the misfortune He had pronounced against them.
Then he makes it personal.
But as for me, behold, I am in your hands; do with me as is good and right in your sight. Only know for certain that if you put me to death, you will bring innocent blood on yourselves, and on this city and on its inhabitants; for truly the Lord has sent me to you to speak all these words in your hearing (Jeremiah 26:14-15).
What would you do if someone threatened your life for telling them the truth of God’s word? Would you stand firm? Or would you back away, water down the message, and apologize, fearful for your physical life? Jeremiah knew without a doubt that his message came from God. He was far more afraid of disobeying God than offending the crowd.
We, too, may be tested as Jeremiah was. God has given us the responsibility to bring the good news of the gospel to the world. Some people don’t want to hear it. God has called us to speak up for truth and righteousness, to call sin what it is – sin. Some people don’t want to hear it. There are places in the world where you can indeed be killed for speaking the truth. We’ve seen the beginning stages here in our own country (at least, if you’re paying attention, you’ve seen it).
I pray that I will have Jeremiah’s bold faith to continue to proclaim truth from God’s Word to a world that is hostile to God, no matter what the result might be to my physical well-being. How about you?