The Word Made Fresh
1Early in the reign of King Josiah’s son, King Jehoiakim of Judah, this word came from the LORD: 2The LORD announces: Stand in the courtyard of the temple and speak to all the people of Judah who have come from the towns to worship. Tell them everything I tell you and leave nothing out. 3It may be that they will listen and turn from their wicked ways. If so, I will not punish them because of their previous wrongs. 4Tell them that the LORD says if they don’t listen to or follow the orders I have given them, 5if they don’t attend to the teachings of the prophets I have sent to you over and over, 6then I will destroy this temple like Shiloh and make this city a curse before all the other nations on the earth.
7The priests, prophets, and all the people heard Jeremiah say this. 8When Jeremiah finished telling them everything the LORD had instructed him to say, the priests and prophets and the people attacked him. “You will die!” they cried. 9“Why do you claim in the LORD’s name that this temple will become a pile of ruins like Shiloh, and be completely destroyed and emptied?” They banded together against Jeremiah in the LORD’s temple.
10When the officers of Judah heard what was happening they went from the royal palace to the LORD’s temple and took their positions at the entrance of the New Gate. 11The priests and the prophets said to the officers and the people, “This man should die for prophesying against this temple. You have all heard it firsthand.”
12Jeremiah said to them, “The LORD sent me to prophecy everything you’ve heard me say. 13So, change your ways and your deeds. Obey the LORD your God, and the LORD may have a change of heart and not carry out all the punishment that has been pronounced against you. 14As for me, I am in your hands, and you can do whatever you like to me. 15Just be aware that if you sentence me to death, you and the people will be guilty of murdering an innocent man. The LORD has indeed sent me to say everything I’ve said to you.”
16Then the officers and the people told the priests and prophets, “This man doesn’t deserve to die. He has spoken to us in the name of the LORD our God.”
17Some of the elders stood and addressed the crowd. 18“Micah of Moresheth,” they said, “who prophesied during the reign of King Hezekiah of Judah, told the people that the LORD of the heavenly armies makes this proclamation:
‘Zion will be plowed like a field.
Jerusalem will be reduced to ruin.
The temple mount will become an overgrown hill.’
19“Did King Hezekiah or anyone else in Jerusalem kill Micah? Didn’t he fear the LORD and plead for mercy? Then the LORD had a change of heart and did not carry out the pronouncement of harm against them. We are about to commit a huge mistake that may very well cost us our lives!
20“There was another man who prophesied in the LORD’s name – Uriah, Shemaiah’s son from Kiriath-Jearim. He delivered the same prophecies Jeremiah has delivered concerning this city and this land. 21But when King Jehoiakim and his soldiers and officers heard him, the king decided he should be put to death. Uriah got word of this and fled to Egypt in fear for his life. 22But then, King Jehoiakim sent Achbor’s son Elnathan and others to Egypt. 23They brought Uriah back to the king, who had him put to death and his body thrown into the common burial ground.”
24But Ahikam, Shaphan’s son, protected Jeremiah and refused to let the people kill him.
1-6: We step back another four years to the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim. Jeremiah is given God’s word to warn the new administration that they must heed the voices of the prophets or drive Jerusalem into the kind of obscurity that visited Shiloh, an early religious center for the twelve tribes as they began to settle Canaan.
7-9: The other priests and prophets threaten to kill Jeremiah for saying such things. Now there was a preacher!
10-11: They actually bring him to trial before the officials.
12-15: Jeremiah offers a “spirited” defense, you might say.
16-19: The officials who gathered to hear the case find against the priests and the prophets and even go so far as to support Jeremiah’s call for a revival. They remember another prophet, Micah, who prophesied such things, and King Hezekiah had paid attention, made reforms, and God’s wrath was stayed.
20-24: Jehoiakim, however, is not Hezekiah, and when a third prophet, Uriah, speaks out Jehoiakim comes after him with murderous intent. Uriah flees to Egypt, but Jehoiakim is so incensed he has Uriah extradited and summarily executes him. Ahikam the high priest, though, protects Jeremiah.
Jerusalem had become a divided city, with factions that supported the faith Jeremiah represents and other factions that want nothing to do with that. When a nation forgets who called them and shaped them, they are standing on the brink of disaster.