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SUNDAY, AUGUST 1, 2021:
COMMENTARY (THE UGP CURRICULUM)
Lesson: Jeremiah 26:1, 4-15; Time of Action: 608 B.C.; Place of Action: Jerusalem
Lesson Text: Jeremiah 26:1, 4-15
King James Version (KJV)
I. THE SERMON DELIVERED (Jeremiah 26:1, 4-6)
1. In the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah came this word from the Lord, saying,
4. And thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord; If ye will not hearken to me, to walk in my law, which I have set before you,
5. To hearken to the words of my servants the prophets, whom I sent unto you, both rising up early, and sending them, but ye have not hearkened;
6. Then will I make this house like Shiloh, and will make this city a curse to all the nations of the earth.
II. THE PROPHET IS DESPISED (Jeremiah 26:7-11)
7. So the priests and the prophets and all the people heard Jeremiah speaking these words in the house of the Lord.
8. Now it came to pass, when Jeremiah had made an end of speaking all that the Lord had commanded him to speak unto all the people, that the priests and the prophets and all the people took him, saying, Thou shalt surely die.
9. Why hast thou prophesied in the name of the Lord, saying, This house shall be like Shiloh, and this city shall be desolate without an inhabitant? And all the people were gathered against Jeremiah in the house of the Lord.
10. When the princes of Judah heard these things, then they came up from the king’s house unto the house of the Lord, and sat down in the entry of the new gate of the Lord’s house.
11. Then spake the priests and the prophets unto the princes and to all the people, saying, This man is worthy to die; for he hath prophesied against this city, as ye have heard with your ears.
III. THE PROPHET’S WARNING (Jeremiah 26:12-15)
12. Then spake Jeremiah unto all the princes and to all the people, saying, The Lord sent me to prophesy against this house and against this city all the words that ye have heard.
13. Therefore now amend your ways and your doings, and obey the voice of the Lord your God; and the Lord will repent him of the evil that he hath pronounced against you.
14. As for me, behold, I am in your hand: do with me as seemeth good and meet unto you.
15. But know ye for certain, that if ye put me to death, ye shall surely bring innocent blood upon yourselves, and upon this city, and upon the inhabitants thereof: for of a truth the Lord hath sent me unto you to speak all these words in your ears
Golden Text: “Therefore now amend your ways and your doings, and obey the voice of the Lord your God; and the Lord will repent him of the evil that he hath pronounced against you” (Jeremiah 26:13).
I. INTRODUCTION. In this week’s lesson, we consider the ministry of the Prophet Jeremiah. He was also a priest from the small town of Anathoth which was about three miles northeast of Jerusalem. As we consider the ministry of Jeremiah, we quickly learn that never did a man seem so badly suited to the heavy responsibility of being called to be the conscience of a nation. Jeremiah began his ministry protesting his youth and inexperience to God: “Ah LORD God! behold, I cannot speak ; FOR I am a child” (see Jeremiah 1:6). When the religious establishment spoke against him, he complained to Jehovah saying “I am in derision daily, every one mocketh me” (see Jeremiah 20:7). Of course, it wasn’t easy to be the voice for God in Judah. At one point he wanted to quit, for he said “Then I said, I will not make mention of him (the LORD), nor speak any more in his name” (see Jeremiah 20:9). But our lesson reveals the heart of a man who must deliver an unpopular message not long before the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon.
II. THE LESSON BACKGROUND. Jeremiah’s prophetic work began under the good king Josiah in about 626 B.C. It continued through Josiah’s evil successors Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin and Zedekiah, and through the total destruction of Jerusalem under the Babylonian ruler Nebuchadnezzar (586 B.C.). Unlike most of the other prophetic books, which have a chronological arrangement, the material in Jeremiah seems to have no logical pattern. Prophecies delivered in the final years of Jeremiah’s ministry may appear at any point in the book, followed by messages that belong to other periods in his life. A case in point is that in chapters 21 and 22, Jeremiah gives messages concerning King Zedekiah, king Jehoahaz, king Jehoiakim and king Jehoiakin. But only one of these men Jehoiakim had served as king when the message in chapter 26 from which our lesson comes was given. Zedekiah was the last king of Judah before the Babylonian Captivity in 586 B.C., but a narrative is given about him in chapter 21. So it is very difficult to give the correct background or chronology of any portion of the book of Jeremiah. What we can say is that during all four decades that Jeremiah served as God’s prophet in Jerusalem, he experienced the same treatment over and over. He was constantly derided, and was a laughing stock to the citizens of Jerusalem. In fact, he narrowly escaped several plots against his life (see Jeremiah 11:21; 18:18; 20:1-5; 26:8; and chapters 38-39).
III. THE SERMON DELIVERED (Jeremiah 26:1, 4-6)
A. Jehovah’s word to the prophet (Jeremiah 26:1). Our first verse says “In the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah came this word from the LORD, saying…” During the four decades that Jeremiah ministered in Judah, the LORD spoke to him numerous times. This time when “the LORD” spoke to Jeremiah it was “In the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah came this word from the LORD.” This “word” or message “from the LORD” begins in verse 3. Unlike his father, “Josiah king of Judah” who was a godly king, “Jehoiakim” was an ungodly “king” who “did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD” (see II Kings 23:36-37). He was made king by Pharaoh Nechoh, king of Egypt after Nechoh removed his brother Jehoahaz from the throne after he reigned only three months (see II Kings 23:31-34). “Jehoiakim’s” original name was Eliakim, but Pharaoh Nechoh changed it to “Jehoiakim.” As an opponent to Jeremiah’s ministry, “Jehoiakim” showed his disdain for the prophet by taking his scroll containing God’s message and cut it up and threw it into the fire (see Jeremiah 36:1-2, 21-23). The “word” or message “from the LORD” that Jeremiah was commanded to speak begins in verse 3. Note: Verse 2 which is not part of our lesson, tells us that God told “Jeremiah” to go and stand in the temple courtyard and speak to all the people who have come to worship in the Lord’s house, give them the complete message and don’t leave out one word (see Jeremiah 26:2). The LORD also told Jeremiah that when he spoke every word that God gave him to the people, maybe they will listen and turn from their evil ways, and then He would withhold all the punishment that He was ready to pour out on them because of their evil deeds (see Jeremiah 26:3). God’s promised judgment would only be withheld upon the people’s repentance.
B. Jehovah’s warning (Jeremiah 26:4-6).
1. (vs. 4). This verse says “And thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the LORD; If ye will not hearken to me, to walk in my law, which I have set before you...” Here God begins to tell Jeremiah what he is to say to the people of Judah. It was of the utmost importance that the people knew that the words Jeremiah was about to speak came directly from God. Therefore, the prophet began saying “Thus saith the LORD” indicating that “the LORD” God was speaking, not Jeremiah. Judah’s sin was more than mere infractions of some human code of ethics (see Jeremiah 1:16). Instead, God said the people’s problem was that they “will not hearken to me, to walk in my law.” In other words, the people of Judah refused to listen to God and obey His “laws” that He had “set before” or given them through the Law of Moses. God’s message was one that gave the conditions for which He would withhold His judgment. God uses the word “if” meaning that they had a choice to “hearken to me (Him)” and “to walk in my (His) law” or not. As God’s chosen people, they were expected to heed and obey the laws He had given them. But so far the people had chosen not to hear or obey God’s laws. But here we see God’s patience, grace and His mercy as He once again offers the people of Judah another opportunity to avoid judgment. The choice was theirs.
2. (vs. 5). This verse says “To hearken to the words of my servants the prophets, whom I sent unto you, both rising up early, and sending them, but ye have not hearkened…” In addition to not heeding or obeying His laws, God said that the people also failed “To hearken to the words of my servants the prophets, whom I sent unto you.” The LORD referred to “the prophets” as “my servants” because they were “sent” to the Jews by God Himself. But the people had refused to listen to “the prophets” whom God had “sent” to warn them of coming judgment, even though God said that He “sent” them “rising up early” which means again and again or over and over. God said that He sent His “servants the prophets” repeatedly to warn the people to repent, but instead they “have not hearkened” or listened to them. In some cases, when God called “the prophets” He told them that the people wouldn’t listen to them or believe their message (see Isaiah 6:9-12). But still the message had to go forth to the people; so God commissioned “the prophets” with His message.
3. (vs. 6). This verse says “Then will I make this house like Shiloh, and will make this city a curse to all the nations of the earth.” Having presented the conditions that the people needed to meet to avoid His judgment (see verses 4 and 5), if they chose to continue to refuse to “hearken to the LORD, and to walk in His law” (see verse 4) after He had warned them over and over again, God said “Then will I make this house like Shiloh.” The words “this house” refers to the temple where Jeremiah was preaching in the courtyard. God declared that if the people failed to repent, the same thing that happened to “Shiloh” will happen to the temple. Originally, before the temple was built, the “tabernacle of the congregation” was set up in a town called “Shiloh” (see Joshua 18:1). The narrative does not tell us what happened to “Shiloh,” but we do know that because of the wickedness of the people, God brought judgment upon “Shiloh” and its people (see Jeremiah 7:12). Not only would God bring judgment on the temple like He did “Shiloh,” He also said that He “will make this city a curse to all the nations of the earth.” The “city” referred to here is Jerusalem. The “city” of Jerusalem would become the object of cursing and mockery among the other “nations of the earth.”
IV. THE PROPHET IS DESPISED (Jeremiah 26:7-11)
A. Jeremiah is hated for God’s message (Jeremiah 26:7-9).
1. (vs. 7). This verse says “So the priests and the prophets and all the people heard Jeremiah speaking these words in the house of the LORD.” At this point, we are told who was in the audience listening to Jeremiah. It included “the priests and the prophets,” undoubtedly they were ungodly priests and false prophets (see Jeremiah 2:8; 5:31), “and all the people.” It appears that everyone in Jerusalem was present listening to “Jeremiah speaking” the “words” from God “in the house of the LORD.” Of course, “the house of the LORD” refers to the temple courtyard (see Jeremiah 26:2).
2. (vs. 8). This verse says “Now it came to pass, when Jeremiah had made an end of speaking all that the LORD had commanded him to speak unto all the people, that the priests and the prophets and all the people took him, saying, Thou shalt surely die.” After “Jeremiah” finished speaking to all of the people present (see verse 7), considering that he spoke to them what “the LORD had commanded him to speak unto all the people,” one would think that they would have responded to Jeremiah’s warnings by repenting and having a revival, but they chose to do the unthinkable—kill him. We are told that “All the priests and the prophets and all the people took him, saying, Thou shalt surely die,” or “you must die!” All the religious leaders, “the priests,” the false “prophets” (see Jeremiah 2:8; 5:31), and “all the people” were so infuriated with “Jeremiah” for his prophecy against Jerusalem and the temple (see verse 6). The religious leaders considered his message to be false prophecy, which called for the death penalty according to the Mosaic Law (see Deuteronomy 18:20). The truth of the matter is that their hearts were so hardened toward “the LORD” that they didn’t feel any remorse for their disobedience and idolatry.
3. (vs. 9). This verse says “Why hast thou prophesied in the name of the LORD, saying, This house shall be like Shiloh, and this city shall be desolate without an inhabitant? And all the people were gathered against Jeremiah in the house of the LORD.” At this point, the people including the religious leaders were ready to kill Jeremiah. But to give them reason for wanting him dead, first they asked him “Why hast thou prophesied in the name of the LORD, saying, This house shall be like Shiloh, and this city shall be desolate without an inhabitant?” With this question they were accusing Jeremiah of delivering a false prophecy “in the name of the LORD” when he prophesied that “this house” or the temple would be destroyed “like Shiloh” and “this city” or Jerusalem would be left without even one “inhabitant” or dweller. The people refused to believe that “the LORD” would speak against the temple since it was the place where He put His name (see I Kings 9:3; II Kings 21:7) and His presence dwelt there. Likewise they could not accept that God would make Jerusalem a “desolate” place because He had put His name there as well (see I Kings 11:36; II Kings 21:4, 7). Regardless of how the people behaved, they falsely believed that they were protected by Jerusalem so that “no evil can come upon us” (see Micah 3:11). But the prophet Micah spoke against that idea as well (see Micah 3:9-12). In addition, they falsely put their trust in the temple when they said “…The temple of the LORD, The temple of the LORD, The temple of the LORD, are these” (see Jeremiah 7:4). The problem was that many, if not all the people in Jerusalem thought “the LORD” would always protect the city where his temple was, so it didn’t matter how evil they were. The lesson here is that even though we belong to God, we can’t ever say for sure who God will protect and who He won’t protect. Many people wrongly believe that Grandma’s Bible that we keep on the coffee table will gain God’s protection, but it won’t. God only responds positively to our obedience and not to things we cherish. After questioning Jeremiah’s prophecy, “all the people were gathered against Jeremiah in the house of the LORD.” By coming “against Jeremiah” as a group, it appears that the people thought that killing Jeremiah, the messenger, was the only way to prevent the message of judgment from happening.
B. Jeremiah accused of treason (Jeremiah 26:10-11).
1. (vs. 10). This verse says, “When the princes of Judah heard these things, then they came up from the king’s house unto the house of the LORD, and sat down in the entry of the new gate of the LORD’s house.” There was such a big uproar in the temple courtyard that the noise carried into the palace area and to the ears of “the princes” or the legal government officials. This uproar probably sounded like a riot was taking place, so “When the princes of Judah heard these things, then they came up from the king’s house unto the house of the LORD.” When the government officials heard all the noise caused by the uproar, they left “the king’s house” meaning the palace, and they went to temple courtyard. Once they arrived, they “sat down in the entry of the new gate of the LORD’s house” undoubtedly to investigate the situation. The gates were the normal place for judicial hearings (see Ruth 4:1-5; Proverbs 31:23). These “princes” had legal duties in the royal administration and their arrival indicated that a formal proceeding against Jeremiah was about to begin.
2. (vs. 11). This verse says, “Then spake the priests and the prophets unto the princes and to all the people, saying, This man is worthy to die; for he hath prophesied against this city, as ye have heard with your ears.” Once the government officials, “the princes” took their places at the entrance to the new gate of the temple (see verse 10), the religious leaders “the (ungodly) priests and the (false) prophets” (see Jeremiah 2:8; 5:31), presented their case to them. They said “This man is worthy to die; for he hath prophesied against this city.” They all agreed that Jeremiah deserved to die because he “had prophesied” or spoke against Jerusalem which made him a traitor. The religious leaders then reminded “the princes” that they had also heard Jeremiah’s treasonous prophecy with their own “ears” as if that confirmed that their accusations against Jeremiah were true.
V. THE PROPHET’S WARNING (Jeremiah 26:12-15)
A. The prophet defends himself (Jeremiah 26:12). This verse says “Then spake Jeremiah unto all the princes and to all the people, saying, The LORD sent me to prophesy against this house and against this city all the words that ye have heard.” Once “the princes” had gained some semblance of order, “Jeremiah” was allowed to defend himself. He directed his defense to “all the princes and to all the people, saying, The LORD sent me to prophesy against this house and against this city all the words that ye have heard.” When “Jeremiah” spoke, he indicated that he was being obedient to the will of God who “sent” him “to prophesy against” both “this house” or the temple, and “this city” or Jerusalem. He stuck to the fact that his message came from “the LORD,” so if anyone had a problem with the message, their problem wasn’t with “Jeremiah,” it was with God. Facing total opposition, “Jeremiah” presented his case boldly, simply and clearly, and he didn’t deny that he had spoken “all the words that ye (they) have heard.” Note: Such a defense by Jeremiah should not have been needed, especially not before the Jewish leaders. Of all people they should have known better and easily identified what the man of God said with what God said. They didn’t because they were in a terribly backslidden condition. It’s hard to imagine how these religious leaders in Israel could drift so far that they were no longer convicted by God’s Word. They could not tolerate God’s truth. They didn’t even know it when they heard it. Remember that these religious leaders were still engaged in all the external forms of worship prescribed by the Levitical system. But they had lost their heart for God. This same thing can happen to believers today. When we are so deep in our sin and God’s Word has no effect on our behavior; and when we get to the point where we avoid hearing God’s Word, unless we repent, we can expect God’s judgment and discipline (see Deuteronomy 8:5-6; Jeremiah 26:2-3; Ezekiel 14:5-9; I Corinthians 11:32; Hebrews 12:9-11).
B. The prophet’s warning (Jeremiah 26:13-15).
1. (vs. 13). This verse says “Therefore now amend your ways and your doings, and obey the voice of the LORD your God; and the LORD will repent him of the evil that he hath pronounced against you.” All the people in Judah had heard Jeremiah present God’s indictment against the nation (see Jeremiah 7:1-13), and now the prophet told the people to do two things. Both of them are demands that God makes upon all those who want to be restored to fellowship with Him. First, Jeremiah said “Therefore now amend your ways and your doings.” In other words, they were to repent—change their way of thinking and their conduct. They were to stop doing what they were doing and start doing what God wanted them to do. The second thing the prophet told them to do was “obey the voice of the LORD your God.” What God was commanding was not simply a mental resolution to do better. Their whole life-style, which was characterized by disobedience, was to be changed to one of obedience to His commands. If the people did those things, Jeremiah said “and the LORD will repent him of the evil that he hath pronounced against you.” This means that God’s threatened ruin and judgment against His people could be prevented, which was the very thing Jeremiah hoped would happen when he warned them of their sinful behavior. The word “evil” here does not refer to sin as when used with humans. When used of God, it refers to any judgment He has promised. In this case, “the evil that he (God) hath pronounced against” Judah was the judgment God promised to bring upon the temple and Jerusalem if the people didn’t repent. Note: An interesting thing here is that Jeremiah wasn’t the one who was in danger, it was the people; he was the one seeking to rescue them! If they repented and obeyed God’s Word that he preached, the LORD would relent of His plans to judge the nation. It is true that the most unjust people will complain about ministers preaching hell and damnation although they do it only to keep them from that place of torment and to bring them to heaven and salvation. God had warned His people what would happen if they continued in their sinful ways (see verse 4-6), but in His grace, He also offered them a way to turn away His anger and judgment. Jeremiah said that all they had to do was repent or “amend your ways and your doings, and obey the voice of the Lord your God.”
2. (vs. 14). This verse says “As for me, behold, I am in your hand: do with me as seemeth good and meet unto you.” With holy boldness, Jeremiah had delivered God’s message to the rebellious people. He had been faithful. What they would do with him was for them to decide, for he said “As for me, behold, I am in your hand.” Jeremiah knew that he didn’t have any power to oppose the people. He also indicated that saving his own life was not his top priority when he said “do with me as seemeth good and meet unto you.” The word “meet” here means “what’s right” or “what’s proper.” Understanding his circumstances, Jeremiah told the people that it was completely up to them to do to him whatever they thought was “good” and “meet” or the right thing to do. Jeremiah could think about death without fear because long before, God had promised him that if he would faithfully speak His message, He would deliver him (see Jeremiah 1:17-19). Undoubtedly, Jeremiah believed that God would take care of him.
3. (vs. 15). Our final verse says “But know ye for certain, that if ye put me to death, ye shall surely bring innocent blood upon yourselves, and upon this city, and upon the inhabitants thereof: for of a truth the LORD hath sent me unto you to speak all these words in your ears.” Having told the people that it was up to them to do what they thought was right, Jeremiah then said “But know ye for certain, that if ye put me to death, ye shall surely bring innocent blood upon yourselves, and upon this city, and upon the inhabitants thereof.” The words “innocent blood” simply mean “innocent man.” Jeremiah warned the people that if they decided to kill him, they could be “certain” or know without a doubt that they would “surely bring innocent blood upon” themselves as well as upon the whole “city” of Jerusalem and “the inhabitants thereof” meaning everyone who lived there. Jeremiah was convinced of this because he said “for of a truth the LORD hath sent me unto you to speak all these words in your ears.” In other words, the prophet was saying that “it is absolutely true that the LORD sent me to speak every word that you have heard from me.” Jeremiah knew that he was the anointed messenger of Jehovah. He repeated the fact that he was sent by God and the message was from God (see verse 12). Note: Jeremiah didn’t hold back a bit from his firm conviction. He had confronted his accusers with the truth, so now his conviction was like Esther’s when she said “If I perish, I perish” (see Esther 4:16). There is no evidence that the people repented, but Jeremiah 26:16 reveals that the prophet was not put to death. The princes, priests, and all the people decided that he was “not worthy to die: for he hath spoken to us in the name of the LORD our God.” In part the decision not to kill Jeremiah was due to the advice of some elders who remembered the prophetic ministry of Micah (see Jeremiah 26:17-19). Micah, who lived about one hundred years before Jeremiah, had also prophesied the fall of Jerusalem (see Micah (see Micah 4:10; see also Jeremiah 20:4-5).
VI. Conclusion. When God called the young and reluctant Jeremiah to the ministry, He made the prophet “an iron pillar, and brasen walls against the whole land” (see Jeremiah 1:18). This week’s lesson demonstrated the strength of character that God provided to Jeremiah. We can take courage from Jeremiah’s experience. Faithfulness must characterize our lives even when we or our message is not welcomed. But with a mandate from God, we must press on and leave the outcome to Him.
PRACTICAL POINTS FOR DISCUSSION:
1. God’s Word can come to us at anytime; so we must be ready to receive it (Jeremiah 26:1).
2. God expects His people to study His Word and to listen to those who explain it (Jeremiah 26:4-5; Romans 10:14-17).
3. Religious institutions are blessed only when the people in charge of those institutions are obedient to God (Jeremiah 26:6).
4. Just because people claim to belong to God does not mean that they will always heed His message or His messengers (Jeremiah 26:7-9).
5. We should not be more concerned about preserving material structures than we are about the spiritual condition of people (Jeremiah 26:10-11).
6. Pleasing God should be more important to us than pleasing men, even when loyalty to Him seems to threaten our personal safety (Jeremiah 26:12-15; Acts 4:19-20).
***The Sunday School Lesson, Union Gospel Press Curriculum; The Bible Expositor and Illuminator***
Rev. Poleon L. Griffin
3057 Havenwood Way
Lithonia, Ga. 30038
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