Day 115: The Priests, the Prophets, the Princes and the People

Jeremiah 26:10-16

When the princes of Judah heard these things, they came up from the king’s house to Yahweh’s house; and they sat in the entry of the new gate of Yahweh’s house. Then the priests and the prophets spoke to the princes and to all the people, saying, “This man is worthy of death; for he has prophesied against this city, as you have heard with your ears.”

Then Jeremiah spoke to all the princes and to all the people, saying, “Yahweh sent me to prophesy against this house and against this city all the words that you have heard. Now therefore amend your ways and your doings, and obey Yahweh your God’s voice; then Yahweh will relent from the evil that he has pronounced against you. But as for me, behold, I am in your hand. Do with me what is good and right in your eyes. Only know for certain that if you put me to death, you will bring innocent blood on yourselves, on this city, and on its inhabitants; for in truth Yahweh has sent me to you to speak all these words in your ears.”

Then the princes and all the people said to the priests and to the prophets: “This man is not worthy of death; for he has spoken to us in the name of Yahweh our God.”

This was a horrible set of events for an innocent prophet that merely chose to obey God’s command, but it is a facinating study of God’s design of goverernment. The priests and prophets appear to have convinced the people that Jeremiah should be killed and when the princes came to investigate the issue, it appears that the people switched sides and with the princes determined that Jeremiah wasn’t doing anything wrong.

It’s wonderful to see Jeremiah stand strong in the face of opposition. He even said that they should decide for themselves what to do with him, but he made it clear that he was innocent because God had told him to say these words. Notice how his honest speaking to the government officials helped to convince them to do things differently. This appears to be an illustration of a proverb. Let’s look at that:

Proverbs 12:6

The words of the wicked are about lying in wait for blood,
but the speech of the upright rescues them.

Can you imagine what would have happened had the priest, prophet and prince been the same person? It seems quite likely that Jeremiah would have been killed, but because the government was divided into different branches, the princes were able to hear what Jeremiah said and decide for themselves. The people actually changed sides as a result. This idea of going back and reconsidering things is also in proverbs.

Proverbs 18:17

He who pleads his cause first seems right;
until another comes and questions him.

Even as far as Judah had deteriorated as a nation, God still had powerful traditions built in that He could use to protect Jeremiah. It may seem like everything is lost, but only God can see everything. It may very well be that God is preparing to bring salvation anyway. This is also evidence that religion can go very bad and actually be used to kill the innocent. The prophets and the priests were clearly the ones who were wrong here. The wicked princes were still used by God to stop the false prophets and priests from doing harm.

Day 105: Don’t Listen to Them

Jeremiah 23:16-22

Yahweh of Armies says,
“Don’t listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you.
They teach you vanity.
They speak a vision of their own heart,
and not out of the mouth of Yahweh.
They say continually to those who despise me,
‘Yahweh has said, “You will have peace;” ’
and to everyone who walks in the stubbornness of his own heart they say,
‘No evil will come on you.’
For who has stood in the council of Yahweh,
that he should perceive and hear his word?
Who has listened to my word, and heard it?
Behold, Yahweh’s storm, his wrath, has gone out.
Yes, a whirling storm:
It will burst on the head of the wicked.
Yahweh’s anger will not return until he has executed,
and until he has performed the intents of his heart.
In the latter days, you will understand it perfectly.
I didn’t send these prophets, yet they ran.
I didn’t speak to them, yet they prophesied.
But if they had stood in my council,
then they would have caused my people to hear my words,
and would have turned them from their evil way,
and from the evil of their doings.

It’s very important for all of us to understand that just because someone is a pastor or a Sunday school teacher, or a Bible teacher, doesn’t mean that we should listen to them. This is just one of the places in the Bible where God tells us to not listen to spiritual leadership. This creates a very serious issue for certain religious traditions. There are those who call themselves Christians that teach that their leadership is capable of adding new truth to the Bible and can actually change what it means, but the Bible teaches that individuals like you and I are supposed to be critical of those who speak for God. If we don’t decide for ourselves, how will we separate the ones that God tells us not to listen to from those we should listen to? Back while the Bible was being written, the test was whether or not they could accurately tell the future. Now that we have the Bible all written down, all we have to do is see if the teaching we hear goes against it. It is our responsibility to stop listening to those who do not accurately teach the Bible.

This is also one of the places in the Bible where we learn that God is responsible for tornados and hurricanes. Here He purposefully places them “on the head of the wicked.” This does not mean that only wicked people die in hurricanes! That’s actually an abuse of logic. God didn’t say that storms only affect the wicked. He only said that He does use storms to affect the wicked.

We also learn a bit about the kinds of things that false prophets do here. This is very helpful to us today because it gives us some things to watch out for. One thing it tells us is that they teach empty things that they have made up. If a spiritual leader starts teaching their own opinions instead of the truth in the Bible, that’s a bad sign. Next we learn that they teach those who hate God that everything is going to be fine for them and that they don’t have anything to worry about. They say the same things to those who stubbornly live the way they want to instead of the way God tells them to. They encourage those who keep living in sin by telling them that God isn’t going to punish them. Isn’t that what we are seeing today in many previously Christian cultures. Pastors and teachers are telling those who live lifestyles that the Bible clearly says are wrong, that it’s acceptable to God. There are church denominations that are publicly promoting abortion. They act as if they will never be punished and God tells us here that they most certainly will. Our responsibility is simple. Let’s obey God and stop listening to them.

Day 103: Two Very Important Jobs

Jeremiah 23:7-12

“Therefore behold, the days come,” says Yahweh, “that they will no more say, ‘As Yahweh lives, who brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt;’ but, ‘As Yahweh lives, who brought up and who led the offspring of the house of Israel out of the north country, and from all the countries where I had driven them.’ Then they will dwell in their own land.”

Concerning the prophets:
My heart within me is broken.
All my bones shake.
I am like a drunken man,
and like a man whom wine has overcome,
because of Yahweh,
and because of his holy words.
For the land is full of adulterers;
for because of the curse the land mourns.
The pastures of the wilderness have dried up.
Their course is evil,
and their might is not right;
for both prophet and priest are profane.
Yes, in my house I have found their wickedness,” says Yahweh.
Therefore their way will be to them as slippery places in the darkness.
They will be driven on,
and fall therein;
for I will bring evil on them,
even the year of their visitation,” says Yahweh.

We have learned from the Bible that there were two very important positions that God set up in Israel in order for the people to properly to relate to God. Priests were required so that man would be able to communicate with God and prophets were raised up in order to be the voice of God to the people. It isn’t a surprise, then, that when priests and prophets become profane, that the people fail to have a proper way to communicate with God. When spiritual leadership goes bad, it doesn’t just pervert the communication between God and man, it also makes God very angry and results in wrath. That’s what we learn about here in Jeremiah. God had every intent to make Israel His nation, but first, He would have to deal with the leadership that had decided to pervert both the worship of the people to God and the voice of God to the people.

Do you remember that God calls Christians priests as well as prophets? We have the responsibility of both worshiping God and bringing concerns of others before God in prayer, and also to tell others what God’s word says and lead them to repentance so that they will become followers of Jesus. We all have these special jobs and as far as I can tell from the Bible, these jobs are more important than any earthly job. It is very important for us to not avoid our priestly jobs of worship and prayer for others. It’s also important for us to keep speaking God’s word to others in order to encourage them and help them continue to live their lives according to the truth. I don’t believe that a true believer will profane these positions, but we can certainly avoid performing our duties. Let’s remember that these spiritual activities are real jobs that God has given us to do, and remember how important those jobs are in our world today.

Day 102: Yahweh Our Righteousness

Jeremiah 23:1-6

“Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” says Yahweh. Therefore Yahweh, the God of Israel, says against the shepherds who feed my people: “You have scattered my flock, driven them away, and have not visited them. Behold, I will visit on you the evil of your doings,” says Yahweh. “I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and will bring them again to their folds; and they will be fruitful and multiply. I will set up shepherds over them, who will feed them. They will no longer be afraid or dismayed, neither will any be lacking,” says Yahweh.
“Behold, the days come,” says Yahweh,
“that I will raise to David a righteous Branch,
and he will reign as king and deal wisely,
and will execute justice and righteousness in the land.
In his days Judah will be saved,
and Israel will dwell safely.
This is his name by which he will be called:
Yahweh our righteousness.

After God proclaims one of the most troubling curses in all of history, He immediately affirms the fact that a day will come in which a “righteous Branch” of David will come and save all of Israel and Judah. Even though it was unlikely that anyone understood how God could do it, He still promised to do it. Lets look at where God places blame.

God pronounces a “woe” on the “shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep” of His pasture. If you want to learn what it means to receive a “woe” from God, read the book of Revelation. This book of Jeremiah has done a pretty good job of explaining it too. Woes from God are what we might call times of “hell on earth.” When God says this, the people responsible have done something very grievous. Remember what has been going on in Judah at this time. There were false prophets speaking against Jeremiah as well as rebellious kings who were teaching the people that it was Ok to practice idolatry. These “shepherds” were actually scattering the sheep instead of tending to them. Lions and bears are the ones that scatter the sheep. These leaders were acting like enemies. When a shepherd consumes the sheep that God intended for him to care for, it makes Him very angry. I’m not sure that I can adequately express the amount of anger God has in this situation and I don’t really have to. All you have to do is look at the destruction that resulted from this behavior.

In God’s anger, He pronounced mercy. This is something that clearly separates God from man. He, in His wrath, still brought mercy and here we learn more about His plan to do it. Even before God began his “woe” on Judah, God pronounced His intention to solve the problem forever by sending Jesus. God intended to save Israel, not to destroy her. The day would come when Jesus would rule on David’s throne on earth. This hasn’t actually happened yet. Israel is still seeking a leader that will bring peace and true safety from her enemies. As Christians, God has shown us the way already, though. God sent His son to die for the sins of the whole world by becoming righteousness for us and because of this we already call Him: “Yahweh our righteousness”.

Day 18: A True Minister

John 1:35-39 :Again, the next day, John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. Jesus turned, and saw them following, and said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which is to say, being interpreted, Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come, and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day. It was about the tenth hour.

In this part, we have John seeing Jesus on another day. He had already pointed Jesus out the crowd once. You could say that, technically, he had already done his duty before God the last time, but when John saw Jesus again, he again told people to look.

John actually convinced people to leave him and follow Jesus. This is the way of a true minister. A true minister does not attract attention to themselves. The whole point of Christian ministry is to point people to God. Once again, this shows the humility of John the Baptist. When the disciples left him and went to Jesus, he didn’t try to stop them. He urged them to go after Jesus. Sometimes, we see the opposite type of behavior in leadership today. The world teaches their leaders to take credit and get more people for themselves. A true minister is like John according to the Bible. You can read more on this topic in 1 Corinthians 3.

It is fascinating to me that Jesus asked these two followers what they were looking for. We know that Jesus is God and that He knew everything already. Why would he ask? In many instances, Jesus said things like this. When it seemed like the reasons were obvious, He still required people to say them out loud.

I see that this has a correlation with prayer. God already knows what you want before you ask, but, He wants you to ask. I notice that when we are forced to ask, we have to admit that we are taking something from someone; something that we don’t have. Jesus on many other occasions called for His disciples to have faith. Faith is believing that God will work things out. When we ask God to do something we admit out loud that we are not getting it from somewhere else and that we want Him to work it out.

When these two disciples answered Jesus, they called him: “Rabbi” which is a Jewish teacher. I am learning that there was quite a culture surrounding the duties of a Rabbi. It was not an unusual occupation as it would seem to be in our culture. There are still those who are called “Rabbi” today. I can see why the King James version of the Bible translated it to be “Master”. My understanding is that a teacher in that culture was more like a Master Craftsman in our American culture only it was in regard to God rather than learning a trade. You were supposed to be with them and learn their ways. You would do what they tell you and you would receive special education.

These two disciples were then invited to come over to where Jesus was staying. The time detail at the end has been difficult to determine. John calls it the 10th hour, I am not sure what clock that John was referring to. We believe that John was writing from Ephesus in 90 AD or so, so he might have been referring to 10:00 of Rome. Many believe he was referring to 14:00 using the clock other gospel writers used. I don’t have enough information to determine that yet, perhaps on a later post I will be able to find more evidence.