Poor Jeremiah. All he does is tell the people what the Lord commands him to say, and everyone wants to kill him! And to add divine insult to injury, he makes Jeremiah proclaim these words basically in front of the whole world:
2 “This is what the Lord says: Stand in the courtyard of the Lord’s house and speak to all the people of the towns of Judah who come to worship in the house of the Lord. Tell them everything I command you; do not omit a word.
But the reason isn’t to get Jeremiah in trouble. He’s making him do this so perhaps the people will turn away from their sin and God will relent from bringing judgment. We know how this turns out, that’s it’s a futile exercise, but there’s a reason he keeps giving his people a chance. He wants us to know that he longs to be merciful to his people. He’s also telling us his justice must be met as well. When we understand the covenantal nature of his relationship to his people, it all makes sense—blessings and curses. Only Jesus could ultimately fulfill both.
Why did the people insist Jeremiah must die? Because he was telling them things they didn’t want to hear. The critics of Christianity are rarely honest that this is the reason they don’t embrace it. Christianity is not a religion for those with itching ears. It’s not the least bit flattering to our sense of our own self-importance. We are condemned criminals by nature. Great! Sign me up! But to me, our revulsion to this basic message is an indication of it’s truth. By it we verify God’s judgment against us, and we are helpless to do anything about it by ourselves.
Then Jeremiah tells the people that “in truth the Lord has sent me to you to speak all these words in your hearing.” And they relented. Once they were convinced the message really was spoken to them “in the name of the Lord” their God, how could they kill him. Other prophets of the Lord were not so fortunate, and many died horrible deaths. One thinks of John the Baptist, the last of the Old Testament prophets, not to mention Jesus of Nazareth, our Savior. Biblical religion is nothing if not brutally honest about what it might cost to follow God. Jesus tells us we must take up our cross daily, denying ourselves, and follow up. No sugar coating there. This will not be easy. And while few over the millennium have paid the price with their lives, there is a price to be paid. Praise the Lord Jesus he paid the ultimate price so we don’t have to pay that one.