So don’t miss the moment when God, almost humanly like a grieving dad, suddenly pours out his never-ending love, almost pleading with Israel through Jeremiah to see the difference between disunity from him and deeper, perfect unity with him:
“It may be they will listen, and every one turn from his evil way, that I may relent of the disaster that I intend to do to them because of their evil deeds” (26:3, ESV).
But then like any disciplining father, he balances this emotional hope with a warning. Looking closer, if we turn 26:4-5 around from negative to positive, God’s words are actually a summary of what would constitute perfect unity with God such that his judgment might still be avoided:
“…listen to me…walk in my law…listen to the words of my servants the prophets whom I send to you urgently…” (26:4-5).
Obediently, Jeremiah speaks to the people, and is then threatened with immediate execution by the idol-worshiping “priests” and “prophets” now in control of God’s house. Eventually a few honest souls prevail and Jeremiah is given a reprieve, but the hatred of the temple rulers is palpable.
Then, In Chapter 27, God tells Jeremiah to command Israel to submit to the rule of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon. God even calls this king his servant! To us this would sound like being told that Vladimir Putin is now the servant of God and President of the United States! Yet God tells Israel through Jeremiah that if they obey and submit in unity with God they can stay on the land until God punishes “Putin” at a later time.
Jeremiah then gives this command:
“Do not listen to your prophets, your diviners, your fortune tellers or your sorcerers [who tell you not to obey the command of God]…For it is a lie they are prophesying to you, with the result that you will be removed from your land, and I will drive you out, and you will perish” (27:9-10).
Jeremiah goes on to say that if anyone says he is a true prophet of God, let him intercede with God and show physical proof of his authority.
Sure enough, in Chapter 28, a “prophet” named Hananiah confronts Jeremiah in the temple in front of the “priests” and all the people. He tells them all that Jeremiah is wrong, and that God has broken the King of Babylon, everything will return to normal, and there will be peace.
“As for the prophet who prophesies peace, when the word of that prophet comes to pass, then it will be known that the Lord has truly sent the prophet…Listen, Hananiah, the Lord has not sent you, and you have made this people trust in a lie…” (28:9, 15b).
Within just a few months, Hananiah is dead.
Who is your personal king of Babylon? Who is the one or what is the situation in your life that seems so insurmountable that you want to shake your fist at God, asking, “Why me?”
Israel’s experience with the king of Babylon is what we must avoid – challenging God. Rather, humble acceptance of what feels like a major setback – like the “patient endurance” of the Apostle John on the island of Patmos – ultimately brings glory and honor and victory, but only in God’s timing, not ours.
Here we find a deeper dimension of unity with God.
We don’t have true prophets today like Jeremiah, but we do have the One who came according to the prophets’ word, the One who provides physical proof that the biblical prophets were sent urgently by God to proclaim the greatest message ever delivered: