Summary: After being abused and accused by his fellow Jews, Jeremiah’s counsel was sought and ignored. Modern believers need to take note.
If I hadn’t had a similar, though less lethal, experience, I probably wouldn’t relate to that scene in “The Godfather” where the old Mafioso tells the young boss how the traitor would try to kill him after his death. With me, we were in a nice restaurant in San Francisco (my executive editor and I) instead of the garden of a guarded fortress, and I wasn’t about to die literally (I’m still here), but I was going to be in Paris and London for a little over a week and I needed to prepare my colleague for some of the changes my publisher might try to institute during my absence and the arguments that might work to stave off changes that we both saw as counter-productive.
When I returned from London, my executive editor said, “It all happened just like you said it would. I gave him our rationale and some data I put together after our conversation, and they held off on all the changes but one.” I ducked my head. The one change they implemented would be the one that would cost the company the most. “I know,” he said, “but as soon as I protested, they said, ‘That’s Johnny talking. He’s always said that and we just don’t believe it.’”
I was exactly right. And when the executive who had made the bad decision tried to make me the scapegoat, I protested to another executive in New York who recognized that I had warned against this policy change and I survived a little longer. But I started looking for a new position! When I left, they replaced me with a “Yes man” who did everything they wanted. He didn’t last a year. The next replacement was one of the persons I had trained. He heard me. One year into the job, he came to me and said, “Everything you told me has come true. And every time I have tried to tell them it won’t work, they accuse me of being brainwashed by you—and they just won’t hear it, even when your predictions keep coming true.”
Now, my predictions as Editor-in-Chief of a national magazine (Computer Gaming World) didn’t come about due to supernatural knowledge. They came about from experienced observation. But even if I’d been able to tell them that I had a Word from the Lord, the old corporate warriors wouldn’t have listened to me. They only heard what they wanted to hear.
So, I can identify with Jeremiah even though I admit that my predictions weren’t on the same level. While the other prophets were saying that God would have to step in and protect Jerusalem because the temple was there, Jeremiah was saying that the temple didn’t matter at all if they weren’t obeying God who commanded them to built that temple. While the other prophets were saying that God wouldn’t allow the last two tribes of His special people to be sent into captivity, Jeremiah was prophesying the certainty of that captivity. But now, King Jehoiachin was taken into exile in Babylon and his uncle, Zedekiah, had been installed as a puppet by the King of Babylon.
But was Jeremiah honored for his prescience, his ability to predict what would happen, his integrity in presenting an authentic word while others were lying, and his faithfulness to God, the country’s only hope? No, he wasn’t. These people hated Jeremiah because he told them uncomfortable truths that they didn’t want to hear, but needed to hear. Unfortunately, no one likes the one who bears bad news.
13) And it happened that he was in the Gate of Benjamin and there was a captain (literally, lord) of the guards, and his name was Irijah (“Yahweh sees”), son of Shelemiah (“Yahweh restored”), son of Hananiah (“Yahweh is gracious”), and he then grabbed Jeremiah (“Yahweh lifts up”) the Prophet saying: “You’re going over to [literally, falling to] the Chaldeans.”
14) And Jeremiah immediately said, “That’s fraudulent [saying] that I am going over to [falling to] the Chaldeans.” But Irijah wouldn’t listen to him and he grabbed Jeremiah and he brought him to the officials [literally, the princes].
15) And the princes were hostile toward Jeremiah and, as a result, gave him into the prison [literally “house of bonds”], the house of Jonathan (“Yahweh gave”) the Scribe, BECAUSE they had made it a house of restraint.
16) Because Jeremiah came to the House of the Cistern and a vaulted room [perhaps, an underground cave/dungeon?] and Jeremiah stayed there many days.
In this chapter, Jeremiah is accused of being a deserter. In the next chapter (38:4), he is accused of being a traitor. Isn’t it ironic that all of these people with names that suggest they are devoted to Yahweh God are unanimously against Yahweh’s prophet? I think it is, but I also consider it a warning to those of us who want to be God’s witnesses in the modern age. Many times, even those we think of as believers, will fail to stand with us when we speak God’s Truth. Many times, co-workers or fellow-students will give in to an unethical policy at work or participate in outright blasphemy and Christianity-bashing at school. Sometimes, it leaves us feeling lonely or vulnerable. I think this passage ought to help us realize that we aren’t the first who tried to be true to God’s message and, as a result, find ourselves feeling isolated and vulnerable.