Conclusion: Waves of Opposition

Few on planet earth endure a range of hardships like Jeremiah.

  • Death threats from family and townsfolk.
  • Angry, anonymous mob demanding death by stoning.
  • Public whipping and a night in stocks.
  • Months of work destroyed and need to flee.
  • Strange acted-out dual leading to death.
  • Cast into a stinking muddy pit.
  • Forced to make a repulsive purchase.

One episode remains. Something entirely different. In this one, Jeremiah becomes somewhat a trouble maker.

Jeremiah the Tempter

Jeremiah sought out the leaders of a certain family clan and invited all the men to join him inside the temple. At the appointed time they came. Jeremiah had reserved a room and set it up to host them. He welcomed them in the traditional way with cups and jugs of wine.

All the social norms, all the accepted behavior, etiquette, decency, in that day placed a strong obligation on these guests to receive the drink with gratitude. The host honored them by going personally to invite them. The host prepared everything in advance. They came as guests and were obliged to return honor to their host. Refusing the welcoming drink is a breach of etiquette, an unforgivable offense. But this is what they did. They brought shame on Jeremiah by refusing his welcome. In normal circumstances, Jeremiah would be hotly offended.

The problem? These men, along with their whole clan for generations, were under oath to not drink from the fruit of the vine. They were teetotalers from birth to death. Even God’s spokesperson in a private temple room would not get them to change.

Jeremiah breathed a sigh of relief. The Recabites’ unswerving obedience to their forefathers became powerful ammunition for rebuking the populace and the leaders of Judah.

Come and learn a lesson about how to obey me. The Recabites do not drink wine to this day because their ancestor Jehonadab told them not to. But I have spoken to you again and again, and you refuse to obey me. Time after time I sent you prophets, who told you, “Turn from your wicked ways, and start doing things right. Stop worshiping other gods so that you might live in peace here in the land I have given to you and your ancestors.” But you would not listen to me or obey me. The descendants of Jehonadab son of Recab have obeyed their ancestor completely, but you have refused to listen to me. Jer. 35:13-16.

A Clear Contrast

The contrasts are powerful:

In terms of loyalty, the Almighty, Living, Covenant God of Israel is certainly worthy of greater allegiance than any ancestor.

In terms of self-help, the benefits derived by obeying their Covenant God are exponentially greater than the Recabites were to gain through family loyalty.

But in all the places Jeremiah journeyed, and rebuked, and called for change, the people spat in his face, refusing to listen. The Recabites proved noble, all the others were ignoble.

“My people are foolish and do not know me,” says the LORD. “They are stupid children who have no understanding. They are clever enough at doing wrong, but they have no idea how to do right!” Jer. 4:22.

Therefore, their land will become desolate, a monument to their stupidity. All who pass by will be astonished and will shake their heads in amazement. Jer. 18:16.

I will reduce Jerusalem to ruins, making it a monument to their stupidity. All who pass by will be astonished and will gasp at the destruction they see there. Jer. 19:8.

These are the people Jeremiah spent 40 years trying to educate, awaken, and rescue from the consequences of their folly.

Respect

It is unfortunate that Jeremiah’s most famous title among popular circles is “the weeping prophet.” There is even the term “jeremiad” coined in his “honor.” Yes Jeremiah wept, but not out of self-pity and weakness. His weeping spawned out of concern for his people. He joined the “Weeping God.”

Now, Jeremiah, say this to them: “Night and day my eyes overflow with tears. I cannot stop weeping, for my virgin daughter – my precious people – has been struck down and lies mortally wounded.” Jer. 14:17.

This point is stated well by Paul House, “This emphasis on his weeping may mislead readers regarding his toughness. Jeremiah was a determined, dedicated, long-suffering, and visionary follower of God. His courage and stamina serves as examples to even the most faithful of all God’s embattled servants.”[1]

God’s spokesperson, Jeremiah, deserves a gold medal. As a man, servant of The Most High, citizen of a small, troubled nation, an activist for social concern,[2] and a bastion of hope for the future – very few human beings should stand in honor with him. God gifted us not only with a historical record of Jeremiah, we also have his writing in which he expresses many of his feelings and thoughts in an ongoing communication with his Divine Commander.

This is the focus of the third and largest section of this book, Dialogues with Deity. It is up next.


[1] ESV Study Bible. Crossway Bibles, Wheaton IL, 2008, p. 1364.

[2] This is covered in Appendix 8, Spokesperson’s Social Concern.

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