Sunday, October 15, 2006

What if it was us?

Jeremiah the Prophet is commissioned by God to speak bad news to the people of Judah. Early in Jehoiakim's reign (Jeremiah 26.1), Jeremiah warns them:
If you do not listen to me and follow my law, which I have set before you, and if you do not listen to the words of my servants the prophets, whom I have sent to you again and again (though you have not listened), then I will make this house like Shiloh and this city an object of cursing among all the nations of the earth.
from Jeremiah 26.4-6
He says this to the priests, the prophets, and "all the people". The priests and prophets arrest him and say he should be killed, but the officials and all the people tell them that Jeremiah should not be killed, because he's spoken in the name of the Lord.

OK, so the priests and the prophets are completely corrupt here; they're the ones who should be supporting Jeremiah. And the civil authorities should do the same thing, by the way; they should encourage each other and the people to listen to the Lord and obey his law. That's the way to avoid being conquered, etc.

In chapter 27, Jeremiah records another message that he received early in Zedekiah's reign (Jeremiah 27.1): Basically Judah (and a bunch of other kingdoms for that matter) are going to be subjugated by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and they should serve him rather than rebelling against him.

When I read this, and actually when I read about Jeremiah's prophecies in Kings and Chronicles, I thought the civil authorities would find Jeremiah's prophecies increasingly difficult to handle. Chapter 26's prophecy is fine: they need to repent, obey the Lord, listen to his prophets. In chapter 27, though, they're told to serve the king of Babylon. And unless I miss my guess, we're about to read Jeremiah's really hard prophecy -- that under siege from the Babylonian army, they should surrender!

That last one is really hard. Any military commander hearing someone preach surrender to his troops would have that person arrested and probably shot. And yet, these prophecies are really from the Lord.

But after looking at these again this morning, here's what I think.

In chapter 26, we read that the prophets and priests refused to listen to Jeremiah -- and therefore to the Lord. And later in the chapter we read about how Jehoiakim and his officials killed another prophet who prophesied the same things.

In other words, the priests and prophets and the king refused to listen to the Lord. That's why the "harder" prophecies came, why the country was handed over to Babylon.

And what if this happened to us today, here in the US? Well, maybe it has. Men like Martin Luther King, Jr., John Perkins, Ron Sider, and I'll include James Dobson here as well -- they have spoken to us and warned us of things we must change. Generally speaking, we have not listened.

I sense trouble coming, because it seems to me that we're headed downhill. I hope I'm wrong and that we repent from violence and arrogance, racism, oppression of the poor, and sexual immorality. Somehow I see echoes of the decline and fall of the Roman empire.

No nation, no kingdom, no republic lasts forever. But the Lord is in control, no matter what happens. Who knows - he may move enough hearts to change our course. Let us pray that he does, and let us cooperate with him and avert the coming disaster on our country.

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