Listen on MixCloud
Jeremiah 26: 1-16
Preaching the truth of God is a perilous pursuit. It is a certainty that certain people will not like it. It is a guarantee that some folk will resent it. It is inevitable that many hearers will repudiate it. It is incontrovertible that a number of listeners to the word of God will tweak and twist it to their own liking or prejudiced perception of matters and react angrily. The word of God is not popular to the natural mind or the un-renewed heart. It is a strong temptation to resort to human invention that will please the gallery. There are faithful prophets and false prophets, and the latter abound.
Gentle Jeremiah was called to the role of faithful prophet - a severe vocation for a very sensitive man. No sane person wishes to be the bearer of bad news, but the good news of the gospel can only be preceded by the bad facts of human guilt, disobedience, and estrangement from God and the curse it entails. Evil results in self-wrought disaster against which God so graciously warns.
An ambassador has no right to alter his master’s message. The ambassadors of Christ are attuned to the words of the Lord to Jeremiah: “Tell them every word I command you; do not omit a word” (v. 2). The message to be delivered is the doctrine of Holy Scripture with all the exactitude that the Spirit and his guidance enable.
Jeremiah is the great example of the reluctant preacher - not from rebelliousness but sensitivity to the consequences. Not because he would be despised and ill-dealt with (though this would in no way be desirable) but because rejection of the word is dire in its effects.
Obdurate persons convert the gospel into an instrument of self-harm attracting its judgment upon themselves through either unbelief or deliberate and ultimate dismissal of any hope of the proffered mercy of God. The actual words of God to lawless Jerusalem were given to the prophet. They had to be spoken with a confidence and vigor not natural to Jeremiah. But God gave to this fearful man a compulsion to utter his truth. It was a daunting assignment, a righteous task from a righteous God, but it was also a compassionate word of warning to the heedless and the hardened over the welfare of their souls.
God had borne with his people over long periods and a lengthy catalogue of calls to repentance, and the gaining of his warm forgiveness. But to no avail. Now was the crucial moment when divine delay was no longer possible or of benefit to a willful populace.
Preaching is not primarily an exercise in public or religious oratory pleasing to ear, emotion, and intellect. It is the declaration of an urgent bidding to turn to God, to reconciliation with him, rescue from peril, and the delight of communing with him and his redeemed people everlastingly.
Jeremiah’s ordeal and rough treatment was a foreshadowing of our race’s disdain for the Lord Jesus who testified, “I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has told me.” We do well to listen to the prophet par excellence.