Open Your Bible
Jeremiah 26:1-24, Micah 3:12, Matthew 21:33-46
My two-year old attends a sweet little church preschool a few days a week. This Christmas season, she brought home a nativity craft which met the fate of most crafts in our home: tossed aside, buried under mail, and found a few days later. My five-year-old daughter, who had discovered it as I was making dinner one evening, yelled from across the kitchen table:
“MOM!” she giggled. “Is baby Jesus a potato?”
I continued stirring the soup, and without even looking up, I chastised her immediately. “That’s not very nice! Baby Jesus is NOT a potato.”
“But, MOM, look!”
Then she appeared next to me, holding a small Yukon Gold potato, wrapped in tissue, with a drawn-on smiley face. Huh. Well, what do you know? In this scenario, baby Jesus was, indeed, a potato. I hadn’t even looked up, so how could I have known? How could I have expected a potato masquerading as the King of kings?
The priests, prophets, and all the people in Jeremiah 26 were a bit like me, stirring soup and not even looking up, jumping to an instant conclusion. Now sure, “You must die!” is a bit more extreme of a response than, “That’s not very nice.” Still, I know how many times I’ve heard something I just don’t want to hear, let alone deal with, and instead of listening, I react instantly, disproportionately, given the context. Honestly, this happens almost daily. As for Jeremiah, he had prophesied that the temple would become like Shiloh, a city north of Jerusalem that had been utterly destroyed by the Philistines. Psalm 78 recounts the tale:
“But they rebelliously tested the Most High God, for they did not keep his decrees…
God heard and became furious; he completely rejected Israel.
He abandoned the tabernacle at Shiloh,
the tent where he resided among mankind” (vv.56,59–60).
No one, especially not the priests and people in power, wanted to hear that their city and temple would be destroyed because of their actions. Defensiveness reigned, and instead of hearing the word of the Lord and obeying, they tried to (literally) kill the messenger. But the Lord’s providence protected Jeremiah. A few officials stood up and spoke for him, reminding the rest of the group that the prophet Micah had made a similar prophecy (Micah 3:12), and when the people did turn and repent, the Lord relented.
In this story we see again, as we have so many times before in Jeremiah, a testament to the unwavering character of God. He does what He says He will do. Jeremiah believed it, and staked his life on it. He took God at His word; if the people would “correct [their] ways and deeds, and obey the LORD [their] God,” He would relent (Jeremiah 26:13).
As I read about Jeremiah standing there in the city center and proclaiming the unpopular, death-threatening message from the Lord, I’m reminded of Acts 17, when Paul stands in the areopagus in Athens and gives a similar message: “God now commands all people everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30).
There are others in Scripture who faced a similar situation: Stephen died while proclaiming the history of God’s unfailing covenant (Acts 7). Peter was arrested for standing in the middle of Solomon’s Colonnade in Jerusalem and shouting the truth (Acts 3). Jeremiah, Paul, Stephen, Peter, and countless more before and after, risked their lives to tell the truth. In today’s reading, we see a few leaders who stood up and risked everything to hear it. Truth-telling and truth-hearing are two sides of the same coin, and we are called to do both as followers of the Author of Truth.