Jeremiah between a Rock and a Hard Place

Ever wonder what people are saying about you when you aren’t present?  Hopefully they aren’t saying things like Jeremiah’s family and neighbors in his home town were saying and planning about and for him.

The Old Testament lesson for Sunday (Jer. 11: 18-20) is the first of several complaints that are woven throughout chapters 11 – 20.  Jeremiah is caught between an insistent God and a resistant people.  God insists that he preach words of condemnation calling the people O Judah from mixing Baal worship with worship of the God of their rescue from Egypt who gave them the land in which they now dwell.  But the people refuse to listen.  Jeremiah calls them to turn from their ways lest God bring him judgment down on them through the looming Babylonian empire.

Chapter 11, brings a crisis for God, Judah and Jeremiah. Jeremiah is directed  is to preach in the streets of Jerusalem, that because they refuse to listen in spite of all that God has done for them; instead, they have revolted against their God and Savior.  Though the people might cry to him for help, God will not listen.  Furthermore, Jeremiah is not to pray for or on behalf of the people. The Lord will destroy the “green olive tree” which God had gently planted and cared for since it was but a seedling.

So what does Jeremiah get for his faithfulness to God?  His family and neighbors in Anathoth secretly plan to kill him and wipe out his name before he can get married and have children.  He doesn’t know anything about it until God reveals their plans to him.  Then he reacts.  “I was like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter.  I did not know it was against me they devised schemes.”  They had already warned him, “Do not prophesy in the name of the Lord, or you will die by our hand.”  However, Jeremiah did not seem to take the threat seriously.  How could he? He was compelled to speak out as God directed him.

The Old Testament lesson 11:18-20 with the addition of vv. 19-23, fits in well with the gospel lesson (Mark; 30-37) where Jesus tells of his suffering, death and resurrection in Jerusalem.  In the Gospel of Mark by 6:3 there are already plans being made how to “destroy him.”  Yet, like Jeremiah, Jesus too is serving His insistent heavenly Father in a ministry to often resistant people. But in the end, it is Jeremiah whose word we still have and Jesus who remains our savior.

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