The enemy of the people – Saturday, 17th Week in ordinary time – Jeremiah 26:11-16, 24

The enemy of the people – Saturday, 17th Week in ordinary time – Jeremiah 26:11-16, 24

Most scholars believe that this chapter is the work of the scribe Baruch who finds mention several times in the Book of Jeremiah. (Chapters 32, 36, 43, 45). Baruch was a friend and a scribe who penned the words of Jeremiah as he spoke them.

In chapter 7(1-15) we heard of the temple discourse. Jeremiah the prophet stood in the temple and denounced all, from people to prophet, for they would not repent but found ‘comfort’ in their belief that should they cling to the temple they would be saved. For Jeremiah these deceptive words that they proclaimed were worthless because they perpetuated all kinds of social evils while donning their masks of piety.

The text of today is Baruch’s narrative of the consequences of the temple sermon preached in chapter seven by Jeremiah The focus of the text is on the hostile response that he received as a consequence of his prophecy.

The prophecy was made during the ‘beginning of the reign’ of King Jehoiakim so we can peg the year at 608 BC. This time Jeremiah had to stand in the court of the Temple. This was the most public place in the temple and he was to speak to every city from Judah that came to worship. God wanted just about everyone to hear what he wanted to say. The message was hard but Jeremiah’s task was harder as he was told to ‘to speak every word that he was told and not to hold back even a word.’ Jeremiah could not paraphrase nor could he cushion this hard message with a cherry and a sprig of mint. The blow could not be softened!

God already knew the outcome of Jeremiah’s message on the people; they ‘might listen’ but yet again this message was a long shot for a hardened bunch. Yet Jeremiah is called to preach with hope and fervour. In this lies a life lesson for all preachers and believers. The world may not listen to what we have to say but that does not mean we roll over and give up; we preach with ardour and hope.

The message of destruction that Jeremiah preached was met with the might of the priests, prophet and people. They declared him to be an anti-national; a man disloyal to his nation. They preferred the drums of lies that were beaten steadily over the years to the trumpet of truth that should have been blaring in their ears. Sadly, preachers of the truth and freedom are all to quickly branded as anti-nationals when they speak for what is right against an immoral authority. Fr Stan Swamy being a case in point. Sadly, brain washed people are not a thing of the past. Governments and corrupt leaders have mastered the art of telling a lie a thousand times till we embrace it as the truth.

We are told that a mob ‘gathered around’ Jeremiah. This was a mob with hostile intentions described to us by the Hebrew word ‘qahal’. Led by the priest and the prophets, the officials were persuaded to put Jeremiah to death for treason. Jeremiah’s response was not to his accusers but those who he had hoped would give ear to his warning.

Jeremiah does not buckle under pressure. He reiterates every word that he was commanded to speak; word for word. His impending death sentence was not going to deter his message. The people must “amend their ways,” he on the other hand was not going to amend his words. The priest and prophet thought that they brought Jeremiah to trial, the reality was that he threw them in the defendant’s box while God was now pronouncing sentence.

Yet Jeremiah was no idealist. While his words may not have any consequence in moving their hearts to change, his words would certainly have consequences on whether he would live or die. “He was in their hands”

While the priest and prophets bayed for his blood, Jeremiah’s jury realized that should Jeremiah be put to death they would have ended up shooting the messenger; the message would still hang above their heads like a guillotine. Ironically, while they recognized that “he spoke in the name of Yahweh” they chose to live in their sin.

Sometimes when the world stands against us, God still provides an ally in our corner. We are told that Ahikam the son of Shaphan ensured that Jeremiah was not given over to his enemies to be put to death. God had made a promise to Jeremiah, “do not be afraid of them” and God had kept his promise yet again.

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