20 February 2016

Jeremiah 11:18-20

“But I was like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter.” (v. 19)

Psalm: Psalm 38:10-22


Jeremiah's prophecies that Judah faced destruction unless it turned back to God in penitence brought an inevitable backlash - but even he was astonished that it came from his own family.

We read that it was the men of Anathoth who plotted to get rid of him. This is Jeremiah's home village (Jeremiah 1:1) and a community of Levites, priests for the worship of Yahweh. Not murderers. It gets worse in the next chapter when we read that it was Jeremiah's own family who were involved:

"For even your kinsfolk and your own family,
   even they have dealt treacherously with you;
   they are in full cry after you;
do not believe them,
   though they speak friendly words to you."
(Jeremiah 12:6)

Jeremiah is amazed. "I was like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter," he says - in a rare passage where he lets both his innocence and his personal feelings become clear as he calls for retribution by God.

We seem to have come into a classic religious argument: who is actually speaking for God?

Is it the historic priestly families from communities such as Anathoth - those who would lose power and prestige if Jeremiah's prophecies were actually taken to heart by the people? Is it the prophet - who stands alone and calls an entire nation to remember the ancient covenant and return to the founding principles of their faith … which is for most people a new way of living.

What a picture then when Jesus burst upon the scene centuries later calling people to a new way! What an image of another lamb led to the slaughter, but one who did not raise up his voice.

To Ponder

  • How can the Church help people bring their anger to God?
  • Discerning who is speaking for God is difficult. How do you learn to hear well? And what advice might you pass on to others?

Bible notes author

The Revd Gareth Hill

Gareth Hill is a Methodist minister with a particular interest in pioneer ministry and fresh ways of being Church. He is​ in circuit ministry in the Winchester, Eastleigh & Romsey Circuit in the Southampton District and has pastoral charge of six churches in Romsey and on the edge of the New Forest.