Thursday

03 March 2016

“Now therefore amend your ways and your doings, and obey the voice of the Lord your God, and the Lord will change his mind…” (v. 13)

Psalm: Psalm 48


Background

Jeremiah's preaching was certainly causing a stir. Whether the officials heard the commotion that was arising and came out to enquire, or whether they were summoned we don't know. But they appear and take their place at the gateway in the temple. Gateways were often the place where business was done or judgements made (see, for example, Ruth 4:1-6).

The accusation against Jeremiah was a distortion of his message. All that the priests and other prophets repeated of his words was that he prophesied against the city. What they failed to mention was the possibility of deliverance, and so Jeremiah repeats his full message (verses 12-15).

The impending doom was due to the disobedience of the people. They had been living in the shadow of powerful neighbours to the north (Assyria and then Babylon) and to the south (Egypt) for decades, and different kings had different policies. Some kings, such as Josiah (Jehoiakim's father) took the risk of unshackling themselves from the dominance of these neighbours and re-imposed the law and worship of God.

Jehoiakim took the path that many of the kings took and accepted the protection of their neighbour (Babylon - see 2 Kings 24:1) in return for compromising their moral and religious beliefs. Whilst this may have made political sense, it meant disobedience to the ways of God. Jeremiah's message was that it wasn't too late to repent and change course.

Jehoiakim, as with the other kings of his time, had the dilemma of whether he could trust God to deliver him or not, whether a change in behaviour was worth the risk. In the end he did not change, he rebelled against Babylon and died in battle. Whilst it is easy to judge him for his disobedience, we can never know what might have happened had he responded with more faith.


To Ponder

  • In this season of Lent the themes of repentance and obedience are very common. What do these terms mean for you?
  • Who are the 'dominant neighbours' in our time who try and assert their opinion? How might we challenge them?


Bible notes writer:  The Revd Will Fletcher

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