Today, I read through Jeremiah 37 and 38 pondering Jeremiah and the difficult job God assigned him as a prophet. Our Lord chose Jeremiah to speak to the kings and spiritual leaders of Judah at a time when truth wasn’t popular. Jeremiah paid dearly, on several occasions, for being a mouthpiece for our Maker.
While reading his accounts, I kept imagining Jeremiah in Washington DC. Or standing before a pop-culture mega church. In my mind’s eye, I could see Jeremiah there addressing the superstar politicians and icon influencers of today.
“Shut up, Jeremiah!” I hear them say. “You make everyone here uncomfortable!”
Persecuted for Speaking Truth
While Jeremiah received rebukes and threats throughout his truth-sayer career, the story found in chapters 37 and 38 fascinates me. Here, Jeremiah is threatened by local and spiritual officials for speaking the unpopular truth that … Jerusalem would be given into the hands of the king of Babylon. Nobody wanted to believe this because they’d been fighting this foe for awhile and people were sick and tired of the war. And so the scoffing officials go to King Zedekiah, the current reign in Judah, and say, “Now let this man [Jeremiah] be put to death, inasmuch as he is discouraging the men of war who are left in this city and all the people by speaking such words to them: for this man is not seeking the wellbeing of this people but rather harm.” (Jeremiah 38:4)
In Jeremiah’s defense, the physical wellbeing of the people was never God’s concerned. Their spiritual holiness was.
As the story goes, the exasperated officials have Jeremiah thrown into a mud-pit cistern and left to die. There’s an intervention, another imprisonment, and more discouraging encounters for Jeremiah, but when I read through the reason the officials attempted his murder, I stopped and reread the story twice more (NASB version). Then I thought about what Paul wrote to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:3. “For the time will come when they will not tolerate sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance with their own desires …”
Then … then, I thought of our world today.
How many have been silenced for speaking an unpopular truth? How many have lost friends, careers, even lives for pointing out the obvious, even though no one wants to look at the obvious. How many have been labeled conspiracy theorist when simply presenting alternative points of view?
I believe we live in the days in which Paul warned of—a time when, like the officials in in Jeremiah’s day, alternative voices are silenced. The officials back then were willing to kill a mouthpiece of the Lord to keep their messaging on point. Our current officials seem unrestrained to do the same.
Our society has tender ears. Through social media, we’ve surrounded ourselves with people who think like we do and with the push of a block button, we can silence anyone who challenges our group echo chambers. How will we ever become tough enough for the days ahead when we’ve sheltered in place with with no one to challenge us?
God warned Israel of war, captivity, and banishment over and over again to get their spiritual attention and direct their passions back to Him. These warnings were radical, punch-ya-in-the-gut notifications that God was not putting up with sin and self absorption. He builds a kingdom of holy, hardy priests and tough ruling kings … not snowflakes.
Walking the narrow path of righteousness, God’s path, is not laying back and eating bonbons.
Walking the narrow path of righteousness is picking up a cross and following Christ … to His gruesome death on a hill. (Matthew 16:24)
Obsession with Comfort
Conviction is no longer welcomed. Christ told His disciples that the Holy Spirit would come once He left the earth. And when He comes, Christ said, He will convict the world or sin and righteousness and judgement (John 16:8). Conviction is a current work of the Holy Spirit, yet in Christians circles we’ve taken on the “you do you and I’ll do me” attitude of the world as not to be offensive. Though the Lord has convicted you or me in a certain direction, we’re squeamish to explain it, fearing someone might disagree. But without hard and healthy discussions, how do we check ourselves or the spirits’ guiding? (see 1John 4:1-3 on testing the spirits.)
As the officials wanted to silence Jeremiah, we seek to silence the Holy Spirit.
The silencing of the Holy Spirit I speak of is not that inner nudging of personal convictions, but the silencing of God’s people who speak on behalf of the Holy Spirit. In Luke, chapter 12, Christ tells the people gathered that when they face persecution, not to worry for the Holy Spirit will teach them what should be said at the moment. Many brave souls speaking out against the direction of our society today are speaking, in the moment, from the Holy Spirit.
I tremble when I consider the coming cost of silencing those who have been sent to speak the words of God through this third person of the Trinity.
You may be reading between the lines here and guess that I nod at the unprecedented medical mandates and over reach of our governments worldwide. I am! There are thousands of doctors and scientist that warn against the direction we’re headed and claim there is another way. But the powers that be, like the officials in Jeremiah’s day, wish to crush any opposing debate.
If we let this happen, it will be just the beginning of a great silencing. Eventually, the ruling class will shut the mouths of those who carry the good news. You, too, will no longer be able to speak of your faith or your king unless you’re willing to die to do so.
And if we’ve stood by and let them silence dynamic debate over health, how will we have the fortitude to die for the opportunity to speak of Christ? Oh my, how we’ve become, as those in Jeremiah’s day, obsessed with emotional wellbeing.
Let’s Get Back to Normal
Do any among us wish for the bad news to “just go away?” I hope not. The news we need to know may not be comforting, but if it’s from God Almighty, the news is perfect and purposeful. The Bible proves we can bank on this.
When the Jeremiahs of today come along and tell us something different from what we’re hearing from our regularly scheduled programming, we must stop, listen, and consider that the Lord may, and likely will, have a narrative that doesn’t sound anything like what comes out of the world.
Perhaps the good news here is that the controlling religious and corporate leaders in Jeremiah’s day encourage me to seek the Lord when my own nation’s leaders (both secular and religious) are pushing a single narrative without a willingness to let opposing voices be heard.
The Lord may well send a conspiracy-toting oddball into my path to steer me in an unpopular direction. After all, narrow is the gate and small is the road that leads to life (Matthew 7:14). Oddballs and prophets seem to stick to the backroads. You won’t find them on the crowded highways of popular messaging trends.
I need to seek Christ’s perspective at every encounter. At every voice out there.
Here’s the point: in the current climate, we must constantly commune with the Lord, trusting His direction, no matter how out-of-the ordinary His direction may seem. We have many biblical characters who received out-of-the ordinary callings as our excellent examples—Moses, Abraham, and Sarah to name just a few.
Censoring is a dangerous manipulation of man. If God wishes to silence a voice, He will, I promise, make that objective happen. I’m going to trust in His sovereignty.
I’ll end with this from James:
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. James 1:5
If I perish, I perish,