Jeremiah sure had a tough situation. He lived among a rebellious people. Oh, sure, they still used the name of the Lord. The false prophets still said, “thus says the Lord.” But this made his job all the tougher. He was battling lies in
God’s name. He had to speak against a feel-good theology. It was a teaching full of empty promises, void of asking the hard questions and confronting the dangers of sin. When someone lived a life in defiance to God’s Word they were told by the false prophets, “God loves you. No harm will come.” Freedom to “let alone, live, and love” was the mantra of the lying prophets. The sinful rebellion of the flock of God was made to be a trivial matter.
Sure, Jeremiah wasn’t alone in speaking the truth. But it seems he was far outnumbered. The temple courts of Jerusalem and the king’s palace were filled with liars. Most people listened to them instead of the true prophets. He really had it tough. Can you imagine him trying to warn the people of the danger of their sin? He spoke of God’s holy and just wrath on the sinner. He quickly made enemies. He was thrown into a pit at one point and left to die.
But he continued to sound the warning: “Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you; they fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord. They keep saying to those who despise me, ‘The Lord says: You will have peace.’ And to all who follow the stubbornness of their hearts they say, ‘No harm will come to you.’ But which of them has stood in the council of the Lord to see or to hear his word? Who has listened and heard his word?” (Jeremiah 23:16-18)
Why didn’t Jeremiah just stop? The answer is simple. He had the Lord’s instruction, “Get yourself ready! Stand up and say to them whatever I command you. Do not be terrified by them ... They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord (Jeremiah 1:17,19). Jeremiah knew God’s power and rescue. He no doubt remembered how the prophet Elijah stood up to the 450 prophets of Baal. He no doubt remembered those who spoke boldly before him. He knew though God’s own people turned against him the Lord was still the same and still faithful to his promises. Through it all he remembered God’s promised shepherd/king. “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will raise up to David a righteous branch,” (Jeremiah 23:5)
Jeremiah knew the promised King would come to give real peace. The Good Shepherd would seek the lost and condemned sinner. He would have compassion on the flock, “a bruised reed he would not break.” (Matthew 12:20) He would echo the sentiment as Jeremiah for the flock, “I have not run away from being your shepherd” (Jeremiah 17:16) Rather than giving up he would bear the wrath of hell to set the world free from sin. The Almighty God would be left for dead on a cross because as the Shepherd he had declared: “I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Jeremiah 31:34)
Jeremiah also knew this very same Good Shepherd would rise to glory and send his people into the world to faithfully proclaim his gospel. Under this King the flock would remain faithfully guided by God’s Word. “I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding.” (Jeremiah 3:15) And once again in glory the Good Shepherd would repeat, “Do not be terrified by them ... They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you.” Maybe it wasn’t so tough to be Jeremiah after all.