Psalm 43, Jeremiah 38:1-28, John 15:17-16:2
Life is not always easy. There are those that just seem determined to oppose you even if it is to their advantage to support you. Pride, jealousy, greed, and envy can lead anyone to make poor decisions regarding others.
King Zedekiah was not a particularly strong king. His advisors pushed him to punish Jeremiah’s words (from God) because they feared (reasonably) that if the soldiers and people heard the words, their resolve would weaken or collapse. Truly, we should be able to understand their point. Nations that do not understand a democratic republic see the political posturing of our political parties as weakness (mostly because they are all of an authoritarian mindset). The officials of Jeremiah’s day were of the same authoritarian mindset. In addition, Jeremiah’s role as prophet meant that his words had significant weight. In other words, they had a point.
It is how they dealt with the point that was the issue that is the issue. There was a general distaste, distrust, and disrespect from these men towards Jeremiah, and thus God. It is a sample of their attitude that got the people of Israel in this situation in the first place. The words from Ebed-Melech to the king (they do “evil”) show us that perhaps their hearts weren’t as heartfelt for the people as it seems. This easily leads one to conclude that they—and those like them—were at least a source of Israel’s downfall. That God would offer King Zedekiah a way out, without power, and not these leaders, shows that God was also still honoring his promise to David.
While Jeremiah wasn’t killed, much of his life was not all that comfortable. Imagine being the doomsayer that was right. Often the doomsayer who is wrong is mocked, but the one who is right? Jeremiah was probably not everyone’s favorite, and obviously many of those in power were less than pleased. Often power doesn’t like truth, and often God’s Truth speaks to power in ways it doesn’t like.
When Jesus speaks about the world hating us, there is (sadly) truth in that. We should be clear, though, that there are plenty of Christians (on either side of the political spectrum) that take great pride in being persecuted “for the faith,” when it is really their approach (most often) or politics (theirs or others’) that is the problem. Compare “persecution” here in the US with true persecution in places like China, North Korea, Iran, then adding on non-systematic persecution such as the bombings that happened in Sri Lanka on this recent Easter. Not that we don’t feel put upon living out our faith, it’s just that we still have power, even if it is equal to the non-believer next door (the ballot box).
The reality is that there is something about the message of Jesus that both attracts and repels those of the world. It’s easy to say love everyone. It’s hard to do it. The world is mired in death, and the concept of victory over it offends many. Granted, Christians are often not the best messengers of Jesus. However, even those who are great messengers still have to deal with animosity and persecution. It is a dark—yet, still hopeful—truth, if the world killed Jesus, can we really expect anything less?
1) Have you ever felt persecuted? If so, how? When you look around the world, what is the difference between your experience, and that of others?
2) Do you feel as if you are more often having to apologize for other Christians just so you can talk about Jesus?
3) God and earthly power exist in tension, with earthly power often pretending to be Godly. Where do you see that at work in the US, and in the world?