• Christ Church, Willesborough

Epiphany Fifth Sunday Morning Service (6 February 2022)

https://youtu.be/bdLgKGGFbxQ


THE THREE STALWART PROPHETS NOTED IN JEREMIAH 26

Introduction

Jeremiah was a long-serving prophet in the 40 years preceding the capture of Judah in about 536BC. Many years earlier the nation of Israel became divided into two Kingdoms, the Northern Kingdom became known as Israel, and the Southern Kingdom, became known as Judah. Through disobedience to the Lord and His teachings, and sinfulness not repented of, the Northern Kingdom had already been captured and some people exiled, in about 722BC.

Despite this example, the Southern Kingdom of Judah had failed to learn all the lessons needful. Sadly it was in Jeremiah’s day, and, in our chapter, King Jehoiakim’s reign, in danger of God’s judgement for general neglect; for ignoring the God-given prophetic warnings and counsel; for having too weak an attitude in allowing sin; and for spiritual compromise. We also note that Israel was the theocratic (God-ruled) and God’s chosen nation. It had received much blessing and help from God, much instruction and guidance. It was meant to represent God ways to other nations. To whom much is given, much is required!


A Note about true Prophets

Prophets were servants of the Lord. They heard from God, and declared His word to the people or individuals, as they were so instructed to do by the Lord. Prophets could bring messages of commendation, hope, -- even some healings are noted in Scripture. The feeding of the widow is another example of help. But there were also strong prophetic warnings to the disobedient to repent, and declarations of the Lord’s coming judgement.


A Note about true Christians in our times

We, in the Household of Faith, have received much from God. Forgiveness and eternal life are the greatest gifts purchased by, and freely given to us, by Jesus. We, like the prophets of old, also live in troubled times when many are not following God’s teachings. We need to be on our guard, like the prophets of old, and to be aware of God’s voice and God’s ways. It is all too easy to be weakened by our surroundings, by the secular chattering class, by the spirit of the age. We need to be valiant for the truth.

For us, also, to whom much is given, much is required.


So what can we learn from our Old Testament stalwart prophets? Well, let us briefly consider them. Jeremiah, Micah and Uriah.


1. Jeremiah, a stalwart prophet of the Lord. Jeremiah 26 starts with these verses: 1“In the beginning of the reign of Jehoi′akim the son of Josi′ah, king of Judah, this word came from the Lord, 2 “Thus says the Lord: Stand in the court of the Lord’s house, and speak to all the cities of Judah which come to worship in the house of the Lord all the words that I command you to speak to them; do not hold back a word. 3 It may be they will listen, and every one turn from his evil way, that I may repent of the evil which I intend to do to them because of their evil doings.


What Jeremiah said. You are doing wrong as a nation. Repent, or else judgement will come from the Lord. Sadly, Judah had forgotten the lessons of the demise and conquering of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, which nearly 200 years earlier did not heed the words of prophets such as Amos.

(It is all too easy for us not to remember the lessons of history, of God’s dealings with others, of God’s teachings.)

Sadly, although Israel they had the laws of Moses given to them, and the history of God’s blessings and judgements upon this theocratic nation over the centuries, they had failed to take heed. There was the attitude of complacency, that they were the favoured nation. Therefore they could do as they pleased, within their reasoning, but sadly their reasoning was flawed. God had set parameters which they has strayed away from.

However, we should note that, just as in the days of Elijah, the prophet, there were faithful people in the nation. Do you remember his statement? Lonely, disappointed, and feeling rejected, the very exhausted Elijah said, “I, I only, am left as a faithful one” But the Lord replied, “There are yet 7,000 who have not bowed the knee to Baal.”(1 Kings 19:14-18.)

(Sometimes we feel so outnumbered. So few real believers around, compared with the old days. But very few Christians are totally cut off from other believers, even in this country.)


The mixed reactions of the people. At one stage the rulers, the priests and some of the people demanded that Jeremiah be put to death. After discussions, and Jeremiah saying that putting him to death would simply put blood and further guilt upon them.

It would not and could not alter the message from God which he had spoken to them. Then enough of the people and leaders relented somewhat, and Jeremiah the prophet survived.

One of the rulers, a man of influence, called Ahikam, sought to protect him. We read, 24 But the hand of Ahi′kam the son of Shaphan was with Jeremiah so that he was not given over to the people to be put to death.


2. Micah. A stalwart prophet of the Lord. 18Micah of Mo′resheth prophesied in the days of Hezeki′ah king of Judah, and said to all the people of Judah: ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts,

Zion shall be plowed as a field;

Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins,

and the mountain of the house a wooded height.’

19 Did Hezeki′ah king of Judah and all Judah put him to death? Did he not fear the Lord and entreat the favour of the Lord, and did not the Lord repent of the evil which he had pronounced against them? But we are about to bring great evil upon ourselves.”


What Micah said. As a faithful prophet he had warned the nation back in those days of King Hezekiah, (King of Judah 715-696BC), that judgement was imminent if it did not repent. Micah’s contemporaries were the prophets Isaiah, Amos and Hosea. So he was not a lone voice.


The reaction of people. Both king and people listened to the word of the Lord given by the prophet Micah. Being listened to was surely better for Micah than being persecuted!

Listening to the Lord was better for Hezekiah and the nation than ignoring His warning. Repentance happened. God forgave them. Judah was spared. Remarkably, some of the people in King Jehoiakim’s day remembered the historical lesson about Micah being threatened years ago, and what happened, and used this reasoning to protect Jeremiah.


3. Uriah. A stalwart prophet of the Lord. 20 There was another man who prophesied in the name of the Lord, Uri′ah the son of Shemai′ah from Kir′iath-je′arim. He prophesied against this city and against this land in words like those of Jeremiah. 21 And when King Jehoi′akim, with all his warriors and all the princes, heard his words, the king sought to put him to death; but when Uri′ah heard of it, he was afraid and fled and escaped to Egypt. 22 Then King Jehoi′akim sent to Egypt certain men, Elna′than the son of Achbor and others with him, 23 and they fetched Uri′ah from Egypt and brought him to King Jehoi′akim, who slew him with the sword and cast his dead body into the burial place of the common people.


What Uriah said. Similar words to what Jeremiah said, to King Jehoiakim, the rulers and priests, as Jeremiah gave.


The reaction of people. The king and the princes were most upset and angry at being criticised. The king remained hostile to Uriah, and to the prophetic message. We know what happened. The king simply would not let the issue rest. He sent a contingent to Egypt, where Uriah had fled. (This reminds me a bit of modern times, when suspected criminals are hunted down and extradited back to the country which has a judgement against them. But, in this case, poor Uriah, an innocent prophet of God was extradited and slain.)


Note: It is important that Christians speak the truths of grace, of warning and of how to live a godly life. Speak up for God’s principles of morality, ethics, relationships. Of the Gospel truths. Some Christians today have gone a bit soft, and are displeasing God by not condemning evil and immorality. By not seeking, in love and firmness, to help people to overcome, to find the way of deliverance and the way to God’s favour. The Christian trumpet needs to give a louder and clearer sound.


Concluding Comments. These three stalwarts stood firmly for God’s ways, warned the backsliders and the compromisers, and pleaded with them to repent and seek God’s mercy. Despite the danger and risk for them. Two survived, but one was killed by King Jehoiakim.

Read afresh the catalogue of faith in Hebrews 11. Some survived, some were tortured, some were slain. But all stayed true to God and their faith. It is better to obey God than man, we are told in the Bible, which is our text book and guide. Better in time, and it bodes well for eternity.

One could write a catalogue of faith for some New Testament believers. What happened to John the Baptist.to Stephen the martyr, to Peter, James, John, to Paul, Silas and Barnabas? To Thomas? They were stalwarts! Most, at least, became martyrs. Truth and faith inspired them.

The Current £1 has the portrait of the Queen’s head, and the letters D·G·REG·F·D inscription: which stands for Dei Gratia Regina Fidei Defensatrix – ‘Reigning by the grace of God, Defender of the Faith.

As have the smaller-value coins. The £2 coin has DEI. GRA. REG. FID. DEF, which can provide a bit more of a clue to the modern generation about the Queen, should they read the inscription and seek to understand what it is saying. It is by God’s mercy people reign as monarchs.

Historically, the monarch was appointed to be a Defender of Faith.

A Church role, (especially now for the Established Church.)

But I re-iterate, all true Believers are enjoined in the Bible to be true to the Lord Jesus and to be defenders of the faith. You do not need to be the monarch. Simply a follower of the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords!

And what a privilege it is when we are able, by God’s grace, to live obedient lives and to speak words which honour Him and His truths.

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