I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him. But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.’ And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the LORD has not spoken?’— when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.
– Deuteronomy 18:18-22
In recent chapters the stories have seemingly bounced around haphazardly but the theme is constant: Jeremiah has been competing for the ear and trust of his people. The loneliness that he expresses is compatible with his experience. But consider for a moment the troubling times we’re reading about.
Imagine life for the residents of Jerusalem. When Babylon was rounding up their country’s leading citizens, those left behind were not wealthy, connected, or skilled enough to deport. Their nation and king know peace only as long as they bow to Babylon’s yoke. Prophets are plentiful, promising that soon their kingdom, pride, and fortunes will be restored. Only Jeremiah warns that the worst is yet to come. Whom should they believe?
Imagine life for the exiles in Babylon. They existed in a strange limbo between prison and freedom, restricted from returning home yet permitted to function, in some ways, as contributing citizens of their new land. As in Jerusalem, most of the prophets foretell a quick end to their troubles. Yet Jeremiah promises seventy years? What emotions, desires, and experience factor into deciding which message to trust?
This stuff is heavy. The story is real. Confusion and despair make sense. Stick with it so you can feel the weight of it. And remember that Jeremiah’s been doing this for decades.
Our verse for this week is Hebrews 8:10: For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Jeremiah 28 through 30. Now let’s read it!
“Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?