Who's Telling the Truth
Tim Temple

Introduction

Several years ago the whole free world seemed to be watching on television as thousands of young Chinese students, who really were patriots, took over Tienemen Square in Beijing for several weeks. During those days, they demonstrated and made speeches and took strength from one another as they espoused freedom of speech and freedom of economics and democratic government and those kinds of things that we take so much for granted.

They were pleading with the leaders and demonstrating to the government leaders to make those things available to the Chinese people. They even erected a small scale model of the Statue of Liberty which they called the spirit of freedom. At first the cynical, tyrannical Communist leaders simply sat back and watched to see what would happen to the experiment, but as more of the world's news people emerged and converged on the scene, they realized that they had to put a stop to it before it got completely out of hand; and so, in true Communist fashion, they ordered in the tanks and fire hoses, and before long the whole thing had been put to rest as far as they were concerned.

Many of us remember those poignant pictures of a last few leaders of those students as they stood firm as the demonstration wound to its end and as the tanks rolled toward them and in some cases allowed the tanks to roll right over them. It was only years later that the truth began to be known by the free world that in ending that peaceful demonstration, hundreds of lives of innocent students were lost and sacrificed.

We who value human freedom revere those students who stood there so boldly against the power of that godless state and actually exposed so courageously its hideous evil. Those students were in many ways a modern day picture for us of what Jeremiah was back in the days of the kingdom of Judah. This brave prophet stood almost alone, with only a very few others who were still true believers in God, against a very godless government and during continual threats to his life. Yet, he courageously spoke the message that God gave to him.

Today we come to chapters 26-28 in this prophecy of Jeremiah. The events of these chapters are really not arranged chronologically. They don't form one specific message of Jeremiah as we have been looking at in the previous studies. Actually, what we have in these chapters is a collection of several experiences of Jeremiah over a period of about twelve years of his ministry as the nation was gradually moving closer and closer to ultimate disaster. They are put together somewhat like a scrapbook of photographs, just a series of shots about things that happened in his life. I think they are placed at this point in the book to demonstrate for us the atmosphere of confusion and uncertainty and conflict which always takes place when a nation is falling apart.

Background of the Impeachment

As we have seen, there are many parallels to our nation and to our time within this study of the prophet Jeremiah in the kingdom of Judah. The first thing we want to think about is the impeachment of Jeremiah in chapter 26. First, Jeremiah describes for us the background of the impeachment in verses 1-6. Look at verse 1:

Jeremiah 26:

1 In the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah came this word from the LORD, saying,
2 Thus saith the LORD; Stand in the court of the LORD's house, and speak unto all the cities of Judah, which come to worship in the LORD's house, all the words that I command thee to speak unto them; diminish not a word:

Verse 1 tells us when this was. It took place at the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim, the son of the godly Josiah. Josiah was on the throne when Jeremiah began his ministry and now this story takes place during the reign of Josiah's son, Jehoiakim. We see from that that Jeremiah is looking aback about twelve years from what we have been seeing in the previous chapters. He is looking back to the time when Jehoiakim was on the throne and he wrote about those days and preached in those days in some previous chapters that we have looked at. Here he records an incident which he had not recorded for us earlier, but which now he brings out.

God had sent Jeremiah to this weak, godless king with still another message of warning about the coming destruction that was about to come upon that nation if they didn't repent. And yet, in the midst of that kind of message, the heart of a God who longs for repentance is brought out. I think that may be why Jeremiah includes this incident at this part of the book. In verse 3, we find God's purpose clearly stated. God sent Jeremiah to the king with a message of repentance, but look at verse 3:

Jeremiah 26:

3 If so be they will hearken, and turn every man from his evil way, that I may repent me of the evil, which I purpose to do unto them because of the evil of their doings.

Here is another of many examples of the fact that God does not take delight in bringing judgment on individuals or on nations. His purpose in preaching judgment is to have people turn around and repent so that He can breathe a sigh of relief. You remember, we saw a couple of weeks ago that that is the meaning of the word repent , as it applies to God, so that He can give a sigh of relief that He will not have to come through with the judgment that He has promised and that He is prophesying. Even though that is His purpose, just in case there is any question about it, His promise of judgment is repeated in verses 4-6. Notice:

Jeremiah 26:

4 And thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the LORD; If ye will not hearken to me, to walk in my law, which I have set before you,
5 To hearken to the words of my servants the prophets, whom I sent unto you, both rising up early, and sending them, but ye have not hearkened;
6 Then will I make this house like Shiloh, and will make this city a curse to all the nations of the earth.

These were not empty threats. This is a God who wants repentance, but He tells them if they don't turn from their wicked ways, He will have no choice but to bring destruction upon them. He refers to Shiloh, which was the capital city of the northern kingdom of Israel which had already gone into captivity, already gone into judgment. You remember that after the golden age of Israel in the days of Solomon and David, after Solomon's death, the kingdom was divided into the northern kingdom which kept the name of Israel and the southern kingdom which kept the city of Jerusalem. The southern kingdom was named Judah because it was mostly made up of the tribe of Judah. Shiloh was the capital of the northern kingdom. God reminds them of what He had already done to some of their fellow Jewish citizens, to that northern kingdom, and tells them that unless there is repentance, this is going to have to happen to them.

One of the things that we learn from Jeremiah, and this is one of the perfect chapters to see it, is the sovereignty of God over the affairs of men, not only over the affairs of individual men and women but over the nations of the world also. God is sovereign over the nations and that is still true today. Psalm 2 is a beautiful Psalm that talks about that in some detail. You might look at that if you are not familiar with it or look at it to refresh your memory even if you are familiar with it.

One of the encouraging messages of this book to our day is to remind us that no matter how chaotic things may get in our nation, God is still in control of all the nations. The nations will do what God tells them to do. They will go where He sends them to go, whether they like it or not. He is the One Who raises up kings and He puts down kings and rulers, whatever their title may be. Nations are not independent sovereign states as we think of it as human beings. To us it looks that way, but the message of the Word of God is that even though those nations are sovereign as far as the affairs of men are concerned, only under God's direction are they allowed to do whatever it is they choose to do. God is the One Who decides when a nation has come to the end of its grace and brings judgment and brings authority upon that nation.

Basis for the Impeachment

In verses 7-9, we find the reaction of the people who heard this message from Jeremiah. It is here that we find the basis for the impeachment of Jeremiah. We have talked about the background of it. Look at the basis for it and their reaction in verse 7:

Jeremiah 26:

7 So the priests and the prophets and all the people heard Jeremiah speaking these words in the house of the LORD.
8 Now it came to pass, when Jeremiah had made an end of speaking all that the LORD had commanded him to speak unto all the people, that the priests and the prophets and all the people took him, saying, Thou shalt surely die.
9 Why hast thou prophesied in the name of the LORD, saying, This house shall be like Shiloh, and this city shall be desolate without an inhabitant? And all the people were gathered against Jeremiah in the house of the LORD.

Notice first, in verse 7 and again in verse 9, that we have a reference to the house of the LORD . The reason that reference is important is that this indicates that this was an official gathering. It was the priests and the prophets bringing official charges against Jeremiah. It amounted to the impeachment of Jeremiah.

Incidentally, if you don't know, you need to know that an impeachment is the formal bringing of charges against an official. Then the impeachment is followed by a trial. They are two separate things. These people were bringing charges against Jeremiah, but since he was a prophet of God and his speech was given in the house of God and the charges were being leveled in the house of God, even though Jeremiah didn't use the term—I have to admit the term impeachment didn't even exist in those days—that is what it amounted to. It was official charges against an official, formal charges against an official in the place where he officiated.

So Jeremiah has been impeached. Charges have been brought against him by the religious authorities of the nations—the priests and the prophets. The people are apparently going along with it. The specific charge that they make against him is a very serious charge, the charge of treason.

The thinking of these people, the concept behind this charge, was that the people of Israel felt that because the temple was God's house, God would defend the temple no matter what happened within it. No matter what kind of rottenness crept into the nation and even into the temple, it was God's house and so God would defend it. The temple and the city of Jerusalem that housed the temple were protected, they thought, because it was the place of God within the city of God. They could look back over hundreds of years of history when God indeed had protected this city in all kinds of situations, and so this concept had spread widely. It can't happen here. Nothing is going to happen. This city can't be destroyed, can't be taken captive because it is God's own city.

Record of the Trial

But here was this prophet saying that not only can it happen; it is going to happen and it is going to happen soon. So they brought this charge of blasphemy and treason against Jeremiah for going against the political and religious thinking of that day. The rest of the chapter, beginning at verse 10, gives us the record of the trial itself, the body of the impeachment. Verse 10 tells us who the participants in the hearing were. Notice as we read:

Jeremiah 26:

10 When the princes of Judah heard these things, then they came up from the king's house unto the house of the LORD, and sat down in the entry of the new gate of the LORD's house.

The entry of the new gate was, in effect, the courtroom where this impeachment hearing would take place. As you remember, in those ancient cities the gate of the city usually also served as the courthouse. It was the place where the officials would meet to make decisions, etc. Here they are sitting in the entry of the gate of Jerusalem, which had the name, the new gate . The grand jury hearing this evidence was made up of the princes of Judah. Here is an interesting point. If we compare the historical setting of this chapter, we have to realize that very possibly—we can't say for sure because it is not recorded—Daniel and his three friends who later were thrown into the fiery furnace, Shadrach, Meshack and Abednego, might have been in on this hearing because they were among the noble family of Judah and they had not yet been taken captive, so it is possible that they were in on this hearing. So there were some godly men among these princes who came to hear the charges. The preferring of the charges is in verse 11:

Jeremiah 26:

11 Then spake the priests and the prophets unto the princes and to all the people, saying, This man is worthy to die; for he hath prophesied against this city, as ye have heard with your ears.

Just to prophesy against the city was a very serious charge. In fact, as you can see, it was a capital offense. Jeremiah was on trial for his very life.

In verses 12-15, we hear Jeremiah speak. He gets a chance to explain his position and it is very interesting the way he does it. There is an important lesson to be learned from this. Look at verse 12:

Jeremiah 26:

12 Then spake Jeremiah unto all the princes and to all the people, saying, The LORD sent me to prophesy against this house and against this city all the words that ye have heard.
13 Therefore now amend your ways and your doings, and obey the voice of the LORD your God; and the LORD will repent him of the evil that he hath pronounced against you.

Think about this for a minute. Here is a man whose words have been quoted in the charge against him. He is facing a trial for his life and how does he respond? You see, he doesn't change a thing. There is not the slightest deviation. He simply gets up and repeats the message that has gotten him in trouble in the first place. This would have been the time, if he had been politically correct, if he had lived in our day, to consult the polls and see how people were thinking, and to think carefully about what the people around him were saying, and to say something like, “Well now, just a minute. Let me make myself perfectly clear. I am not sure you understood what I said. Within the legal framework of everything, this is not exactly what I meant to say, even though I am sure it sounds to you like I meant that the city would be destroyed. Actually, even though I said that, that is not exactly what I meant. Surely these judges understand that,” and on and on ad nauseaum.

But what did Jeremiah say? He said, in effect, “You heard me correctly, and let me say it again, God is going to judge this nation if you don't repent.” He just stands firm by the message that God gave him. What a man of character and integrity! How we need men like that in the pulpits of this church and other churches here in the United States and around the world, but we are talking about the problems of our own nation now. We have been seeing that God holds his people responsible for the wickedness and the sins in a nation. It is because of the lack of the teaching of God's Word by the prophets and the priests and the religious leaders of any nation that the governmental leaders feel the freedom to turn away from God's Word. It is because not enough of God's people stood up for the truth and the veracity and the authority of the principles of God's Word a hundred years ago that the leaders of our government, that the legislatures and the courts of our government sixty years later felt free to take the Bible out of our schools. It happened right here in our nation.

We need godly men who will stand up and preach God's Word. I wish that you would pray for me and other pastors here in our city and all over this nation every day that we would have the integrity and the character which we do not have on our own. Only God brings that kind of character and integrity but that I and other pastors here in our city and all over this nation to say, “That is what God's Word says, and I don't apologize for it!” That is why we are in the mess we are in, that we, who have the pulpits of this nation, have not had that kind of character and integrity. I firmly believe that. It wouldn't hurt to pray that the men in our government who should be listening to the men in the pulpit will have that kind of character and integrity also. Look at the attitude he expresses about the whole situation in verse 14:

Jeremiah 26:

14 As for me, behold, I am in your hand: do with me as seemeth good and meet unto you.
15 But know ye for certain, that if ye put me to death, ye shall surely bring innocent blood upon yourselves, and upon this city, and upon the inhabitants thereof: for of a truth the LORD hath sent me unto you to speak all these words in your ears.

You see, Jeremiah does what the people of God have been exhorted to do all through the Scriptures at times like this—that is, to simply speak God's principles, simply live by God's principles and leave the results in God's hands. Jeremiah says, “All that I have done is give you the message that God gave me to give you, and you will just have to deal with Him about it. I just have to let Him take charge.”

It may be that there is someone today—in fact, I know that there are some today who are being accused of things that they did not do—whose words and actions have been twisted and distorted. If you have been accused of something you aren't guilty of, don't go crazy trying to defend yourself. Don't get yourself all in a dither about trying to straighten things out and making sure everybody understands what you actually did or did not say or do especially if it is all being said behind your back. There is no way that you can straighten those kinds of things out. The battle is the Lord's. Leave it with Him.

If you have, in fact, been sincere and believe that you have been abiding by the standards of God's Word and going by God's leading, leave it with Him and let Him take care of it. Put yourself in His hands and He will see you through. If you do that, you will be imitating the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and you will be imitating Jeremiah, of course. I Peter, chapter 2, verse 23, says that when He was reviled, speaking of Jesus, He did not threaten. He did not revile in return. When He suffered, He did not threaten, but trusted in Him Who judges justly.

If you are in a situation like that today remember that God knows who is right. God judges justly. People usually don't, but God does. Do like Jesus and do like Jeremiah and put yourself in His hands and leave the matter with God. So often we are so concerned about defending ourselves and vindicating ourselves, we are so concerned about what somebody is going to think, that they are going to think something wrong about us.

It is perfectly all right to explain things as far as possible, but when you have done that and people still do not accept it, or when you do not have a chance to do that, then just leave your reputation with the Lord and let Him take care of it. That is why it is so important for us to live and speak in accordance with the principles of God's Word. If you are being talked about behind your back, and it is because you have done something that is not in accordance with God's will, then that is another matter; but if you and I are careful to seek, by God's grace, to live according to the standards of His Word and His instructions, we can leave the matter with Him if people don't understand that.

The Verdict

Coming back to the text, in verse 16 we see the pronouncement of the verdict of this impeachment of Jeremiah. Notice chapter 26, verse 16:

Jeremiah 26:

16 Then said the princes and all the people unto the priests and to the prophets; This man is not worthy to die: for he hath spoken to us in the name of the LORD our God.

You see, they recognized what he said. “I'm only telling you what the Lord told me to say.”

Verses 17-23 give two examples of prophets before Jeremiah who had spoken this same kind of message in recent years. We are not going to take the time to read those verses, but one of those prophets was released and the other one was put to death. The verdict that they gave was, “This is a man of God, and we had better listen to what he has to say.” The final outcome is stated down in verse 24. Notice:

Jeremiah 26:

24 Nevertheless the hand of Ahikam the son of Shaphan was with Jeremiah, that they should not give him into the hand of the people to put him to death.

That is the way the impeachment of Jeremiah came out.

In the next chapter we jump over a period of about twelve years to the time of Zedekiah, the last king of Judah. The focus of this chapter is on the instructions of Jeremiah, the way Jeremiah taught God's Word. As we saw in our last lesson, by the time of Zedekiah, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, had already taken over Jerusalem and taken a few of the nobles—Daniel and his three friends and some others—captive to Babylon and had left Zedekiah in power in Jerusalem. Zedekiah was really a vassal king. He was subservient to Nebuchadnezzar. He didn't have any real power of his own, but after seven years of that, some of the other nations around Israel got together and decided to try to mount a rebellion against Nebuchadnezzar. They came to Zedekiah and tried to interest him in joining them in a plot to overthrow Babylon's yoke upon them. In that situation God sent Jeremiah to Zedekiah and to those other kings with a message from Him. It is one of those situations where God had Jeremiah use a visual aid to emphasize and illustrate the message. The picture in the instruction is described in verses 1-8.

First, it tells us who the recipients of the picture are in verses 1-3. Those verses tell us he is to send this same message not only to the king of Judah but to the kings of Moab, Tyre, and these surrounding nations which had sent envoys to Zedekiah. It tells us in verses 1-2 that God told Jeremiah to go down to the carpenter shop and have a wooden yoke made. This would be a yoke like they used to yoke oxen together. Yokes are still used, even though they are not made out of wood in this day to yoke a team of horses or whatever it may be. Jeremiah was to take this wooden yoke and put it around his own neck for months at a time, evidently, and then he was also to have other yokes like it made and send one of them to each of those kings who were trying to get this rebellion started. The reason for the picture is in chapter 27, verse 4. Notice as we read:

Jeremiah 27:

4 And command them to say unto their masters, Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Thus shall ye say unto your masters;
5 I have made the earth, the man and the beast that are upon the ground, by my great power and by my outstretched arm, and have given it unto whom it seemed meet unto me.
6 And now have I given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant; and the beasts of the field have I given him also to serve him.
7 And all nations shall serve him, and his son, and his son's son, until the very time of his land come: and then many nations and great kings shall serve themselves of him.
8 And it shall come to pass, that the nation and kingdom which will not serve the same Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, and that will not put their neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, that nation will I punish, saith the LORD, with the sword, and with the famine, and with the pestilence, until I have consumed them by his hand.

Here again is the sovereignty of God over nations. “I am the One,” God says, “Who is going to decide what happens, and you are to submit to this king of Babylon to whom I have given authority.”

The question that has puzzled many people down through the years is, “Why does God raise up godless nations, even sometimes cruel and vicious individual leaders of nations? Why does God allow those kinds of things to happen? If God is sovereign, why doesn't He always let the good guys win?”

The answer to that is that God was using Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, to judge God's own people. God's people were in the wrong. They had turned from His ways and the most effective judgment that God could bring on them was to let this evil and cruel and vicious Nebuchadnezzar take over their country.

I believe another example of this kind of thing was His use of Hitler in Germany and other European nations who were leading the world in turning away from their godly heritage of hundreds of years of study of the Word of God, the Reformation under Luther and those other godly men. The German people and other European nations had wholeheartedly accepted that liberalism, that turning away from God. I personally believe that Hitler and Mussolini and those other men of fifty and sixty years ago were God's judgment of those nations. It happened in the Old Testament days; it happened in the days of our own nation not a hundred years ago; and there is no reason why God would not let it happen again. This is why we have seen in this century the miraculous spread of Communism, a system that only a little study will show does not work. Yet, it spread throughout the globe and then as it began to diminish, the rise of the Muslim nations, again a study of which will show that the Muslim ideology is discriminatory in every way and the kind of thing humans revolt against, and yet, it has spread through the land. In our own nation we have had leaders in Congress and in the White House who thinking people would never have agreed to put in office if it were not for the hand of judgment on God's people. We stand in perilous days, I believe, because of our rebellion against God and our refusal to live by His principles.

One of the great lessons that we learn from the book of Jeremiah is that God is in control of the affairs of the nations of the world, including ours. The point of this instruction is brought out in verse 9:

Jeremiah 27:

9 Therefore hearken not ye to your prophets, nor to your diviners, nor to your dreamers, nor to your enchanters, nor to your sorcerers, which speak unto you, saying, Ye shall not serve the king of Babylon:
10 For they prophesy a lie unto you, to remove you far from your land; and that I should drive you out, and ye should perish.

“Don't listen to those prophets,” God says, “who are telling you that I am not going to make you serve Babylon. Don't listen to those who tell you that the captivity is only going to last a little while if it comes at all.”

The chapter goes on to talk about a false prophet by the name of Hananiah who stood and gave a prophesy in almost the same exact words that Jeremiah would use, saying the captivity, which was already taking place and couldn't be denied, would only last two years. We don't have time to look at those verses, but God made it very clear that Jeremiah was His prophet. It is easy, in this day, to get caught up in the false voices that we hear. Any time there is a disintegration of a nation, any time a nation comes to that place of trauma in its history where it is turning away from the principles upon which it was founded, there begin to be all kinds of voices heard, all kinds of untruths being taught.

God would say to us today, “Don't listen to those false voices. Listen to the Word of God. Listen to the principles of the Word of God that you already know. Listen to the teaching of the Word of God that God's men are giving. Make sure that you are listening to Me.”

In this day of confusion and uncertainty, I want to ask you, as we wrap this up, which voice will you listen to? The voices of the world around us tell us that real happiness is found in fun and fame and fortune and that we shouldn't be distracted by these little things that seem to be going wrong. Just go ahead and pursue that great American dream. Wealth and success and happiness are what it is all about.

Will you listen to the voices of the false prophets who are telling us that if just given enough time and enough money, we can solve any problems that we face as a nation or as individuals? Will you listen to the voices of the intellectuals who tell us that things are not the way the Bible says they are, and that the Bible is just a compilation of myths and stories? Which voice will you listen to? Whom will you follow? What will be the guideline for your actions in these perilous days in which we live?

Conclusion

I don't know what the outcome is going to be. It may be that God, in His grace, as He has done before, will relent, will breathe a sigh of relief because we respond to Him in the way He wants to see, and because we are willing to have our nation turn back to Him. I think that only God knows the ultimate outcome of that. In the meantime, the message of Jeremiah for his nation, and I firmly believe for ours, is this: God rules in the affairs of men. If you want to know who to believe now, listen to God; listen to His Word; listen to His principles and put them into effect in your life because He is the One who knows the truths.

I would like for us to conclude our time by bowing our heads together and having a moment of silent meditation. In this moment of quietness, I want to ask you to examine your own heart. We have talked about the nation, but I want to ask you to examine your heart personally. Ask God if there is something He wants to say to you about some area of your life that needs to be adjusted to His Word, something that you are not listening to Him about or something that you know you are not really putting into effect in your life, some false prophet that you are listening to, some false philosophy that you have allowed to guide your thinking. Ask Him to adjust your life to His Word in this confusing time in our world and in our nation.


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