Then they said, “Come and let us devise plans against Jeremiah; for the law shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet. Come and let us attack him with the tongue, and let us not give heed to any of his words.” (Jeremiah 18:18)
A Paperboy Named Jeremiah
In the final years of the kingdom of Judah, the prophet Jeremiah preached a message of doom for the holy city Jerusalem. The spiritual compass of the nation had become corrupt and the moral disintegration of the kingdom plunged headlong at a rapid pace climaxing in the arrival of the Babylonians and destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. There was a brief respite during the three decades of Josiah’s reign but for all practical purposes, the mold of captivity had been cast long before. Jeremiah would live to see the nation destroyed and carried off to Babylon. He would spend the final days of his life in Egypt. As the “weeping prophet,” the son of Anathoth saw the hypocrisy of the religious and political leaders in Jerusalem as well as many false prophets.
The preaching of Jeremiah was bold and demonstrable. He would employ visual aids to bring home his message as breaking a potter’s vessel before the elders. His preaching troubled the religious leaders of Judah. They could not restrain the prophet from accusing them of apostasy, corruption, and oppression. Jeremiah would spend much of his life under the heavy hand of persecution but never waver in preaching the word of God. His critics sought ways to attack the prophet, to discredit him, and to bring him in disfavor with the people. They assembled to plot ways to stop Jeremiah. It was their goal to destroy the man of God. His preaching told of the doom of Jerusalem which the leaders of Judah denied could happen. Ignoring their sin of idolatry and the warnings of many of God’s prophets, the leaders believed they would never fall to the hands of their enemies. Jeremiah was a traitor because he did not accept the authority of the religious leaders preaching against their doctrines. His message came from God.
Seeking a way to destroy Jeremiah, his enemies began to spread rumors about him and to ignore whatever the prophet said. By discrediting him, the leaders tried to weaken the charges brought against them for their idolatrous ways. The land had filled with altars to idols and their wooden images by the green trees on the high hills which Jeremiah cursed. Worship had become a vain attempt to appease the Lord while the will of the people continued to steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, burn incense to Baal and walk after other gods. Trusting in lying words, the people would come before the Lord in His holy Temple and seek His blessings and call upon His name. Jeremiah condemned them harshly and the people resented him for it. Rather than heed the word of God they sought to spread lies about Jeremiah.
Preaching truth has always been a difficult and challenging work in a world filled with the carnal pursuits of human wisdom, recreation, pleasure, and the desires of the flesh. The word of Jeremiah was not his own. His message came from the will of God but the people would not accept it. This would not change the word of God and when the final stages of captivity came upon Judah and Benjamin, everyone could say that Jeremiah was right in what he preached – but it was too late. They attacked Jeremiah with lies and rumors and Jeremiah continued to preach the truth. He never swerved from walking the path of righteousness. Ignoring his preaching did not change the word of God. Jeremiah fulfilled his ministry in his work as God desired regardless of how the people responded. Spreading lies about him did not dissuade his zeal to preach the word.
Gary Ogden said that preachers are nothing more than paperboys. In days gone by, young boys would take up a paper route where they would sling papers onto the front porches or into the yards of subscribers. In a spiritual sense, a preacher has the responsibility to deliver the word of God accurately. He does not write the material, he cannot edit the content and he must make certain he delivers the paper in a godly manner. It would not do well to throw the paper through the front window. He must not throw it in the bushes where it is hard to find or in the water puddle where the print is blurred. The work of the preacher is to deliver the word of God to the threshold of the individual’s heart. Then, and only then, the action of the individual is to decide what to do with what has been received. If they ignore the word, their guilt is their own. Taking the word of God into their heart is what the Lord desires. If the paperboy delivers his paper in a good way, there can be no complaints. Spreading lies about a faithful preacher is sinful. Ignoring what the man says from the word of God will not change the word of God. Those who stand condemned are those who plot or devise plans to discredit the servants of the Lord. The days of Jeremiah are not unlike the days of the New Testament church.