Our scripture passage for today in the Bible could be entitled, “Preacher for Hire.” The Babylonian Empire under King Nebuchadnezar was attacking the nation of Judah. The evil Judean King sent his priest to fetch Jeremiah in the hopes that he would prophesy good news.
He wanted to hear Jeremiah say that the Babylonians would retreat. He wanted Jeremiah to somehow conjure up a miracle so the Judeans would win.
But Jeremiah could not be bought or sold. He boldly proclaimed that Judah had sinned by leaving the true God of Israel and because of this they would be defeated. Their only hope was to repent from evil, turn to the Lord, practice justice and mercy, and surrender to the invading army. They had crossed God’s deadline and now had to suffer the consequences of their sins.
(Jeremiah 21) The word came to Jeremiah from the Lord when King Zedekiah sent to him Pashhur son of Malkijah and the priest Zephaniah son of Maaseiah. They said: 2 “Inquire now of the Lord for us because Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon is attacking us. Perhaps the Lord will perform wonders for us as in times past so that he will withdraw from us.”
3 But Jeremiah answered them, “Tell Zedekiah, 4 ‘This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I am about to turn against you the weapons of war that are in your hands, which you are using to fight the king of Babylon and the Babylonians who are outside the wall besieging you. And I will gather them inside this city. 5 I myself will fight against you with an outstretched hand and a mighty arm in furious anger and in great wrath.
6 I will strike down those who live in this city—both man and beast—and they will die of a terrible plague. 7 After that, declares the Lord, I will give Zedekiah king of Judah, his officials and the people in this city who survive the plague, sword and famine, into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and to their enemies who want to kill them. He will put them to the sword; he will show them no mercy or pity or compassion.’
8 “Furthermore, tell the people, ‘This is what the Lord says: See, I am setting before you the way of life and the way of death. 9 Whoever stays in this city will die by the sword, famine or plague. But whoever goes out and surrenders to the Babylonians who are besieging you will live; they will escape with their lives. 10 I have determined to do this city harm and not good, declares the Lord. It will be given into the hands of the king of Babylon, and he will destroy it with fire.’
11 “Moreover, say to the royal house of Judah, ‘Hear the word of the Lord. 12 This is what the Lord says to you, house of David: “‘Administer justice every morning; rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed, or my wrath will break out and burn like fire because of the evil you have done—burn with no one to quench it. 13 I am against you, Jerusalem, you who live above this valley on the rocky plateau, declares the Lord—you who say, “Who can come against us? Who can enter our refuge?” 14 I will punish you as your deeds deserve, declares the Lord. I will kindle a fire in your forests that will consume everything around you.’”