18 Because the Lord revealed their plot to me, I knew it, for at that time he showed me what they were doing. 19 I had been like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter; I did not realize that they had plotted against me, saying,
“Let us destroy the tree and its fruit;
let us cut him off from the land of the living,
that his name be remembered no more.”
20 But you, Lord Almighty, who judge righteously
and test the heart and mind,
let me see your vengeance on them,
for to you I have committed my cause.
21 Therefore this is what the Lord says about the people of Anathoth who are threatening to kill you, saying, “Do not prophesy in the name of the Lord or you will die by our hands”— 22 therefore this is what the Lord Almighty says: “I will punish them. Their young men will die by the sword, their sons and daughters by famine. 23 Not even a remnant will be left to them, because I will bring disaster on the people of Anathoth in the year of their punishment.”
(Jeremiah 11:18-23 NIV)
As mentioned before, in this new section (11:1 – 15:9), we see the Lord deal with the issue of the broken covenant and the consequences of God’s people walking away in disobedience. Yesterday’s text mentioned a “conspiracy” (v. 9) of the people against the Lord, where they went along with the outward reforms King Josiah made but refused to change their inner hearts and repent before the Lord.
In today’s passage and the next section, we see the outward manifestations of the people’s hardened hearts via an actual conspiracy to silence Jeremiah and his prophetic work.
Verse 18 reveals the plot against Jeremiah. Verse 21 declares the perpetrators of the scheme – the people of Jeremiah’s hometown of Anathoth (see Jeremiah 1:1).
What would make the people of Jeremiah’s hometown want to end his life? If we were into conspiracy theory, we could spend days looking at the possibilities. In summary, there were likely two primary motives:
- Jeremiah’s message affected their livelihood. When King Josiah made his reforms throughout Judah, he shut down local places of worship throughout Judah, reassigned all the priests to Jerusalem, and gave them lesser responsibilities (2 Kings 23:8-9). Imagine the uproar if someone told us our local church were being shut down and all the pastors were reassigned and transferred to another city! Whether Jeremiah was involved in King Josiah’s decision or not, he was guilty by association because of his proclamations against the people and the priests.
- Jeremiah was an embarrassment to the people of Anathoth, his hometown, and possibly a traitor to the nation of Judah because of his preaching. Jeremiah’s messages from the Lord were offensive to the people in general and were condemning in particular to all the priests who lived in Anathoth. To have one of their own brotherhood go rogue and publicly call them out was unthinkable. On top of that, for Jeremiah’s messages to proclaim that Judah and Jerusalem would fall to the armies of the north was considered an act of treason, with Jeremiah being the traitor. As we noted in earlier chapters, the priests and religious officials were of one voice, proclaiming “all is well” when Jeremiah was saying the opposite.
In verse 19, Jeremiah declares his innocence before the Lord and the murderous plot of those who oppose him. In verse 20, Jeremiah presents his appeal to the Lord as if he were in a courtroom and the Lord was the judge. Jeremiah asks the Lord to not only examine his words but his heart as well. Jeremiah pledges his loyalty to the Lord; he does not cave in and stop preaching or change his message, even when his hometown family threatens his life.
In verses 21 – 23, the Lord answers Jeremiah and comes to his defense. The Lord declares His judgment upon those who would threaten His servant, and even to their families. The consequences are severe; the Lord is serious about this.
As we reflect back to Jeremiah’s calling as a prophet (Jeremiah 1:4-10), the Lord did not promise a life of comfort and honor. In fact, the Lord promised quite the opposite but vowed to be with Jeremiah throughout the trials. We see the Lord keeping His promise to Jeremiah in today’s passage.
May we hold fast to the Lord during hard times and opposition as Jeremiah did. May we not seek revenge, but instead cry out to the Righteous Judge, who sees the actions and the hearts of all involved and administers justice.
May we remember Peter’s words on this side of the cross, calling us to be faithful to the Lord as Jeremiah was faithful to Him prior to the cross:
To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.
(1 Peter 2:21 NIV)