Then King Zedekiah sent for [Jeremiah] and had him brought to the palace, where he asked him privately, “Is there any word from the Lord?”
Jeremiah 27:17 (NIV)
As I sat down to enter my time of quiet and contemplation this morning, I saw a headline of an article in The Free Press that caught my eye and I found myself reading it.The Free Press is one of a growing number of independent news outlets made up of journalists who still believe in the classic principles of objective journalism and have left the mainstream to work independently. Wendy and I have found it to be some of the best reporting we’ve read in years. The investigative reporter in the article I read this morning basically found that some official judges of high school debate contests state clearly that they will give a young debater an automatic loss if that young person argues against the judge’s personal political beliefs or world-view. Some judges publicly list the issues and arguments that will prompt them to give a young debater an automatic loss. In one cited case, the judge states the student who argues against his personal opinions on certain topics will also get a stern lecture and will give an earful to the student’s debate coach.
What fascinating times we’re living in.
As it turns out, the article was a bit synchronous with today’s chapter, in which the ancient prophet Jeremiah is imprisoned by King Zedekiah in a dungeon to keep him from publicly proclaiming his prophesies that the king and his administration found politically incorrect. Then, ironically, King Z has Jeremiah brought before him to ask, “Is there any word from the Lord?”
In other words, the King recognizes that Jeremiah is a real prophet and he further recognizes that what Jeremiah says actually proves to be true. He just doesn’t want Jeremiah saying it in public and he doesn’t want anyone to actually hear what Jeremiah has to say.
Being an ancient Hebrew prophet was not an easy gig.
I was reminded this morning that Jesus often indicted the institutional leaders of his day because of their treatment of the prophets. He even told His followers to expect similar treatment:
“Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
“Woe to you, because you build tombs for the prophets, and it was your ancestors who killed them. So you testify that you approve of what your ancestors did; they killed the prophets, and you build their tombs.”
“And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Go ahead, then, and complete what your ancestors started!“
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.”
“He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”
Fortunately for Jeremiah, his appeal to King Z for reprieve from the dungeon meets with the King’s favor. It’s both fascinating and ironic that the King believes Jeremiah and wants to continue hearing what God has to say through Jeremiah, he just doesn’t want anyone else to hear it.
In the quiet this morning, my mind drifts back to the investigative report of high school debaters which stated:
“Most students choose not to fight this coercion. They see it as a necessary evil that’s required to win debates and secure the accolades, scholarships, and college acceptance letters that can come with winning.“
I find this sad, just as I find Jeremiah’s imprisonment sad. I’m equally reminded in the quiet this morning that we need prophets in both our society and in our lives. There’s a reason why prophets are a ubiquitous archetype in life and literature. One of the things I love about having Wendy as a life partner is that she is a truth-teller and has a prophet’s ability to speak hard words to me even if and when I don’t want to hear them. I have friends in my inner-circle who can and will do the same. I’m a better person for having “prophets” in my life. I will at least give King Z credit for knowing that he needed Jeremiah alive to hear what the prophet had to say.
When all that I hear are the things I’m comfortable hearing, something is dysfunctional in the system.
If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.