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. — Jeremiah 26:24
In 1841, Richard Jackson, a Quaker, was convicted of a murder he did not commit. He was put in jail, and the day came when the warden told Jackson that the next Friday would be his execution day. The warden also told Jackson a carriage would be sent to take him the fifty miles to Philadelphia, the place of his execution. Jackson told the warden that he would like to walk to Philadelphia, giving his word of honor that he would be there in time for his hanging.
Jackson had felt led by God to make this unusual request after much prayer, and he believed God would deliver him. The warden trusted Jackson and, amazingly, let him begin his walk that night. While walking, Jackson came upon two men robbing a man and trying to kill him for his money. Taking his stout walking stick, Jackson beat off the assailants and saved the man’s life. The grateful man, who was also headed to Philadelphia, invited Jackson to ride with him but Jackson refused.
On Friday, Jackson arrived at the scaffold where a crowd had already gathered to witness the execution. Jackson walked over to the hangman (who often in that era were convicted murderers) and quietly said, “Sir, I am here to be executed.” The hangman looked at Jackson, recognized him, and then protested, “I cannot hang you, for you saved my life back on the road.” Jackson responded, “Yes, but you must do your duty as the law requires.” The hangman turned to the assembled crowd and cried loudly for all to hear, “This man saved my life and I am to hang him, but I cannot. I must confess that I killed the man of whose murder this person is accused.” Jackson’s life was spared because he did what he felt God had showed him to do.(1)
In today’s text, Jeremiah had followed what God had shown him to do, telling the people of Judah to repent of their evil ways or their Temple would be destroyed. The false prophets and priests had him arrested and demanded his death, accusing him of blasphemy against God. However, God was with Jeremiah as He was with Mr. Jackson, and He preserved both men from death.
Today, too, there will be times when those who do right and take a stand for the truth will be falsely accused and persecuted. Such treatment is not easy to bear, and all the faithful are not spared. Still, we know that God sees every soul, and He will work out His perfect will in the life of each person who is yielded to Him.
Chapters 26-29 record events in the life of Jeremiah and are not in chronological order. In today’s text, at God’s instruction, Jeremiah went to the Temple and proclaimed the need for the people to repent or face certain disaster in their city and nation. Arrested by the false prophets and priests, Jeremiah’s life was threatened, but then he was rescued by the rulers.
This exhortation was given at the beginning of Jehoiakim’s eleven-year reign (608-597 B.C.), and the political situation was quite turbulent. Babylon was fighting to conquer Assyria, and Egypt was a significant power. The people of Judah had recently lost King Josiah in battle. After only three months, Josiah’s ruling son, Jehoahaz, was dethroned by Pharaoh-necho of Egypt, who made Jehoiakim king. Jehoiakim was an evil king, and the revival of Josiah’s time was over.
In light of all this, Jeremiah knew the message from God was vital, and furthermore, God admonished him to give it without omission (“diminish not a word”). He was told to proclaim this call to repentance and warning of judgment in the court of the Temple, probably during a nationwide event when people from throughout the land were present.
The reaction of the priests and false prophets was immediate. Furiously angry, for they did not want to be discredited, they moved the people to say, “Thou shalt surely die.” The “princes of Judah” in verse 10 were the king’s counselors and officials who hastily intervened and then listened to Jeremiah’s message. He stated that he had been sent by God and warned them to “amend your ways.” They acquitted him, influenced in part by Ahikam the son of Shaphan (verse 24). Some of the elders reminded the people of Micah’s words, given about one hundred years earlier; verse 18 is a quote of Micah 3:12.
Verses 20-23 tell of the Prophet Urijah, who is not mentioned elsewhere in the Bible. Kirjath-jearim was a city about nine miles from Jerusalem going west toward Jaffa. Some Bible scholars believe Elnathan was the father-in-law of King Jehoiakim. The account of the fate of Urijah illustrates the jeopardy that Jeremiah faced.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II. The pronouncement of judgment against Judah
B. The conflicts of the prophet
1. The conflict with his enemies (26:1-24)
a. The message of Jerusalem’s destruction (26:1-6)
b. The arrest of Jeremiah (26:7-9)
c. The defense by Jeremiah (26:10-15)
d. The release of Jeremiah (26:16-19)
e. The death of Urijah (26:20-24)
If we faithfully obey the Lord and look to Him for protection and guidance, He will be with us in our times of great need.
1. Basil Miller, “Remarkable Answers to Prayer,” Beacon Hill Press, 1950, p. 50