Thursday, October 15, 2009

Jer 26

26:24. How is a person of the time going to judge between the prophecies of Jeremiah and those of the false prophets, who Jeremiah says are lying to them (27:15)? Chapter 26 provides two surprising answers.

The university paradigm does not work here, a paradigm in which impartial listeners hear both views and decide. Not Jerusalem before the Exile. That would have worked, if it was available (Jer 5:1). But there weren't any such listeners. That's important to keep in mind.

The listeners there debated an "outcome of their lives" criterion. Their test was this: has anybody else prophesied like Jeremiah recently, and what happened to them? Initially, it seemed that Jeremiah would be spared from being condemned because they at first brought up how that Micah, who taught like Jeremiah, was not killed (26:19) by the then king; but then, another prophet just like Jeremiah in his message, Uriah, was brought up, and he was killed by the current king (26:21-23). The test was inconclusive ... making the people want to kill Jeremiah anyway (26:24!)

Then Ahikam removed Jeremiah from the scene (26:24). Whatever their reasoning about the outcome of prophets' lives was, what the current king approved of was perhaps too overriding to them.

These are helpful answers to anyone who hears competing claims about God. The first one is, beware of your preferences (26:11), which will tend to govern your decision irrationally, preventing you from doing "as seems good and right to you" (26:14), in favor of your preferences. The second is that you can't decide by stories you know about how people seem to turn out. Micah was not killed, but Uriah was. You can't determine what's true by looking at how people who believe it turn out. Some die for it, some don't. You have to use your moral sense: what seems good and right, not political expediency or preferences.

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