Leaders or Followers

The words of Jeremiah, the son of Hilkiah, one of the priests who were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, to whom the word of the Lord came in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign. It came also in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, and until the end of the eleventh year of Zedekiah, the son of Josiah, king of Judah, until the captivity of Jerusalem in the fifth month.
Jeremiah 1:1-3

These are a very exciting three verses, filled with epic descriptions of kings and prophets and dates.

Just wanted to see if you were paying attention.

At first glance, the opening verses of the book of Jeremiah are not all that thrilling. I've never been a fan of lists and chronologies, although I do love history. So let's look at the history.

First, we have the question of why Jeremiah was called to prophesy. The Lord was warning the people of Judah of their impending captivity by the Babylonians if they did not change their ways and turn to the Lord.

Second, we look at the people to whom Jeremiah prophesied. Jeremiah prophesied during the reign of three kings of Judah: Josiah, Jehoiakim, and Zedekiah. If we turn back to 2 Chronicles 34-36, we learn more about these men.

Josiah inherited the throne at eight years old, and he was a great young man. "And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, and walked in the ways of David his father; and he did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left." (2 Chr. 34:2) Josiah cleansed the land of idols and commissioned repairs to the house of the Lord.

During the rebuilding of God's house, Hilkiah the priest found the Book of the Law, or the Torah, and gave it to the king. Once he read the Book of the Law, he realized the people of Judah were in danger of the wrath of God because they had not kept the Law. Josiah made the people swear to follow the words of the Book of the Law, and they did. "All his days they did not turn away from following the Lord, the God of their fathers." (2 Chr. 34:33)

After Josiah was killed in battle, his son Jehoahaz became king, but was deposed by the king of Egypt and quickly replaced by his brother, Jehoiakim. "He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord his God." (2 Chr. 36:5b) Jehoiakim was captured by Nebuchadnezzar and taken to Babylon. The same thing happened to his son, Jehoiachin. Jehoiachin was replaced by his brother Zedekiah.

Zedekiah "did what was evil in the sight of the Lord his God. He did not humble himself before Jeremiah the prophet, who spoke from the mouth of the Lord. He also rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar, who had made him swear by God. He stiffened his neck and hardened his heart against turning to the Lord, the God of Israel. All the officers of the priests and the people likewise were exceedingly unfaithful, following all the abominations of the nations. And they polluted the house of the Lord that he had made holy in Jerusalem." (2 Chr. 36:12-14)

It's easy to blame the leaders for the poor condition of their followers sometimes. After all, when Josiah was king, the people obeyed the Lord, but when the evil kings reigned, the people turned away from the Lord. Surely leaders have significant influence on their people.

At the end of the day, however, God was after the hearts of His people. He wanted them to turn their hearts toward him. Outward obedience can be required and enforced, as in the case of Josiah (the people followed the Lord all the days of his - Josiah's - life). But because the people's hearts were not humbled before the Lord, one good leader could not save his people.

We see at the end of 2 Chronicles how long-suffering the Lord was with the people of Judah.

"The Lord, the God of their fathers, sent persistently to them by his messengers, because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling place. But they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising his words and scoffing at his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord rose against his people, until there was no remedy." (2 Chr. 36:15-16)

It is a great thing to have strong, godly leaders in our lives such as pastors, parents, mentors, and teachers. But the Lord wants a relationship with you and I individually. He can use these leaders to encourage us, and even command us, to do what is right, but in the end we are responsible for whether we choose to follow the Lord. He doesn't want only our obedience; he wants our hearts.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Hello! I'm Faith. I'm a verbal processor who wants to love the Lord and love people with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. I write to think and think to write. I don't drink coffee. I am a dogless dog lover. I enjoy hosting large parties in my home, and I enjoy being alone. Join me in looking to Him and pursuing A Radiant Face.

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