Thursday, 16 May 2013

Jeremiah, Judah and Northern Ireland

This week Northern Ireland's First Minister Peter Robinson launched an attack on his critics describing them as 'a tribe of Jeremiahs'. No doubt he chose the term considering them to be nothing but doom and gloom merchants, yet it was a very poor comparison to make and detrayed an ignorance of scripture. Jeremiah was God's appointed prophet, sent to warn the people of Judah against the judgement which God would very soon visit upon their land. Whilst to many at that time this seemed to be a very depressing message, it was not a message of Jeremiah's choosing, but that which God had revealed to him. In the eyes of the Lord Jeremiah was a faithful servant, one of but few in a time of spiritual apostasy. For the First Minister to describe others as a Jeremiah in a derogatory sense indicates that he looks at Jeremiah from the viewpoint of the ungodly, something which he would do well think over. The faithful Christian would not be disheartened to be described as a Jeremiah, indeed our province could do with many Jeremiahs, a tribe of them would do the land no end of good. Peter Robinson's comments were unwise and unscriptural, and although they were used in the political sphere, they give us cause to think of spiritual matters, of Jeremiah's ministry and what comparison can be made with the times we live in, particularly the spiritual state and direction of Northern Ireland.

Jeremiah was a lonely voice of opposition to the apostasy in the land
As Elijah felt himself to be alone in his battles against Ahab and Jezebel, so Jeremiah could also feel that the whole country was arrayed against him. Jeremiah was certainly not voicing the opinion of the majority, but the majority favoured the direction in which the land was going and opposed Jeremiah's preaching. Morality and scriptural truth have never been measured by the democratic vote or what is popular. Those who stand for the truth of the gospel today will always find themselves in a minority position. The vast majority of politicians, clergymen, and people in general within Northern Ireland favour the ecumenical agenda. They favour liberalism and compromise. Apostasy is more popular than orthodoxy and to speak out against the spiritual and moral decline in our land will make you as lonely a figure as Jeremiah was. Jeremiah could have been considered to be stuck in the past, not wanting to move forward, bigoted against the worship of false gods. In all these things he was a lonely but faithful voice.

Jeremiah lived at a time of political unrest
At the time of Jeremiah's prophecy the biblical lands were in a state of turmoil. Israel had been carried captive by Assyria, Egypt's armies had fallen before the Chaldeans and the King of Judah was but a vassal to Nebuchadnezzar. The threat from Babylon had hung over Judah for some time, eventually materialising in the captivity of 70 years as Jeremiah had prophesied. Such a time called for an extraordinary man of God, one who had an unwavering confidence in Jehovah. How similar the political times we live in are to the times of Jeremiah. Despite 15 years of a 'peace process' Northern Ireland is still far from being stable politically and the threat of terrorism still hangs over the land. Entwined as religion and politics are in Northern Ireland, anyone who speaks out in favour of the unchanging standards of God's Word will likely find themselves unpopular among the political establishment. In such a time as this we need another Jeremiah, one to tell the people that the hope of their land is not found in political deals and compromises, but in repentance, and in turning again to the pure worship of the Lord.

Jeremiah had a message to the leaders of the land as well as the people in general
Jeremiah's message was not vague but specific to the leading individuals in the land; in chapter 21 of his prophecy he sends a message to King Zedekiah who had enquired of him concerning Nebuchadnezzar. Again in chapter 22 he is instructed by the Lord to go down to the king's house and deliver the message which God had for him. In chapter 23 he pronounces woe on 'the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep'. Where the leaders of Judah had been responsible for the departure of the people, Jeremiah declared it to be so. It must be said today that a great responsibility lies at the feet of those political and religious leaders in Northern Ireland who have lead the people away from the Lord. How many men (and indeed women) occupy pulpits in this land preaching a message which gives a false hope and which condemns men and women to a lost eternity. No preacher or politician, including Peter Robinson, shoudl consider that they are above rebuke from God's word. Oh for another Jeremiah to speak against those who destroy and scatter the sheep.

Jeremiah's message was not well received
Peter Robinson's choice of Jeremiah as a description of his critics was likely due to Jeremiah's message consistently being one of bad news. Jeremiah did not have a lot of positive things to say about the spiritual condition of the land and his message was, from the point of view of his hearers, negative. Denunciation of their sins and the warning of God's judgement. Such a message was no more popular in Jeremiah's time than it is in ours. Where we speak against apostasy and ecumenism we will be mocked and derided and described as being stuck in the 16th century. Many will question what we have to offer society with a message like ours, and to a great extent the message is ignored and people continue on in their sin. Judah was not for turning away from it's idols any more than Northern Ireland seems keen to leave its sin behind. The gospel tracts are torn up, the open air meeting is mocked and the invitation to the service is bluntly refused. The warning delivered by the few faithful Jeremiah's which we have is not being well received.

Jeremiah was sorrowful over the state of the land
Jeremiah did not take delight in pronouncing God's judgement on the land of Judah, he did not choose the message but only delivered it. Jeremiah has been described as the weeping prophet for he loved his land and wept greatly over its sin and impending demise. The Lamentations of Jeremiah are but a funeral dirge for the fallen city of Jerusalem. The faithful Jeremiah of today who oppose error, who warn against a departure from the truth of God and of the consequences of that departure do so out of a love for the land and it's people. There is no joy in the thought that God will judge our land if it does repent, and in truth we sorrow greatly that there is a need for such a message to be proclaimed.

Jeremiah was ultimately proven to be correct
Was Jeremiah's message a negative one? Yes it was. Did the majority mock and ignore him? Yes they did. Yet in due time Jeremiahs prophecies were born out. Nebuchadnezzar invaded the land, Jerusalem, the city of God, was conquered and Judah was taken into captivity. Though men and women will mock the work of God and ignore the warnings that are given we know that his word if truth and what he has prophesied will surely come to pass.

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