God’s Way … or the Highway!

“Then said the princes and all the people unto the priests and to the prophets; This man is not worthy to die: for he hath spoken to us in the name of the LORD our God. Then rose up certain of the elders of the land, and spake to all the assembly of the people, saying, Micah the Morasthite prophesied in the days of Hezekiah king of Judah, and spake to all the people of Judah, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Zion shall be plowed like a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the house as the high places of a forest. Did Hezekiah king of Judah and all Judah put him at all to death? did he not fear the LORD, and besought the LORD, and the LORD repented him of the evil which he had pronounced against them? Thus might we procure great evil against our souls. And there was also a man that prophesied in the name of the LORD, Urijah the son of Shemaiah of Kirjathjearim, who prophesied against this city and against this land according to all the words of Jeremiah: And when Jehoiakim the king, with all his mighty men, and all the princes, heard his words, the king sought to put him to death: but when Urijah heard it, he was afraid, and fled, and went into Egypt; And Jehoiakim the king sent men into Egypt, namely, Elnathan the son of Achbor, and certain men with him into Egypt. And they fetched forth Urijah out of Egypt, and brought him unto Jehoiakim the king; who slew him with the sword, and cast his dead body into the graves of the common people. 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 26:16-24)

“Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.” (Hebrews 10:38)

You are a spokesperson for God. You might even call yourself a “prophet”. When you speak, you speak in the name of the Lord. But you are sometimes afraid of what others think of you. What should you do?

Fortunately, the Bible has a very practical answer for us — one, in fact, which motivates us strongly to “keep on going” for him. It is related in Jeremiah 26:16-24, which is the account of two men, both of whom spoke in the name of the Lord, but who each reacted differently to the pressures surrounding them.

One of them (Micah the Morasthite) remained steadfast in his ways — he was immovable, and did not apologize for speaking what God had told him to do, yes, even in the midst of persecution. The other, however (Urijah the son of Shemaiah), shrunk back, and fled. And, although fleeing is not always wrong (the Bible does command us to flee on certain occasions), the passage seems to suggest that in this instance, the prophet should have/could have/was supposed to have stood up to his persecutors, rather than fleeing from them.

Because of the boldness and conviction of the first man, Hezekiah the king of Judah repented of his sin, and many lives were consequently touched (pontentially the whole nation). This man stood up when it was time to stand up, and did not shrink back. God also rose up to defend him; he was not killed, but his life was spared! What a tremendous blessing that was, as compared to what could have been the case.

However, it appears that because of the fear of the second man and the fact that he “ran” when he could have well “stood still”, the enemy gained advantage over him: no man stood to come to his defense, he was captured, and he was slain. Now he might have been slain anyway, if he had stood still, but the advantage would have been that he would have not acted apologetically towards those he was preaching to. You know, to run away in fear can sometimes make the enemy come after us, when in fact, he might have instead repented for his sin (eg. Hezekiah above). It can make a “world of difference” — for potentially thousands (eg. the king’s decision to repent may have a ripple effect and affect thousands).

The man who ran away in fear did not really have any power to bring about conviction in his hearers, since he “ran” and thereby demonstrated to the enemy that he was afraid of him. The enemy pursued him (all the way to Egypt, which is far from Israel) and hunted him down until he found him. Then, he dragged him back to Israel, where he was slain and his body was “cast … into the graves of the common people” (verse 23) — what appears to be, really, a dishonorable funeral.

In the third case — that is, we are now talking about the prophet Jeremiah, who is in a sense the “reason” for this story, God raises up a defender named Ahikam the son of Shaphan, for we read: “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.” (verse 24) I like that! I think the point of this story is to tell us something: That even though the going may get rough sometimes, we still need to “stand up for Christ” and not “shrink back” from proclaming the truth to souls who need Christ.

It is for their sake that we do it. It is for God’s sake that we do it. And it is for our own sake that we do it!

God bless you today as you consider these things.