Sabbath, April 4, 2020
Lesson 14 – Opposition from One’s Own Countrymen
“For forty years Jeremiah was to stand before the nation as a witness for truth and righteousness. In a time of unparalleled apostasy he was to exemplify in life and character the worship of the only true God. During the terrible sieges of Jerusalem he was to be the mouthpiece of Jehovah. He was to predict the downfall of the house of David and the destruction of the beautiful temple built by Solomon. And when imprisoned because of his fearless utterances, he was still to speak plainly against sin in high places. Despised, hated, rejected of men, he was finally to witness the literal fulfillment of his own prophecies of impending doom, and share in the sorrow and woe that should follow the destruction of the fated city.” –Prophets and Kings, p. 408.
Resistance against the Lord’s prophet and messages
- Where did Jeremiah the prophet come from? Into what special group of people was he born?
Jeremiah 1:1, 2 The words of Jeremiah the son of Hilkiah, of the priests that were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin: 2To 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.
“Among those who had hoped for a permanent spiritual revival as the result of the reformation under Josiah was Jeremiah, called of God to the prophetic of- fice while still a youth, in the thirteenth year of Josiah’s reign. A member of the Levitical priesthood, Jeremiah had been trained from childhood for holy service. In those happy years of preparation he little realized that he had been ordained from birth to be ‘a prophet unto the nations;’ and when the divine call came, he was overwhelmed with a sense of his unworthiness. ‘Ah, Lord God!’ he exclaimed,‘behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child.’ Jeremiah 1:5, 6.” –Prophets and Kings, 407.
- What did the Lord reveal to him? How deep were the plots of both influential and common people against him? How do God’s faithful servants respond to such evils?
Jeremiah 11:18, 19 And the Lord hath given me knowledge of it, and I know it: then thou showedst me their doings. 19But I was like a lamb or an ox that is brought to the slaughter; and I knew not that they had devised devices against me, saying, Let us destroy the tree with the fruit thereof, and let us cut him off from the land of the living, that his name may be no more remembered.
“The spirit of opposition to reproof, that led to the persecution and imprison- ment of Jeremiah, exists today. Many refuse to heed repeated warnings, preferring rather to listen to false teachers who flatter their vanity and overlook their evil-do- ing. In the day of trouble such will have no sure refuge, no help from heaven. God’s chosen servants should meet with courage and patience the trials and sufferings that befall them through reproach, neglect, and misrepresentation. They should continue to discharge faithfully the work God has given them to do, ever remem- bering that the prophets of old and the Saviour of mankind and His apostles also endured abuse and persecution for the word’s sake.” –Prophets and Kings, p. 437.
- How intensely did Jeremiah’s fellow citizens despise him and his mission? What did they command him not to do, under threat of death?
Jeremiah 11:21 Therefore thus saith the Lord of the men of Anathoth, that seek thy life, saying, Prophesy not in the name of the Lord, that thou die not by our hand.
“The cities and villages constitute a part of that vineyard. These must be worked. Satan will try to interpose himself and discourage the workers, so as to prevent them from giving the message of light and warning in the more prominent as well as in the more secluded places….
“God designs that His precious word, with its messages of warning and en- couragement, shall come to those who are in darkness and are ignorant of our faith. It is to be given to all, and will be to them a witness, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear. Do not feel that the responsibility rests upon you to convict and convert the hearers. The power of God alone can soften the hearts of the people. You are to hold forth the word of life, that all may have an opportunity of receiving the truth if they will. If they turn from the truth of heavenly origin, it will be their condemnation.
“We must not hide the truth in the corners of the earth. It must be made known; it must shine in our large cities.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 7, pp. 34, 35.
Inveterate rebellion and its consequences
- What was going to happen to men because of their gross evil and failure to repent and seek God’s righteousness? How widespread is such evil, even among God’s people?
Jeremiah 11:22, 23 Therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts, Behold, I will punish them: the young men shall die by the sword; their sons and their daughters shall die by famine: 23And there shall be no remnant of them: for I will bring evil upon the men of Anathoth, even the year of their visitation.
“Some have so long sacrificed principle that they cannot see the difference between the sacred and the common. Those who refuse to give heed to the Lord’s instruction will go steadily downward in the path of ruin. The day of test and trial is just before us. Let every man put on his true colors. Do you choose loyalty or rebellion? Show your colors to men and angels. We are safe only when we are committed to the right. Then the world knows where we shall be found in the day of trial and trouble.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 8, p. 96.
“As I saw the dreadful fact that God’s people were conformed to the world, with no distinction, except in name, between many of the professed disciples of the meek and lowly Jesus and unbelievers, my soul felt deep anguish. I saw that Jesus was wounded and put to an open shame. Said the angel, as with sorrow he saw the professed people of God loving the world, partaking of its spirit, and following its fashions: ‘Cut loose! Cut loose! lest He appoint you your portion with hypocrites and unbelievers outside the city. Your profession will only cause you greater anguish, and your punishment will be greater because ye knew His will, but did it not.’” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, p. 133.
- Because of such evil thinking, what questions did the prophet ask God? What did the psalmist advise the righteous concerning such things, and why?
Jeremiah 12:1, 2 Righteous art thou, O Lord, when I plead with thee: yet let me talk with thee of thy judgments: Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper? wherefore are all they happy that deal very treacherously? 2Thou hast planted them, yea, they have taken root: they grow, yea, they bring forth fruit: thou art near in their mouth, and far from their reins.
Psalm 37:7-11 Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass. 8Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil. 9For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the Lord, they shall inherit the earth. 10For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be: yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be. 11But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.
“‘The Lord is not slack concerning His promise.’ 2 Peter 3:9. He does not forget or neglect His children; but He permits the wicked to reveal their true character, that none who desire to do His will may be deceived concerning them. Again, the righteous are placed in the furnace of affliction, that they themselves may be pu- rified; that their example may convince others of the reality of faith and godliness; and also that their consistent course may condemn the ungodly and unbelieving.
“God permits the wicked to prosper and to reveal their enmity against Him, that when they shall have filled up the measure of their iniquity all may see His jus- tice and mercy in their utter destruction. The day of His vengeance hastens, when all who have transgressed His law and oppressed His people will meet the just recompense of their deeds; when every act of cruelty or injustice toward God’s faithful ones will be punished as though done to Christ Himself.” –The Great Controversy, p. 48.
Worse persecution and no support from his brethren
- When one comes to the point of thinking that gross evil cannot possibly get worse, what do the words of Jeremiah and the apostle Paul show him? What will those who are righteous experience in the end?
Jeremiah 12:5 If thou hast run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses? and if in the land of peace, wherein thou trustedst, they wearied thee, then how wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?
Hebrews 12:3, 4 For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. 4Ye have not yet resist- ed unto blood, striving against sin.
“The Lord disciplines His workers, that they may be prepared to fill the places appointed them. He desires to fit them to do more acceptable service. There are those who wish to be a ruling power, and who need the sanctification of submission. God brings about a change in their lives. Perhaps He places before them duties that they would not choose. If they are willing to be guided by Him, He will give them grace and strength to perform these duties in a spirit of submission and helpfulness. Thus they are being qualified to fill places where their disciplined abilities will make them of great service.
“Some God trains by bringing to them disappointment and apparent failure…. Often men pray and weep because of the perplexities and obstacles that confront them. But if they will hold the beginning of their confidence steadfast unto the end, God will make their way clear. Success will come as they struggle against apparently insurmountable difficulties and with success will come the greatest joy.” –Gospel Workers, p. 269.
- How severe was the persecution against the prophet? Who made the same bitter experience at the hands of His family members and country- men? What does everyone have to learn?
Jeremiah 12:6 For even thy brethren, and the house of thy father, even they have dealt treacherously with thee; yea, they have called a multitude after thee: believe them not, though they speak fair words unto thee.
Luke 4:24 And he said, Verily, I say unto you, No prophet is accepted in his own country.
Mark 6:4 But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.
John 7:4, 5 For there is no man that doeth any thing in secret, and he himself seeketh to be known openly. 5If thou do these things, show thyself to the world. For neither did his brethren believe in him.
“Even the common people, who were astonished at His miracles and charmed with His words of wisdom, pointed sneeringly at His origin. His own neighbors in His native town refused to accept Him as the Messiah, and refused to hear Him as a prophet of God. His own brothers did not believe in His being the Son of God. They became impatient that His life was without display and worldly honor. Even His own chosen disciples, notwithstanding their great respect for Him, their faith in His divinity, and [their belief] that He was the long-expected Messiah, reproved Him because He did not fulfill their expectations, and establish a temporal king- dom and exalt them to positions of honor.” –Manuscript Releases, vol. 8, p. 242.
For additional study
“Some can reach the highest standard of spirituality only through a change in the regular order of things. When in His providence God sees that changes are es- sential for the success of the character-building, He disturbs the smooth current of the life. He sees that a worker needs to be more closely associated with Him; and to bring this about, He separates him from friends and acquaintances.” –Gospel Workers, pp. 269, 270.
“As Joseph was sold to the heathen by his own brothers, so Christ was sold to His bitterest enemies by one of His disciples. Joseph was falsely accused and thrust into prison because of his virtue: so Christ was despised and rejected because His righteous, self-denying life was a rebuke to sin; and though guilty of no wrong, He was condemned upon the testimony of false witnesses. And Joseph’s patience and meekness under injustice and oppression, his ready forgiveness and noble benevolence toward his unnatural brothers, represent the Saviour’s uncomplaining endurance of the malice and abuse of wicked men, and His forgiveness, not only of His murderers, but of all who have come to Him confessing their sins and seeking a pardon.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 239.