Prophets - Powerful Voices - the Dysfunctional Cycle in Which Bad Leadership Arises

III. Prophetic Statements – Lesson Four

A.1. It happened that as Jeremiah finished speaking everything that God had commanded him to speak to all the people, the priests and the prophets and all the people seized him, saying, “You shall die! Why have you prophesied in the name of God, saying, “This Temple will be like Shiloh, and this city will be destroyed…” Jeremiah 26:8-9 

The prophet had spoken in the Temple courtyard, as God commanded, that both the Temple and the city would be destroyed if the people did not mend their ways. Why did the prophets and the priests threaten Jeremiah’s death?


2. “It happened when Jeremiah finished speaking all the words of Hashem, their God, to all the people…Azariah…said to Jeremiah, “You speak falsehood! Hashem, our God, did not send you to say, ‘Do not go to Egypt to sojourn there.’ Rather Baruch…is inciting you against us, in order to deliver us into the hands of the Chaldeans, to kill us, and to exile us to Babylonia.” Jeremiah 43:1-3

The people asked Jeremiah whether God wanted them to go to Egypt to flee the Babylonians. He told them God wanted them to stay in Israel. As loyal as he had been to the people, they didn’t want to hear that, so they accused him of lying (actually rather being bribed or incited to take the position he did).  What’s going on here? Does it sound familiar?


3.“They say, ‘Come and let us devise plans against Jeremiah;…come, let us assault him verbally, and let us not hear his many words.” Jeremiah 18:18

Why are the people so bothered with Jeremiah that they want to still his words? How is this characteristic of a deeply troubled and wrongful society? Do we see signs of such behavior in our society or others we can recall in history?      


4. “Woe is me, Mother, that you gave birth to a man of strife and a man of controversy for all the land; I did not lend money nor did anyone lend to me, yet everyone curses me.” Jeremiah 15:10

A true prophet who severely critiques society often says, “everyone curses me.” Is this symptomatic of a troubled society? How/why?


5.“Cursed be the day on which I was born…” Jeremiah 20:14

Jeremiah never gives in to this despair, but his frustration is so deep and palpable he spoke these and other words of profound despair. What is it in a corrupt society that brings true prophets to making such plaints out of frustration and disappointment? Can you cite examples?


6.“Because of the false prophets My heart is broken within me, all my bones tremble; I am like a man overcome by wine – because of God and because of His holy words”. Jeremiah 23:9

The true prophet is heartbroken at this. How, and to what effect?


B. One consequence will be that “the wisdom of its wise men will be lost and the understanding of its sages will become concealed.” Isaiah 29:14 

When we lose a true commitment to God and God’s way (or even those ethics that were dear and fundamental to our society), isn’t a lost touch with the wise of such traditions inevitable? Do you see any likeness to decline in other institutions?


C. 1. Yet, the people continue to bring their sacrifices, but to “Bethel and rebel; in Gilgal rebel greatly,” bringing every morning tithes for “three days,” “burn thanksgiving offerings...” and “announce and publicize voluntary offerings.”  “For this is what you have loved to do. Amos 4:4-5

What is the problem here?


2. “I hate and loathe your festive offerings, and I will not be appeased by your assemblies…Remove from Me the multitude of your songs, and the music of your lutes I will not hear. Amos 5:21-23 

What’s the problem here? What does God detest? What might people in our culture do that causes similar concern?


3. Look at these practices of abuse that those who “trample on the poor,” and then let’s discuss what they mean. They say: When will the month pass, so that we can sell grain; the sabbatical Year, so we can open the stores of grain; reduce the ephor and increase the shekel, and distort scales of deceit, to purchase the poor with silver and the destitute for shoes; and the refuse of grain we will sell? Amos 8:4-6 

What abusive behavior through bad faith dealing and other inequitable practice can you distill from this “list?”


4. And yet the people say, “I have not sinned.” Jeremiah 2:35

How can they say that? Do people say that? Why and when?


5.We hope for peace, but there is no goodness...” Jeremiah 8:15

How can this be so in such a society?


D. 1. “Woe to those who pull iniquity on themselves with cords of falsehood, and sin like the ropes of a wagon.” Isaiah 5:18

2. Woe to those who say that evil is good and good is evil; who make darkness into light and light into darkness; they make bitter into sweet, and sweet into bitter!” 20

3. “Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and view themselves as understanding.” 21. This is meant to relate to those who, out of arrogance and conceit, get it wrong and hurt others, without having proper and right understanding and wisdom.

4. “Woe to those who try to hide in depths to conceal from God, and their deeds are done in darkness.” Isaiah 29:15

There is a common idea in these verses. People are fooling themselves, others, and God. This often happens in Prophets when there is waywardness that occurs in the midst of defying true prophets.

Discuss what the verses are discussing. How might this play out in our own society? And what harm does it bring?


E.1. We get a sense of a troubled society when we learn about improvements Hezekiah put in place during his reign to effect change: Isaiah 32:3-4

 a) “the eyes of seeing people will no longer be closed;” b) “the ears of hearing people will pay heed;” c) “the heart of the impetuous will understand knowledge,” and d) “the tongue of the stammerers will speak fluently.” Isaiah 32:3-4

2. Also, “a vile person will no longer be called generous.” “It will not be said that a miser is magnanimous.” A real vile person “speaks villainy and his heart plans iniquity, to act with hypocrisy…to empty the soul of the hungry and to diminish the drink of the thirsty.” 5-6

“As for the miser, his vessels are evil; he plans schemes to destroy the poor with words of falsehood and when the destitute speaks justly.” 7.

What interests me most about these verses is to ponder the practices in the corrupt society Hezekiah reformed, in which people were dishonestly praiseworthy of the vile person and the miser. What’s going on with that?



Prophets - Powerful Voices -  Lesson 4

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