No Tabernacles for the Prophets

Matthew 17:4-8 shakes up the world of the prophets and the disciples. In this version of the story the two prophets do not get a briefing about Christ’s atoning sacrifice and I am loathe to try and harmonize the evangelists’ intentions. Luke alone (9:31) seems to have inquired about the conversation between the three and learned that the two prophets had been talking about (most certainly the meaning of) Christ’s death.

Who appeared in glory, and spoke of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem.

The narrative freezes any attempt to honour the prophets, even these two towering figures. It also denies the equality of Christ and the prophets.

Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if you will, let us make here three tabernacles; one for you, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah. While he yet spoke, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear all of you him.

Hear and Fear

Two things bring on the reverence due. The disciples are wrong about the prophets and wrong about Christ. They go from being excited about the prophets’ association with the Rabbi to sheer terror and to the stark reality that Yeshua is all there is.

And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid. And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid. And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only.

As the Tide Turns

RELEASED FROM PRISON TO BE HARASSED FOR SAYING “STAY IN THE CITY AND DIE”. Jeremiah 38:2

Thus says the Lord: He who stays in this city shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence, but he who goes out to the Chaldeans shall live. He shall have his life as a prize of war, and live. 

DEATH TO JEREMIAH FOR SAYING SO.
Jeremiah 38:4-5

Then the officials said to the king, Let this man be put to death, for he is weakening the hands of the soldiers who are left in this city, and the hands of all the people, by speaking such words to them. For this man is not seeking the welfare of this people, but their harm.  King Zedekiah said, Behold, he is in your hands, for the king can do nothing against you. 

THE DUNGEON FOR JEREMIAH FOR SAYING SO.  Jeremiah 38:6

So they took Jeremiah and cast him into the cistern of Malchiah, the king’s son, which was in the court of the guard, letting Jeremiah down by ropes. And there was no water in the cistern, but only mud, and Jeremiah sank in the mud.  

RESCUED BY AN ETHIOPIAN. Jeremiah 38:7-13 [his name means king’s (melek) servant (servant) and eunuch indicates a job title]

When Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, a eunuch who was in the king’s house, heard that they had put Jeremiah into the cistern—the king was sitting in the Benjamin Gate— Ebed-melech went from the king’s house and said to the king, My lord the king, these men have done evil in all that they did to Jeremiah the prophet by casting him into the cistern, and he will die there of hunger, for there is no bread left in the city. 

Thirty Men to Lift Jeremiah from the Dungeon

Then the king commanded Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, Take thirty men with you from here, and lift Jeremiah the prophet out of the cistern before he dies. 

So Ebed-melech took the men with him and went to the house of the king, to a wardrobe in the storehouse, and took from there old rags and worn-out clothes, which he let down to Jeremiah in the cistern by ropes. Then Ebed-melech the Ethiopian said to Jeremiah, Put the rags and clothes between your armpits and the ropes. Jeremiah did so. Then they drew Jeremiah up with ropes and lifted him out of the cistern. And Jeremiah remained in the court of the guard.  

ONE-ON-ONE WITH THE KING.  Jeremiah 38:14-23.  THIS WAS A YOU-CAN’T-BE-SERIOUS-INTERVIEW

King Zedekiah sent for Jeremiah the prophet and received him at the third entrance of the temple of the Lord. The king said to Jeremiah, I will ask you a question; hide nothing from me. Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, If I tell you, will you not surely put me to death? And if I give you counsel, you will not listen to me. 

KING’S OATH.  As the Lord lives
Then King Zedekiah swore secretly to Jeremiah, As the Lord lives, who made our souls, I will not put you to death or deliver you into the hand of these men who seek your life. 

THE HARD FACTS

Then Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, Thus says the Lord, the God of hosts, the God of Israel: 

  • If you will surrender to the officials of the king of Babylon, then your life shall be spared, and this city shall not be burned with fire, and you and your house shall live. 
  • But if you do not surrender to the officials of the king of Babylon, then this city shall be given into the hand of the Chaldeans, and they shall burn it with fire, and you shall not escape from their hand.


ROYAL TREPIDATION and CLEAR OPTIONS

King Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, I am afraid of the Judeans who have deserted to the Chaldeans, lest I be handed over to them and they deal cruelly with me. 

Jeremiah said,

You shall not be given to them. Obey now the voice of the Lord in what I say to you, and it shall be well with you, and your life shall be spared. 

People saw Jeremiah as a prophet of doom even though he wept bitterly over the nation’s harlotry and the oncoming judgment.  He was not like Jonah, wanting to see destruction and despising mercy.  The choices are clear.

But if you refuse to surrender, this is the vision which the Lord has shown to me: Behold, all the women left in the house of the king of Judah were being led out to the officials of the king of Babylon and were saying, 

Mocking Jeremiah’s plight

 Your trusted friends have deceived you and prevailed against you; now that your feet are sunk in the mud, they turn away from you.  

Devastating and Certain Consequences

 All your wives and your sons shall be led out to the Chaldeans, and you yourself shall not escape from their hand, but shall be seized by the king of Babylon, and this city shall be burned with fire.

SURRENDER TO BABYLON OR DIE.  [what a thing to say!]

Then Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, Thus says the Lord, the God of hosts, the God of Israel: If you will surrender to the officials of the king of Babylon, then your life shall be spared, and this city shall not be burned with fire, and you and your house shall live. But if you do not surrender to the officials of the king of Babylon, then this city shall be given into the hand of the Chaldeans, and they shall burn it with fire, and you shall not escape from their hand. 

KING’S SECRET.  Jeremiah 38:24-28

Then Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, Let no one know of these words, and you shall not die. If the officials hear that I have spoken with you and come to you and say to you, Tell us what you said to the king and what the king said to you; hide nothing from us and we will not put you to death, then you shall say to them, I made a humble plea to the king that he would not send me back to the house of Jonathan to die there. 

Then all the officials came to Jeremiah and asked him, and he answered them as the king had instructed him. So they stopped speaking with him, for the conversation had not been overheard. And Jeremiah remained in the court of the guard until the day that Jerusalem was taken.  

The familiar narratives about the security of holy city, and victory over all enemies, and the endurance of the temple are about to undergo a radical twist.  Fire will consume both the city and the temple.  How can the 21st century believer survive if the one voice of reliability – Yeshua, Saviour of the world – is practically silenced and his name is a curse-word?  Hardly.