Wisconsin Lutheran Chapel logo

God’s Word for You

Jeremiah 26:17-19

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, March 31, 2015

17 Then some of the elders of the land rose up and spoke to the all of the assembled people, saying, 18 “Micah of Moresheth prophesied in the days of Hezekiah king of Judah. He said to all the people of Judah:

“This is what the LORD of Armies says:
   Zion will be plowed like a field,
      Jerusalem will become a ruin,
      and the temple mount will be a high place overgrown with trees.”

Hezekiah ruled with his father Ahaz for several years before he became sole ruler of Judah in 715 B.C. His reforms were some of the most effective in the history of the Southern Kingdom. “There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before or after him… and the Lord was with him” (2 Kings 18:5,7). The preaching of three great prophets occurred during his reign: Hosea, Isaiah and Micah. This quotation of Micah 3:12 shows that their books were highly regarded and preserved just as we have them today. This quotation also shows that the people understood that the preaching of these prophets was instrumental in turning the people of Judah away from their sins in repentance. God blessed them even during the dangerous days of the Assyrian crisis because they trusted in him even while the Northern tribes were carried away into their permanent Assyrian exile (2 Kings 17:21-23).

Micah’s word for “high place” repeated here by Jeremiah is bamoth (בָּמוֹת), the word for the “high places” of pagan worship condemned by Moses (Leviticus 26:30; Numbers 33:52; Deuteronomy 33:29) and throughout the prophets (Isaiah 15:2; Ezekiel 6:3; Hosea 10:8; Amos 7:9; Micah 1:5). These places were hilltops set up with shrines and altars to pagan gods, false temples which “had caused Israel to sin” (2 Kings 23:15). Micah threatened that even the temple mount in Jerusalem would become nothing more than one such place if God’s people continued to sin. By adding the words, “overgrown with trees” (or “thickets,” NIV), he means one of two things. Either this “high place” would also become like a grove of Asherah trees—another sign of pagan idolatry—or else it would be a useless overgrown tangle, unsuitable for people to live or to sacrifice. Either way, it would no longer be a place of worship.

19 “Did Hezekiah king of Judah or anyone at all in Judah put him to death? Did he not fear the LORD and seek his favor?  And did not the LORD relent from the disaster he had pronounced against them? We would commit a great evil against our own souls that way!”

Hezekiah was the great-grandfather of Josiah, the present king’s father. The appeal to Hezekiah’s wisdom—wisdom that helped avert the imminent destruction of Jerusalem at the hand of the Assyrians—was an ideal example from Judah’s history.

The people were remembering their past, even if the priests and false prophets did not. The current Babylonian crisis was a lot like the earlier Assyrian crisis. Perhaps, if the whole nation were to repent, the coming destruction might still be avoided: “Did not the LORD relent from the disaster he had pronounced against them?” These are words of caution and hope in the face of sword, famine and plague. The prophet Micah also said: “What does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (often called “Micah’s Mandate,” Micah 6:8). This is a life that shows its repentance and faith in what it does, day after day.

“Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.” (Romans 5:1,2)

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.