HOW COULD GOD FORBID JEREMIAH TO PRAY FOR HIS PEOPLE?
by Shawn Brasseaux
Read these three surprising verses:
- “Therefore pray not thou for this people, neither lift up cry nor prayer for them, neither make intercession to me: for I will not hear thee” (Jeremiah 7:16).
- “Therefore pray not thou for this people, neither lift up a cry or prayer for them: for I will not hear them in the time that they cry unto me for their trouble” (Jeremiah 11:14).
- “Then said the LORD unto me, Pray not for this people for their good” (Jeremiah 14:11).
Friend, is it not inconceivable that JEHOVAH God would actually order the Prophet Jeremiah not to pray for His people the Jews? Nevertheless, we cannot alter God’s Word. There is no mistake; Scripture says what it means and means what it says. Even worse, it says it not once but thrice!
As we read through the Book of Jeremiah, more difficulty arises. Chapter 15, verse 1: “Then said the LORD unto me, Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my mind could not be toward this people: cast them out of my sight, and let them go forth.” Why would even Moses and Samuel be unable to intercede on Israel’s behalf here? In times of great sin, Moses successfully pled for God’s mercy so Israel would not be consumed (see Exodus 32:7-14,30-35; Exodus 33:12-23; Exodus 34:4-10; Numbers 11:1-23; et cetera). Samuel also intervened with God centuries later (1 Samuel 7:1-17; 1 Samuel 12:1-25). When we come to Jeremiah’s ministry, however, that option is not available. Why?
After picking out key verses in the context of Jeremiah’s ministry, we can note several ruinous events. Wicked King Manasseh reigned over Jerusalem and Judah for 55 years. His flagrant, extensive pagan practices greatly kindled God’s wrath against the Southern Kingdom of Judah. One of his most atrocious sins was the shedding of innocent blood—especially offering his son as a burnt sacrifice to heathen idols! God singled out this single behavior as quite horrific. Jeremiah’s ministry began after Manasseh’s reign (see Jeremiah 1:1).
“Notwithstanding the LORD turned not from the fierceness of his great wrath, wherewith his anger was kindled against Judah, because of all the provocations that Manasseh had provoked him withal. And the LORD said, I will remove Judah [Southern Kingdom] also out of my sight, as I have removed Israel [Northern Kingdom], and will cast off this city Jerusalem which I have chosen, and the house of which I said, My name shall be there” (2 Kings 23:26-27).
“Surely at the commandment of the LORD came this upon Judah, to remove them out of his sight, for the sins of Manasseh, according to all that he did; And also for the innocent blood that he shed: for he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood; which the LORD would not pardon” (2 Kings 24:3-4).
As we turn back to chapter 21, our comments will be quite limited. Let us just read the verses, for they will speak for themselves: “ Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and reigned fifty and five years in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Hephzibah.  And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, after the abominations of the heathen, whom the LORD cast out before the children of Israel.  For he built up again the high places which Hezekiah his father had destroyed; and he reared up altars for Baal, and made a grove, as did Ahab king of Israel; and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served them.  And he built altars in the house of the LORD, of which the LORD said, In Jerusalem will I put my name.
“ And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the LORD.  And he made his son pass through the fire, and observed times, and used enchantments, and dealt with familiar spirits and wizards: he wrought much wickedness in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger.  And he set a graven image of the grove that he had made in the house, of which the LORD said to David, and to Solomon his son, In this house, and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all tribes of Israel, will I put my name for ever:  Neither will I make the feet of Israel move any more out of the land which I gave their fathers; only if they will observe to do according to all that I have commanded them, and according to all the law that my servant Moses commanded them.  But they hearkened not: and Manasseh seduced them to do more evil than did the nations whom the LORD destroyed before the children of Israel.
“ And the LORD spake by his servants the prophets, saying,  Because Manasseh king of Judah hath done these abominations, and hath done wickedly above all that the Amorites did, which were before him, and hath made Judah also to sin with his idols:  Therefore thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Behold, I am bringing such evil upon Jerusalem and Judah, that whosoever heareth of it, both his ears shall tingle.  And I will stretch over Jerusalem the line of Samaria, and the plummet of the house of Ahab: and I will wipe Jerusalem as a man wipeth a dish, wiping it, and turning it upside down.
“ And I will forsake the remnant of mine inheritance, and deliver them into the hand of their enemies; and they shall become a prey and a spoil to all their enemies;  Because they have done that which was evil in my sight, and have provoked me to anger, since the day their fathers came forth out of Egypt, even unto this day.  Moreover Manasseh shed innocent blood very much, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another; beside his sin wherewith he made Judah to sin, in doing that which was evil in the sight of the LORD.”
Jeremiah chapter 15: “ Then said the LORD unto me, Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my mind could not be toward this people: cast them out of my sight, and let them go forth….  And I will cause them to be removed into all kingdoms of the earth, because of Manasseh the son of Hezekiah king of Judah, for that which he did in Jerusalem.  And I will fan them with a fan in the gates of the land; I will bereave them of children, I will destroy my people since they return not from their ways.”
Jeremiah chapter 16: “ And it shall come to pass, when thou shalt shew this people all these words, and they shall say unto thee, Wherefore hath the LORD pronounced all this great evil against us? or what is our iniquity? or what is our sin that we have committed against the LORD our God?  Then shalt thou say unto them, Because your fathers have forsaken me, saith the LORD, and have walked after other gods, and have served them, and have worshipped them, and have forsaken me, and have not kept my law;  And ye have done worse than your fathers; for, behold, ye walk every one after the imagination of his evil heart, that they may not hearken unto me:  Therefore will I cast you out of this land into a land that ye know not, neither ye nor your fathers; and there shall ye serve other gods day and night; where I will not shew you favour….  For mine eyes are upon all their ways: they are not hid from my face, neither is their iniquity hid from mine eyes.  And first I will recompense their iniquity and their sin double; because they have defiled my land, they have filled mine inheritance with the carcases of their detestable and abominable things.”
Jeremiah chapter 17: “ The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron, and with the point of a diamond: it is graven upon the table of their heart, and upon the horns of your altars;  Whilst their children remember their altars and their groves by the green trees upon the high hills….  As for me, I have not hastened from being a pastor to follow thee: neither have I desired the woeful day; thou knowest: that which came out of my lips was right before thee.  Be not a terror unto me: thou art my hope in the day of evil.  Let them be confounded that persecute me, but let not me be confounded: let them be dismayed, but let not me be dismayed: bring upon them the day of evil, and destroy them with double destruction.
“ Thus said the LORD unto me; Go and stand in the gate of the children of the people, whereby the kings of Judah come in, and by the which they go out, and in all the gates of Jerusalem;  And say unto them, Hear ye the word of the LORD, ye kings of Judah, and all Judah, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, that enter in by these gates:  Thus saith the LORD; Take heed to yourselves, and bear no burden on the sabbath day, nor bring it in by the gates of Jerusalem;  Neither carry forth a burden out of your houses on the sabbath day, neither do ye any work, but hallow ye the sabbath day, as I commanded your fathers.  But they obeyed not, neither inclined their ear, but made their neck stiff, that they might not hear, nor receive instruction.
“ And it shall come to pass, if ye diligently hearken unto me, saith the LORD, to bring in no burden through the gates of this city on the sabbath day, but hallow the sabbath day, to do no work therein;  Then shall there enter into the gates of this city kings and princes sitting upon the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, they, and their princes, the men of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: and this city shall remain for ever.  And they shall come from the cities of Judah, and from the places about Jerusalem, and from the land of Benjamin, and from the plain, and from the mountains, and from the south, bringing burnt offerings, and sacrifices, and meat offerings, and incense, and bringing sacrifices of praise, unto the house of the LORD.  But if ye will not hearken unto me to hallow the sabbath day, and not to bear a burden, even entering in at the gates of Jerusalem on the sabbath day; then will I kindle a fire in the gates thereof, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched.”
Jeremiah 18:15: “Because my people hath forgotten me, they have burned incense to vanity, and they have caused them to stumble in their ways from the ancient paths, to walk in paths, in a way not cast up;….”
Jeremiah chapter 2: “ For of old time I have broken thy yoke, and burst thy bands; and thou saidst, I will not transgress; when upon every high hill and under every green tree thou wanderest, playing the harlot….  As the thief is ashamed when he is found, so is the house of Israel ashamed; they, their kings, their princes, and their priests, and their prophets.  Saying to a stock, Thou art my father; and to a stone, Thou hast brought me forth: for they have turned their back unto me, and not their face: but in the time of their trouble they will say, Arise, and save us.  But where are thy gods that thou hast made thee? let them arise, if they can save thee in the time of thy trouble: for according to the number of thy cities are thy gods, O Judah.  Wherefore will ye plead with me? ye all have transgressed against me, saith the LORD.
“ In vain have I smitten your children; they received no correction: your own sword hath devoured your prophets, like a destroying lion.  O generation, see ye the word of the LORD. Have I been a wilderness unto Israel? a land of darkness? wherefore say my people, We are LORDs; we will come no more unto thee?  Can a maid forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire? yet my people have forgotten me days without number.”
Need we read any more verses, friend? The Jews in Jeremiah’s day have now grown far worse than their fathers during the days of Moses and Samuel. Here is the track record of the Jews up to and during Jeremiah’s ministry. They have been engaging in idol worship for nine centuries (since Moses’ time). It is more than double the time they had been idolatrous up to Samuel’s ministry. They have habitually defiled God’s city Jerusalem (which was not established as Israel’s capital city until David). Jehovah’s Jerusalem Temple—built by King Solomon—has been defiled with false religion for 300 years. Idols are numerous throughout Judah and Jerusalem. King Manasseh, for over a half-century (!), has led Judah further and further from the God of Abraham.
While the God of the Bible is gracious and longsuffering, He is still bound to keep His promise of chastisement. Judgment must fall at some point because the Law Covenant has been habitually broken (Leviticus chapter 26; Deuteronomy chapter 28). His prophets have been ignored, mocked, and abused. His words have been scorned and trampled under foot. The first, second, third, and fourth courses of chastisements have already come to pass. Yet, the Jews have not reformed. The fifth and final phase must be brought about at some point; otherwise, the contract made at Sinai is meaningless. Consequently, in Jeremiah’s time, judgment cannot be averted.
The entirety of the punishment/curse associated with the Old Covenant must be brought to pass. If Israel failed, she was in due time to receive all five phases. The last course must come about now. Jeremiah’s people have finally reached “the point of no return.” They will now be scattered throughout the world, Gentiles entering the Promised Land and taking them politically and physically captive. Although individuals within the nation can be converted, the nation overall is doomed. The covenant was made with the whole nation. Despite the remnant of believers in the nation, unbelief and idolatry have ensnared the vast majority. JEHOVAH God is not in the hearts and minds of all Jews, so chastisement will follow.
Second Chronicles chapter 36: “ And the LORD God of their fathers sent to them by his messengers, rising up betimes, and sending; because he had compassion on his people, and on his dwelling place:  But they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against his people, till there was no remedy.” (Read the rest of 2 Chronicles, where the Babylonians entered and destroyed Jerusalem and its Temple, and took Judah captive to Babylon.) As with all the Prophets, the Jews refused to hear Jeremiah, they mocked him, wrongly criticized him, imprisoned him, and so on. Indeed, they were ripe for judgment. Jerusalem had to fall! “There was no remedy!”