Then the priests and the prophets said to the officials and all the people, “This man should be sentenced to death because he has prophesied against this city. You have heard it with your own ears!” Then Jeremiah said to all the officials and all the people: “The LORD sent me to prophesy against this house and this city all the things you have heard. Now reform your ways and your actions and obey the LORD your God. Then the LORD will relent and not bring the disaster he has pronounced against you. As for me, I am in your hands; do with me whatever you think is good and right. Be assured, however, that if you put me to death, you will bring the guilt of innocent blood on yourselves and on this city and on those who live in it, for in truth the LORD has sent me to you to speak all these words in your hearing.”
Do not Shoot the Messenger
In William Shakespeare’s tragedy “Antony and Cleopatra,” a messenger brings unwelcome news to the queen of Egypt: her beloved Antony had married Octavia. Beside herself with rage, Cleopatra lashes out at the hapless message-bearer, threatening to scalp and blind him. He wards off her blows crying out, “Gracious madam, I that do bring the news made not the match.” He reminds Cleopatra that he was not responsible for Antony and Octavia’s union; he’s only there to tell her about it. Today he might have used the common phrase: Don’t shoot the messenger!
A number of the Old Testament prophets were persecuted and mistreated simply because their audience didn’t want to hear what they had to say. But their message was not their own–it came from God himself. No one likes to hear that they are in the wrong, much less that they are going to suffer punishment as a result of their indiscretion. And so we are tempted to get angry with the pastor or fellow Christian who points out our sin and calls us to repentance. We act as if somehow our guilt only appears when it is spoken aloud, as if we had not brought the shame down upon our own heads through our sinful behavior.
The messenger that God sends to point out your sin has another follow-up message to share with you too: God sent his Son to take your sin and its punishment upon himself. Your guilt has been placed on the cross of Jesus who has atoned for it with his own lifeblood. God’s messengers point out the disease of sin so that they can also proclaim its cure: faith in Jesus Christ our Savior. If you reject the first half of the message, you discard the second as well. So listen carefully to all rebukes from God’s messengers, repent of all wrongs you’ve committed, and rejoice in the forgiveness which is yours in Jesus.
Lord God, let me never close my ears to those who bring your word to me. Amen.