There are some Christians who don’t read a lot from the Old Testament. I can understand some of their reasons. For one thing, there is some pretty dry and depressing material in the Old Testaments: lists of medical practices and genealogies give way to records of the Israelites continuing to turn away from God, even after glimpses of hope when they remember whose people they are. Conversely, in the New Testament, we learn about Jesus and His message of love and hope, and even most of the letters are relatively short and to the point. Revelation might be confusing, but there’s literally a book in the Old Testament called “Lamentations”!
However, for those who have taken the time to read and study all of the Bible for a while, the value of God’s Word recorded during both “B.C.” and “A.D.” become apparent. Both covenants were made between God and people, and history shows us the big picture that explains why Jesus had to come and die for our sins.
Having said that, some passages from the Old Testament are still so current that they look like something from our news feeds today. The passage below could reflect the sentiment in any one of hundreds of chat rooms and corner office conversations around the world:
Then the people said, “Come on, let’s plot a way to stop Jeremiah. We have plenty of priests and wise men and prophets. We don’t need him to teach the word and give us advice and prophecies. Let’s spread rumors about him and ignore what he says.”
Jeremiah 18:18 NLT
Admittedly, Jeremiah didn’t necessarily deliver the cheeriest of news to the people around him. (He may have written out the book of Lamentations, after all.) While Samuel could go and tell certain people that they were going to be king, for instance, but Jeremiah didn’t have that kind of sunny news to share (especially in Jeremiah 18:1-17).
Still, the nature of Jeremiah’s message didn’t change the truth of it. As a result, I see the verse above as telling us more about the people’s reaction to the message, rather than its content.
Strategies for suppressing an unpopular message don’t seem to have changed much since Jeremiah’s time. Let’s take a look:
The people decided that they wanted to keep Jeremiah from spreading his prophecy (which was actually God’s message). The world sometimes makes the same choice today, deciding that they want to suppress the words of those who spread the good news about Jesus Christ.
The people fell back to other messengers who would tell them what they wanted to hear. Evil forces (within and without) don’t only suppress the truth. Instead, it is customary to accumulate an array of false teachings, lining up speakers and writers who will lie or otherwise compromise the truth. See 2 Timothy 4:3-4 for a reiteration of this fact.
The people sought to attack Jeremiah’s character. Marginalization and personal attacks are common today, not unlike physical attacks and executions under despotic tyrants in oppressive empires of the past (and, unfortunately, sometimes the present). When someone makes a clear statement of truth, and the facts support it, a rapid descent into ad hominem attacks is often the normal recourse.1
The people chose to just not listen. When we run out of other options to suppress an uncomfortable message, we can simply choose not to listen. Or, we can hear the words and not take any logical actions from them, stubbornly defying the facts.
I sincerely hope that you are one of the faithful people who strive to learn the truth, and have the boldness to share it with others. In many environments, to do the right thing by speaking truth is unpopular, and may cause those around you to plot their opposition, just like in Jeremiah’s time. The truth is still the truth, though (see John 14:6), and sin-sick souls desperately need the salvation that Jesus offers them. While Jesus brought life and hope, He didn’t compromise the truth about sin. He brought the cure for sin’s consequences, but that solution wasn’t to ignore that it existed.
If you have been guilty of suppressing the truth (whether or not you follow Jesus), I’m not out to heap judgment upon you. Instead, I would like to invite you to honestly evaluate the message of Jesus. Don’t pre-suppose that you know what He taught and who He was, just because of stories or rumors that you have heard. Some of these messages are from people who seek to suppress Jesus’ words, just like those around Jeremiah. Similarly, Jesus’ imperfect followers can skew your perception of Jesus, where they are not obeying or communicating His teachings accurately.
In either case, the most accurate message that you can hear is contained in the words of Jesus, Himself. If you aren’t familiar with the Bible, a great place to start would be a chapter like Matthew 3. If you start there, and keep reading, you’ll find a lot of Jesus’ teachings and actions over the following chapters. It’s OK to have not known about Him in the past, whether this was because others suppressed the truth about Him or because you chose to not learn it (or, maybe you didn’t have access to it). However, you can start studying more about Him today.
Don’t just stop the news of Jesus because suppressing the truth about Him is popular, or because it makes you uncomfortable. Find the truth for yourself, and then boldly overcome obstacles to help other people learn it as well.
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
- Of course, unless your claim relates to your own person and character, the logical observer can see that critics who fall back to personal attacks have probably already failed. If they cannot refute the truth of your message, and their only option is to try to tear you down, their arsenal of objections has grown thin, indeed. Having said that, Jesus Christ did make statements about Himself, and therefore attacks on His message and His nature are one and the same. ↩