Jeremiah 11:15-19 Lamb to Slaughter
Jeremiah 11:15-19 NLTse (15) “What right do my beloved people have to come to my Temple, when they have done so many immoral things? Can their vows and sacrifices prevent their destruction? They actually rejoice in doing evil! (16) I, the LORD, once called them a thriving olive tree, beautiful to see and full of good fruit. But now I have sent the fury of their enemies to burn them with fire, leaving them charred and broken. (17) “I, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, who planted this olive tree, have ordered it destroyed. For the people of Israel and Judah have done evil, arousing my anger by burning incense to Baal.” (18) Then the LORD told me about the plots my enemies were making against me. (19) I was like a lamb being led to the slaughter. I had no idea that they were planning to kill me! “Let’s destroy this man and all his words,” they said. “Let’s cut him down, so his name will be forgotten forever.”
Jeremiah began this series of prophecies much like our last study by asking how and why the Jews relied on the stone temple to save them. Once again this makes me think about what I’ve missed in the last study. But this time my attention is focused on a new trend God’s Spirit introduced. The first prophecy used the symbol of an olive tree. The second prophecy used the symbol of lamb being led to slaughter. You would think those two prophecies would make it easier to locate the New Testament parallel texts for this prophecy, but I have to admit, it wasn’t easy for me. I looked at those key words and searched using words like destruction, broken, and destroyed. Because the prophecy tells us the lamb is led to slaughter to destroy that man and all his words, I of course focused on Jesus’ trial where He remained silent. But none of them seemed to cover the olive tree. It took me two days of praying and searching before I received the familiar knock on the head and heard the voice asking me, “are you listening?” I saw the first hints, and then it hit me like a ton of bricks. The key is the olive tree. I was trying to associate the olive tree with the fig tree Jesus withered. That turned out to be a bad idea but a valuable lesson to discuss.
Remember how God showed Jeremiah a symbol than asked him what it meant? Jeremiah’s answer was always, “I don’t know, you tell me.” And God explained it. The olive and fig tree are related but on different levels. This shows how God is in control of those symbols He used, and the ONLY way we can understand their proper meaning is to listen to HIM and keep all His symbols within the context of His Word.
John 18:1-9 NLTse After saying these things, Jesus crossed the Kidron Valley with his disciples and entered a grove of olive trees. (2) Judas, the betrayer, knew this place, because Jesus had often gone there with his disciples. (3) The leading priests and Pharisees had given Judas a contingent of Roman soldiers and Temple guards to accompany him. Now with blazing torches, lanterns, and weapons, they arrived at the olive grove. (4) Jesus fully realized all that was going to happen to him, so he stepped forward to meet them. “Who are you looking for?” he asked. (5) “Jesus the Nazarene,” they replied. “I AM he,” Jesus said. (Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them.) (6) As Jesus said “I AM he,” they all drew back and fell to the ground! (7) Once more he asked them, “Who are you looking for?” And again they replied, “Jesus the Nazarene.” (8) “I told you that I AM he,” Jesus said. “And since I am the one you want, let these others go.” (9) He did this to fulfill his own statement: “I did not lose a single one of those you have given me.”
In the prophecy, Jeremiah told us; “I, the LORD, once called them a thriving olive tree, beautiful to see and full of good fruit. But now I have sent the fury of their enemies to burn them with fire, leaving them charred and broken. “I, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, who planted this olive tree, have ordered it destroyed. In simple terms, that olive tree will be destroyed. In contrast look how that symbols appeared in John’s Gospel. After saying these things, Jesus crossed the Kidron Valley with his disciples and entered a grove of olive trees. Standing alone this text does not appear to have much levity on Jeremiah. We clearly see the relationship and message when we compare other gospels. Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.” (Matthew 26:36 NLTse). Jesus prayed in that olive groove just before Judas betrayed Him and He was arrested by a group made up of Roman and temple guards. Once we examine the details we begin to see how far the Jews slipped away from God. In Jeremiah’s time his warning went out to the Jews. In Jesus’ time those Jews were joined by the government. In this case Rome. We can see a little more light shed upon the symbols in Daniel representing the forth kingdom, Rome. It was unlike the other kingdoms. We see how the Jews joined with the forth kingdom to oppose Jesus. It was far more than opposing Jesus, they joined forces to kill Him. Daniel was a leader in the first kingdom, Babylon. Daniel was also a leader in the second kingdom, the Persians and Medes. Not much is written about the third kingdom, Greece. But we see Paul preaching in Greece and the New Testament was written in Greek. Those first three kingdoms had a relationship with God and the gospel. Rome was far different than the others based on the fact, the Roman government ordered Jesus’ execution. That wasn’t all Rome joined forces with the Jews to carry out. Together they persecuted early Christians. If that wasn’t enough, Rome finally reestablished a new order loosely based on Christianity but changing all the original forms of worship and the message given to the disciples in the name of unity. They’re form of unity resulted in some of the most violent persecution the world has seen.
Jesus fully realized all that was going to happen to him, so he stepped forward to meet them. “Who are you looking for?” he asked. We can look at this text in a number of different ways. When Jesus asked this question, He knew who they were looking for and why. John told us, Jesus knew what was about to happen. Do you think Jesus prayed only for Himself in the olive grove? If you knew Jesus you’d know He spent every minute available to pray for every person He wanted to save, and that was everyone. The prophecy and fulfillment compliment one another by showing that olive groove God planted was going to be destroyed. Taking Jesus prisoner was only one step in the process. Salvation was still a personal decision for each and everyone of those religious leaders and their followers. Of course Jesus prayed for them. The prophecy in Jeremiah told about a curse. Jesus prayed in an olive grove to show His concern for all of them present and in the future. Jesus’ question, “Who are you looking for?” Is still pertinent today. When people walk through church doors, who are they looking for? Jesus of course. How is Jesus presented to them? Today the most popular way of presenting Jesus is doctrines, traditions, and prophecies about this world. Neither one of those teach anything about Jesus. None of them are Biblical. They are man made methods of reaching out to the world showing once again how this world seems to think they can solve their own problems. This is the message we see in Jeremiah. “What right do my beloved people have to come to my Temple, when they have done so many immoral things?”
The Tabernacle build by Moses and the Israelites had a specific physical pattern which extended to its services. Priests had to follow specific steps to wash and dress. They had to follow a specific path inside the Tabernacle court. Every item in the Tabernacle and all its associated services pointed to Jesus, His life and ministry. That is a pattern lost in today’s religious world. Ask a preacher to explain those details and you may receive an explanation of two or maybe three items. Worse yet, they most likely will mix items in the Tabernacle with items in the stone temple designed and build by a man from Tyre using taxes and slave labor. Can you see the pattern showing how this world mixes religion and government? Satan’s promise to Eve was to be like gods. This world is still reaching out to fulfill that promise. It seems as if this world forgot who made that promise. Only Jesus is both King and Priest. No one has the right to copy or attempt to duplicate that title or system.
We’ve seen how Jeremiah was very dedicated to following orders from God. Look at how He worded this prophecy. “Let’s destroy this man and all his words,” they said. “Let’s cut him down, so his name will be forgotten forever.” Many people will confuse this prophecy with another. He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth. (Isaiah 53:7 NLTse). The fulfillment of this prophecy is found in other gospels. Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, “Well, aren’t you going to answer these charges? What do you have to say for yourself?” But Jesus remained silent. Then the high priest said to him, “I demand in the name of the living God–tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.” (Matthew 26:62-63 NLTse). In John’s book Jesus provided a few simple answers. Jeremiah’s prophecy did not say Jesus would remain silent. It says they will silence Him.
Why did they want to silence Jesus? What did He say during His trials those religious leaders didn’t want the world to hear? It’s easy to quickly find the words Jesus spoke by looking at a red letter Bible where Jesus’ words are in red.
Jesus answered him, “I spoke openly to the world; I always taught in the synagogue, and in the temple, where the Jews always met; and in secret have I said nothing. Why do you ask me? Ask them who heard me, what I have said unto them: behold, they know what I said. Say you this thing of yourself, or did others tell it to you of me? My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from here.” Pilate therefore said unto him, “Are you a king then?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth hears my voice.” (John 18:20-21, 34, 36-37 KJ2000).
What words were worth killing Jesus over and why? Jesus began by telling them to talk to the people who were His witnesses. We can see how Jesus was denied witnesses. Do you understand how that relates to Satan’s plans today? How many people are capable of witnessing for Jesus? If you had to tell someone about your relationship with Jesus would it be convincing? How long would your testimony last? Would your witnessing be an individual testimony needed at that particular time? Think about this for a moment. If you had to rely on your testimony about Jesus to save you, would it? Is that what those religious leaders feared? It’s easy to see how those religious leaders were controlled by Satan. It’s not as easy to admit giving into Satan when your personal testimony of Jesus is not real, sincere, and real.
Jesus also told them His Kingdom is not of this world. Neither is His Word. Neither should our testimony be about this world. There are too many complaints and not enough answers. Most of the answers we hear are from this world and not from Heaven. Those religious leaders feared Jesus as much as they feared loosing control. It’s a fear that still runs a lot of the churches and organizations in this world. It’s a fear that can only be overcome by the real message from Heaven, from Jesus’ Kingdom. Jesus said more than the world will ever imagine … those who work so hard to silence Him do not understand. Caiaphas didn’t understand the prophecy he spoke. First they took him to Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest at that time. Caiaphas was the one who had told the other Jewish leaders, “It’s better that one man should die for the people.” (John 18:13-14 NLTse). Jesus had to endure two trails at the hands of the priests and religious leaders. That has a spiritual significance you can pray about and investigate on your own. It’s not by chance there are two prophecies in Jeremiah 11 and the fulfillment of both is found in John 18.
John 18:19-24 NLTse Inside, the high priest began asking Jesus about his followers and what he had been teaching them. (20) Jesus replied, “Everyone knows what I teach. I have preached regularly in the synagogues and the Temple, where the people gather. I have not spoken in secret. (21) Why are you asking me this question? Ask those who heard me. They know what I said.” (22) Then one of the Temple guards standing nearby slapped Jesus across the face. “Is that the way to answer the high priest?” he demanded. (23) Jesus replied, “If I said anything wrong, you must prove it. But if I’m speaking the truth, why are you beating me?” (24) Then Annas bound Jesus and sent him to Caiaphas, the high priest.
Jesus was hauled into the high priest’s home bound in chains and ropes. A pole was inserted below Jesus’ arm with His hands tied behind His back. Guards used that pole to control prisoners. Lifting on the pole exerted a great deal of pain by pulling their shoulders from the sockets. For guards it made turning and directing prisoners much easier. The guards who arrested Jesus used it for sport. Although Jesus freely gave Himself up and followed instructions, those guards lifted up on that pole to see Him suffer. In Jesus’ case a long chain hung from His neck trailing behind Him. In the olive grove and along the road that chain often snagged on bushes and weeds along the path choking the Savior. A guard following behind some times stepped in that chain to see Jesus jerked back and fall to the ground. Jesus had the choice of falling straight back where His head would strike the ground or to one side where the pole between His back and arms would tear His arms from His body. Most of those guards laughed at His suffering. Demons pushed them to inflict the maximum amount of pain on God’s Son as they marched Him to the high priest.
There was no reason to question Jesus in the high priest’s home. Nothing like this was ever done. The high priest neglected to wear the breastplate God designed to consult in matters of life and death. Seeing this, Jesus knew what the verdict would be before the first question was asked. That is why Jesus answered them by telling them to ask the people who listened to Him. It was a nice way of telling them, Jesus knew He would not be allowed witnesses in His trial. It was also a way of telling them, His witness would continue after His trial and execution.
Jesus’ trail was well planned and every step rehearsed down to the last witness the priests gathered against Jesus. But at the trial the thoughts and words from those witnesses was scrambled by an unseen force. Unknown and unseen by the religious leaders because they didn’t know God or His voice. But the voice and instructions from demons was loud and clear to them.
The high priest began asking Jesus about his followers and what he had been teaching them. Jesus looked around the room at each face. He saw many of them when He preached. Jesus knew those people heard what He said. Jesus also knew few words touched their hearts. Jesus knew how their preconceived ideas and doctrines hid truth from their ears and eyes. Jesus knew they witnessed the miracles He performed. Jesus replied, “Everyone knows what I teach. I have preached regularly in the synagogues and the Temple, where the people gather. I have not spoken in secret.” For many of those priests this was a last call to salvation they would hear. Jesus had been praying for them before they arrested Him in that olive grove. Jesus had no choice but to request witnesses on His behalf. “Why are you asking me this question? Ask those who heard me. They know what I said.” Jesus followed court procedures which were not part of the high priest’s plans. Then one of the Temple guards standing nearby slapped Jesus across the face. “Is that the way to answer the high priest?” he demanded. This was nothing new. We see Jeremiah went through the same process when he delivered God’s messages. By now we should know, we have to compare the introduces from both chapters to see more details about this lesson being taught in scripture.
Jeremiah 11:1-8 NLTse The LORD gave another message to Jeremiah. He said, (2) “Remind the people of Judah and Jerusalem about the terms of my covenant with them. (3) Say to them, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: Cursed is anyone who does not obey the terms of my covenant! (4) For I said to your ancestors when I brought them out of the iron-smelting furnace of Egypt, “If you obey me and do whatever I command you, then you will be my people, and I will be your God.” (5) I said this so I could keep my promise to your ancestors to give you a land flowing with milk and honey–the land you live in today.'” Then I replied, “Amen, LORD! May it be so.” (6) Then the LORD said, “Broadcast this message in the streets of Jerusalem. Go from town to town throughout the land and say, ‘Remember the ancient covenant, and do everything it requires. (7) For I solemnly warned your ancestors when I brought them out of Egypt, “Obey me!” I have repeated this warning over and over to this day, (8) but your ancestors did not listen or even pay attention. Instead, they stubbornly followed their own evil desires. And because they refused to obey, I brought upon them all the curses described in this covenant.'”
We have to compare the introduction of Jeremiah 11 to the introduction to John 18 which contains the fulfillment of one of the prophecies. What does the covenant have to do with Jesus praying in that olive grove and being arrested? Jesus followed God’s covenant and all His laws to prepare for that moment. On the other hand, Judas followed his own course, ideas, and concepts. Hence we see the result from each course. Jesus received God’s promise and more. What did Judas get? Judas continued to follow his own course by making his own decisions, and believed his way was the only way. “I have sinned,” he declared, “for I have betrayed an innocent man.” “What do we care?” they retorted. “That’s your problem.” Then Judas threw the silver coins down in the Temple and went out and hanged himself. (Matthew 27:4-5 NLTse). Those priests were as guilty as Judas was when it came to doing things their own way. They arrested Jesus and tried Him their own way. They ignored God’s method for trying a man. Then of course one thing led to another when they tried to cover up Jesus’ resurrection. One mistake after another was made. Nothing worked out for them. A lesson we need to look at whenever we feel we are wise enough to plot our own course.
Jeremiah 11:20-23 NLTse (20) O LORD of Heaven’s Armies, you make righteous judgments, and you examine the deepest thoughts and secrets. Let me see your vengeance against them, for I have committed my cause to you. (21) This is what the LORD says about the men of Anathoth who wanted me dead. They had said, “We will kill you if you do not stop prophesying in the LORD’s name.” (22) So this is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies says about them: “I will punish them! Their young men will die in battle, and their boys and girls will starve to death. (23) Not one of these plotters from Anathoth will survive, for I will bring disaster upon them when their time of punishment comes.”
You can see how comparing prophecies with their fulfillment brings out more details than ever imagined. Jeremiah lived through this prophecy which also pointed to the future event of Jesus’ trial and how God was going to deal with those religious leaders. Why couldn’t those religions leaders who condemned Jesus look back and see those simple lessons? This was a lesson God’s Spirit was trying to reach those religious leaders with. But they wouldn’t listen. Instead they continued their plans to silence Jesus. John provided a detailed account.
John 18:28-40 NLTse Jesus’ trial before Caiaphas ended in the early hours of the morning. Then he was taken to the headquarters of the Roman governor. His accusers didn’t go inside because it would defile them, and they wouldn’t be allowed to celebrate the Passover. (29) So Pilate, the governor, went out to them and asked, “What is your charge against this man?” (30) “We wouldn’t have handed him over to you if he weren’t a criminal!” they retorted. (31) “Then take him away and judge him by your own law,” Pilate told them. “Only the Romans are permitted to execute someone,” the Jewish leaders replied. (32) (This fulfilled Jesus’ prediction about the way he would die.) (33) Then Pilate went back into his headquarters and called for Jesus to be brought to him. “Are you the king of the Jews?” he asked him. (34) Jesus replied, “Is this your own question, or did others tell you about me?” (35) “Am I a Jew?” Pilate retorted. “Your own people and their leading priests brought you to me for trial. Why? What have you done?” (36) Jesus answered, “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.” (37) Pilate said, “So you are a king?” Jesus responded, “You say I am a king. Actually, I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.” (38) “What is truth?” Pilate asked. Then he went out again to the people and told them, “He is not guilty of any crime. (39) But you have a custom of asking me to release one prisoner each year at Passover. Would you like me to release this ‘King of the Jews’?” (40) But they shouted back, “No! Not this man. We want Barabbas!” (Barabbas was a revolutionary.)
If those religious leaders had reviewed the price Jerusalem had to pay for not listening to God or His prophet Jeremiah, maybe they would have listened to Jesus. John tells us those Jewish leaders knew something about God’s law. His accusers didn’t go inside of Pilates palace because it would defile them, and they wouldn’t be allowed to celebrate the Passover. I’m not sure where they got that from. John is pointing us to the fact priests and Pharisees wrote a kind of commentary on scripture. In their minds that commentary explained everything in scripture in terms people could understand. In essence that commentary turned out to be another idol placed between themselves and God. Don’t be too surprised. Most denominations follow the same course. The biggest mistake those priests made was not referring to scripture which is the same mistake committed today. People refer to books, commentaries, web sites, anything and everything except the Bible. Then they consider themselves experts without consult the universe’s one source of infinite wisdom. All they are doing is denying time with God’s Spirit in His Word.
Preparations for Jesus’ trial didn’t seem out work well for those priests. They hoped the tide would turn in their favor and they could once gain control of the situation. The next phase was to present Jesus to Pilate. Jesus was presented to Pilate with the visual effect of a condemned prisoner. He was bound in chains and beaten. All of this was planned to give Pilate the visual effect of a guilty criminal. That didn’t work either. Pilate saw trough their scheme and personally questioned Jesus. Pilate knew those priests staged the whole scene and he knew why. For years Pilate received reports about Jesus from his guard who he trusted, and continuous complaints from the priests and Pharisees, he didn’t trust. Pilate saw how those reports did not agree. Scripture explains how Jesus requested witnesses. The priests denied Jesus that right, but God already provided Pilate with a list of his own witnesses. Jesus told Pilate, “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.” This was something the priests did not want to hear. It was a detail they could not accept. It was one of the reasons they wanted to kill Him. Jesus told about this in a parable. “Finally, the owner sent his son, thinking, ‘Surely they will respect my son.’ “But when the tenant farmers saw his son coming, they said to one another, ‘Here comes the heir to this estate. Come on, let’s kill him and get the estate for ourselves!’” (Matthew 21:37-38 NLTse). Pilate said, “So you are a king?” Jesus responded, “You say I am a king. Actually, I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.” There were two reasons those priests could not understand Jesus’ messages and ministry. They did not love Jesus or the truth. They loved their customs and traditions more than God’s Savior.
As we’ve seen in this study, God’s time line is crossed by many events. Jeremiah’s prophecy contains two events, the olive tree and Jesus being silenced. The two are related. Jesus’ rejection and execution led to the final destruction of Jerusalem’s temple, a prophecy Jeremiah and other prophets repeated. Jesus’ arrest was preceded by His prayers in the olive grove. In both prophecies God used symbols. Jeremiah showed us how we rely on God to tell us what symbols represent. I am like an olive tree, thriving in the house of God. I will always trust in God’s unfailing love. I will praise you forever, O God, for what you have done. I will trust in your good name in the presence of your faithful people. (Psalms 52:8-9 NLTse). David told us what an olive tree is supposed to represent. Some one who trusts in God. But there is another side of the story. Paul tells us about a change that olive tree will undergo. And since Abraham and the other patriarchs were holy, their descendants will also be holy–just as the entire batch of dough is holy because the portion given as an offering is holy. For if the roots of the tree are holy, the branches will be, too. But some of these branches from Abraham’s tree–some of the people of Israel–have been broken off. And you Gentiles, who were branches from a wild olive tree, have been grafted in. So now you also receive the blessing God has promised Abraham and his children, sharing in the rich nourishment from the root of God’s special olive tree. But you must not brag about being grafted in to replace the branches that were broken off. You are just a branch, not the root. “Well,” you may say, “those branches were broken off to make room for me.” Yes, but remember–those branches were broken off because they didn’t believe in Christ, and you are there because you do believe. So don’t think highly of yourself, but fear what could happen. For if God did not spare the original branches, he won’t spare you either. (Romans 11:16-21 NLTse).
We can see the olive tree was not completely destroyed. God broke off those branches that wouldn’t produce and replaced them with new branched that will produce. As a whole the Levitical priesthood failed. To remove all doubt, God chose the line of David of Judah to bring His Son into this world. That last Passover when Jesus died marked the death of a spiritual first born son, the end of the Levitical priesthood. “Look, I have chosen the Levites from among the Israelites to serve as substitutes for all the firstborn sons of the people of Israel. The Levites belong to me, for all the firstborn males are mine. On the day I struck down all the firstborn sons of the Egyptians, I set apart for myself all the firstborn in Israel, both of people and of animals. They are mine; I am the LORD.” “Of all the people of Israel, the Levites are reserved for me. I have claimed them for myself in place of all the firstborn sons of the Israelites; I have taken the Levites as their substitutes. For all the firstborn males among the people of Israel are mine, both of people and of animals. I set them apart for myself on the day I struck down all the firstborn sons of the Egyptians. Yes, I have claimed the Levites in place of all the firstborn sons of Israel. And of all the Israelites, I have assigned the Levites to Aaron and his sons. They will serve in the Tabernacle on behalf of the Israelites and make sacrifices to purify the people so no plague will strike them when they approach the sanctuary.” (Numbers 3:12-13, 8:16-19 NLTse). So there won’t be any mistake, Paul used Gentiles as a symbol so we would see those new branches included us. Are you a productive branch or a broken branch on that olive tree?