Dr. Brown’s commentary on Jeremiah was released in 2010 as part of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary from Zondervan. Below are some resources related to the commentary.
Review from Jonathan Ammon: Walkabout with Jeremiah: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary – Jeremiah
Review from Phillip Stern: Jeremiah, by Michael Brown—Expositor’s Bible Commentary
Selection from the Introduction: Entering the World of Jeremiah
Purchase on AskDrBrown or Amazon
Posted in News, Scripture Tagged with: books, commentary, Dr. Michael Brown, jeremiah, old testament prophets, prophecy, prophets
Editor’s Note: A previously published article from Dr. Brown. An important message to take to heart for those of us trying to make an impact in our culture.
When we think of the words “unyielding and hardened,” we think of stubborn sinners defiantly refusing to heed the message of God, of proud and obstinate rebels firmly entrenched in their arrogance and intransigence. We think of sinful hearts that refuse to bow, of determined and resolute wills that mock that which is sacred and disdain that which is holy. We think of the image of the earthly, not the heavenly.
Yet sometimes it is God Himself who makes His servants unyielding and hardened. He does it for His glory, and He does it for their good. It is part and parcel of the prophet’s call. The prophet must be immovable — utterly. The prophet must be a rock.
The Lord said to Ezekiel that:
the house of Israel is not willing to listen to you because they are not willing to listen to Me, for the whole house of Israel is hardened and obstinate. But I will make you as unyielding and hardened as they are (Ezek. 3:7-8).
The Lord fights fire with fire!
God’s people would not listen to His words. They were defiant and resistant. How could the prophet withstand the pressure? How could he weather the storm? How could he stand firm and hold fast to the commission of the Spirit? The people were so hard. The prophet had to be harder still! Once he moved an inch, the battle was lost.
I will make your forehead like the hardest stone, harder than flint. Do not be afraid of them or terrified by them, though they are a rebellious house (Ezek. 3:9).
Yes, Ezekiel, I will make you harder than flint!
This was also the word of the Lord to Jeremiah:
Today I have made you a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land — against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people of the land (Jer. 1:18).
Jeremiah had to be “a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall.” He was standing against everyone!
Some of us get rattled when one unkind word is spoken against us, or when a leader doesn’t pay sufficient attention to us, or when our friends fail to recognize our gifts, or when our unsaved co-workers avoid us because of our faith. Talk about shallow security and shifting assurance! What would we have done if were in Jeremiah’s shoes?
The kings, the princes, the officials, the priests, the prophets, the people as a whole, and even his family stood against him. He had no wife or children, by the direction of the Lord (Jer. 16:20), and he was almost completely without friends. This man was alone in this world. Yet God told him to stand against the crowd, to refuse to be moved, to proclaim a word of terrible judgment and hardship, to declare that the ruthless enemy king was actually the servant of the Lord, that it was God’s will that the chosen people go into exile. How could this be?
“Jeremiah, back down! Look at this thing rationally. Listen to the voice of reason. Everyone can’t possibly be wrong. The leaders can’t all be misled. The prophets can’t all be deceived. The priests can’t all be in error. Nobody else is proclaiming such harsh things. Nobody else is telling us that our women will be raped, our children orphaned, our men slaughtered in battle. Nobody else is telling us that the Temple of the Lord — the very dwelling place of the God of the whole earth — will be destroyed. Never! Jeremiah, come our way and join the crowd. It feels so right to be accepted. It feels so good to be loved. Surely you’re not the only one hearing from God. You’re not a fanatic, right?”
Actually, what God calls faithful the world calls fanatical. Sometimes the pressure is intense! It is true that the prophet is made for pressure and that pressure makes the prophet, but Jeremiah was human, just like us. He needed affirmation and encouragement. He longed for moral support just like we do. The insults and taunts and hatred and rejection of the people must have stung him deeply. What did it feel like to be Jeremiah? His suffering was almost unbearable:
Alas, my mother, that you gave me birth, a man with whom the whole land strives and contends! I have neither lent nor borrowed, yet everyone curses me (Jer. 15:10).
O LORD, You deceived me, and I was deceived; You overpowered me and prevailed. I am ridiculed all day long; everyone mocks me. Whenever I speak, I cry out proclaiming violence and destruction. So the word of the LORD has brought me insult and reproach all day long (Jer. 20:7-8).
Surely a little compromise would be acceptable. Surely there must be some movement on Jeremiah’s part. It was impossible that so many good people could be so wrong. Surely the Lord understood both sides of the story. Surely He was not so inflexible. Hardly:
“Let this people turn to you, but you must not turn to them. I will make you a wall to this people, a fortified wall of bronze; they will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you to rescue and save you,” declares the LORD (Jer. 15:19b-20).
There it is again! The prophet was called to be a mountain of holy resistance. “Jeremiah, do not budge!”
Listen to the cumulative force of these words from the Lord. God made the prophets as unyielding and hardened as the most obstinate sinners, with foreheads like the hardest stone, harder than flint, like a fortified city, a bronze wall, and an iron pillar. God built them up and God backed them up.
For the prophet, compromise was more bitter than death, and finding the middle ground was an act of treachery against the Lord. As Jesus said, “He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters” (Matt. 12:30). Jesus was no people-pleaser either. In the prophet’s education and calling, there is no “Politics 101.” Who ever heard of a politically correct prophet? How we need the true prophetic spirit again in our day!
Of course, as to our character and attitude we must be meek and lowly, quick to listen and slow to speak, easily approachable, ready to learn, willing to receive correction, open to godly reason, submitted and submissive, teachable and kind, not argumentative but speaking the truth in love. Still I ask you, didn’t Jesus exemplify those characteristics to perfection? And yet He was absolutely inflexible and unyielding when it came to doing the will of His Father. He could not be moved. And wasn’t Paul a walking model of a godly, Spirit-filled minister? Yet who more than Paul refused to go the way of the crowd? Who more than Paul shunned compromise like the plague? It was Paul who asked the Galatians:
Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ (Gal. 1:10).
Pleasing men and serving the Lord are often incompatible — totally.
Of course, I know there are fanatics and weirdoes who have separated themselves from the Body and who think they are on some kind of divine mission. They and they alone have the revelation. They and they alone — along with their motley little group of self-anointed spokesmen and self-appointed martyrs — have the truth. I am fully aware that there are some flakes out there who believe that the Spirit tells them to wear shorts and a tee shirt in the snow as a test of their obedience. (Why is it always those people who tend to be the most bold and vocal “witnesses,” always carrying their Bibles — their very big, prominent Bibles, of course — and never failing to show up just when you are finally reaching someone with the Good News? Why are they often the ones whose vehicles are so covered with gospel bumper stickers that you can’t even tell if they’re driving a car or a truck?)
To such people I say this: Grow up! Get into a congregation and practice submission. Take the low road and learn in quietness. If God has given you a word, He will make it known. Get your personal life in order and make a meaningful contribution to society (maybe starting right in your own home?). Your end-time prophetic mission to the universe can wait a few more years.
More seriously, there are really tragic cases of truly fanatical acts. I cringe when I think of the deeply deceived and disturbed individuals who have burned babies in ovens and shot, stabbed, and strangled at the supposed direction of the Lord. What a terrible and pathetic shame. What an ugly, inexcusable reproach. The Word of God and the voice of God never led these people to commit such atrocious acts, and nothing I am writing here is directed to such demented souls. What they need is a new heart through repentance and faith. What they need is to be saved from their sins.
But please hear me: There have always been religious fanatics, spiritual weirdoes, Bible-quoting flakes, and demonized pseudo-believers misrepresenting the Spirit of God. There have always been counterfeit Christians, bogus believers and satanized saints wreaking havoc in the name of the Lord. They existed in the days of Jesus, and they exist in our day too. Our error has been to retreat from righteousness because of the extremists and to tone down our message because of the fanatics. Our sin has been to compromise for the sake of “correctness” and to muddle the truth for the sake of middle ground. We justify our comfortable seat on the sidelines of non-commitment because others “take things too far.” As Henry Wadsworth Longfellow expressed so well, “We often excuse our want of [involvement] by giving the name of fanaticism to the more ardent zeal of others.”
This is sheer spiritual suicide, and it is guaranteed to fail. It is the way of the world and the formula of the flesh. It is Satan’s trap, and it is set to ensnare. Only the inflexible will escape. Are you entrapped? How have you fared on the day of testing? Remember: Temptation can come in the form of death threats or in the form of sweet promises. Have you held your ground in the face of temptation? Have you withstood the onslaught of the enemy and the world?
Are you inflexible when it comes to the clear and indisputable standards of God’s Word? Or have you compromised your convictions to keep the peace or to make your way up the ladder in your church or business? Have you quenched the persistent voice of the Spirit because it was too hard to go against the grain? The world can be intimidating. The church can be intimidating. Your friends and family can be intimidating. Your fellow-leaders can be intimidating. Have you feared the face of man, or have you feared the face of God?
And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them or their words. Do not be afraid, though briers and thorns are all around you and you live among scorpions. Do not be afraid of what they say or terrified by them, though they are a rebellious house. You must speak My words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen, for they are rebellious. But you, son of man, listen to what I say to you. Do not rebel like that rebellious house; open your mouth and eat what I give you (Ezek. 2:6-8).
Do you grasp what God said to Ezekiel? They are rebellious; they don’t listen to Me. Don’t you be rebellious! Receive My commission, ingest My message, and declare My words to My rebellious people without flinching, without holding back, without watering down the truth. Not to speak is to rebel.
Again it is recorded in the book of Jeremiah:
Early in the reign of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, this word came from the LORD: “This is what the LORD says: Stand in the courtyard of the Lord’s house and speak to all the people of the towns of Judah who come to worship in the house of the LORD. Tell them everything I command you; do not omit a word (Jer. 26:1-2).
Tell the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
This was a quality that made Samuel great. When he was still young and after receiving his very first word from God — a frightful, terrible word — the Scripture says: “So Samuel told him [i.e., Eli the priest] everything, hiding nothing from him” (1 Sam. 3:18). He held back nothing, even though that word from God promised judgment and destruction on Eli’s very household. Samuel told the truth. As a result,
The LORD was with Samuel as he grew up, and He let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognized that Samuel was attested as a prophet of the LORD (1 Sam. 3:19-20).
God would back us up too, if we would learn to declare His Word, directly and without dilution.
Yet so often we are weak-kneed wimps. We crumble like cookies and have as much staying power as spaghetti: When the water gets hot, we get soft. Where is our courage? Where is our conviction? Where is our commission?
It will take faces like flint and foreheads like bronze to stand strong in the midst of the world’s immoral madness and the church’s moral morass. Only those who are deep in Him will be able to confront the shallowness of this superficial age. Only those with roots will withstand the flood to come. Are you standing today? Are you firm? Are you moved forward by God, or do you move backward away from God?
For many years I have written and preached that we hardly realize how far we have fallen — as a nation, as families, as individuals, as a church. True restoration will be more radical than most of us (including myself) can imagine. And while we are certainly making spiritual progress in many ways, and while the Lord is truly moving in our midst, we dare not think that we have arrived, that times of refreshing are proofs of total approval, that an increase in spiritual life and power means an increase in prophetic truth and character. No! We must make a determined, fresh stand. We must recover the spirit of holy inflexibility, of divine immovability, of prophetic intransigence. We must reclaim the posture of the uncompromising overcomer — even if it costs us our lives:
Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of His Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death” (Rev. 12:10-11).
May this be our story too: overcoming the pressures of this age, refusing to cave in or give up, ruthless with the flesh, radical in the Spirit, obedient even to death. May God make us harder than flint. May we yield to Him alone.
Posted in Revolution & Justice Tagged with: compromise, ezekiel, jeremiah, old testament prophets, prophecy, prophets
Firstly, I want to state that I am not a prophet, though I have prophesied by God’s grace. I come from a strong heritage of Welsh Apostolic / Pentecostal life, which had its roots in the Revival of 1904, and was the only movement to be directly born out of it. Because of God’s grace in saving me, I now speak on these issues, not as the final word, but as one who has been blessed and privileged to have witnessed some remarkable prophetic moments and vessels in my 31 years of life.
There is much debate about the role of prophets and prophecy in the Church today. Some argue that prophets & prophecy are confined to the time of the Old Testament and early church years; others say that whilst prophecy can continue, the role of the New Testament prophet does not. And to add to that, among those who believe in the present day prophet, there is debate as to what exactly he is and does.
Firstly, we need to clarify a number of key issues in this debate. Then God willing, next issue, we will look at some examples in history of prophets and prophecy that in my opinion touch something of the genuine manifestation of such gifts and graces.
There are two key areas for me that capture the heart of what we all need to consider:
1. The Role of the Prophet.
Ephesians 3: 5. This scripture contains Paul’s understanding of the role of the Apostle & Prophet. Paul states that the ‘mystery of Christ… has now been revealed by the Spirit…’ by these two ministries. To him, these ministries were to partner in a foundational role in New Testament ministry. He doesn’t say that the Old Testament prophets and the New Testament apostles were like a foundation to the Church, although of course there is truth to that. Rather, he is expressing the prophet’s present functioning in the New Testament Church, in which they were bringing a present ministry of the revelation of Jesus Christ that was unknown in previous generations! (The OT prophet could not do that!) The Apostle & Prophet were instruments now & together in NT revelation, during the early church years.
So New Testament prophets were and are vital to the ministry of revelation to the Church, of which the essence is Christ. For Paul and the early apostles, the written ministry they brought was eventually recognized to be of an infallible nature. Note however, that the NT prophets words are rarely recorded. We only have small glimpses in Acts, and in the prophecy spoken to the seven churches in Revelation. However, we do know one thing – the prophets in the NT played a foundational role, and worked in team ministry with the apostolic leader. This brought a powerful two-edged sword of ministry, both by revelatory preaching / teaching and through the revelation given in prophetic utterance.
Also, from this scripture, as well as Ephesians 2: 19 – 20, we can see something deeper regarding the prophets partnership with an apostle. It is not only foundational historically but functionally. We know from Acts that Paul (an apostle) & Silas (a prophet), as well as others, ministered on Paul’s Apostolic missionary team. This is vital today in an age where so called prophets are lone-rangers, spewing out words left, right and center, many of which are shallow, unjudged and dangerous, and a far-cry from a revelatory foundational-type ministry.
The concept of the Prophet as a foundational ministry was not new to the early Jewish Church. We read in Zechariah 4 of the prophetic word coming through Zechariah the prophet to Joshua the high priest & Zerubbabel. They were called to begin the building of the temple, to lay its foundations with shouts of ‘grace!’ We then turn to Ezra 5, where the historic account of this is given. There it mentions that Haggai & Zechariah, both prophets, were to accompany the builders of the House of God. In other words, both ministries were foundational in the rebuilding of the temple, one as wall-builders, the other as watchmen. Here we see the Old Testament type of what was to be in the New Testament, Apostle & Prophet working together in the building of the new people of God.
Then we go to the New Testament, in Matthew 21 – 24, Jesus comes to predict the rejection of Himself as the cornerstone, and yet promises the destruction of the physical – literal temple, and the construction of a more glorious spiritual temple. He is the chief apostle and prophet who laid a foundation for a new temple! Can you see what is taking place here? It is with this background in the OT & Gospels that Paul can speak of himself as a ‘wise master-builder’ in 1 Corinthians 3: 10 – 17, who lays a foundation of Jesus Christ, in the planting of new Churches. But what of the role of the watchman – the prophet? He too, with the Apostolic ministry can bring forth the mind of the Spirit in regard to this building ministry, as is so wonderfully demonstrated in Acts 16: 6 – 10, where the ‘Spirit of Jesus’ led them in Apostolic mission and building. Most commentators agree that the role of the prophet would have been key in this account.
Because of time, we cannot go into all of the issues involved in the present debates about the prophet, but I hope the above at least can get us started in beginning to see the issue with clarity. From this we can learn that a ‘go alone prophet’ is not good, nor biblical. Secondly, that whilst God primarily spoke through the Prophet in the OT, He now in the last days has spoken by His Son (Hebrews 1), who in turn has graced the Church not only with one ministry as the prophets of old, but the five-fold ministry (Ephesians 4: 11 & 1 Corinthians 12). They all in their own unique way manifest the revelation and ministry of Jesus Christ to and through His people.
Another thing to note is that OT Prophets prophesied predominantly to a physical nation/s – Israel and the Gentiles. In that mix were those obedient to God, and those rebellious. We have to believe that early church prophets were similar in many ways to the OT characters for them to have been recognized as such. They probably would have had a certain style of conveying the word. The tones of the word, and the substance of the heart of God being expressed would had been familiar to the Jewish disciples. They were men who forth-told, and foretold, and all utterance was born in the heart of God. However, it is evident Scripturally that the emphasis of ministry in the OT went from the lone prophet speaking to a king & nation, to a NT expression of a 5-fold ministry ministering in plurality to a redeemed/ fulfillment body of people. The body of Christ then in AD 60 & now in 2008 is a people of a promise fulfilled. Therefore, whilst God can and does still bring words of chastisement, correction and warning to His NT people at times (we need it!) – the nature of the word now carries the revelation of the mystery of Christ and His heart. Whereas in times before, the OT word pointed ahead in small ways, and came with condemnation at times, in the NT it was no longer primarily a prophetic word of judgment to an unbelieving nation but of revelation to a fulfillment people who related to their Head. In the OT the prophet spoke to kings both good & bad for warning of judgment, instruction and rebuke. Today, our King is Jesus. It is no longer a word to a king but from our King. So therefore whilst there are some characteristic traits which carry through from OT to NT, there are some significantly unique dynamics to the ministry & the revelation NOW revealed! In that word now, we can receive chastisement (See Revelation 3) or warning of God’s severe dealings at times, but as sons! As when the writers of the Epistles gleaned from OT scripture to bring instruction to the NT people, so too the prophets probably ministered through much of the terminology of the OT prophets. However, there was a new dynamic. The prophets now, were in and for the Body of Christ, with other ministries for the maturing of the saints for service, and to bring the body to the full stature of Christ. (Ephesians 4: 13 & 15) We must remember to keep this balance and tension in our thinking regarding prophecy.
2. The Essence & Nature of Prophecy.
For me there are two key verses that capture what prophecy in fact is, both in Biblical times, and today. Firstly, there is the verse in Revelation 19: 10, which states that, ‘the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.’ In other words, all the prophetic utterance found in the book of Revelation, which came through John to the Church is at the heart – Christocentric (Christ centered)! So then prophecy is not the idea of men; it is not speculative words of things to come (although prediction can come by the Spirit as with Agabus & the famine); it is not impersonal. Rather in its purest sense, it is the Word of the Lord – Himself, by the Spirit to the Church, and thus NT prophets, like the OT ones, would have conveyed it as such. However, today it is not infallible, nor can it be added to Scripture, rather it brings out the treasures of truth written within Scripture. Now remember that prophecy must be judged in the light of Scripture because it comes through imperfect channels, but in its purest essence before coming through the channel, it is out of the mouth of the Lord Jesus to His people. Therefore, we can know how to judge a word when it carries this undeniable mark – the mouth of the Lord Jesus Christ and all He has given us in Scripture. The prophetic channel, in keeping this plumb-line of ‘Christ testifying revelation’, can begin to mine the depths of prophecy and bring out treasures of the Kingdom through the prophetic word. They can be words that exhort, instruct, edify, and even through seasoned ministry – direct, so as long as they carry the undeniable mark of God’s character and truth, as revealed in His Son and in Scripture. Once delivered audibly, it then must be judged and agreed by those around that God has spoken. If it is judged to be so, we can act on it with faith!
Prophetic revelation then is a mine of precious stone, that can help the builders of God’s house in that foundational ministry, and in a more general way to encourage the people of God and lead them into greater things in the advancing of the Kingdom.
Secondly, the nature of prophecy is important. How do we know when we are to prophesy, how to prophesy and what to prophesy? Again, there is much to say, which I will say another time, but for me the key text is in 2 Peter 1: 21. Genuine prophecy never has and never should originate in the will of men. It is born of God, by the Holy Spirit in the deep places of a man. Peter says that prophets of God were men carried along by the Holy Spirit. I like the description of prophecy given by a powerful servant of God, D. P. Williams, who came out of the Welsh Revival in 1904 and was used in pioneering an Apostolic movement with powerful prophetic ministries in those he labored with. He says:
‘The prophetic word must be born in the bowels of Mercy, and the affections moved in the operation of the gift. This background of Divine character is most essential to the making of a channel, as there is possibility for the operation of the gift to be on the surface, and remain in shallow waters, or to keep the gift in a babyhood stage, without spiritual development.’
Some practical advice here. The first time I ever prophesied was when I was around 10 years old. I had seen powerful ministry of this kind from a babe, yet how did I know how to prophesy? I simply asked my mother, and she said these words, ‘just wait, be patient, you’ll know when you are to prophesy.’ So simple! And yet she had not tried to cajole me into something that might, or could be it. No! I was to wait for the genuine burning and bubbling of God from deep within! And that is my advice, which I believe to be rooted in the Word, and learnt from genuine experience of seeing powerful, deep and Christ revealing prophets and prophecy in my lifetime. Not to mention hearing of those who over the last 100 years in Wales have continued to bring that foundational ministry of the Prophet with the Apostle in Church planting and building. They too have led other members to be used in the gift of prophecy to the edifying of the Body for service.
Prophecy can come through many ways and means, however let the plumb-line of Peter’s words hold us on course for a genuine manifestation. It takes patience, waiting, depth of seeking, a pure heart and a genuine experience for the prophetic word to come forth. We can have prophetic preaching but also we should see as in both OT & NT prophets, that Spirit infused Word spoken to the people of God, direct from the moving of the Spirit deep within. This is why prophets prophesied in the first person, such was the immediacy of revelation and deep feeling of the Holy Spirit within. Peter says, they were ‘carried along…’ by the Holy Spirit. I am looking for such a manifestation today – genuine, untainted, powerful, and unmistakably God!
A final thought then on all the ‘prophetic talk’ today. For me the above principles are key to judging words, and knowing the authentic among our gatherings. (There is more to say, but time and space doesn’t permit.) But another thing worth considering is what brings about such mixed teaching / understanding about this ministry. One of my feelings is that it is only God Himself who can birth a genuine prophetic vessel, ‘as the Spirit wills,’ says Paul to Corinth. I have noted that the genuine prophetic ministries that I have heard of or witnessed in part, were all born in the fires of genuine revival! Could it be then, that many today are grasping after things or claiming things for themselves that have not been born in a supernatural move of God! I realize that God can and will raise up such vessels in His Church in all seasons, and yet it seems that the understanding of the depth of them is only realized by those come through fire, learn through fire, are hardened by fire and then bring a ministry of fire. They then pass on a baton of truth and understanding to their spiritual sons. The fire tests each man’s work, and purges the worthless! Next issue, I will be looking at these issues in the history of the Apostolic movement that was birthed in the Welsh Revival of 1904, and also the early years of the Latter Rain, which was indirectly influenced by the Welsh movement, but later became something uglier than it initially was.
May God cause this new generation to touch such things and not be satisfied with any less!
Posted in Scripture Tagged with: New Testament, new testament church, old testament prophets, prophecy, prophets, Scripture, the bible