Tuesday, 4 November 2014

(309) November 5: Jeremiah 38-39 & Hebrews 2:1-9

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

To discover:­
As you read consider why the detail of Jerusalem’s fall is being recorded.

To ponder:
The story continues as some prominent men hear Jeremiah’s message that those who stay in the city will die, those who go over to the Babylonians will live, and the city will be handed over to he enemy. They tell the king Jeremiah must die for discouraging the soldiers and people left in the city and so bringing about their ruin by encouraging surrender (38v1-4). Patterning Pilate, the king weekly gives Jeremiah into their hands saying he cannot oppose them. So they kept Jeremiah in the courtyard of the guard, but imprisoned him in a cistern there, with him sinking into the mud at the bottom. However, Ebed-Melech interceded with the king, stating these men acted wickedly and would cause Jeremiah to starve. So the king told Ebed-Melech to take 30 men and free Jeremiah. He did so with a detail included that showed his concern for the prophet (38v5-13). The event shows how those who speak God’s word divide God’s people, demonstrating the realities of their hearts by whether they stand against him or for him, just as was the case with Christ.
            King Zedekiah then brought Jeremiah to the temple and asked him to honestly answer a question he would ask. But Jeremiah stated that the king would not listen, and would even kill him if he responded as requested. The king then swore by the LORD who gives breath that he would not kill Jeremiah or hand him over to those who sought to. The vow implies he was saying that God should remove his own breath if he broke his word. Jeremiah then stated again that if the king surrendered he and his family would be spared and the city not burned, but if he did not surrender the city would be burned and he would not escape. Zedekiah responded that he was afraid if he surrendered that the Babylonians would hand him over to the Jews that had already surrendered to them, and that they would ill treat him – no doubt, because he had them. Jeremiah reassured him this would not happen and urged him to obey the LORD as Jeremiah had instructed, adding that if he didn’t, the women remaining in the palace would be brought to the enemy officials, and declare how his friends had misled and deserted him so his feet were stuck in the mud as Jeremiah’s had been – a prophetic act. Moreover, his wives and children would be brought out to the Babylonians too. Zedekiah told Jeremiah that if he told anyone about their conversation he might die, presumably because they would not want him to influence the king. He even said that if officials told Jeremiah to reveal what he said or be killed, then he should say he was pleading with Zedekiah not to be sent back to his previous prison. Exactly this happened, and so no-one found out, and Jeremiah remained in the courtyard until Jerusalem was finally captured (38v14-28). This whole event highlights how strongly people, and especially those of power, can be influenced against obeying God’s word because of fear of opinion. Here Jeremiah’s courage contrasts the king’s timidity.
            Chapter 39 recounts how Jerusalem was taken. In 588BC Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem with his “whole” army. A year and a half later the city wall was penetrated, and Babylonian officials took seats in the middle gate signifying their conquest. Zedekiah and his soldiers fled at night through his garden, but were pursued, with the king being captured and taken to Nebuchadnezzar at Riblah in Syria. There he was sentenced, with his nobles killed, and his sons also killed before his eyes. Moreover, his own eyes were put out and he was taken to Babylon in bronze shackles. The Babylonians then burnt the palace and houses in Jerusalem and broke down its walls, with the people from the city and area, together with those who had gone over to the enemy, all carried into exile in Babylon itself. However, they left the poor behind., giving them vineyards and fields (39v1-10). This is all recorded to show how God’s word came true. The note about the poor may also be to show how he governed things in such a way as to right some of the injustices within Judah as the meek inherit what the mighty lost. This patterns the meek inheriting the earth through their faith in Christ.
            As for Jeremiah? Nebuchadnezzar ordered his commander to look after him and do whatever he asks, so with a chief officer, official and all the officers, he had him taken from his confinement in the courtyard of the guard, given into the care of Gedaliah who seems to have been made governor in Judah, so that he could be returned to his home where he remained amongst the people who were left in the land. The chapter ends telling us that whilst confined, God’s word came to Jeremiah, telling him to tell Ebed-Melech that he was about to see God fulfil his words against the city, but to reassure him too, that God would rescue him because he trusted in God (39v15-18, see 39v1-13). It’s an important note that when God’s people refuse to listen to him, the few who go against the flow and keep trusting, will be saved from the final judgement that will fall on the rest.

Praying it home:
Praise God that he remembers those who trust and obey him. Pray that you would do so no matter what pressure you may face not to.

Thinking further:
None today.

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