Wednesday, 5 November 2014

(310) November 6: Jeremiah 40-42 & Hebrews 2:10-18

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

To discover:­
As you read consider the lessons the remnant from Judea should be learning.

To ponder:
Although Jeremiah had been freed to remain amongst his own people (see 39v14), some time later he was wrongly taken captive, so the Babylonian commander had to rescue him (40v1-2). When he did, he told Jeremiah how the LORD had decreed and brought about the disaster because the people sinned, but that he was freeing Jeremiah. He then invited Jeremiah to accompany him to Babylon, promising that he would look after him. But he also stressed Jeremiah didn’t have to, and could go wherever he pleased, suggesting he return to the care of the governor over Judah and live amongst the people. He then gave Jeremiah provisions and a present, and the prophet followed his suggestion, living amongst the people of the land (40v3-6). The event stresses that the destruction was God’s judgement, whilst highlighting his readiness to care for the faithful. It also shows Jeremiah’s concerns were with God’s people not his own comfort.
            The governor was called Gedaliah. When the Jewish officers heard he had been appointed over the poor families who were to remain in the land, they came to him, and he reassured them and their men that they shouldn’t fear the Babylonians, but settle down and serve Nebuchadnezzar so it would go well with them. He even promised to stay in Mizpah and represent them to the Babylonians, but also urged them to go about the work of harvest and live in the towns they had taken over with their troops after the ceasefire. We then read that the Jews in the surrounding countries who saw the remnant remaining under Gedaliah’s governorship, also returned, and enjoyed an abundant harvest (40v7-12). This proved the truth of God’s promise that those who settle would thrive, and foreshadowed the return and restoration of the kingdom under a Davidic king.
            At this point all the officers from the open country came saying that the king of the Ammonites had sent a man called Ishmael to assassinate Gedaliah. But Gedaliah didn’t believe them. Nevertheless, Joahanan offered to kill the assassin, for fear that if Gedaliah died the remnant would scatter and be perished. However Gedaliah commanded him not to do this, saying the charge against Ishmael was untrue (40v13-16). Sometime later, however, having been made one of the king’s officers and eaten with his soldiers, Ishmael killed Gedaliah and the Babylonian soldiers with him at Mizpah (41v1-3). Before this was known, he also killed and put in a cistern 70 men from the northern kingdom who were in mourning (no doubt because of Israel’s sin) and had brought offerings to God (40v17-41v7). Ten, who remained, pleaded and bargained for their lives with the abundance of their fields. Their lives were spared (41v8-9). Ishmael captured adults and children in Mizpah, including the king’s daughters, and then set out to cross to the Ammonites. On hearing this, some army officers went to fight Ishmael. All those not caught at Mizpah went over to this army, whilst Ishmael and eight men escaped to the Ammonites. Johanan then led the survivors away, past Benjamin and towards Egypt. This was to escape the Babylonians, who they were afraid of as Ishmael had killed Gedaliah, who Nebuchadnezzar appointed, and so might bring his wrath on the people (41v4-17). These events may be written to highlight that even with the wicked were destroyed or deported, sin remained. The fulfilment of God’s promises would have to deal with the source of sin.
            Jonahan, the Jewish army officers and people, then approached Jeremiah, asking him to pray that God would show the remnant where to go and what to do, as so few were left. Jeremiah agreed, saying he would relate everything the LORD said. They respond that the LORD can be a witness against them if they don’t obey everything he says, whether favourable or not – so that it will go well with them (42v1-6). Ten days later, God’s word came to Jeremiah so he called all these groups together, and told them that if they stayed in Judea, God would plant and not uproot them, for he was grieved over the disaster he inflicted on them. They shouldn’t therefore be afraid of the king of Babylon as God was with them and would save them, showing compassion on them so Nebuchadnezzar would also show compassion and restore them to the land (42v7-12). Yet Jeremiah added, that if the people disobeyed God and left the land, saying that they would go to Egypt in order to be free from war and famine, then the sword, plague and famine would overtake them there, and not one who went there would escape death. Indeed, God’s anger would be poured out on Jews there just as it was those in Jerusalem, so they would be an object of cursing and horror (42v13-18). 42v19-21 reveal that Jeremiah recognised the people would not obey. Indeed, he says it was a fatal mistake to ask him to pray to God, as that led him to relate a command from God that they were not obeying, so they would die in the very place they wanted to settle. The issue here is that by going to Egypt the people are refusing to trust and obey God, showing themselves to have learnt nothing from the destruction of Jerusalem, and proving themselves as faithless as those destroyed then. This is why receiving the same penalty in Egypt is the just penalty. We would therefore do well to ensure we have learnt from all these events, trusting God for our salvation and seeking to obey him, not affirming him one moment, only to disobey him out of fear of man the next.

Praying it home:
Praise God that trusting him secures our ultimate safety. Pray that you would not be swayed by fear of man to disobedience.

Thinking further:
None today.

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