A STUDY OF THE BOOK OF JEREMIAH
Jeremiah 37 SCC 6/4/17
GODS WORD STANDS NO MATTER WHAT WE TRY TO DO TO CHANGE IT
37:1-2 Nebuchadnezzar, sovereign over Judah since Jehoiakim's unsuccessful rebellion against him in 598 B.C., set up Zedekiah, Jehoiakim's brother, as Judah's king in 597 B.C. (2 Kings 24:17). Jehoiakim's son, Jehoiachin (Coniah), had reigned for three months following his father's deposition, but then Nebuchadnezzar deported him to Babylon (2 Kings 24:12). Jehoiachin was never the authorized king of Judah. Thus Jeremiah's prophecy about Jehoiakim's end had come to pass (36:30). Zedekiah was to give loyalty to Nebuchadnezzar in return for protection. Neither Zedekiah, nor his nobles, nor the people of the land, paid any attention to Jeremiah's prophecies to them. listened to the words of the Lord ... through Jeremiah v 2. So we get a synopsis of the continuing problem that exacerbated Judah’s dilemma. Gods Word is ignored again and again revealing the rebellious nature of the people. God is justified in his dealings with His people.
37:3-10 Even though he didn’t listen to the words of God, yet King Zedekiah sent two priests to Jeremiah, saying, please pray to the Lord our God on our behalf v 3. Kind of reminds me of 9/11 when we had calls to pray while dissing God for generations in our country “Recall all of the people from different faiths who gathered in Yankee Stadium in the days following 9/11 for the “Prayer for America” event. Representatives of many faiths, including Christians, Jews, Sikhs, and Muslims, offered prayers. It was not divisive. It united us – all of us.” (Quote from 9/11 article) Prayer is not for unity.
This was the second time that the king asked Jeremiah for information about the outcome of the invasion (ch. 21). It is always easier to pray than to repent. Perhaps Zedekiah was hoping for a last-minute deliverance such as God granted Jerusalem in Hezekiah's days (2 Kings 19:32-37). But Jeremiah had already predicted the fates of this king and the city at the commencement of the siege (34:1-7). At this point, Jeremiah was not yet in prison v 4. The Egyptian army had set out from Egypt, so the Babylonians quit the siege of Jerusalem and went south to engage the Egyptian army v 5. This could be the origin for the request to pray—that Egypt might be successful against Babylon’s army.
But God replied through Jeremiah to King Zedekiah that the Egyptian army would return home v 6-7, and the Chaldeans will also return and fight against this city, and they will capture it and burn it with fire, as God has said they would v 8. Then God said, do not deceive yourselves, thinking the Babylonians were gone and they were safe v 9. Even if you had defeated the entire army of the Chaldeans ... and there were only wounded men left among them, ... they would rise up and burn this city with fire v 10. Jerusalem's destruction was so certain, that even if the Judeans defeated the entire Babylonian army, the Lord would use the wounded soldiers to rise up and destroy the city. In other words, deliverance was out of the question.
Application: We can’t change God’s plan or His Word. For example, Jesus is the only way to God (John 14:6). We can’t think there is another way for “those who never heard.” Events in the world are the birth pangs leading up to the Tribulation. We can’t think we will change the world to be a better place. God’s Word says the world will get worse, more evil.
ATTACKING GODS WORD TO DIMINISH ITS MESSAGE IS A USELESS TACTIC
Verse 11-16 During the time the Babylonian army was off fighting the Egyptians, the siege was lifted against Jerusalem and it was a reprieve, a time of peace v 11. So Jeremiah set out from Jerusalem to take care of some personal business in the land of Benjamin, where his hometown was located just north of Jerusalem v 12. The word takes “possession” can also be translated “divide, share, apportion.” So he was either buying some land or dividing up some land for sale to others. The gates in Jerusalem were named for the direction to which the gate faces and where the road goes from the gate. So Jeremiah went out a north gate that faced Benjamin. A captain of the guard stopped Jeremiah and accused him, saying, you are going over to the Chaldeans v 13.
He charged the prophet with defecting to the enemy and arrested him. Jeremiah had urged others to submit to the Babylonians (21:9; 38:2), and some of the people had taken his advice (38:2, 19; 39:9; 52:15), so the charge was plausible. Jeremiah vehemently denied this accusation A lie! I am not going over to the Chaldeans v 14. But the guard would not believe Jeremiah. So he brought Jeremiah to the officials, who beat him, and they put him in jail v 15 ... into the dungeon [cistern pit], that is, the vaulted cell; and Jeremiah stayed there many days’ v 16. Cisterns are huge underground rooms for the collection of water in the rainy season to use in the dry season. This cistern they had made into the prison. The officials angrily beat Jeremiah and confined him in the house of a scribe named Jonathan, which they had converted into a jail. This reference begins what some scholars have referred to as "Jeremiah's passion." Jeremiah remained in an underground dungeon for many days.
Application: This would be a reasonable conclusion of the guard. 1. Jeremiah had been telling the people to go over to the Babylonians to save their lives. 2. He was leaving by the north gate, the direction of the coming invasion of the Babylonians. But the guard was wrong. That’s the trouble with looking at circumstances to get direction. You can be completely wrong in your conclusions. We should not look to circumstances to find what God has revealed. God criticized Job for only one thing-looking to his circumstances to find out what God was doing (Job 38:2; 42:3). David refused to decide God’s will for his life through circumstances (1 Samuel 24:4-17; 26:8-10; 2 Samuel 10-15). So did the Apostle Paul (Acts 21:4, 10-14). To add something to the Bible-like circumstances or feelings-only tends to color or negate the Bible’s input. Circumstantial opportunities might justify sinful debt, an unbiblical marriage, or illegitimate leadership.
Verse 17-21 King Zedekiah secretly, to circumvent hos officials, brought Jeremiah out of the cistern and to the palace and asked him, Is there a word from the Lord? Jeremiah answered, there is! You will be given into the hand of the king of Babylon v 17.
PT: In many ways, Zedekiah is a tragic figure. It seems that he is attracted to Jeremiah and his message, yet he is never able to summon enough resolve to act in response to that message. Like Zedekiah people can reject the purposes of God through their weakness of character and is every bit as damaging and damning as the aggressive rebellion of Jehoiakim.
The king feared his nobles who were "hawks" militarily and hostile to Jeremiah. Zedekiah asked the prophet if the Lord had given him any message in response to his previous praying (v. 3). The king was really the one bound in this situation, and the prisoner was the truly free man. Jeremiah then used this opportunity to declare his innocence to the king v 18.
PT: Understand that doing the will of God, following His Word, doing what is pleasing to Him, does not and will not guarantee you will be spared danger or threats or injustice. You will often get into trouble or seem to be irresponsible like telling the king what he does not want to hear—the truth.
The false prophets said Babylon wouldn’t attack, which turned out to be false, but they weren’t in prison. Jeremiah told the truth, and he was in prison v 19. Jeremiah asked that he not be returned to the cistern, that I may not die there v 20. Obviously, his imprisonment was potentially deadly for him. So the king gave commandment, and they committed Jeremiah to the court of the guardhouse and gave him a loaf of bread daily ...until all the bread in the city was gone v 21. The cistern was dark and damp and cold. The guardhouse was above ground and dry. Had Zedekiah not feared his nobles, this vacillating king might have given Jeremiah his freedom (e.g., some other vacillators: Pharaoh with Moses; Herod with John the Baptist; Pilate and Herod with Jesus; Felix, Festus, and Agrippa with Paul).
Application: Jeremiah’s message was unaffected by his imprisonment. He faithfully proclaimed the Word of God no matter what his circumstances were. What God is looking for are followers who are willing to stay true to His Word and will no matter the situation requiring application of Gods Word. Expect to be attacked and ridiculed and misrepresented but don’t cave.
The Word of God taken in a plain ordinary way as we would understand any communication, like Jeremiah understood it and declared it, can be expected to mean just what it says. God expected Zedekiah to take it at face value and God fulfilled it exactly as it was understood. Teach Gods Word and declare Gods Word just as it is plainly understood in an ordinary way. Don’t expect uniform acceptance.