A STUDY OF THE BOOK OF JEREMIAH
Either Listen to People or Listen to God
THE REBELLIOUS WILL ATTEMPT TO THROTTLE THE WORD OF GOD
By being confined in the courtyard of the guard, Jeremiah had some freedom to meet with people v 1. His message was heard by four powerful officials. Gedaliah son of Pashhur who had Jeremiah beaten and placed him in the stocks (20:1-6). "Jucal" may have been sent from Zedekiah to visit Jeremiah during the temporary withdrawal of the Babylonians to ask for prayer (37:3). Pashhur also visited Jeremiah at the beginning of the siege of Jerusalem asking for prayer perhaps God would act (21:1).
He also used this opportunity to deliver God’s message to any who would listen v 2. Jeremiah’s message was the same as before in 21:3-10 he who stays in this city will die ... but he who goes out to the Chaldeans will…stay alive v 3. The officials went to the king and said, let this man be put to death ... he is discouraging the men of war ... and all the people. They thought Jeremiah was not seeking the well-being of this people, but rather their harm v 4. These nobles complained to Zedekiah that Jeremiah was weakening the morale of the soldiers and discouraging the people from resisting the enemy. But the exact opposite was true. Let’s break down this complaint:
First, their solution is to silence the Word of God by putting Jeremiah to death. Second, Gods Word was discouraging the people left in the city. Third, the Word of God was harming the people rather than seeking their well-being. This is the same complaint heard today. It is always an attack upon Gods Word. Gods Word must be silenced. Gods Word unfiltered and not distilled does not allow people to live the way they want. So Gods Word unfiltered is harmful and not healthy for people.
King Zedekiah who promised earlier to protect Jeremiah, 37:18-21 now handed Jeremiah over to the officials and said, for the king can do nothing against you [officials] v 5. He was an early-day Pontius Pilate who washed his hands of his responsibility (Matt. 27:24). Zedekiah was a political puppet, incapable of making strong, independent decisions. He was controlled by either Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kings 24:17) or by the city officials who urged him to rebel against Babylon and then influenced his decisions (27:12-15; 38:5, 19, 24-28). So the officials took Jeremiah and let him down on a rope into a large cistern, in which there was no water but only mud, and Jeremiah sank into the mud v 6.
Application: The guards saw Jeremiah’s message as discouraging to the people, seeking their harm. It didn’t matter to them whether the message was the truth or not. It was the response of the people that mattered. Paul told Timothy that the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths (2 Tim 4:3-4).
THE RIGHTEOUS CHOOSE TO RISK ON BEHALF OF THE WORD OF GOD
The only official to intercede on Jeremiah’s behalf was Ebed-Melech who was an Ethiopian. He was a eunuch [or official] in the king’s palace v 7. We don’t know exactly what he did, but he had access to the king. Ebed-Melech went out from the king’s palace and spoke to the king v 8. He reported to the king that the other officials had acted wickedly in all that they have done to Jeremiah ... whom they have cast into the cistern; and he will die v 9. So the king commanded him to take thirty men ... and bring up Jeremiah ... from the cistern before he dies v 10. So Ebed-melech went to a storeroom and took from there worn-out clothes and…rags and let them down by ropes into the cistern v 11. They told Jeremiah to put the rags under your armpits under the ropes v 12 and then they lifted him out of the cistern. Then Jeremiah stayed in the court of the guardhouse v 13.
Application: Ebed-Melech was willing to lay his life on the line to rescue Jeremiah. God rewards him. When the invasion occurred, his life was spared (39:15-18). You must decide whose side are you on. The righteous affirm the Word in spite of the risks to themselves. In this day and age, the Lord needs more of us to stand up for the stark reality Gods Word reveals. The strategy in todays world is to marginalize the truth by attacking and ridiculing it so Gods people wont stand true to it.
THE RESISTANT CONTINUE TO WAVER ABOUT OBEDIENCE TO THE WORD OF GOD
King Zedekiah again met Jeremiah secretly. The king said, I’m going to ask you something do not hide anything from me v 14. Jeremiah had two objections to answering the king’s inquiry: (1) If I tell you, will you not certainly put me to death? (2) Besides, if I give you advice, you will not listen to me v 15. Has the Lord changed His mind? No, He had not, but Zedekiah needed to change his. Zedekiah answered the first objection but not the second. He swore to Jeremiah in secret, I will not put you to death nor will I give you over to the hand of these men who are seeking your life v 16.
NB: When people ask to hear what Gods Word has to say it does not always mean they want to hear it. Obviously, just hearing what God has to say does not translate into obedience or agreement with God. Lots of people may want to hear what God says but will often disagree with Him or hope that there is some way to change it, challenge it, or manipulate it. But hearing it makes you accountable to it.
Jeremiah’s message was the same as before (21:1-10; 37:17; 38:1-3). If Zedekiah surrendered to the Babylonians, then you will live, this city will not be burned with fire, and you and your household will survive v 17. But if Zedekiah will not go out to the Babylonians, then this city ... will burn ... and you yourself will not escape from their hand v 18. This must have seemed like a very unlikely possibility to Zedekiah since he had proved to be a rebellious vassal of Nebuchadnezzar.
NB: The Word of God does not change. Like Zedekiah, people want the Bible to change its message because they refuse to listen to it as is. The godly life is one that accepts the word of God’s message and applies it. The rebellious are always looking for a way to adapt it.
Zedekiah reason for hedging on Gods Word was he is in dread of the Jews who have gone over to the Chaldeans, lest they give me over into their hand and they abuse me v 19. He thought the Babylonians would hand him over to the Jews who had surrendered to the Babylonians, and those Jews would then torture Zedekiah for his past acts of cruelty to them. Jeremiah tried to assure Zedekiah otherwise.
PT: Fear of potential consequences of obeying Gods Word often outweighs one from initiating obedience. Obeying can seem counter productive to reality justifying an alternative course of action.
Jeremiah pled with Zedekiah to obey God v 20. But if you keep refusing to go out the Lord promised that all the women in the palace would end up as the property of the enemy officer’s v 21-22. These women would curse Zedekiah for allowing his friends to mislead him. While the king delayed, his officers would get away. What had happened to Jeremiah physically would happen to Zedekiah politically, militarily, and spiritually: both were stuck in the mud.
NB: Throughout the Bible God calls for obedience and like Jeremiah we must call Gods people to obey and plead with them if necessary to do so. Obedience is the one thing God requires if one is going to please him or follow him or be rewarded by him. Obedience to God displays commitment to Gods interests. It reveals a willingness to allow God to determine your best interests.
If Zedekiah refused to surrender to Babylon, they will also bring out all your wives and your sons, you yourself will not escape from their hand ... and this city will be burned v 23. Zedekiah then told Jeremiah to let no man know about these words and you will not die v 24. What kind of response was that? One motivated by fear of reprisals of men rather than God. He told him if the officials questioned Jeremiah about their conversation, he was to say that he petitioned Zedekiah to not send him back to the cistern to die (which he did ask of Zedekiah earlier in 37:20) v 25-26. The officials did question Jeremiah and Jeremiah did as Zedekiah had instructed him v 27. So Jeremiah stayed in the court of the guardhouse until the day that Jerusalem was captured v 28.
Application: Ebed-Melech chose God’s side. Zedekiah did not, and he will suffer the consequences. He was a weak king. He was even afraid of the officials and how they would respond to his talking to Jeremiah. But Zedekiah was even more responsible for obeying God’s Word. He was privately confronted with the truth and Jeremiah pleaded with him to obey the truth. But he refused. Thus, each person has the choice to listen and obey the Word of God. A choice for which they will be accountable.
1. Make the Word of God more central to your life than you have so far in your life. Take more time with it than you have before. Study it. Read it. Understand it. Ponder it. Listen to it. Comprehend it.
2. Understand there is no going forward without obeying the Word. Your choices are resist it or obey. Obedience is the difference maker with God. That’s why God reminds us not to forget.