I hope you’re getting as much out of these readings as I am. I’ve always liked Jeremiah, but I’m impressed over and over again by his long-suffering persistence in pleading with a sometimes fearful, sometimes hard-headed and hard-hearted, and sometimes just plain foolish people to do the right thing — obey God. Today’s reading continues Jeremiah’s story of the Babylonian conquest of Judah and the aftermath of assassination and fear that it engendered.
A reward for God’s obedient ones
Jeremiah had been telling the people and their rulers for a long time that if they would simply submit to the Chaldeans (Babylonians) they would at least receive their life as a reward. Most didn’t listen, but of course Jeremiah did follow his own God-inspired advice and indeed received his life and a little extra. Jeremiah was released from the chains of the Jewish rulers, was offered safe passage to Babylon (where potentially he might have been received well by Nebuchadnezzar as a prophet that “had been on their side”. But Jeremiah chose to stay with his people; God had plans for people like Daniel and Ezekiel to be the prophets in far away Babylon. But the point for us to remember is that no matter how crazy the advice might have seemed, when the conquest of Jerusalem first happened, God’s command to submit to the punishment of exile was the only half-way decent ending for this episode of Israel’s history. Resistance really was futile. So also for us — why do we insist on resisting what God has to say to us? Do we really think we can prevail? Do we really think that our plan will work out better? Then why do we struggle against Him so often?
Why didn’t Gedaliah ask Jeremiah?
In the margin of my Bible at 40:15,16, during at previous reading through the book of Jeremiah, I wrote, “Why didn’t he [Gedaliah] ask Jeremiah [about the seriousness of the assassination threat]?” I mean, after all, you’ve a prophet of God near at hand to give you the always accurate intelligence you need. But he didn’t, and his reliance on his own ability to see a plot coming got him assassinated in the end. Is there a point here? We receive a lot advice in our lives from well meaning family and friends — and occasionally the not-so-well intended enemies we might have — about important decisions we need to make in our lives. We listen to them all, we weigh their advice, we think about it, maybe we even pray about it, but regrettably we often don’t consult with God’s word about it — and usually suffer the consequences, just like Gedaliah. The vast majority of us have God’s word right at hand, why not consult with the one always right Advisor.
Fears trump good intentions
After the assassination of Gedaliah panic ensued — someone, after all, had just murdered the governor of the province of Judah appointed by Babylon. Babylon would surely see this as rebellion and wipe out the remainder of the Jews in the land. And even if he doesn’t, their long-standing enemies, the Ammonites, have sinister plans for the remaining Jews. What will we do? Many wanted to run to Egypt, thinking that Egypt would be too far for Babylon to pursue them. But unlike Gedaliah who didn’t consult with Jeremiah, the remaining Jews do ask Jeremiah to ask God what they should do. Jeremiah 42:5, 6 “Then they said to Jeremiah, “May the LORD be a true and faithful witness against us if we do not act in accordance with the whole message with which the LORD your God will send you to us. “Whether it is pleasant or unpleasant, we will listen to the voice of the LORD our God to whom we are sending you, so that it may go well with us when we listen to the voice of the LORD our God.”” So, Jeremiah consulted with the LORD, who told them to not go to Egypt. As the remaining Jews thought this over, (spoiler alert) their fear overwhelmed their good intentions. The point: it’s not enough to get advice from God, you need to follow through and obey. As an evangelist, I’ve talked with a lot folks who have sworn loyalty to God and His word, that they would do anything that God commanded — and then turned away to truth in His word that was undeniably plain, a truth that they acknowledged to be there. Don’t let that guy be you.
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.