Persevere In Obedience
August 26 2012 (Jer. 37:11-17;38:4-6,14-18)
Some expositors have agreed with Jeremiah’s enemies, that he had taken his own prophecies seriously and was about to go over to the enemy. But Jeremiah was committed to stay and warn his own people as long as there was hope of saving even one! His own explanation makes sense. Jeremiah intended to go home—Anathoth was just three miles from Jerusalem—and put his affairs in order before the Babylonians returned.Don’t expect your enemies to believe your explanation of your actions, even when you’re telling the truth.We make a mistake when we assume that the priorities of God and country are always the same. The officials who complained that Jeremiah was weakening the people’s morale were undoubtedly correct. But did this make him a traitor? Jeremiah put God’s Word and values first and believed that if his country did the same, all would be well. We need to follow Jeremiah’s example. God must be put first, country a distant second. And when the two are in conflict, we must make Jeremiah’s choice, and be faithful to God.
1. Jeremiah is imprisoned. (Jer.37:11-17)
Jer 37:11 And it happened, when the army of the Chaldeans left the siege of Jerusalem for fear of Pharaoh’s army, 12 that Jeremiah went out of Jerusalem to go into the land of Benjamin to claim his property there among the people. 13 And when he was in the Gate of Benjamin, a captain of the guard was there whose name was Irijah the son of Shelemiah, the son of Hananiah; and he seized Jeremiah the prophet, saying, “You are defecting to the Chaldeans!”14 Then Jeremiah said, “False! I am not defecting to the Chaldeans.” But he did not listen to him. So Irijah seized Jeremiah and brought him to the princes. 15 Therefore the princes were angry with Jeremiah, and they struck him and put him in prison in the house of Jonathan the scribe. For they had made that the prison.16 When Jeremiah entered the dungeon and the cells, and Jeremiah had remained there many days, 17 then Zedekiah the king sent and took him out. The king asked him secretly in his house, and said, “Is there any word from the Lord?” And Jeremiah said, “There is.” Then he said, “You shall be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon!”
There are times when it is the wisdom of good men to retire, to enter into their chambers, and to shut the doors, Isaiah 26:20 . Jeremiah was seized as a deserter, and committed to prison. But it is no new thing for the best friends of the church to be belied, as in the interests of her worst enemies. When thus falsely accused, we may deny the charge, and commit our cause to Him who judges righteously. Jeremiah obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful, and would not, to obtain mercy of man, be unfaithful to God or to his prince; he tells the king the whole truth. When Jeremiah delivered God’s message, he spake with boldness; but when he made his own request, he spake submissively. A lion in God’s cause must be a lamb in his own. And God gave Jeremiah favour in the eyes of the king. The Lord God can make even the cells of a prison become pastures to his people, and will raise up friends to provide for them, so that in the days of famine they shall be satisfied.
2. Jeremiah is cast into a dungeon, from whence he is delivered by an Ethiopian. (Jer .38:4-6)
Jer 38:4 Therefore the princes said to the king, “Please, let this man be put to death, for thus he weakens the hands of the men of war who remain in this city, and the hands of all the people, by speaking such words to them. For this man does not seek the welfare of this people, but their harm.”5 Then Zedekiah the king said, “Look, he is in your hand. For the king can do nothing against you.” 6 So they took Jeremiah and cast him into the dungeon of Malchiah the king’s son, which was in the court of the prison, and they let Jeremiah down with ropes. And in the dungeon there was no water, but mire. So Jeremiah sank in the mire.
Jeremiah went on in his plain preaching. The princes went on in their malice. It is common for wicked people to look upon God’s faithful ministers as enemies, because they show what enemies the wicked are to themselves while impenitent. Jeremiah was put into a dungeon. Many of God’s faithful witnesses have been privately made away in prisons. Ebed-melech was an Ethiopian; yet he spoke to the king faithfully, These men have done ill in all they have done to Jeremiah. See how God can raise up friends for his people in distress. Orders were given for the prophet’s release, and Ebed-melech saw him drawn up. Let this encourage us to appear boldly for God. Special notice is taken of his tenderness for Jeremiah. What do we behold in the different characters then, but the same we behold in the different characters now, that the Lord’s children are conformed to his example, and the children of Satan to their master?
3. He advises the king to surrender to the Chaldeans. (Jer. 38:14-18)
Jer.38:14 Then Zedekiah the king sent and had Jeremiah the prophet brought to him at the third entrance of the house of the Lord. And the king said to Jeremiah, “I will ask you something. Hide nothing from me.”15 Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, “If I declare it to you, will you not surely put me to death? And if I give you advice, you will not listen to me.”16 So Zedekiah the king swore secretly to Jeremiah, saying, “As the Lord lives, who made our very souls, I will not put you to death, nor will I give you into the hand of these men who seek your life.”17 Then Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, “Thus says the Lord, the God of hosts, the God of Israel: ‘If you surely surrender to the king of Babylon’s princes, then your soul shall live; this city shall not be burned with fire, and you and your house shall live. 18 But if you do not surrender to the king of Babylon’s princes, then this city shall be given into the hand of the Chaldeans; they shall burn it with fire, and you shall not escape from their hand.’
Jeremiah was not forward to repeat the warnings, which seemed only to endanger his own life, and to add to the king’s guilt, but asked whether he feared to do the will of God. The less men fear God, the more they fear men; often they dare not act according to their own judgments and consciences.
A powerful position is no guarantee of strength of character. This is evident in these two chapters that trace the relationship between Jeremiah and King Zedekiah during the siege of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. Zedekiah begs Jeremiah to pray for the city , but the prophet can only promise impending defeat . When the siege is temporarily lifted, Jeremiah tries to leave the city but is accused of treason and arrested . This begins his imprisonment, first in a dungeon and later in an official’s courtyard . While there Jeremiah urges the people to go over to the Babylonians and save their lives, arousing the fury of Jerusalem’s “hawks” . The prophet is thrown into a cistern to die and then rescued . King Zedekiah, terrified of both the Babylonians and his own officials, secretly asks Jeremiah what to do. But he is afraid to follow the prophet’s advice , even terrified lest someone discover he had asked . Through it all the prisoner shows courage and strength of character, the king utter weakness.