August 18, Jeremiah 38-40, Psalms 74, 79

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38 Now Shephatiah son of Mattan, Gedaliah son of Pashhur, Jucal[a] son of Shelemiah, and Pashhur son of Malchijah heard the words Jeremiah was speaking to all the people: “This is what the Lord says: ‘Whoever stays in this city will die by the sword, famine, and plague, but whoever surrenders to the Chaldeans will live. He will retain his life like the spoils of war and will live.’ This is what the Lord says: ‘This city will most certainly be handed over to the king of Babylon’s army, and he will capture it.’”

The officials then said to the king, “This man ought to die, because he is weakening the morale[b] of the warriors who remain in this city and of all the people by speaking to them in this way. This man is not pursuing the welfare of this people, but their harm.”

King Zedekiah said, “Here he is; he’s in your hands since the king can’t do anything against you.” So they took Jeremiah and dropped him into the cistern of Malchiah the king’s son, which was in the guard’s courtyard, lowering Jeremiah with ropes. There was no water in the cistern, only mud, and Jeremiah sank in the mud.

But Ebed-melech, a Cushite court official in the king’s palace, heard Jeremiah had been put into the cistern. While the king was sitting at the Benjamin Gate, Ebed-melech went from the king’s palace and spoke to the king: “My lord the king, these men have been evil in all they have done to the prophet Jeremiah. They have dropped him into the cistern where he will die from hunger, because there is no more bread in the city.”

10 So the king commanded Ebed-melech, the Cushite, “Take from here thirty men under your authority[c] and pull the prophet Jeremiah up from the cistern before he dies.”

11 So Ebed-melech took the men under his authority[d] and went to the king’s palace to a place below the storehouse.[e] From there he took old rags and worn-out clothes and lowered them by ropes to Jeremiah in the cistern. 12 Ebed-melech the Cushite called down to Jeremiah, “Place these old rags and clothes between your armpits and the ropes.” Jeremiah did this. 13 They pulled him up with the ropes and lifted him out of the cistern, but he remained in the guard’s courtyard.

Zedekiah’s Final Meeting with Jeremiah

14 King Zedekiah sent for the prophet Jeremiah and received him at the third entrance of the Lord’s temple. The king said to Jeremiah, “I am going to ask you something; don’t hide anything from me.”

15 Jeremiah replied to Zedekiah, “If I tell you, you will kill me, won’t you? Besides, if I give you advice, you won’t listen to me anyway.”

16 King Zedekiah swore to Jeremiah in private, “As the Lord lives, who has given us this life, I will not kill you or hand you over to these men who intend to take your life.”

17 Jeremiah therefore said to Zedekiah, “This is what the Lord, the God of Armies, the God of Israel, says: ‘If indeed you surrender to the officials of the king of Babylon, then you will live, this city will not be burned, and you and your household will survive. 18 But if you do not surrender to the officials of the king of Babylon, then this city will be handed over to the Chaldeans. They will burn it, and you yourself will not escape from them.’”

19 But King Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, “I am worried about the Judeans who have defected to the Chaldeans. They may hand me over to the Judeans to abuse me.”

20 “They will not hand you over,” Jeremiah replied. “Obey the Lord in what I am telling you, so it may go well for you and you can live. 21 But if you refuse to surrender, this is the verdict[f] that the Lord has shown me: 22 ‘All the women[g] who remain in the palace of Judah’s king will be brought out to the officials of the king of Babylon and will say to you,[h]

“Your trusted friends[i] misled[j] you
and overcame you.
Your feet sank into the mire,
and they deserted you.”

23 All your wives and children will be brought out to the Chaldeans. You yourself will not escape from them, for you will be seized by the king of Babylon and this city will burn.’”

24 Then Zedekiah warned Jeremiah, “Don’t let anyone know about this conversation[k] or you will die. 25 The officials may hear that I have spoken with you and come and demand of you, ‘Tell us what you said to the king; don’t hide anything from us and we won’t kill you. Also, what did the king say to you?’ 26 If they do, tell them, ‘I was bringing before the king my petition that he not return me to the house of Jonathan to die there.’” 27 All the officials did come to Jeremiah, and they questioned him. He reported the exact words to them the king had commanded, and they quit speaking with him because the conversation[l] had not been overheard. 28 Jeremiah remained in the guard’s courtyard until the day Jerusalem was captured, and he was there when it happened.[m]

The Fall of Jerusalem to Babylon

39 In the ninth year of King Zedekiah of Judah, in the tenth month, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon advanced against Jerusalem with his entire army and laid siege to it. In the fourth month of Zedekiah’s eleventh year, on the ninth day of the month, the city was broken into. All the officials of the king of Babylon entered and sat at the Middle Gate: Nergal-sharezer, Samgar, Nebusarsechim[n] the chief of staff, Nergal-sharezer the chief soothsayer, and all the rest of the officials of Babylon’s king.

When King Zedekiah of Judah and all the fighting men saw them, they fled. They left the city at night by way of the king’s garden through the city gate between the two walls. They left along the route to the Arabah. However, the Chaldean army pursued them and overtook Zedekiah in the plains of Jericho. They arrested him and brought him up to Nebuchadnezzar, Babylon’s king, at Riblah in the land of Hamath. The king passed sentence on him there.

At Riblah the king of Babylon slaughtered Zedekiah’s sons before his eyes, and he also slaughtered all Judah’s nobles. Then he blinded Zedekiah and put him in bronze chains to take him to Babylon. The Chaldeans next burned down the king’s palace and the people’s houses and tore down the walls of Jerusalem. Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guards, deported the rest of the people to Babylon—those who had remained in the city and those deserters who had defected to him along with the rest of the people who remained. 10 However, Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guards, left in the land of Judah some of the poor people who owned nothing, and he gave them vineyards and fields at that time.

Jeremiah Freed by Nebuchadnezzar

11 Speaking through Nebuzaradan, captain of the guards, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon gave orders concerning Jeremiah: 12 “Take him and look after him. Don’t do him any harm, but do for him whatever he says.” 13 Nebuzaradan, captain of the guards, Nebushazban the chief of staff, Nergal-sharezer the chief soothsayer, and all the captains of Babylon’s king 14 had Jeremiah brought from the guard’s courtyard and turned him over to Gedaliah son of Ahikam, son of Shaphan, to take him home. So he settled among his own people.

15 Now the word of the Lord had come to Jeremiah when he was confined in the guard’s courtyard: 16 “Go tell Ebed-melech the Cushite, ‘This is what the Lord of Armies, the God of Israel, says: I am about to fulfill my words for disaster and not for good against this city. They will take place before your eyes on that day. 17 But I will rescue you on that day—this is the Lord’s declaration—and you will not be handed over to the men you dread. 18 Indeed, I will certainly deliver you so that you do not fall by the sword. Because you have trusted in me, you will retain your life like the spoils of war. This is the Lord’s declaration.’”

Jeremiah Stays in Judah

40 This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord after Nebuzaradan, captain of the guards, released him at Ramah. When he found him, he was bound in chains with all the exiles of Jerusalem and Judah who were being exiled to Babylon. The captain of the guards took Jeremiah and said to him, “The Lord your God decreed this disaster on this place, and the Lord has fulfilled it. He has done just what he decreed. Because you people have sinned against the Lord and have not obeyed him, this thing has happened. Now pay attention: Today I am setting you free from the chains that were on your hands. If it pleases you to come with me to Babylon, come, and I will take care of you. But if it seems wrong to you to come with me to Babylon, go no farther.[o] Look—the whole land is in front of you. Wherever it seems good and right for you to go, go there.” When Jeremiah had not yet turned to go, Nebuzaradan said to him,[p] “Return[q] to Gedaliah son of Ahikam, son of Shaphan, whom the king of Babylon has appointed over the cities of Judah, and stay with him among the people or go wherever it seems right for you to go.” So the captain of the guards gave him a ration and a gift and released him. Jeremiah therefore went to Gedaliah son of Ahikam at Mizpah, and he stayed with him among the people who remained in the land.

Gedaliah Advises Peace

All the commanders of the armies that were in the countryside—they and their men—heard that the king of Babylon had appointed Gedaliah son of Ahikam over the land. He had been put in charge of the men, women, and children from among the poorest of the land, who had not been deported to Babylon. So they came to Gedaliah at Mizpah. The commanders included Ishmael son of Nethaniah, Johanan and Jonathan the sons of Kareah, Seraiah son of Tanhumeth, the sons of Ephai the Netophathite, and Jezaniah son of the Maacathite—they and their men.

Gedaliah son of Ahikam, son of Shaphan, swore an oath to them and their men, assuring them, “Don’t be afraid to serve the Chaldeans. Live in the land and serve the king of Babylon, and it will go well for you. 10 As for me, I am going to live in Mizpah to represent you[r] before the Chaldeans who come to us. As for you, gather wine, summer fruit, and oil, place them in your storage jars, and live in the cities you have captured.”

11 When all the Judeans in Moab and among the Ammonites and in Edom and in all the other lands also heard that the king of Babylon had left a remnant in Judah and had appointed Gedaliah son of Ahikam, son of Shaphan, over them, 12 they all returned from all the places where they had been banished and came to the land of Judah, to Gedaliah at Mizpah, and harvested a great amount of wine and summer fruit.

13 Meanwhile, Johanan son of Kareah and all the commanders of the armies in the countryside came to Gedaliah at Mizpah 14 and warned him, “Don’t you realize that Baalis, king of the Ammonites, has sent Ishmael son of Nethaniah to kill you?” But Gedaliah son of Ahikam would not believe them. 15 Then Johanan son of Kareah suggested to Gedaliah in private at Mizpah, “Let me go kill Ishmael son of Nethaniah. No one will know it. Why should he kill you and allow all of Judah that has gathered around you to scatter and the remnant of Judah to perish?”

16 But Gedaliah son of Ahikam responded to Johanan son of Kareah, “Don’t do that! What you’re saying about Ishmael is a lie.”

Psalm 74

Why have you rejected us forever, God?
Why does your anger burn
against the sheep of your pasture?
Remember your congregation,
which you purchased long ago
and redeemed as the tribe for your own possession.
Remember Mount Zion where you dwell.
Make your way[a] to the perpetual ruins,
to all that the enemy has destroyed in the sanctuary.
Your adversaries roared in the meeting place
where you met with us.[b]
They set up their emblems as signs.
It was like men in a thicket of trees,
wielding axes,
then smashing all the carvings
with hatchets and picks.
They set your sanctuary on fire;
they utterly[c] desecrated
the dwelling place of your name.
They said in their hearts,
“Let’s oppress them relentlessly.”
They burned every place throughout the land
where God met with us.[d]
There are no signs for us to see.
There is no longer a prophet.
And none of us knows how long this will last.
10 God, how long will the enemy mock?
Will the foe insult your name forever?
11 Why do you hold back your hand?
Stretch out[e] your right hand and destroy them!

12 God my King is from ancient times,
performing saving acts on the earth.
13 You divided the sea with your strength;
you smashed the heads of the sea monsters in the water;
14 you crushed the heads of Leviathan;
you fed him to the creatures of the desert.
15 You opened up springs and streams;
you dried up ever-flowing rivers.
16 The day is yours, also the night;
you established the moon and the sun.
17 You set all the boundaries of the earth;
you made summer and winter.

18 Remember this: the enemy has mocked the Lord,
and a foolish people has insulted your name.
19 Do not give to beasts the life of your dove;[f]
do not forget the lives of your poor people forever.
20 Consider the covenant,
for the dark places of the land are full of violence.
21 Do not let the oppressed turn away in shame;
let the poor and needy praise your name.
22 Rise up, God, champion your cause!
Remember the insults
that fools bring against you all day long.
23 Do not forget the clamor of your adversaries,
the tumult of your opponents that goes up constantly.

Psalm 79

God, the nations have invaded your inheritance,
desecrated your holy temple,
and turned Jerusalem into ruins.
They gave the corpses of your servants
to the birds of the sky for food,
the flesh of your faithful ones
to the beasts of the earth.
They poured out their blood
like water all around Jerusalem,
and there was no one to bury them.
We have become an object of reproach
to our neighbors,
a source of mockery and ridicule
to those around us.

How long, Lord? Will you be angry forever?
Will your jealousy keep burning like fire?
Pour out your wrath on the nations
that don’t acknowledge you,
on the kingdoms that don’t call on your name,
for they have devoured Jacob
and devastated his homeland.
Do not hold past iniquities[a] against us;
let your compassion come to us quickly,
for we have become very weak.

God of our salvation, help us,
for the glory of your name.
Rescue us and atone for our sins,
for your name’s sake.
10 Why should the nations ask,
“Where is their God?”
Before our eyes,
let vengeance for the shed blood of your servants
be known among the nations.
11 Let the groans of the prisoners reach you;
according to your great power,
preserve those condemned to die.

12 Pay back sevenfold to our neighbors
the reproach they have hurled at you, Lord.
13 Then we, your people, the sheep of your pasture,
will thank you forever;
we will declare your praise
to generation after generation.

Have you ever felt like the Psalmist in Psalm 74? You plead with God and ask him why it seems he has turned his back on you and why your enemies and his enemies are succeeding? That is a tough spot to be in, and if you haven’t ever been there in your faith journey I can promise you one day you will find yourself in that very spot. We must remember God is a God of justice and His ways of handling things are not our ways of handling things. Our job is not to look around us and wonder why God’s enemies are succeeding…our job is to trust him with all that we are and know he will take care of us. So in that moment when it feels God has turned his back on you, remember he loves you and cares about you.

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