Jeremiah 35-38: Evil Times
October 14, 2020
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
Jeremiah receives word from God to ask the Rechabites to come to God’s house and there offer them wine to drink (35:2). They refuse to drink wine because their forefather had commanded them not to do so and given them other rules by which to live (35:6). This then allows Jeremiah, by God’s word, to paint an ironic picture for God’s people. Here the Rechabites are obeying the word of their father, but you, God’s people, are not obeying God’s word! (35:16)
Then comes the famous instance with the scroll. Jeremiah is commanded to write down all the words of his prophecy, and so asks Baruch to transcribe what he dictates to him and then go and read these words to the people (36:1-6). This prophetic warning is so that God’s people might hear God’s word and so repent and turn and live (36:3).
Baruch does as he is told (36:8, 10, 15) and, hearing the words, “they turned to one another in fear” (36:16). They decide the king must hear this. But they also know that Jeremiah’s message is political suicide so advise Jeremiah and Baruch to hide (36:19).
So here is this great opportunity for the king to hear God’s word, soften his heart, and respond. Instead he arrogantly, fearlessly, foolishly, cuts off three or four columns from the scroll as it is being read and throws it in the fire (36:23-25). It is the equivalent of telling someone the gospel and them putting their fingers in the ears and singing loudly “I can’t hear you.”
Of course, God’s word cannot be so denied. Another scroll is written (36:27-28), and the king will not escape judgment for refusing to listen to a message of salvation (36:30-31).
This pattern of ignoring Jeremiah continues (37:2). Eventually, Jeremiah is accused of treason (37:13) because he is predicting that Jerusalem will fall. Surely they think he must be an agent of Babylon! Jeremiah is thrown into a dungeon (37:15), but Zedekiah secretly questions him (37:17). He knows Jeremiah is a prophet, and while he feels he must publicly show that his message is wrong, secretly he realizes that Jeremiah may well be telling the truth. Jeremiah at least gains more favorable treatment (37:20-21).
But then Jeremiah is cast into a cistern (38:6), a large sunken or underground container for water—in this case, though, containing nothing but mud. Zedekiah has become very weak. He cedes power to his officials, in effect (38:5); Jeremiah sinks into the mud (38:6).
But then another official comes and pleads Jeremiah’s case (38:7-9), and so Zedekiah changes his mind and Jeremiah is rescued (38:10-13). A bad king is bad enough; a bad king who is also a weak king is terrible. The only upside is that a good man can influence a weak king for good. And so Jeremiah is released.
Once again Zedekiah secretly seeks Jeremiah’s advice (38:16). He is told to surrender to Babylon and he and his household will live (38:17-18). Zedekiah confesses that he is afraid of those who have deserted to the Babylonians—presumably that they would influence his enemies to treat him badly (38:19). Jeremiah tells him that he should not fear, but obey God (38:20) —and uses the image of sinking in the mud—vividly, recently experienced by Jeremiah—to make his point (38:2122). Zedekiah swears Jeremiah to secrecy (38:24).
Arrogance, fear of man, haughtiness, a lack of fear of God, a lack of honor of God’s word, corrupt officials. God save us from such evil times.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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