Panic piety is good only if it’s genuine and lasting. You shouldn’t call on God only when you’re in trouble. You should follow, trust and obey God so you DON’T get into trouble. In other words, God is NOT your spare tire. He should be your GPS and the Holy Spirit should be your fuel. We meet a few interesting people in today’s chapters. Let’s dig in…
Jeremiah 37 – King Zedekiah Calls for Jeremiah
Zedekiah son of Josiah succeeded Jehoiachin son of Jehoiakim as the king of Judah. He was appointed by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. 2 But neither King Zedekiah nor his attendants nor the people who were left in the land listened to what the Lord said through Jeremiah.
3 Nevertheless, King Zedekiah sent Jehucal son of Shelemiah, and Zephaniah the priest, son of Maaseiah, to ask Jeremiah, “Please pray to the Lord our God for us.” 4 Jeremiah had not yet been imprisoned, so he could come and go among the people as he pleased.
5 At this time the army of Pharaoh Hophra of Egypt appeared at the southern border of Judah. When the Babylonian army heard about it, they withdrew from their siege of Jerusalem.
6 Then the Lord gave this message to Jeremiah: 7 “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: The king of Judah sent you to ask me what is going to happen. Tell him, ‘Pharaoh’s army is about to return to Egypt, though he came here to help you. 8 Then the Babylonians will come back and capture this city and burn it to the ground.’
9 “This is what the Lord says: Do not fool yourselves into thinking that the Babylonians are gone for good. They aren’t! 10 Even if you were to destroy the entire Babylonian army, leaving only a handful of wounded survivors, they would still stagger from their tents and burn this city to the ground!”
Jeremiah Is Imprisoned
11 When the Babylonian army left Jerusalem because of Pharaoh’s approaching army, 12 Jeremiah started to leave the city on his way to the territory of Benjamin, to claim his share of the property among his relatives there. 13 But as he was walking through the Benjamin Gate, a sentry arrested him and said, “You are defecting to the Babylonians!” The sentry making the arrest was Irijah son of Shelemiah, grandson of Hananiah.
14 “That’s not true!” Jeremiah protested. “I had no intention of doing any such thing.” But Irijah wouldn’t listen, and he took Jeremiah before the officials. 15 They were furious with Jeremiah and had him flogged and imprisoned in the house of Jonathan the secretary. Jonathan’s house had been converted into a prison. 16 Jeremiah was put into a dungeon cell, where he remained for many days.
17 Later King Zedekiah secretly requested that Jeremiah come to the palace, where the king asked him, “Do you have any messages from the Lord?”
“Yes, I do!” said Jeremiah. “You will be defeated by the king of Babylon.”
18 Then Jeremiah asked the king, “What crime have I committed? What have I done against you, your attendants, or the people that I should be imprisoned like this? 19 Where are your prophets now who told you the king of Babylon would not attack you or this land? 20 Listen, my lord the king, I beg you. Don’t send me back to the dungeon in the house of Jonathan the secretary, for I will die there.”
21 So King Zedekiah commanded that Jeremiah not be returned to the dungeon. Instead, he was imprisoned in the courtyard of the guard in the royal palace. The king also commanded that Jeremiah be given a loaf of fresh bread every day as long as there was any left in the city. So Jeremiah was put in the palace prison.Jeremiah 37 NLT
- Remember Hananiah? He was the false prophet who kept saying that the Jews would return in 2 years. God took care or him. Well, here’s his grandson with a personal vendetta against Jeremiah.
- King Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonian army came in 3 waves. This was the first one. The Egyptians must have scared them away for now, but they’d be back.
- King Zedekiah was desperate for God to change His mind. Zed wasn’t going to change His attitude. He wasn’t repentant. He wasn’t humble (yet). He wanted Jeremiah to tell him something different.
- A flogging in those days consisted of 39 lashes with a cat-o-nine tails. It’s what they used to whip Jesus. Why 39? It was thought that 40 would kill the person. Therefore, the flogging would take the person to the brink of death.
- All Jeremiah did was tell the truth. He passed on what God told him to say. Jeremiah wasn’t going to stretch, twist or water-down the truth of the coming judgment.
- Zedekiah wanted what Jeremiah had — a close relationship with God. Pastor Sandy Adams explains…
This was quite a scene. Imagine, the king in all his pomp sitting on a throne clothed in his royal robes and golden crown. And standing across from the king is an old man shivering from the cold. He’s bloody and wounded. What a contrast – the evil king and prophet of God! And this meeting has been arranged discreetly, covertly. Zedekiah doesn’t want to seem dependent on the man of God, yet he knows he speaks for the Almighty… “Is there any word from the Lord?”
In years past, this king’s glory had been his wisdom, his might, his riches. But now with the enemy outside his walls and his defeat almost certain – his wisdom and might and riches are worthless to him. He would gladly trade them all for what Jeremiah possesses – a relationship with God… the knowledge of God. Yet what Jeremiah had was his goal from the beginning. He’d taken heed to God’s wisdom in 9:23… The Lord had declared, “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might, nor let the rich man glory in his riches; but let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth.” (NKJV)
Rather than wisdom, or might, or riches, Jeremiah had sought to know God. Now what He possesses, not what the king has, is suddenly in great demand. If you seek after God instead of this material world, people may mock you – think you’re crazy… for a time. But when the chips are down – when a crisis comes – if you know God, you’ll be the first person they call.
We’ve mentioned King Zedekiah in previous passages, but we get a real glimpse into his true personality and character in these next few chapters. Sadly, this king was a wimp! He was a royal in name only. He was the type of man who would agree with the last person he talked to. He was easily swayed. He started out pro-Babylonian. He was put in power by Nebuchadnezzar. But he inherited a pro-Egypt cabinet. And he played both sides – appease everyone.
Zedekiah was the quintessential politician. He was like a weather vane – he was turned by the currents. Zedekiah actually had a great respect for Jeremiah. He knew Jeremiah was a true man of God. He always wanted to know what Jeremiah had to say. Zedekiah recognized him as God’s spokesman. But the king lacked the guts to follow through on Jeremiah’s guidance. Privately, he sought the Prophet’s wisdom, but publicly he kept aloof. He fears the scorn and ridicule he’ll receive if he appears too chummy with Jeremiah. That’s why here he calls for a secret audience.Sandy Adams
Jeremiah 38 – In the Mire
Now Shephatiah son of Mattan, Gedaliah son of Pashhur, Jehucal son of Shelemiah, and Pashhur son of Malkijah heard what Jeremiah had been telling the people. He had been saying, 2 “This is what the Lord says: ‘Everyone who stays in Jerusalem will die from war, famine, or disease, but those who surrender to the Babylonians will live. Their reward will be life. They will live!’ 3 The Lord also says: ‘The city of Jerusalem will certainly be handed over to the army of the king of Babylon, who will capture it.’”
4 So these officials went to the king and said, “Sir, this man must die! That kind of talk will undermine the morale of the few fighting men we have left, as well as that of all the people. This man is a traitor!”
5 King Zedekiah agreed. “All right,” he said. “Do as you like. I can’t stop you.”
6 So the officials took Jeremiah from his cell and lowered him by ropes into an empty cistern in the prison yard. It belonged to Malkijah, a member of the royal family. There was no water in the cistern, but there was a thick layer of mud at the bottom, and Jeremiah sank down into it.
7 But Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, (Eunuch) an important court official, heard that Jeremiah was in the cistern. At that time the king was holding court at the Benjamin Gate, 8 so Ebed-melech rushed from the palace to speak with him. 9 “My lord the king,” he said, “these men have done a very evil thing in putting Jeremiah the prophet into the cistern. He will soon die of hunger, for almost all the bread in the city is gone.”
10 So the king told Ebed-melech, “Take thirty of my men with you, and pull Jeremiah out of the cistern before he dies.”
11 So Ebed-melech took the men with him and went to a room in the palace beneath the treasury, where he found some old rags and discarded clothing. He carried these to the cistern and lowered them to Jeremiah on a rope. 12 Ebed-melech called down to Jeremiah, “Put these rags under your armpits to protect you from the ropes.” Then when Jeremiah was ready, 13 they pulled him out. So Jeremiah was returned to the courtyard of the guard—the palace prison—where he remained.
Zedekiah Questions Jeremiah
14 One day King Zedekiah sent for Jeremiah and had him brought to the third entrance of the Lord’s Temple. “I want to ask you something,” the king said. “And don’t try to hide the truth.”
15 Jeremiah said, “If I tell you the truth, you will kill me. And if I give you advice, you won’t listen to me anyway.”
16 So King Zedekiah secretly promised him, “As surely as the Lord our Creator lives, I will not kill you or hand you over to the men who want you dead.”
17 Then Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, “This is what the Lord God of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says: ‘If you surrender to the Babylonian officers, you and your family will live, and the city will not be burned down. 18 But if you refuse to surrender, you will not escape! This city will be handed over to the Babylonians, and they will burn it to the ground.’”
19 “But I am afraid to surrender,” the king said, “for the Babylonians may hand me over to the Judeans who have defected to them. And who knows what they will do to me!”
20 Jeremiah replied, “You won’t be handed over to them if you choose to obey the Lord. Your life will be spared, and all will go well for you. 21 But if you refuse to surrender, this is what the Lord has revealed to me: 22 All the women left in your palace will be brought out and given to the officers of the Babylonian army. Then the women will taunt you, saying,
‘What fine friends you have!
They have betrayed and misled you.
When your feet sank in the mud,
they left you to your fate!’
23 All your wives and children will be led out to the Babylonians, and you will not escape. You will be seized by the king of Babylon, and this city will be burned down.”
24 Then Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, “Don’t tell anyone you told me this, or you will die! 25 My officials may hear that I spoke to you, and they may say, ‘Tell us what you and the king were talking about. If you don’t tell us, we will kill you.’ 26 If this happens, just tell them you begged me not to send you back to Jonathan’s dungeon, for fear you would die there.”
27 Sure enough, it wasn’t long before the king’s officials came to Jeremiah and asked him why the king had called for him. But Jeremiah followed the king’s instructions, and they left without finding out the truth. No one had overheard the conversation between Jeremiah and the king. 28 And Jeremiah remained a prisoner in the courtyard of the guard until the day Jerusalem was captured.Jeremiah 38 NLT
Stuck in the Mud and Mire
Have you ever been stuck in the mud? Literally? I have. When I was in high school, we lived in upstate NY and there was a small pond close to our house. I loved to go there and check out the wildlife — mostly frogs. One day, too soon after a rain, I got stuck in the mud. I had on rubber boots over my shoes and when I tried to pull my foot out, my foot would come out of the boot. My shoe would stay in the boot. I was by myself so I had no choice but to walk home in muddy stocking feet. That powerful mire just sucks you down. It’s awful.
We have those moments in life. Years later, I found myself stuck in a situation where the only place to go was up. It happened to me a few times until I finally, fully trusted God. My story is at the bottom.
Jeremiah’s time in the mire of the cistern brought to mind one of my favorite psalms. It’s interesting. David wrote it about 400 years before, but it could have been written by Jeremiah.
1 I waited patiently for the Lord to help me,
and he turned to me and heard my cry.
2 He lifted me out of the pit of despair,
out of the mud and the mire.
He set my feet on solid ground
and steadied me as I walked along.
3 He has given me a new song to sing,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see what he has done and be amazed.
They will put their trust in the Lord.
4 Oh, the joys of those who trust the Lord,
who have no confidence in the proud
or in those who worship idols.
5 O Lord my God, you have performed many wonders for us.
Your plans for us are too numerous to list.
You have no equal.
If I tried to recite all your wonderful deeds,
I would never come to the end of them.
6 You take no delight in sacrifices or offerings.Psalm 40:1-8 NLT
Now that you have made me listen, I finally understand—
you don’t require burnt offerings or sin offerings.
7 Then I said, “Look, I have come.
As is written about me in the Scriptures:
8 I take joy in doing your will, my God,
for your instructions are written on my heart.”
The Servant of the King
“Ebed-melech” is actually a title, not a name. It means “Servant of the King”. Pastor Sandy Adams explains…
Think of what’s happening here. “Ebed-Melech” is the “servant of the king.” He has access to the throne. He cares for Jeremiah. And I love how this man helps the Prophet… He’s compassionate! He gathers soft rags and old clothes to place under Jeremiah’s arms so the ropes don’t cut into his tenderized flesh. He and the thirty men with him, lift Jeremiah out of the miry pit in the most gentle, and loving, and tender way possible.
I believe this is a picture of God’s mercies toward us. At times we get stuck in the muck. In our attempts to serve the Lord we get mired down and need a lift. And when we do, God sends Ebed-Melech – the Holy Spirit, who is also a servant of the king. He is the comforter Jesus promised us. Whenever the Holy Spirit is seen typologically in the Scriptures it’s always as an unnamed servant – Genesis 23, Ruth 2, likewise here. And “The Servant of the King” knows how to gently and compassionately lift His servants out of the pit!
And often, our Ebed-Melech also uses the help of human hands. His thirty men represent the Church! It’s lonely in the mire. You become disoriented from the toxic nature of your disappointments. Like Elijah you think you’re all alone. Like Moses your arms grow weary and start to droop. We need other Christians. We forget there’s a servant of the king and thirty men nearby who know our need and want to lift us out.Sandy Adams
God Doesn’t Change His Mind Unless You Obey
Let’s go over our 3 major characters in this story…
- Jeremiah, the prophet, who doesn’t waver from his divine assignment no matter what. He was whipped, thrown in prison, then in a yucky cistern left to die.
- Zedekiah, the wimpy king, who doesn’t want to accept the fact that because his people have sinned, God is bringing judgment in the form of the Babylonians invading, capturing him, the best of the best of Judah and carting them off to Babylon for 70 years of exile. He also goes with the flow — and agrees with everyone who comes a long with a cool idea.
- The servant without a name, who takes pity on Jeremiah and gently rescues him from the cistern.
Which character do you identify with?
- Jeremiah — you’re a born-again Christian with a solid relationship with your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. You’re steadfast in your faith and would take on anything rather than disobey God.
- Zedekiah — who’s heard the Good News of the Salvation of Jesus Christ, yet doesn’t obey. He wanted God to change the rules for him. That’s pride and God hates pride. No one is above God. Like Zedekiah, you will face judgment and the Great Tribulation if you don’t repent and follow Jesus only. You also can’t go with the flow of culture because it will lead you to hell.
- The Servant of the King — who’s a born-again believer who eagerly seeks the Lord every day, is obedient, follows and serves Jesus only. You are part of a church family who will come together when there is someone in need or a task to be done.
I hope you chose either #1 or #3. If you’re identifying with King Zed, then you’ve got some repenting to do. Since God hates pride, He tends to humble prideful and vain people if you don’t humble yourself before Him first.
“God opposes the proud
but gives grace to the humble.”
6 So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. 7 Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.1 Peter 5:5-7 NLT
Notice it’s “at the right time”. It’s in HIS TIME. The Good News is that His timing is always perfect!
33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.Matthew 6:33 NLT
The wonderful thing is that it REALLY WORKS! Try it, you’ll like!
Jesus didn’t suffer torture and die so we could have religion!
He died so He could have a personal Relationship with YOU!
What are you waiting for?! You’ve got nothing to lose and eternity to gain!
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