Day 168: Why Would God Allow This?

Jeremiah 41:4-10

The second day after he had killed Gedaliah, and no man knew it, men came from Shechem, from Shiloh, and from Samaria, even eighty men, having their beards shaved and their clothes torn, and having cut themselves, with meal offerings and frankincense in their hand, to bring them to Yahweh’s house. Ishmael the son of Nethaniah went out from Mizpah to meet them, weeping all along as he went, and as he met them, he said to them, “Come to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam.” It was so, when they came into the middle of the city, that Ishmael the son of Nethaniah killed them, and cast them into the middle of the pit, he, and the men who were with him. But ten men were found among those who said to Ishmael, “Don’t kill us; for we have stores hidden in the field, of wheat, and of barley, and of oil, and of honey.”

So he stopped, and didn’t kill them among their brothers. Now the pit in which Ishmael cast all the dead bodies of the men whom he had killed, by the side of Gedaliah (this was that which Asa the king had made for fear of Baasha king of Israel), Ishmael the son of Nethaniah filled it with those who were killed.

Then Ishmael carried away captive all of the people who were left in Mizpah, even the king’s daughters, and all the people who remained in Mizpah, whom Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard had committed to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam. Ishmael the son of Nethaniah carried them away captive, and departed to go over to the children of Ammon.

This sure was a horrible time in Israel’s history. In this passage we read about a group of men who came in an obvious state of repentance to offer sacrifices to God. Since some of them were from Samaria, it would appear that these were men who possibly had been attempting to worship God their own way in Samaria and were now aware of their sin and seeking to make a change. The horrible thing we read here is that they were met by a man who intended to kill them.

We also read that Ishmael came out to these men “weeping all along as he went.” He must have seemed like a very sincere guy, but he was actually an extreme liar and murderer. This is yet another reminder to us that we can’t judge a person by their appearance. It may take time before we can determine if a person’s tears are real. Just because someone acts like they have come to God, doesn’t mean that they really intend to follow through.

Those poor Jews who moved to Mizpah under the protection of Gedaliah and the king of Babylon, were now forced to follow this wicked man, Ishmael, on his way back to Israel’s long-time enemies: “the children of Ammon.” I’m pretty sure that they would have been better off having been taken back to Babylon. It’s pretty obvious what the children of Ammon thought of the Jews after sending Ishmael to kill them off with such deception. Why would God allow such a thing to happen?

When we see things like this happen in life it can be very confusing to us and cause us to doubt God. We should never doubt God’s goodness and justice, however. God is actually the only one who really knows what is going on inside of every person, and God knew that many of these people were still unwilling to obey Him. We will learn more about that as we read on.

Day 71: From Despair to Hope

Jeremiah 14:19-22

Have you utterly rejected Judah?
Has your soul loathed Zion?
Why have you struck us, and there is no healing for us?
We looked for peace, but no good came;
and for a time of healing, and behold, dismay!
We acknowledge, Yahweh, our wickedness,
and the iniquity of our fathers;
for we have sinned against you.
Do not abhor us, for your name’s sake.
Do not disgrace the throne of your glory.
Remember, and don’t break your covenant with us.
Are there any among the vanities of the nations that can cause rain?
Or can the sky give showers?
Aren’t you he, Yahweh our God?
Therefore we will wait for you;
for you have made all these things.

Right after God’s command that Jeremiah not ask for the good of Israel, we have this prayer. I assume that this prayer was not a violation of God’s request. It doesn’t ask God to keep them from their punishment. Instead, it recognizes both the sins of the current generation of Israelis as well as their relatives. This is an honest confession of sin. The prayer also expresses the concern that God may have rejected His own people. It expresses the fear that there may never be any healing of Israel this time.

Just as in many of the Psalms, this prayer starts out with doubt, and ends in confidence. That confidence appears to be coming from two things. First, there is a reminder of the fact that God had made a covenant with Israel. When God says something, it will always be true and God said that He would bless Israel forever. He said that He would punish them for a while, and return to them and heal them again. When we have God’s word on a matter, it is settled and that is why the Bible is so important to us today as well. The other thing that this prayer mentions is the fact that there is only one God who can save. Looking for salvation from anything or anyone else would be a waste.

In the end we read that the only right thing to do is to wait for God’s salvation. God is the only one who can help and He said that He would. That means that all we have to do is wait for Him to do it. That’s what faith in God is like. It’s when we get to the point where we hear God’s promise to help in His word and then wait expectantly for it. This prayer shows us that even if we aren’t feeling very faithful in our trials, an honest prayer along with God’s word, can bring us back to a place of hope.