Day 165: Jeremiah Goes Back to Judah

Jeremiah 40:1-6

The word which came to Jeremiah from Yahweh, after Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard had let him go from Ramah, when he had taken him being bound in chains among all the captives of Jerusalem and Judah who were carried away captive to Babylon. The captain of the guard took Jeremiah and said to him, “Yahweh your God pronounced this evil on this place; and Yahweh has brought it, and done according as he spoke. Because you have sinned against Yahweh, and have not obeyed his voice, therefore this thing has come on you. Now, behold, I release you today from the chains which are on your hand. If it seems good to you to come with me into Babylon, come, and I will take care of you; but if it seems bad to you to come with me into Babylon, don’t. Behold, all the land is before you. Where it seems good and right to you to go, there go.” Now while he had not yet gone back, “Go back then,” he said, “to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, whom the king of Babylon has made governor over the cities of Judah, and dwell with him among the people; or go wherever it seems right to you to go.”

So the captain of the guard gave him food and a present, and let him go. Then Jeremiah went to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam to Mizpah, and lived with him among the people who were left in the land.

One of the things that really strikes me about this passage is the fact that Babylon’s captain of the guard, Nebuzaradan, was so aware of God. He knew that the reason that Babylon had taken Judah in battle was because the God of all Heaven was punishing them. It appears that the Babylonians were paying closer attention to the Bible than Judah was. Isn’t that interesting? It’s possible for the religious to get so caught up in their religion that they fail to listen to and believe in the Bible. It is also possible for those who are completely un-religious to hear what the Bible says and change their lives because of it.

It would also appear that Jeremiah was actually popular with the king in Babylon. I’ve noticed that this is true in countries that actually have leadership that believes in the Bible. Crossing the boarder can be a life-changing experience. When the leadership of a country becomes anti-Bible, people like Jeremiah are hated, but when the leadership is pro-Bible, people like Jeremiah are treated with great respect.

Jeremiah was bound with all of the other captives at first but later was unbound and given freedom to go wherever he wanted to go. Isn’t that amazing? The captain actually said to Jeremiah: “Behold, all the land is before you. Where it seems good and right to you to go, there go.” This is the freedom that a true believer in God is supposed to have. In this world, it is rarely given, but there are times when God allows His will to be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.

So, with food and a present given to him by Babylon, Jeremiah chose to go back to live with the poor people who were left behind in Judah. Not long before this time, Jeremiah was wondering if he would be left to die in well of mud but in the end Jeremiah was given freedom by God to stay in the land and live with his people. It’s pretty revealing that Jeremiah chose to stay in Judah. The country was destroyed now and very depressing. It would have been a pretty good deal to be living off of the government in Babylon where things were probably much nicer. It stands as a testimony to the heart of Jeremiah. He never wanted his people to leave the land, and neither did God. God’s heart was in Judah and Jeremiah represented the heart of God in his decision.

Day 154: Talking to God without Listening to Him

Jeremiah 37:1-10

Zedekiah the son of Josiah reigned as king instead of Coniah the son of Jehoiakim, whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon made king in the land of Judah. But neither he, nor his servants, nor the people of the land, listened to Yahweh’s words, which he spoke by the prophet Jeremiah.

Zedekiah the king sent Jehucal the son of Shelemiah and Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah, the priest, to the prophet Jeremiah, saying, “Pray now to Yahweh our God for us.”

Now Jeremiah came in and went out among the people, for they had not put him into prison. Pharaoh’s army had come out of Egypt; and when the Chaldeans who were besieging Jerusalem heard news of them, they withdrew from Jerusalem.

Then Yahweh’s word came to the prophet Jeremiah, saying, “Yahweh, the God of Israel, says, ‘You shall tell the king of Judah, who sent you to me to inquire of me: “Behold, Pharaoh’s army, which has come out to help you, will return to Egypt into their own land. The Chaldeans will come again, and fight against this city. They will take it and burn it with fire.” ’

“Yahweh says, ‘Don’t deceive yourselves, saying, “The Chaldeans will surely depart from us;” for they will not depart. For though you had struck the whole army of the Chaldeans who fight against you, and only wounded men remained among them, they would each rise up in his tent and burn this city with fire.’ ”

This piece of history records a very interesting situation. God tells us that neither the king, “nor his servants, nor the people of the land, listened to Yahweh’s words.” Even so, “the king sent… to the prophet Jeremiah, saying, ‘Pray now to Yahweh our God for us.'” What we have here is one-way communication. Israel decided not to listen to God but expected God to listen to them when they were in trouble. It appears that “when the Chaldeans… were besieging Jerusalem,” the Israelis found it in their best interest to have the prophet that they ignore pray to get the war to stop. We get to read here about how that turned out.

At first, it appeared to work because when Egypt decided to move in, the Chaldeans “withdrew from Jerusalem.” Perhaps they thought that they could ignore God and get His blessing anyway by praying some magic words, but God made sure to have Jeremiah give them another message.

God not only didn’t choose to help them, He repeated His intention to have them be destroyed. He had the very same prophet that they had been ignoring, tell them that the Chaldeans would not only return, but that even if they were all wounded, they would still end up burning Jerusalem.

There’s one thing that appears to be very clear from this passage. You can’t expect to pray to God for His help if you have been ignoring Him. I believe that this passage demonstrates that not only will God not help you, He may get angry and hurt you. Some may say that God is being mean here, but that’s because they are still refusing to see the obvious. God is a real person and He can’t be boxed up in a man-made, man-focused religion. Just like you would expect of any person, God gets angry when He’s ignored and He doesn’t feel close to people who try to use and abuse Him. He’s also the most powerful person and can do something about it when He’s mistreated. It is a lesson to us to pay attention to God’s words, then we can expect that God will hear our prayers for help.

Day 108: Following Their Own Word

Jeremiah 23:33-40

“When this people, or the prophet, or a priest, asks you, saying, ‘What is the message from Yahweh?’ Then you shall tell them, ‘ “What message? I will cast you off,” says Yahweh.’ As for the prophet, the priest, and the people, who say, ‘The message from Yahweh,’ I will even punish that man and his household. You will say everyone to his neighbor, and everyone to his brother, ‘What has Yahweh answered?’ and, ‘What has Yahweh said?’ You will mention the message from Yahweh no more: for every man’s own word has become his message; for you have perverted the words of the living God, of Yahweh of Armies, our God. You will say to the prophet, ‘What has Yahweh answered you?’ and, ‘What has Yahweh spoken?’ Although you say, ‘The message from Yahweh;’ therefore Yahweh says: ‘Because you say this word, “The message from Yahweh,” and I have sent to you, telling you not to say, “The message from Yahweh;” therefore, behold, I will utterly forget you, and I will cast you off, and the city that I gave to you and to your fathers, away from my presence. I will bring an everlasting reproach on you, and a perpetual shame, which will not be forgotten.’ ”

Making up a message from God is a very serious crime. According to what we read here, it will bring “an everlasting reproach on you, and a perpetual shame, which will not be forgotten.” Now, we know that this shame and reproach was paid for by Jesus when He died, but it demonstrates to us that what false teachers and prophets do is as serious as the sins that they claim to avoid. The sins of religious people are very serious because they claim to be speaking for God.

I’m a bit stunned about this since it seems quite different than it was when I was young, but we live in a very religious culture here in the United States now. By religious, I don’t mean that everyone believes in God or the gods. What I mean is that I am seeing what Jeremiah was seeing, that “every man’s own word has become his message.” People are making up their own truth about what God thinks, says or is. If they think Christianity is wrong about something, they simply revise it and continue to call themselves a Christian. Then they claim that everyone that doesn’t follow their ideas is not a Christian. No wonder Jeremiah couldn’t get along with anyone. Everyone had decided to listen to themselves and I can’t imagine a less unified culture.

I do have a word of encouragement for Christians, though. One of the blessings we have as Christians is that we have each other. In a day when everyone follows their own word, we follow God’s and when we do it, we do it together. We can have unity that shines like a light in the darkness. As we simply love each other, we will attract those who are seeking a way out of the violence and disunity of this world.

Day 90: Magormissabib

Jeremiah 20:1-6

Now Pashhur, the son of Immer the priest, who was chief officer in Yahweh’s house, heard Jeremiah prophesying these things. Then Pashhur struck Jeremiah the prophet and put him in the stocks that were in the upper gate of Benjamin, which was in Yahweh’s house. On the next day, Pashhur released Jeremiah out of the stocks. Then Jeremiah said to him, “Yahweh has not called your name Pashhur, but Magormissabib. For Yahweh says, ‘Behold, I will make you a terror to yourself and to all your friends. They will fall by the sword of their enemies, and your eyes will see it. I will give all Judah into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he will carry them captive to Babylon, and will kill them with the sword. Moreover I will give all the riches of this city, and all its gains, and all its precious things, yes, I will give all the treasures of the kings of Judah into the hand of their enemies. They will make them captives, take them, and carry them to Babylon. You, Pashhur, and all who dwell in your house will go into captivity. You will come to Babylon, and there you will die, and there you will be buried, you, and all your friends, to whom you have prophesied falsely.’ ”

It’s interesting that when Jeremiah was preaching in the place that represented Hell, he didn’t get harmed, but when he showed up in the place that represented Heaven, he was attacked. This same thing happened to Jesus as well. Pashhur was a man with a very high official position in the temple. It appears that he not only was considered to be a priest, but was also given operational and administrative authority over the temple. This was a man with a resume. We also learn that he had been prophesying in opposition to Jeremiah, but the things he had been saying were just made up. His message didn’t actually come from God at all.

We read here that Pashhur also took it upon himself to physically attack Jeremiah and lock him up in stocks for a night. This would have probably been quite humiliating to Jeremiah but God must have been helping Jeremiah stay true to God’s truth in his mind because when he was released the next day, He immediately spoke a word from God against the man who had just locked him up. Jeremiah was told by God that He had renamed Pashhur: Magormissabib. Now that name doesn’t sound good but it also has a very horrible meaning. I am told by modern translators that it means: “terror on every side.” I think that God struck Pashhur where it hurt him the most. It appears that Pashhur was a believer in his own title. He was highly respected by people in that he was given a high religious office, but to God he was greatly dishonored. Pashhur had taken it upon himself to speak for God even though God had not given him anything to say and then he took God’s messenger and dishonored him. God told Pashhur that his future title would be one of great shame to both himself and those who listened to his lies.

What we want to do is to seek God’s power to be like Jeremiah and avoid any similarity to Pashhur. We shouldn’t believe in the titles given to us by people. Only what God says about us matters. What God says about us is so important that even when we are dishonored and embarrassed in front of the world, we need to stand strong like Jeremiah and trust God’s word until He allows us to escape. We must not be intimidated by the people who have high positions in this world but continue to speak the truth to their so-called “power.”