Today: [Jeremiah 37] Faithfulness Under Fire. Have you ever suffered for your testimony in Christ? In this chapter, we find Jeremiah suffering further, even to the point of death under the cruelties of king Zedekiah. In spite of his difficulties, Jeremiah remains faithful to his calling as an example to all those who would live godly in Christ Jesus.
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[Jer 37:1-21 KJV] 1 And king Zedekiah the son of Josiah reigned instead of Coniah the son of Jehoiakim, whom Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon made king in the land of Judah. 2 But neither he, nor his servants, nor the people of the land, did hearken unto the words of the LORD, which he spake by the prophet Jeremiah. 3 And Zedekiah the king sent Jehucal the son of Shelemiah and Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah the priest to the prophet Jeremiah, saying, Pray now unto the LORD our God for us. 4 Now Jeremiah came in and went out among the people: for they had not put him into prison. 5 Then Pharaoh’s army was come forth out of Egypt: and when the Chaldeans that besieged Jerusalem heard tidings of them, they departed from Jerusalem. 6 Then came the word of the LORD unto the prophet Jeremiah, saying, 7 Thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel; Thus shall ye say to the king of Judah, that sent you unto me to enquire of me; Behold, Pharaoh’s army, which is come forth to help you, shall return to Egypt into their own land. 8 And the Chaldeans shall come again, and fight against this city, and take it, and burn it with fire. 9 Thus saith the LORD; Deceive not yourselves, saying, The Chaldeans shall surely depart from us: for they shall not depart. 10 For though ye had smitten the whole army of the Chaldeans that fight against you, and there remained [but] wounded men among them, [yet] should they rise up every man in his tent, and burn this city with fire.
In chapter 37 we find reference to Zedekiah – the uncle of Jeconiah, who succeeded Jehoiakim. There is some ambiguiouity over whether Zedekiah was Jehoiakim’s brother or son but this verse makes it plain that he was Jehoiakim’s brother. In Zedekiah’s ascension to the throne the prophecy of Jeremiah is fulfilled that Jehoiakim’s line would be extinguished and not produce an heir to remain on the throne of Judah. Jeconiah, or Coniah as he is named in this verse was Jehoiakim’s son but only reigned 3 months on the throne before being deposed.
Though Zedekiah took Jehoiakim’s place on the throne, he did not do that was right in the sight of God, neither did he hearken, verse 2 tells us to the words of the Lord. After 100’s of years of idolatry and rebellion, now the last and final king of the line of David takes rule over the city of Jerusalem to its ruin. The promise of God was that David would not fail to have a man to sit on the throne of Judah forever, and in reality this word held true, because even in captivity there will remain an heir who COULD take the throne right down to the lineage and birth of Jesus Himself who sits on the throne of David forever as our Lord and Savior.
Although Zedekiah was an inveterate rebel against God he yet had the audacity to implore Jeremiah – a prophet he despised, to pray for his welfare and the welfare of the people of Jerusalem and Judah that he as king led into idolatry and rebellion. It is as though Zedekiah is seeking to deceive God Himself as though He that dwelled between the cherubim in the Holy Place was not aware of the transgressions of the people. As an act of clemency, Zedekiah releases Jeremiah from Jehoiakim’s dungeon house and Jeremiah enjoys a brief reprieve from being kept from the general population of the city.
During this time the king of Egypt contends with the king of Babylon who has besieged Jerusalem and briefly the armies of the Chaldeans withdraw. The people of Jerusalem no doubt rejoiced at this, hoping that the scourge of the Babylonian invasion is now at its end. Jeremiah speaks up and cautions that putting their hope in the Pharaoh is a deception. The Chaldeans will return, Jeremiah predicts and overthrow the city. This is very sad news for the people and ultimately will lead to further persecution against Jeremiah and result in his being returned to imprisonment and threat of death.
Have you ever known something by the Spirit of God that was not popular or received by others? Many times events in people’s lives take a certain direction but those who have listening ears realize that appearances are deceiving and the hopes of the people will not be realized. These are times like Jeremiah, you must be prepared to transparently accept what God is saying whether it is what everyone needs to hear or not. The people of Judah put their confidence for over 100’s years from the time of Isaiah down to the period covered in this chapter. The despotism of Egypt over the people of Israel was forgotten and now as the children led by Moses pined for the fleshpots of Egypt, now the nation of Judah refuses to see the Pharaoh as anything other than their savior. For suggesting otherwise, Jeremiah will ultimately pay with his life.
11 And it came to pass, that when the army of the Chaldeans was broken up from Jerusalem for fear of Pharaoh’s army, 12 Then Jeremiah went forth out of Jerusalem to go into the land of Benjamin, to separate himself thence in the midst of the people. 13 And when he was in the gate of Benjamin, a captain of the ward [was] there, whose name [was] Irijah, the son of Shelemiah, the son of Hananiah; and he took Jeremiah the prophet, saying, Thou fallest away to the Chaldeans. 14 Then said Jeremiah, [It is] false; I fall not away to the Chaldeans. But he hearkened not to him: so Irijah took Jeremiah, and brought him to the princes. 15 Wherefore the princes were wroth with Jeremiah, and smote him, and put him in prison in the house of Jonathan the scribe: for they had made that the prison. 16 When Jeremiah was entered into the dungeon, and into the cabins, and Jeremiah had remained there many days; 17 Then Zedekiah the king sent, and took him out: and the king asked him secretly in his house, and said, Is there [any] word from the LORD? And Jeremiah said, There is: for, said he, thou shalt be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon. 18 Moreover Jeremiah said unto king Zedekiah, What have I offended against thee, or against thy servants, or against this people, that ye have put me in prison? 19 Where [are] now your prophets which prophesied unto you, saying, The king of Babylon shall not come against you, nor against this land? 20 Therefore hear now, I pray thee, O my lord the king: let my supplication, I pray thee, be accepted before thee; that thou cause me not to return to the house of Jonathan the scribe, lest I die there. 21 Then Zedekiah the king commanded that they should commit Jeremiah into the court of the prison, and that they should give him daily a piece of bread out of the bakers’ street, until all the bread in the city were spent. Thus Jeremiah remained in the court of the prison.
Jeremiah, in spite of all indications otherwise declares that the Chaldeans of Babylon will overthrow the Egyptians, who seem to be successful in coming to Jerusalem’s rescue. To make his point Jeremiah leaves the city of Jerusalem and returns to his ancestral home in the portion of the tribe of Benjamin. In so doing he is accused of treason, suspected of aligning himself with the fleeing Chaldeans, to encourage them to return and overthrow Jerusalem. This was not true, but Jeremiah’s prophesying is so pestilential to Judah that they are ready for any pretense to persecute and provoke suffering over hapless Jeremiah. This is a typical case of “whose side are you on?” Have you ever been pressured to deny something God has made clear to you because it isn’t what others want to hear. These are times that you must, as Jeremiah, steel yourself for the consequences of hearing from God and refusing to deny what God has revealed.
Jeremiah suffers the full brunt of the princes’, and the king’s wrath, being beaten and returned to imprisonment. In verse 17 however we see the king secretly consorting with Jeremiah to ask him the word of the Lord. Here we see a curious reality. Though you may hear from God and be persecuted for doing so, often times the very ones who make your life difficult will still come to you soliciting your prayers and your insights into their own worsening situation. Jeremiah could have cast dispersions upon Zedekiah, but instead gives him the word of the Lord faithfully – Judah will fall. Zedekiah will be led in chains to Babylon. Having given the word as the king asked (although it isn’t what he wanted to hear), Jeremiah pitifully implores the king not to place him back in his cell for fear he might die there. Zedekiah, in cruelty does not hearken to Jeremiah but he does make arrangements to see that Jeremiah receives at least one piece of bread a day while he languishes in prison. The mercies of the wicked are indeed cruel.
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