For the Love of God, Volume 2/August 9
From Gospel Translations
Ruth 2; Acts 27; Jeremiah 37; Psalm 10
WE HAVE SEEN AGAIN AND AGAIN that the flow of the book of Jeremiah is rarely chronological. Here we jump from the reign of Jehoiakim in chapter 36 to Zedekiah (Jer. 37), the puppet monarch installed after the last legitimate king of Judah, Jehoiachin, was transported to Babylon in 597 B.C. The date is 589—588. The two incidents described in this chapter reflect the further degeneration of the leadership and illustrate yet again God’s forbearance.
(1) The first incident (37:1-10) is apparently precipitated by the fact that Pharaoh Hophra of Egypt made a show of marching out to confront the Babylonians and relieve Jerusalem. The report was sufficiently troubling to the Babylonians that they temporarily lifted the siege of Jerusalem and turned to this new threat. Zedekiah sends some emissaries to Jeremiah, asking for his intercession— presumably to make this temporary respite permanent. Jeremiah responds with the words of 37:7-10: the reprieve is temporary, the Babylonians will return, Jerusalem will be destroyed. So do not be deceived into thinking otherwise.
(2) During the reprieve, Jeremiah tries to leave the city by the Benjamite gate, apparently with the intention of inspecting his newly acquired property in Anathoth (37:11-21; cf. 32:9). But he is arrested, beaten, and imprisoned under a charge of desertion. The officials do not believe a word the prophet says, so he remains incarcerated in an underground dungeon in the home of the secretary of state. The officials are very different from their predecessors under Jehoiakim (26:19; 36:19), who seemed to be open to Jeremiah but who were under the thumb of a stubborn and wicked monarch. Here the officials are contemptuous of Jeremiah and frankly cruel to him, while King Zedekiah, more out of desperation and fear than principle, tries to keep in contact with Jeremiah and finally makes his incarceration less painful.
All this suggests that in any hierarchy, including government and church, there are many different ways for things to go wrong. Sometimes there are a lot of weak, indecisive, but not profoundly amoral underlings being manipulated by a wicked leader. Sometimes there is an indecisive leader who is being controlled by a packet of incompetent, unfaithful, evil underlings.
Reflect: “Why, O LORD, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak, who are caught in the schemes he devises. He boasts of the cravings of his heart; he blesses the greedy and reviles the LORD. In his pride the wicked does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God” (Ps. 10:1-4).