Day 231: Jeremiah 38-41; Fear and the Fall

Today, we come to it yet again, the fall of Jerusalem.  We have talked about it a couple of times already at the end of 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles.  These two links will bring you back to these posts (over 100 days ago!).  Jeremiah‘s perspective on all that is happening is similar to what is recorded in 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles, but seen from a different point of view as he is still working desperately to save the city of Jerusalem and deliver the messages of the Lord of the Lord to King Zedekiah.

I don’t want to spend a lot of time talking about the fall of Jerusalem though.  It feels like we have covered this time and again through all of the prophesies and the accounts of its destruction.  There is another message for us today from the last conversation between Jeremiah and King Zedekiah.  The main theme of this?  Fear.

Jeremiah was punished for his unpopular message, imprisoned and thrown into a cistern because “he was going over to the Babylonians.”  I’m sure the public opinion poll of Jeremiah was pretty low at this point and the frustration level of all the Jews was super high.  This is a recipe for disaster for Jeremiah, one that winds up with him at the bottom of a cistern.  Clearly the people don’t want to hear what Jeremiah has to say… at least not until they are desperate, which is exactly what happens here.

The siege is almost over, the city has almost fallen, and King Zedekiah in a last ditch effort call for Jeremiah so he can hear from God one last time.  Jeremiah, knowing this game pretty well by now, doesn’t want to tell him anymore because he knows he’ll just get punished.  But after a promise, Jeremiah delivers one last message to him from the Lord, one that is, by prophetic standards, quite gracious.  I think that God recognizes that the King understands his folly and is seeking the Lord for repentance.  Yet even in that, Zedekiah is gripped with fear.  Jeremiah tells him to surrender… Zedekiah says he is afraid.  Ultimately, Zedekiah give into his fear and it costs him the entire royal court, his entire family, the whole city of Jerusalem, his eyesight, and his freedom.  All of this could have been avoided if Zedekiah had just listened to God.

Fear is a very powerful enemy, a gripping opponent, and a paralyzing emotion.  To often people in the world live (or rather don’t live) their lives because of fear.  I feel like there are times when I am even afraid to come before God because of the things that I have done.  I know my past and I know how God wants me to live and I see that these two things don’t match us.  In Zedekiah’s situation, the fear of what other people would think, say, and do if he followed God was what ultimately lead to his horrific capture and sentence.  Our culture pushes us to look and act a certain way so that people will like and appreciate us as well.  However, God calls us to live a certain way, a way in which He will indeed bless us, if we are faithful to Him.  Again, contrasting the Rechabites to Zedekiah, one will have a place serving God forever and the other will be completely cut off.  Sometimes faith and devotion to God may cost us a few worldly things, but those pale in comparison to the blessings we receive as faithful followers of God.



Day 230: Jeremiah 35-37; Rechabites and Obedience

The obedience of this clan of the tribe of Judah, those who were likely somehow connected to service in the house of the Lord is incredible admirable!  So much so that it warranted special attention in Jeremiah‘s book, even in the midst of the crisis that is going on during this time.  These folks had taken something like the Nazarite vow, like Sampson and others before him, to live a life wholly devoted to God and abstain from certain worldly things.  For Sampson, if you remember, it involved not cutting his hair, drinking wine, or eating leavened bread.  In this case, it meant simply abstaining from wine.  The vow, however, isn’t nearly as important as those that were (or weren’t) keeping it.  For roughly 200 years this family had kept this vow to the Lord throughout the times when the people of Israel were consistently and continually breaking the covenant.

The Rechabites Refuse Wine Photo Credit: http://nccg.org/lev20120728.html

The Rechabites Refuse Wine
Photo Credit: http://nccg.org/lev20120728.html

In the midst of all that is going on, this seems like a rather interesting side story.  However, Jeremiah is actually making a point here.  If you remember yesterday, we read about King Zedekiah releasing the slaves as a way of trying to appease the Lord by “following” the covenant.  He was trying to show some measure of faithfulness to God through his actions but had entirely missed the point.  It was a change of heart that God was looking for in His people and He hadn’t found it anywhere… except here.  In start contrast with the King of Israel and the people of Israel, the Rechabites had kept to the promise they had made to God for a long time.  This promise wasn’t to appease God, but was an outward sign of inward faith and commitment to the covenant.  In many ways, they were an example for the people of Israel, one that they could have learned a lot from.  God’s emphasis on them here, following the sad attempt by King Zedekiah, is His way of saying “this is what I want from you… devotion.”

You know, it seems as though it might be a good message for us today as well.  I don’t necessarily think that we need to be taking a Nazarite vow like these people, but they certainly are a good example as to how we should be living, not outwardly, but inwardly.  They demonstrated full devotion to the Lord and the covenant, the outward sign of which was their abstinence from alcohol.  Sometimes I wonder if the Church, especially in North America, might be heading in the same direction of the people of Judah, living however they want and thinking they can appease God when they need to.  It seems that more  and more, the Church is allowing people to do what they want, say what they want, live how they want, and then landing it under the umbrella of being saved by grace.  While that is entirely true, and thank God for that, I think we might be missing the point a little bit.  Paul speaks to this in his letter to the Romans, chapter 6:

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?  By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?  Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

The example set for us by the Rechabites is one of total life transformation, one that starts with the inward commitment and is lived out in action.  We too need to walk in the newness of life, remembering that we once dead in our sins, but have been made live in Christ Jesus.