Some things are easier said than done
Jeremiah 42: I’m on your side, ready to save and deliver you from anything he might do.
Johanan and other Judean leaders know that the murder of Gedaliah is a very big deal. The Babylonian king is not known for his forgiving nature. Gedaliah was the person he left in charge and his murder will be seen as an uprising against his rule. There’s sure to be devastating punishment. Their solution is to prepare for exile by running in the opposite direction to Egypt, the other major power in the region. Johanan and others ask Jeremiah to pray for God’s direction in this, promising to do whatever the Lord says. However, the message from the Lord isn’t what they expect to hear. The Lord says to stay put and trust him. Again, this is totally unexpected and, from a human point of view, very unreasonable. They’ve already seen the wrath of the Babylonians. Thousands have been killed, multiplied thousands have been carried off into exile never to return, and devastation is all around them. For civic leaders to stick around, waiting for word of the governor’s murder to reach Babylonia is, in their eyes, an almost criminal inaction. Jeremiah says, “Just trust God and everything will be okay.” That’s one of those “easier said than done” statements. Happily, such extreme, life and death situations don’t come our way very often, if ever. For me to find applications in life I have to dial things back considerably. Still, there are times when we, too, are to stand still and trust God rather than take matters into our own hands. For instance, things down at the church may not be going well and several are jumping ship for the latest and greatest program down the road. We’re tempted to follow suit, but when we pray, we simply can’t feel free to do it. Others say, “Come on in, the water’s fine!” God seems to say, “Stay right where you are, I’ll take care of you and your family.” As a pastor it always concerns me when church people from other congregations show up at our door on a Sunday morning. I’m not saying there’s never a time to go, but I don’t want to be someone’s “Egypt” when the Lord wants them to stay put and be a part of the turning of the tide right where they are.
Take Away: If the Lord says “stay put” the only thing to do is, well, to stay put!
Gedaliah’s last supper
Jeremiah 41: His ten men jumped to their feet and knocked Gedaliah down and killed him.
You’d think that people would be weary of the bloodshed; that they’d consider themselves fortunate to now be on the back side of the Babylonian storm. However, it isn’t that way. Ishmael is a member of the royal family who escaped deportation and now he has his eye on the throne. The Babylonian-appointed governor, Gedaliah, welcomes those who had fled the siege of Jerusalem, apparently thinking the best of everyone. However, in doing so, he brings the traitor Ishmael right into his fold. It’s not that he isn’t warned about Ishmael, in fact, Johanan wants to do away with him right off, knowing he’ll destabilize the fragile state of Judah. Gedaliah is having none of that, in fact, he invites Ishmael and his men to come to, what turns out to be Gedaliah’s last meal. As I read about Gedaliah’s short tenure as governor of Judah I’m reminded of the instructions of Jesus to his disciples to be “as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” In this passage, we have the shrewd Johanan who knows Ishmael means nothing but trouble. His solution is to knock him off. On the other hand we have the innocent Gedaliah who makes no provision for his own protection and pays for his wide-eyed innocence with his life. We Christians are supposed take the best from both of these men. We need to know the score, to be shrewd in how we go about living our lives. At the same time, we’re to do no intentional harm. I don’t have to scheme to do away with my enemies, but I don’t have to hand them my wallet either.
Take Away: As the people of the Lord we’re to use graceful and merciful common sense.
Kindness from an unexpected source
Jeremiah 40: The captain of the bodyguard singled out Jeremiah.
Jerusalem falls. Jeremiah doesn’t give us the details, just that it happened as the Lord had said it would. Jeremiah is put in chains and included in the mass relocation program that’s the policy of the conquering Babylonians. However, when the commanding officer, Nebuzharadan surveys his captives, he takes note of Jeremiah. This heathen military man knows the story. He knows that Jeremiah has, for years, been warning his people that all this was coming. Nebuzharadan declares Jeremiah free. He can travel to Babylon as his guest or he can return to Jerusalem. He even goes so far as to encourage Jeremiah to go to the vassal king, Gedaliah, who has been put into power over Judah. I find it interesting that God’s man is shown more respect by a heathen captain than he was given by the now as good as dead Zedekiah, king of Judah and descendant of David. Actually, I shouldn’t be greatly surprised at this because it’s a fairly common occurrence. For instance, when the Savior is born, “wise men from the east” come to honor him. They get directions from the experts in Jerusalem, but those same experts aren’t themselves interested in making the short jaunt to Bethlehem. Here’s my take on this today: sometimes God’s people aren’t as much God’s people as they think they are and sometimes lost people aren’t as lost as we might think.
Take Away: The Lord works though some unlikely people, especially when the “likely ones” aren’t up to the task.