Devotion for June 20
One argument that is often made against the reliability of Scripture is that it is unrealistic and fanciful. Some of these same voices claim that Scripture is void of the harsh elements of history like warfare, betrayal, and bloodshed. Well, if that were the case, then chapters 40-41 are completely out of place, because a quick read of these chapters reveals acts of betrayal and bloodshed. But even more than that, these chapters, along with the rest of Scripture reveal the diseased condition of humanity’s heart. And they are a vivid reminder of how pride and arrogance often lead us to not only refuse to listen to the word of God, but to outright reject it.
As you read chapters 40-41, take care not to let your mind wonder as you are bombarded with difficult names and an ever evolving story line. Instead, take note of how everything is progressing to Jeremiah’s statement that the sinful rebellion of the people will inevitably bring God’s judgment; despite what they perceive is the most logical plan of action. And let that be a lesson to us that even when God’s will, as revealed by His Spirit and confirmed by His word, leads us in a direction that we perceive illogical, we cannot allow human reason to produce uncertainty and eventually disobedience. Instead, we must “trust in the Lord with all our heart and not lean on our own understanding. In all our ways we [must] acknowledge Him, so that he will make our paths straight”.
Jeremiah 40–42 (CSB)
1 This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord after Nebuzaradan, captain of the guards, released him at Ramah. When he found him, he was bound in chains with all the exiles of Jerusalem and Judah who were being exiled to Babylon. 2 The captain of the guards took Jeremiah and said to him, “The Lord your God decreed this disaster on this place, 3 and the Lord has fulfilled it. He has done just what he decreed. Because you people have sinned against the Lord and have not obeyed him, this thing has happened. 4 Now pay attention: Today I am setting you free from the chains that were on your hands. If it pleases you to come with me to Babylon, come, and I will take care of you. But if it seems wrong to you to come with me to Babylon, go no farther. Look—the whole land is in front of you. Wherever it seems good and right for you to go, go there.” 5 When Jeremiah had not yet turned to go, Nebuzaradan said to him, “Return to Gedaliah son of Ahikam, son of Shaphan, whom the king of Babylon has appointed over the cities of Judah, and stay with him among the people or go wherever it seems right for you to go.” So the captain of the guards gave him a ration and a gift and released him. 6 Jeremiah therefore went to Gedaliah son of Ahikam at Mizpah, and he stayed with him among the people who remained in the land. 7 All the commanders of the armies that were in the countryside—they and their men—heard that the king of Babylon had appointed Gedaliah son of Ahikam over the land. He had been put in charge of the men, women, and children from among the poorest of the land, who had not been deported to Babylon. 8 So they came to Gedaliah at Mizpah. The commanders included Ishmael son of Nethaniah, Johanan and Jonathan the sons of Kareah, Seraiah son of Tanhumeth, the sons of Ephai the Netophathite, and Jezaniah son of the Maacathite—they and their men. 9 Gedaliah son of Ahikam, son of Shaphan, swore an oath to them and their men, assuring them, “Don’t be afraid to serve the Chaldeans. Live in the land and serve the king of Babylon, and it will go well for you. 10 As for me, I am going to live in Mizpah to represent you before the Chaldeans who come to us. As for you, gather wine, summer fruit, and oil, place them in your storage jars, and live in the cities you have captured.” 11 When all the Judeans in Moab and among the Ammonites and in Edom and in all the other lands also heard that the king of Babylon had left a remnant in Judah and had appointed Gedaliah son of Ahikam, son of Shaphan, over them, 12 they all returned from all the places where they had been banished and came to the land of Judah, to Gedaliah at Mizpah, and harvested a great amount of wine and summer fruit. 13 Meanwhile, Johanan son of Kareah and all the commanders of the armies in the countryside came to Gedaliah at Mizpah 14 and warned him, “Don’t you realize that Baalis, king of the Ammonites, has sent Ishmael son of Nethaniah to kill you?” But Gedaliah son of Ahikam would not believe them. 15 Then Johanan son of Kareah suggested to Gedaliah in private at Mizpah, “Let me go kill Ishmael son of Nethaniah. No one will know it. Why should he kill you and allow all of Judah that has gathered around you to scatter and the remnant of Judah to perish?” 16 But Gedaliah son of Ahikam responded to Johanan son of Kareah, “Don’t do that! What you’re saying about Ishmael is a lie.” 1 In the seventh month, Ishmael son of Nethaniah, son of Elishama, of the royal family and one of the king’s chief officers, came with ten men to Gedaliah son of Ahikam at Mizpah. They ate a meal together there in Mizpah, 2 but then Ishmael son of Nethaniah and the ten men who were with him got up and struck down Gedaliah son of Ahikam, son of Shaphan, with the sword; he killed the one the king of Babylon had appointed in the land. 3 Ishmael also struck down all the Judeans who were with Gedaliah at Mizpah, as well as the Chaldean soldiers who were there. 4 On the day after he had killed Gedaliah, when no one knew yet, 5 eighty men came from Shechem, Shiloh, and Samaria who had shaved their beards, torn their clothes, and gashed themselves, and who were carrying grain and incense offerings to bring to the temple of the Lord. 6 Ishmael son of Nethaniah came out of Mizpah to meet them, weeping as he came. When he encountered them, he said, “Come to Gedaliah son of Ahikam!” 7 But when they came into the city, Ishmael son of Nethaniah and the men with him slaughtered them and threw them into a cistern. 8 However, there were ten men among them who said to Ishmael, “Don’t kill us, for we have hidden treasure in the field—wheat, barley, oil, and honey!” So he stopped and did not kill them along with their companions. 9 Now the cistern where Ishmael had thrown all the corpses of the men he had struck down was a large one that King Asa had made in the encounter with King Baasha of Israel. Ishmael son of Nethaniah filled it with the slain. 10 Then Ishmael took captive all the rest of the people of Mizpah including the daughters of the king—all those who remained in Mizpah over whom Nebuzaradan, captain of the guards, had appointed Gedaliah son of Ahikam. Ishmael son of Nethaniah took them captive and set off to cross over to the Ammonites. 11 When Johanan son of Kareah and all the commanders of the armies with him heard of all the evil that Ishmael son of Nethaniah had done, 12 they took all their men and went to fight with Ishmael son of Nethaniah. They found him by the great pool in Gibeon. 13 When all the people held by Ishmael saw Johanan son of Kareah and all the commanders of the army with him, they rejoiced. 14 All the people whom Ishmael had taken captive from Mizpah turned around and rejoined Johanan son of Kareah. 15 But Ishmael son of Nethaniah escaped from Johanan with eight men and went to the Ammonites. 16 Johanan son of Kareah and all the commanders of the armies with him then took from Mizpah all the remnant of the people whom he had recovered from Ishmael son of Nethaniah after Ishmael had killed Gedaliah son of Ahikam—men, soldiers, women, children, and court officials whom he brought back from Gibeon. 17 They left, stopping in Geruth Chimham, which is near Bethlehem, in order to make their way into Egypt, 18 away from the Chaldeans. For they feared them because Ishmael son of Nethaniah had struck down Gedaliah son of Ahikam, whom the king of Babylon had appointed over the land. 1 Then all the commanders of the armies, along with Johanan son of Kareah, Jezaniah son of Hoshaiah, and all the people from the least to the greatest, approached 2 the prophet Jeremiah and said, “May our petition come before you; pray to the Lord your God on our behalf, on behalf of this entire remnant (for few of us remain out of the many, as you can see with your own eyes), 3 that the Lord your God may tell us the way we should go and the thing we should do.” 4 So the prophet Jeremiah said to them, “I have heard. I will now pray to the Lord your God according to your words, and I will tell you every word that the Lord answers you; I won’t withhold a word from you.” 5 And they said to Jeremiah, “May the Lord be a true and faithful witness against us if we don’t act according to every word the Lord your God sends you to tell us. 6 Whether it is pleasant or unpleasant, we will obey the Lord our God to whom we are sending you so that it may go well with us. We will certainly obey the Lord our God!” 7 At the end of ten days, the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, 8 and he summoned Johanan son of Kareah, all the commanders of the armies who were with him, and all the people from the least to the greatest. 9 He said to them, “This is what the Lord says, the God of Israel to whom you sent me to bring your petition before him: 10 ‘If you will indeed stay in this land, then I will rebuild and not demolish you, and I will plant and not uproot you, because I relent concerning the disaster that I have brought on you. 11 Don’t be afraid of the king of Babylon whom you now fear; don’t be afraid of him’—this is the Lord’s declaration—‘because I am with you to save you and rescue you from him. 12 I will grant you compassion, and he will have compassion on you and allow you to return to your own soil.’ 13 “But if you say, ‘We will not stay in this land,’ in order to disobey the Lord your God, 14 and if you say, ‘No, instead we’ll go to the land of Egypt where we will not see war or hear the sound of the ram’s horn or hunger for food, and we’ll live there,’ 15 then hear the word of the Lord, remnant of Judah! This is what the Lord of Armies, the God of Israel, says: ‘If you are firmly resolved to go to Egypt and stay there for a while, 16 then the sword you fear will overtake you there in the land of Egypt, and the famine you are worried about will follow on your heels there to Egypt, and you will die there. 17 All who resolve to go to Egypt to stay there for a while will die by the sword, famine, and plague. They will have no survivor or fugitive from the disaster I will bring on them.’ 18 “For this is what the Lord of Armies, the God of Israel, says: ‘Just as my anger and fury were poured out on Jerusalem’s residents, so will my fury pour out on you if you go to Egypt. You will become an example for cursing, scorn, execration, and disgrace, and you will never see this place again.’ 19 The Lord has spoken concerning you, remnant of Judah: ‘Don’t go to Egypt.’ Know for certain that I have warned you today! 20 You have gone astray at the cost of your lives because you are the ones who sent me to the Lord your God, saying, ‘Pray to the Lord our God on our behalf, and as for all that the Lord our God says, tell it to us, and we’ll act accordingly.’ 21 For I have told you today, but you have not obeyed the Lord your God in everything he has sent me to tell you. 22 Now therefore, know for certain that by the sword, famine, and plague you will die in the place where you desired to go to stay for a while.”