May 9 – Devotion Sharing (Jeremiah 36-40)

Submitted by Steve K. from Gracepoint Riverside Church
Jeremiah 36-40
Key Verse
Jeremiah 38:20
“‘They will not hand you over,’ Jeremiah replied. ‘Obey the Lord by doing what I tell you. Then it will go well with you, and your life will be spared.”

God is …
Jeremiah 36:3 “Perhaps when the people of Judah hear about every disaster I plan to inflict on them, each of them will turn from his wicked way; then I will forgive their wickedness and their sin.”

In this verse God expresses His heart behind why He goes through the trouble of trying to warn the people of Judah through Jeremiah. Ultimately He wants them to heed the warning of the coming disaster and to turn from their wicked ways. He wants them to repent, so they can receive forgiveness for their sins rather than experiencing devastating consequences of their disobedience and rebellion against God.

I’m struck by God’s persistence and zeal to get through to His rebellious and stubborn people. Even after King Jehoiakim so brazenly showed no fear as he burned the scroll containing the words of God in chapter 36, God instructs Jeremiah to make another scroll just like the one the king burned. God is determined to give his obstinate and stubbornly proud people another chance to hear His words. God has been making His appeal to His stubborn and rebellious people for many years already by this point in the book, but I see how God faithfully speaks to his wayward people through warnings, corrections, and harsh rebukes to the very end before the disaster that God predicted came true through the Babylonian invasion.

I personally experienced God faithfully reaching out to me with His words as He sent many different prophets throughout the years of my life. From those early days of Sunday school teachers to my leaders at Gracepoint, God has never ceased to be speak to me even in times when I was proud and stubborn about pursuing my sinful desires and being committed to self-affirming thoughts like, “I’m an OK guy. There’s nothing wrong with the way I am.” God persisted to get through to me by making numerous attempts to warn me, reason with me and to shake me with ego devastating truths about myself.

As it were in the times of the King Jehoiakim and Zedekiah, God’s faithfulness and zeal to bring sinners to repentance were through the sacrificial obedience of people like Jeremiah. Because Jeremiah was willing to be set apart for God and undergo being mistreated, imprisoned, beaten, falsely accused as a traitor, and dropped into a muddy cistern to starve to death, the word of God was able to reach people and turn the hearts of some like Ebed-Melech, who was saved from being killed by the Babylonians.

I, too, am called to be God’s prophet for people God brings me to. Thinking about the sort of example Jeremiah was as God’s prophet, I’m challenged to fight against the temptation to resign to people who seem initially unresponsive. Need to fight against wanting to save myself from disappointments, frustrations, and heartaches in trying to love others who may be bent on pursuing their sinful desires or too proud to admit their sins and repent. I know that God is challenging me to be a faithful prophet and shepherd to His church and the people He has entrusted to me by persisting in prayer and looking for opportunities to share God’s words with them–not just once, twice, but as many times as God provides me with each person.

Lessons for me …
King Zedekiah is an interesting person. On one hand he seems so stubborn and unwilling to hear from God through Jeremiah. In Jeremiah 37:2 it says, “Neither [King Zedekiah] nor his attendants nor the people of the land paid any attention to the words the Lord had spoken through Jeremiah the prophet”. But then in the following verse it says that he sent a messenger asking Jeremiah, “Please pray to the Lord our God for us.” Zedekiah allows Jeremiah to be imprisoned, but then he asks Jeremiah in private, “Is there any word from the Lord?” Zedekiah seems conflicted in his heart. On one hand he seems to know that Jeremiah is a real prophet of God, but he doesn’t want to really heed God’s warnings and obey what God wants him to do. Zedekiah seems to be full of fears about maintaining his kingship, so he gives into the demands of officials to get rid of Jeremiah who is causing their soldiers to become discouraged. He says to his officials, “The king can do nothing to oppose you.” In King Zedekiah’s final conversation with Jeremiah he shares vulnerably what fears haunt him (Jeremiah 38:17-19). He fears being mistreated by the Jews who defected to the Babylonians if he should surrender to the Babylonians like God is commanding him to do. Jeremiah assures him by saying, “They will not hand you over. Obey the Lord by doing what I tell you. Then it will go well with you, and your life will be spared.” King Zedekiah ultimately ends up being a tragic figure, because in the end he decides to cave into his fears and tries to escape rather than surrendering to the Babylonians like God told him to do. His disobedience results in his downfall and the destruction of his family and the rest of the Jews.

King Zedekiah’s life is a sober warning for me to consider if there are ways I’m trying to hear from God in a self-serving way. Being curious to know what God has to say, but not being willing to obey or just foolishly hoping that things will work out as I go on doing life the way I think is best for me. Am I hoping that God will change His mind and say things that would suit my selfish, sinful heart desires? I need to check my heart in approaching God’s words through daily devotions or hearing messages. I need to make sure that I’m listening to obey rather than trying to negotiate with God by delayed obedience or trying to see if God will eventually cater to my desires and fears.

I think another lesson to be learned is how my fears can cause me to have certain projections of the future that’s just not true or really insignificant in comparison to the bigger fear I ought to have about the consequences of living a life of disobedience to God. For King Zedekiah, he was focused on the possibility of being mistreated by Jews who defected and didn’t see that God’s wrath was upon him and his nation because of their sinful rebellion against God. If I don’t have proper fear of God, then like Zedekiah, I will be governed by fears and a projection of the future that will lead to making foolish, regrettable decisions. In my petty or even imagined fears about life I can become so stubbornly committed to doing life according to my own wisdom and perspective, and consequently stubbornly refuse to listen to God and obey Him. And like King Zedekiah, my foolish and self-serving approach to life will affect others around me. My disobedience to God can cause many others around me to suffer.

In Jeremiah 38:20, Jeremiah says to King Zedekiah, “Obey the Lord by doing what I tell you. Then it will go well with you….” God instructs me to obey Him in specific ways not only through my own reading of scripture, but also through spiritual leaders in my life who are like Jeremiah to me–people whom God appoints over me to guide, warn and instruct me to live a God honoring life. Ultimately God’s heart behind insisting that I obey Him is so that life will go well for me and to all those I affect. This is something I need to keep in mind as I strive to obey God even when obeying God becomes costly and difficult.

Submitted by Linda K. from Gracepoint Riverside
Key Verse
Jeremiah 38:15 “…Even if I did give you counsel, you would not listen to me.”

God is …
God’s heart for Jerusalem to turn from their sinful ways is described in Jeremiah 36:3, “Perhaps when the people of Judah hear about every disaster I plan to inflict on them, each of them will turn from his wicked way; then I will forgive their wickedness and their sin.” Throughout the text, I see God pleading with the Kings to obey His word, but they refuse. They couldn’t have imagined surrendering to Babylon, but little did they know that obeying God would have saved their lives and other people’s lives. From this I see that God is more concerned about our relationship with him than with what we may think is so important to us (i.e. pride, possessions, etc.). His persevering love to deliver the truth is shown through Jeremiah, and although he is put under watch in the palace court and put into a cistern, God protects him, with the hope so that people can turn to the truth and be saved and forgiven.

Lessons for me …
Through Jeremiah 36-40, I see the consequence of not obeying God’s warnings through the fall of Jerusalem. Though Jeremiah faithfully delivers God’s words of warning to the officials and kings to surrender to Babylon, they resist. When King Jehoiakim heard God’s words in the scroll he threw them into the fire until there was no more and wanted Jeremiah killed. Whereas King Zedekiah was willing to hear what Jeremiah has to say and protects Jeremiah, but he does nothing to act upon what he hears until it is too late and all of Jerusalem is taken over. The frightening thing is from the time King Zedekiah became king (Ch. 37) to Jerusalem’s fall, it had been the ninth year of his rule (Ch. 39), yet his view and stance towards what Jeremiah had been saying remains unchanged throughout that long period of time. What characterizes this complacent attitude is described when Jeremiah says to the King in Jeremiah 38:15, “…Even if I did give you counsel, you would not listen to me.” Whatever it was that prevented Zedekiah from responding to the truth, I see that we are no different from these kings in how we respond to truth.

The response of these kings tells me how proud and stubborn our hearts are. We may hear the word of God day in and day out through our daily devotions, bible study, prayer meetings, Sunday messages, yet it is very possible for us to have the same response as the kings, that instead of humbly receiving the truth, we can reject it, or act passively until it is too late. Some of the ways we can do this is when our heart is proud and we reject the truth or think it does not apply to us or when we think we can take care of some sin or heed some warning later. All of these responses are disastrous because the consequences of our sin will catch up to us and do more harm than we originally thought.

Through this text, I see that God’s word is always timely and I ought to always take seriously God’s warnings about my sins and it can manifest in my life so that I can be on guard and be quick to confess and repent. Though the truth is not always easy to receive, I need to always have the posture and humility as a sinner to accept that God is the one who sees and knows all things and to trust always in His righteous judgment. The failure of the Kings to take Jeremiah and God’s word seriously led to the downfall of a whole nation. Then for me the failure to take my sins like my pride, arrogance, envy, jealously, etc. seriously will led to the downfall of my relationships around me and with God. I have to see that God’s warnings are not just to tell me that I am wrong, but an act of love to save me and others from the consequences of my sins.

Prayer
Lord, thank you for helping me to see through this passage the consequences of not taking your word and truths seriously through the destruction of a whole nation by a two kings. I confess that I am no different from them, that I have a heart that is resistant to the truth especially when it deflates my pride and ego, but help me to see that your words are life saving. Forgive me, Lord, for my prideful heart that thinks I know what is best for myself, when in reality I do not know how widespread effect my sin can have on myself and others. Help me, Lord, to be come humble to your words of truth and to the ugly truths about myself so that I will be eager to hear from your words of truth and from the people who bring the truth to me. And help me to be like Jeremiah, to be someone who faithfully delivers your words of truth to those who may be resistant with the hope they will understand see your heart behind it all. Thank you for your persevering love that does not end until I respond to the truth. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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