Jeremiah 21-23
(Time's Up for Zedekiah)
August 10th

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

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Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verses

But Jeremiah said, “Tell Zedekiah: ‘This is the God of Israel’s Message to you: You can say good-bye to your army, watch morale and weapons flushed down the drain. I’m going to personally lead the king of Babylon and the Chaldeans, against whom you’re fighting so hard, right into the city itself."

- Jeremiah 21:3-4 (MSG)

Summary of Chapters

Chapter 21 begins a new section that some called "The late oracles from the time of Zedekiah (the last king of Judah)." The first three chapters describe the judgments of the city of Jerusalem and the imminent conquest of it by the Babylonians. The events captured here were also recorded at the end of the book of 2 Kings (chapters 24-25).

Chapter 21 begins with King Zedekiah asking Jeremiah to talk to the LORD about the current attack on Judah by Babylon. Zedekiah hopes that the LORD will zoom down and save them - again. But the LORD responds by saying he is about to turn Jerusalem over to Babylon and in fact will lend a helping hand in destroying the city.

The LORD describes how the city will be annihilated by plague, sword, and famine, a trilogy of disasters that are repeated a number of times in this section and also referenced in the book of Revelation. He says that those who wish to survive should leave.

In chapter 22, the LORD rebukes the evil sons of Josiah who became kings of Judah and oppressed their people. Josiah had been faithful to God and fair to his people, but his sons built fancy palaces and gained wealth dishonestly. He accuses and convicts Josiah's sons Shallum and Jehoikum for not upholding the morals of their father. Neither of these two will survive the exile and one will suffer an ignominious death that is described in this chapter. The end of chapter 22 records that the king Jehoichin will be assessed the worst possible penalty:

    This is what the LORD says:
       "Record this man as if childless,
       a man who will not prosper in his lifetime,
       for none of his offspring will prosper,
       none will sit on the throne of David
      or rule anymore in Judah."

    -Jeremiah 22:30 (NIV)

In chapter 23, the LORD reveals his merciful side, explaining that there will be a remnant of people who return and a branch of the family of David that will rule again. The LORD will then be famously known for bringing these people back from exile. The lying prophets will not be among the survivors and returnees, as the LORD describes their wickedness and their forthcoming sentence: " ' I will make them eat bitter food and drink poisoned water' (23:15 - NIV)."

The LORD makes his point quite clear that these prophets were not from him. Their dreams were only delusions and they have led the "'people astray with their reckless lies' (23:30 - NIV)." Chapter 23 ends with the LORD explaining that the false prophets will also suffer an eternal punishment: "I will bring you everlasting disgrace – everlasting shame that will not be forgotten (23:39 - NIV)."

Reflection and Application

Isn't this typical? The leaders of Judah had been mocking and persecuting Jeremiah for years. Suddenly they realize that he was spot on with his warnings so they want him to intermediate with God. It looks like it was too little too late. Moreover, somehow Zedekiah thought that he was the potter and God was the clay, but clearly he had it upside-down and in reverse.

In our hearts, who do we think is in charge? Do we think of God like a genie in a lamp with an unlimited amount of wishes to grant? Or do we recognize our humble positions as servants of the great and mighty God?

In the Psalms and other places we read of the LORD's mercy, such as "The LORD is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy (Psalm 145:8 -NIV)." How do we reconcile those passages with the ones where God says he is going to ally with Babylon to crush Judah?

Remember that the LORD had been patient for hundreds of years and many generations. He brought the descendants of Jacob out of Egypt, took down the walls of Jericho, stopped the sun for a battle for Joshua, and in more recent times for Jeremiah's audience, saved Jerusalem from looming attack by the Assyrians during the reign of King Hezekiah (see 2 Kings 19). The LORD had shown compassion, but the leaders had used up all their compassion chips, and were about to see the full fury of the LORD of the universe. They were to become an example of what not to do. We ought to pay attention and don't do what they did.

One of the worst things we can do is to lie and then say the lie comes from God. If we are to report something as coming from God, we should be sure we are right. It may not be that difficult. If it's in the Bible, it's God's word. If it's consistent with the Bible, then it's reflective of God’s word. How can we be sure? The more we study the Bible, the better prepared we are for knowing right from wrong. This is why an understanding of Old Testament books like Jeremiah is important. It provides context for the New Testament stories that we have heard many times, but may not have fully understood.

Those prophets who lied must have known they were propagators of fabrication and did not seem worried about the consequences. They did not have to wonder if their words were true, because they knew they were just saying what the leaders wanted to hear. These false prophets were ancient versions of the toady "Yes" men that we occasionally find in the corporate offices of the 21st century. If we get caught up in a habit like that we should pray to God to help us escape. If we see these people, we should pray to God that we can see through their deceit and hold true to what we believe. Surely, they will one day drink the bitter water of defeat – maybe not during our time with them, but in God’s time.

In the book of Jeremiah there are several types of people: Those remembered for their good deeds (primarily Jeremiah, Josiah and some unnamed remnants), those remembered for their atrocious evil, and those who went along with the crowd and shall remain unknown. Which group do we want to be in? If we are to be remembered at all, let us be remembered for standing up for what is right and pure and true.

Tomorrow's reading will be Jeremiah 24-25 (King of Kings)

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. What was the best fabricated story that you ever told?
    2. How can we discern who is telling the truth?
    3. What truth does God want you to share today?
    Recommended Prayer
    Father in heaven, we remind ourselves again that you are the potter who can shape us and re-build us. Help us to speak honestly about you.

    Suggested Prayer Concerns
    Courage for the vocal minority who tell the truth and are rejected

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