All this week, so far, I have been digesting Jeremiah 39-44. There is so much happening in these chapters. The fall of Jerusalem, the destruction of the Temple, Zedekiah being carted off to Babylon with the captives and then there is that …the last major exile of God’s people…Judah. After that we see Gedaliah’s assassination by a rebel contingent of Judah and another group of soldiers that take up arms against brother to avenge Gedaliah’s death. All of this and more is covered in these few chapters along with the treatment of Jeremiah through it all.
But, what I want to focus on is the people who avenged Gedaliah. This people knew that when word got to Nebuchadnezzar that their lives would be forfeited so they devised a plan to run off the Egypt to join other refugees that had previous fled there. But as was the custom of the day they sought out Jeremiah to seek the Lord’s face so they would know exactly what to do and along with this request they made a vow to do exactly what God told them to do.
However, like so many of us, who fear the wrong things, they really wanted God to agree with their plan and they weren’t really interested in anything else. Remember, they had made a vow to do what God would say, “May the LORD be a true and faithful witness against us if we do not act according to ALL the word with which the LORD your God send you to us. Whether it is good or bad, we will obey the voice of the LORD our God to whom we are sending you, that it may be well with us when we obey the voice of the LORD.” (Jeremiah 42:5-6) But instead of fulfilling their vow they left and carried Jeremiah with them to Egypt as an insurance policy against the wrath that Jeremiah told them would come from God upon them, if they left Judah.
This is such a sad story of disobedience and sinfulness. But, of course, it was to be expected, right? The Jews had shown themselves time and time again to be a people who break their vows with God by breaking God’s covenant stipulations over and over again. It is easy to see THEIR sin. It is easy, in our day, to see the sin of those who seek godly counsel from the leaders in their church and then don’t heed the Word of the Lord that they bring to bear on the situation…not the leader’s word…but God’s Word from His Word. These are, also, people who read the Word of God maybe even seeking guidance on a matter but don’t interpret it correctly…it is interpreted through the lenses of what they want it to say. They had made vows, but now those vows are inconvenient, like the ones these Jews made to Jeremiah and to God. We know these people and we have talked about the tragedy of their decisions.
We quickly see other people doing this…BUT…how many times do we, ourselves, seek God’s guidance from His Word or from trusted church leaders or from other godly brothers and sisters in Christ and then do what we want anyway, even if it goes against all of their counsel? Remember from the Proverbs, “The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life…” (Prov. 10:11) and again, “On the lips of him who has understanding, wisdom is found…” (Prov. 10: 13)?
So let us STOP! Stop, for the moment thinking of others’ sins, along this line, and let us think of our own…for they are there. How do I know? Jesus told us…“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye; then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:3-5) We, too, have taken vows before God in marriage, in membership in the Church and we have pledged our word to people…these are not inconvenient, they are at the heart of who we are as God’s people as we love God with ALL that we are and our neighbor as ourselves. The “inconvenient truth” is that we are commanded, if we make vows that we must keep them. “If a man vows a vow to the LORD, or swears an oath to bind himself by pledge, he shall not break his word. He shall do according to ALL that proceeds out of his mouth.” Numbers 30:2)
There are many lessons to learn even from such an ancient text as Jeremiah when we have eyes to see. I pray that we would ask God for eyes to see and minds to understand how ALL His Word applies to us every day!
God bless y’all.
In His Grip,