Skip to content
Jan 14 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

Jeremiah chapters 38-39, 52



Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Welcome!  The Lord is with you!

Last week I mentioned the Father’s love and its importance in my own life.  I’d like to offer a few more thoughts about receiving the Father’s love.  I’m reading here a quote from Richard Rohr:  “This whole human project pivots around Divine Love. Because our available understanding of love is almost always conditioned on “I love you if” or “I love you when,” most people find it almost impossible—apart from real transformation—to comprehend or receive Divine Love. In fact, we cannot understand it in the least, unless we “stand under” it, like a cup beneath a waterfall. When we truly understand Divine Love, our politics, our anthropology, our economics, and our movements for justice will all change.”

We’ve been with Jeremiah and Chuck in the Old Covenant, which some people would say, “that’s when we had an ‘Angry God.’” I hope that we have seen that God does not love His people if they change, but so that they can change.  The Father’s Love is not a reward for good behavior, as we might fear.  Again, from Rohr, “It is a larger Life, an energy and movement that we can participate in—and then, almost in spite of ourselves—we behave differently.”

How can we participate in it?  I had some thoughts about that this week.  I’ll share them, and you can see what you think. 

In a love relationship, one party declares their love for the other.  Then the other declares their love in return.  This creates a possibility for relationship and intimacy.  If our Heavenly Father declares His love for us, what must we do to participate in that love relationship?  We must say “I love you too.” In a wedding ceremony, one party says, “I do,” and the other party must also say, “I do.”  Have you ever told someone “I love you” and not gotten a response?  That’s the worst, right? 

It’s not a love relationship yet if we say, “I’ll love you if” or “I’ll love you when.”  And that’s not how God loves us. As we spend time standing under God’s love, like a cup beneath a waterfall, can we feel the invitation to participate?  And what do we believe we’re participating in?  A love relationship with the Divine – what will that be like? Oh, there will be many times we’re invited to participate:  in the next moment, the next movement, the next season or stage of our relationship with God.  Our “yes (you are my God)” our “I do (love you)” will carry us across each threshold.

Will you pray with me: 
Father, thank you for your love.  We receive it, as much as we are able.  We say yes with each step where we find our willingness.  Let the Spirit carry us where we are willing but not able to move.  We lean in to your Divine Love, a love that is for us, an empowering Presence.  In this next hour, may we be receptive to your invitations to enter a deepening relationship with you.  Amen

Morning Talk: chuck smith, jr.

Intro: The stories we hear today will serve as an illustration

They illuminate a line from the prayer Jesus taught us
– you know it and you’ve prayed it–maybe many times
• it is one-third of a petition
“hallowed [revered] be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Mt. 6:9-10)
• it is that last line I hear in these two stories
◦ one teaches us what happens when we resist God’s will and the other when we surrender to his will
– I don’t expect you to remember the names of the characters, so I’ll give their brief biographies
• the three key figures are Jeremiah the prophet and the two kings Jehoiachin and Zedekiah

Zedekiah played a major role in the last days of Judah

He was the last king of Judah, and we’ve met him before
– for instance, last week we learned that:
• he first allowed Jeremiah to be left to die in a cistern,
• but then he allowed Ebed-melech to rescue Jeremiah
◦ Ebed-melech was a foreigner, an Ethiopian Eunuch who took seriously the word of God through Jeremiah
– we pick up the story after Jeremiah was lifted out of the pit

Immediately, Zedekiah summoned Jeremiah for an interview
– the king thought he wanted to hear from God
Zedekiah: (began the interview with a condition) “I will ask you a question; hide nothing from me. Give it to me straight”
Jeremiah: (skeptical) “Why should I? If I give you an answer, you’ll order my execution. Besides, you won’t listen to my counsel or accept my advice.”

Zedekiah: swore an oath to Jeremiah that he wouldn’t be harmed
Jeremiah: “Thus says the LORD, the God of hosts, the God of Israel: If you will surrender to the officials of the king of Babylon, then your life shall be spared, and this city shall not be burned with fire, and you and your house shall live” (Jer. 38:17)
– That was the first half of God’s word to Zedekiah, but there was also a second half
• if the king did not surrender, Jerusalem would be leveled and he and his family would not escape
• Zedekiah had asked for it, and Jeremiah answered
◦ the choice was clear, and the right response was straight forward
– however, Zedekiah had a concern
• there were Jewish citizens who opposed the war
◦ especially those living outside Jerusalem and most vulnerable to the enemy’s invasion
◦ they had nothing to gain and everything to lose from the current war
• these people had already gone over and joined Babylon
◦ Zedekiah feared, if he surrendered, they would have access to him and assassinate him

This is a common reason why people resist God’s will

We’re afraid it might be something awful, afraid of what it might cost us
– that’s a valid concern – when Jesus prayed, “Not my will,” it cost him his life
• on the other hand, before Jesus taught us to pray “your will be done,” he taught us to begin with, “Our Father”
• and Jesus was constantly revealing the Father’s heart in the way he treated the lost, and broken, and possessed
– whenever I pray, “your will be done” I feel hope
• living in the world as it is, the idea of God’s will transforming it comforts me
• but I admit, sometimes I fear what his will may be for me, now
(However, I’m more afraid of my own will, because that is what will ruin me)

Jeremiah assured Zedekiah, he did not have to worry
“You shall not be given to them. Obey now the voice of the LORD in what I say and it shall be well with you and your life shall be spared. But if you refuse to surrender [here’s what will happen: defeat and disgrace]” (Jer. 38:20-23)
– from Jeremiah chapter 7 and on, at least fifteen times, God tells his people, “obey my voice”
• a voice is more personal and present that “commandments”
• to ignore his voice is different from rolling through stop signs or driving five miles an hour over the speed limit
◦ my parents would sometimes refer to my behavior as “direct disobedience”
◦ they meant that I had intentionally disregarded them
◦ that is what obeying God’s voice is about — to hear it and then disregard him is direct disobedience
– what did Zedekiah decide to do regarding God’s will?
• Zedekiah’s reign over Judah is summed up in 2 Chronicles
He did what was evil in the sight of the LORD his God. He did not humble himself before Jeremiah the prophet, who spoke from the mouth of the LORD. He also rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar, who had made him swear by God. He stiffened his neck and hardened his heart against turning to the LORD, the God of Israel (2 Chr. 36:12-13)
• when the Babylonians breached the wall of Jerusalem,
◦ Zedekiah and some of troops escaped through a secret door through the city wall
◦ he was captured in plains of Jericho and taken to Nebuchadnezzar, who
passed sentence on him – slaughtered his son before his eyes – put out his eyes – took him to Babylon (where he was in prison until his death; Jer. 52:9-11)

Zedekiah did not have to suffer these tragic losses
– his future was not inevitable, it had not been written in stone
• there was a moment when he was given a choice
– I wonder if during his imprisonment, he ever regretted not listening to God’s voice and not surrendering to God’s will

Prior to Zedekiah, there was a lesser known king: Jehoiachin

His rule lasted for only three months – and like Zedekiah,
he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD (2 Ki. 24:9)
– there is one significant difference between him and Zedekiah
• Babylon laid siege to Jerusalem during his reign too, but,
Jehoiachin the king of Judah gave himself up to the king of Babylon, himself and his mother and his servants and his officials and his palace officials (2 Ki. 24:12)
◦ the gave himself up translates same word for ‘surrender’ in Jeremiah 38:21
• like Zedekiah, he was also taken to Babylon and imprisoned there,
◦ however, neither he nor those with him were killed
◦ and neither Jerusalem nor the temple were destroyed
– Jehoiachin spent more than three decades in prison
• it was not a pleasant or easy life and we’re not told what sort of effect it had on him
• perhaps he repented and returned to the LORD, the God of Israel

There is one other fascinating development of Jehoiachin’s story
– the last sentence of Jeremiah chapter 51 reads:
The words of Jeremiah end here (Jer. 51:64, GNB)
• that means, the last chapter–chapter 52–is a postscript
◦ and it is taken directly from Israel’s history books
◦ the end of the postscript contains a surprising footnote:
And in the thirty-seventh year of the exile of Jehoiachin king of Judah . . . [the] king of Babylon, in the year he began to reign, graciously freed Jehoiachin king of Judah and brought him out of prison. And he spoke kindly to him and gave him a seat above the seats of the kings who were with him in Babylon. So Jehoiachin put off his prison garments. And every day of his life he dined regularly at the king’s table, and for his allowance, a regular allowance was given him by the king, according to his daily needs, until the day of his death, as long as he lived (Jer. 52:31-34)
• his story ends very differently from Zedekiah’s
◦ and it is because Jehoiachin surrendered – to the king of Babylon and he surrendered to God

I’ve been reading in Genesis, and yesterday came to the story of Joseph

He also spent some time in prison – in Egypt
– in fact, a long stretch of his life could be described as being “in the pits”
• his brothers threw him into a pit hoping he would starve to death (Gen. 40:15)
• later his prison is referred as the pit (the same Hebrew word; 41:14))
– there are two other similarities:
1. in both stories there is mention of someone’s head being lifted up (in Jer. 52:31 translated “graciously freed”)
2. in both stories, when the hero leaves prison he puts off his prison garments
• from the jailhouse jump suit to clothing fit for a king
• this represents a change of status – and this is how God’s will works when we surrender to it
The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me . . .
to grant to those who mourn in Zion–
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit . . . .
(Isa. 61:1-3)
– God had appeared and spoken to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob
• he revealed to them his will for their lives and the future of their descendants
◦ but God never appeared to or spoke to Joseph
• Joseph was given an ability to interpret dreams,
◦ but the interpretation of his own life was hidden from him
until by time his brothers arrived in Egypt–and then it all made sense
(see Genesis 45:5-8, where Joseph tells his brothers, “God sent me before you . . . God sent me before you . . . for it was not you who sent me here, but God”

Conclusion: Few people know God’s will for certain

Many find themselves later in life in a place where they say, “I never saw this coming”
We don’t have to worry about, or fear God’s will
We don’t have to know every moment exactly what is his will for us

God’s will finds us where we are

God’s will is finding you right now and right where you are

We discover God’s will for our lives as it unfolds
What matters most, is that we surrender to it
What matters is that even to our last breath we can pray, “Not my will, but Yours”

Leave a comment