Consider the questions that were raised in the first two acts of this book. Is Jeremiah telling the truth, or are the prophets who promise peace? Would the LORD really allow Zion to burn, and drive His people from a land that He himself had given them? Is it truly safer to flee Jerusalem than to remain inside the walls? Would Jeremiah’s strength remain…and would the LORD truly make him a fortified city, “against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests, and the people of the land?” Yesterday, many of these questions were answered.
Today’s opening scene shows Nebuzaradan, the Babylonian Captain of the Guard, revealing to Jeremiah his understanding of why Jerusalem was destroyed: "The LORD your God pronounced this disaster against this place. The LORD has brought it about, and has done as he said. Because you sinned against the LORD and did not obey his voice, this thing has come upon you.”
Let’s dwell on this a second. In this statement, it sounds like Nebuzaradan is giving the LORD – Jehovah, the God of Israel – the glory for Babylon’s victory. Not Merodach, not the Baals, not Asherah. He says, “The LORD has brought it about…” Furthermore, he recognizes that it was Judah’s rebellion against the LORD, not against Babylon, that brought judgment on them: “Because you sinned against the LORD and did not obey His voice…”
This is stunning in religious, historical, and literary terms. The persistent thread running through this book has been: “But they would not listen…” Through peace and war, plenty and famine, Jeremiah has been proclaiming the coming judgment. Thousands of God’s people and four of Judah’s kings stubbornly refused to heed the warnings. Yet in these chapters we’ve seen the king’s Ethiopian servant, the Babylonian captain, and even the king Nebuchadnezzar himself (by granting Jeremiah protection) recognize that the truth was in Jeremiah and in his words.
And this is only the beginning of the surprises today, as a new order takes shape for the provinces of Western Babylon. Raiding parties of mixed background roam the land. A new governor is appointed but is soon murdered. Fear that Babylon will avenge him grips the remaining Judeans and the refugees who only recently returned home.
So they come, ironically, to Jeremiah, asking “that the LORD your God may show us the way we should go…” and promising that “Whether it is good or bad, we will obey the voice of the LORD our God…”
Our verse for this week is Psalm 51:10: Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
Jeremiah 40 through 42. Now let’s read it!
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.