Bible Focus: Jeremiah 27, 39-44, 52
Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Hamutal daughter of Jeremiah; she was from Libnah. Zedekiah did what was evil in the LORD's sight just as Jehoiakim had done. Because of the LORD's anger, it came to the point in Jerusalem and Judah that he finally banished them from his presence.Jeremiah 52:1-3a CSB
Years ago, I went through a period of mental and emotional burnout. I had little enthusiasm for my work. I didn’t really feel like socializing. I would often wake with a sense of dread, and become exhausted halfway through the day. I couldn’t figure out why I felt so drained, irritable, and useless.
During that time, I found a Christian counselor that helped me work though some things. To my surprise, I discovered that my problem wasn’t a lack of mental and emotional energy. My problem was that I was expending much of my energy wrestling with fears and frustrations that I assumed were valid. But as I examined my fears and frustrations more closely, I had to admit that many of them were invalid or exaggerated. My feelings were real, but they weren’t necessarily true. I didn’t need to be bothered by them quite so much.
I learned to recognize when I was wrestling with those questionable feelings. In those moments, I would be faced with a choice. I could admit that my feelings were overblown, release my hold on them, and place my focus elsewhere. Or I could keep listening to my feelings, grip them tightly, and continue trying to resolve them. The first choice would usually enable me to relax and see things more clearly. But the second choice would often plunge me into an emotional abyss, which would leave me exhausted and defeated for much of the day.
If we find ourselves pointed in a bad direction, then it’s a terrible idea to move forward. But when it comes to God, that’s exactly what we often do. We can realize our need for God and yet continue to embrace the same thinking that puts us far away from him. It’s like we are looking at God over our shoulder as we speed toward a cliff.
The prophet Jeremiah lived through the final days of the kingdom of Judah. Babylon attacked Jerusalem, seized valuables, and captured thousands of people. The king of Babylon captured Jerusalem’s King Jeconiah, set up his relative Mattaniah as king in his place, and changed Mattaniah’s name to Zedekiah.
Through Jeremiah, God sent word to King Zedekiah that he should serve the king of Babylon. God declared that he had placed the king of Babylon over the land of Judah, and whoever rebelled against him would pay the price. However, Zedekiah did not listen; he rebelled against the king of Babylon.
So in the ninth year of Zedekiah’s reign, the full army of Babylon attacked Jerusalem, cutting off food and supplies to the city. After two years of siege, Jerusalem finally surrendered, and the king of Babylon made sure the city would not trouble him again.
On the tenth day of the fifth month--which was the nineteenth year of King Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon--Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guards, entered Jerusalem as the representative of the king of Babylon. He burned the LORD's temple, the king's palace, all the houses of Jerusalem; he burned down all the great houses. The whole Chaldean army with the captain of the guards tore down all the walls surrounding Jerusalem. Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guards, deported some of the poorest of the people, as well as the rest of the people who remained in the city, the deserters who had defected to the king of Babylon, and the rest of the craftsmen. But Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guards, left some of the poorest of the land to be vinedressers and farmers.Jeremiah 52:12-16 CSB
After the fall of Jerusalem, Jeremiah was released to live wherever he wished. He decided to stay in Judah. He moved to the city of Mizpah to stay with Gedaliah, who had been appointed by the king of Babylon to rule over the remaining cities of Judah.
But then a group of Judeans rebelled, killing Gedaliah along with the Babylonian soldiers in Mizpah. The remaining Judean commanders drove out the rebels and restored order, but the commanders were afraid that the Babylonians would retaliate against them. So they rounded up the people, including Jeremiah, and fled toward Egypt.
Before they reached Egypt, the people approached Jeremiah to ask what God wanted them to do. They promised that they would follow whatever instructions God gave Jeremiah. Ten days later, God gave Jeremiah his answer: the people should stay in Judah. God promised that if the people stayed, they would be able to return to their land. But if they disobeyed God and fled to Egypt, then they would die there without ever returning to Judah.
When Jeremiah told the people God’s answer, they accused him of lying and refused to obey God’s instructions. They continued on their way and crossed into Egypt, taking Jeremiah with them. After they settled in Egypt, the people began worshipping the Egyptian gods. God sent Jeremiah a final message for the people, emphasizing that they had doomed themselves by what they had done.
"So now, this is what the LORD, the God of Armies, the God of Israel, says: Why are you doing such terrible harm to yourselves? You are cutting off man and woman, infant and nursing baby from Judah, leaving yourselves without a remnant. You are angering me by the work of your hands. You are burning incense to other gods in the land of Egypt where you have gone to stay for a while. As a result, you will be cut off and become an example for cursing and insult among all the nations of earth.Jeremiah 44:7-8 CSB
Some might think that the God of the Bible is looking for any excuse to strike people down. However, that notion doesn’t agree with the biblical story of Israel and Judah. God repeatedly warned them that they were on a destructive path. God gave them multiple opportunities to change their mind, and some did. However, most of them turned their back on God and ran away from him until there was no hope of return.
We’re not any better than them. We all run away from God. But here’s the good news: we don’t have to keep running. We don’t have to cut ourselves off from the One who made us and cares for us. Sure, we’ve made a mess of things, but that’s no reason to keep spurning God’s love. We can turn back to God today and reconcile with him because of the sacrifice of Jesus.
Featured image from Daniel Bernard on Unsplash.
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1 thought on “Over the Edge”
Thanks for your encouragement and honesty.