The Consequences of Giving Challenging Advice
(Jeremiah: The Suffering Preacher)
Jeremiah 38:14-23

May 16

 

Background Reading: Jeremiah 37-38
Devotional Reading:
Jeremiah 38:7-13, 39:15-18

Keep in Mind:

Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, "If I tell you, you will put me to death, will you not? And if I give you advice, you will not listen to me.”  Jeremiah 38:15, NRSV).

Lesson Aim:

IDENTIFY Jeremiah’s hesitation to give controversial advice to Zedekiah,
SENSE Jeremiah’s apprehension when talking to Zedekiah, and
COMMIT to giving challenging godly advice.


Background

Jeremiah, whose name means "Yahweh appointed," was set apart by God as a prophet from the womb (Jeremiah 1:5).  For over forty years he was God's mouthpiece as he called out judgment against Judah for their wickedness.  In the fourth year of King Jehoiakim's eleven-year reign, the Lord commanded Jeremiah to provide a written account of everything spoken about Israel, Judah, and all the nations from the time of King Josiah until that present which included His reminders of the disaster to come.  God's objective was to extend mercy if hearers would only repent (Jeremiah 36:1-3).  King Jehoiakim and his officials heard the prophetic word but rather than repent, the scrolls were burned (Jeremiah 36:1-25).

Despite the tough words, he had to deliver, and personal pain experienced, Jeremiah followed through with everything the Lord commanded.  In the last days of Jerusalem King Zedekiah, a weaker king was in power and the Lord sent word through Jeremiah that although Judah looked to Egypt as an ally, the other nation would leave them to fend for themselves.  He further warned that Judah's nemesis-the Chaldeans-would prevail against them, burn down the city, and scatter them as exiles.  However, this destruction would be averted if the king and his leaders would turn back to the Lord.  The officials were angered by his prophecy and sought to paint Jeremiah as a traitor to the Chaldeans; he was beaten and thrown into prison (Jeremiah 37: 1-16).

Lesson Commentary:

A Final Interview (Jeremiah 38:14-18, NRSV)

14King Zedekiah sent for the prophet Jeremiah and received him at the third entrance of the temple of the LORD. The king said to Jeremiah, "I have something to ask you; do not hide anything from me."
15Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, "If I tell you, you will put me to death, will you not? And if I give you advice, you will not listen to me."
16So King Zedekiah swore an oath in secret to Jeremiah, "As the LORD lives, who gave us our lives, I will not put you to death or hand you over to these men who seek your life."
17Then Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, "Thus says the LORD, the God of hosts, the God of Israel, if you will only 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.
18But if you do not surrender to the officials of the king of Babylon, then this city shall be handed over to the Chaldeans, and they shall burn it with fire, and you yourself shall not escape from their hand."

King Zedekiah on more than one occasion privately sought out Jeremiah to hear what the Lord had revealed to him.  The king had other prophets who told him what he wanted to hear regarding Judah's national security.  But those prophets did not align with what the Lord spoke through Jeremiah, who proved to be His true prophet.  The Lord delivered, Jeremiah from his officials through King Zedekiah (Jeremiah 37:17-21).  Jeremiah would find himself in trouble with the king's officials again for delivering the Lord's proclamation of calamity for disobedience and coming Chaldean siege.  He was considered a troublemaker who caused unrest in the land and was thrown into a dry cistern by the king's men.  The king would later rescue Jeremiah from death, but he would be once again locked up (Jeremiah 38:1-13).

King Zedekiah sought to show honor for the word of the Lord and had Jeremiah brought to him at the Temple to inquire what the Lord might say through him.  Jeremiah was hesitant to answer because he recognized-that Zedekiah would probably not listen to his counsel.  His officials had great power and influence and wanted Jeremiah dead.  The king promised in their one-on-one conversation that neither he nor his men would kill Jeremiah because the king wanted to hear what the Lord said.  Jeremiah gave the Lord's word by advising the king and his officials to surrender to the Babylonians so that they may live.  However, if they did not heed his counsel from the Lord, the city would burn, and they would not escape.

1.      How do you discern when to speck and when to be quiet?

2.      What does it mean to speck truth to power?

A Final Response (Jeremiah 38: 19-23, NRSV)

19King Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, "I am afraid of the Judeans who have deserted to the Chaldeans, for I might be handed over to them and they would abuse me."
20Jeremiah said, "That will not happen. Just obey the voice of the LORD in what I say to you, and it shall go well with you, and your life shall be spared.
21But if you are determined not to surrender, this is what the LORD has shown me—
22a vision of all the women remaining in the house of the king of Judah being led out to the officials of the king of Babylon and saying, 'Your trusted friends have seduced you and have overcome you; Now that your feet are stuck in the mud, they desert you.'
23All your wives and your children shall be led out to the Chaldeans, and you yourself shall not escape from their hand, but shall be seized by the king of Babylon; and this city shall be burned with fire."

After hearing Jeremiah's prophetic word to surrender, King Zedekiah in confidence shares with Jeremiah that he fears what will happen if he follows the instructions given by the Lord.  Jeremiah assures the king if he and his officials obey the Lord, the crisis will be suspended, and they will be saved.  However, if he refuses, the Lord revealed that the Chaldeans would burn the city and the people would be taken captive by Babylon.  Further, Jeremiah tells the king that he and his officials would bring disgrace upon themselves as the people who trust them realize they had misled them.  Their wives who are the life-givers and their sons who represent their bloodline would be captured.  The king and all his officials would be destroyed.  King Zedekiah led Judah through habitual disobedience and bad advice, and Jeremiah foretold the consequences of those decisions.  God still provided .an opportunity to change their ways if they would only ask for and receive God's mercy.

1.       Given Jeremiah's experience as a prophet, was he right to question King Zedekiah's request?  What did the king expect to hear from Jeremiah?

2.       Are there times when you have been the recipient of advice you did not want to receive but the Lord confirmed it was from Him?  How did you respond?

3.       What are some reasons people dismiss godly advice?

Lesson in Our Society

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke many times about the dangers of keeping silent.  There are times when God will compel His people to speak truth to those who will not receive it favorably, but we must stand for righteousness even if it costs.  Some believers live in parts` of the world where they are faced with persecution daily for boldly living their faith.  Those of us blessed with religious freedom must continue to pray and support those who do not have the same freedom.  Think of ways your small group or church can help people living in countries where Christianity is illegal.  Even on our side of the world, we must be intentional to equip ourselves and others in the spirit of God's love to share and defend our faith in the public square amid opposition

Daily Bible Readings


MONDAY: Apostles Speak Truth to Council (Acts 4:13-22)
TUESDAY: Prophet Jeremiah is Arrested and imprisoned (Jeremiah 37: 11-16)
WEDNESDAY: Ebed-Melech's Trust in Jeremiah Honored (Jeremiah 38:7-13; 39:15-18)
THURSDAY: Jeremiah Reaffirms Prophecy of Zedekiah (Jeremiah 37:17-21)
FRIDAY: Jeremiah's Last Days in Jerusalem (Jeremiah 38:24-28)
SATURDAY: Jerusalem Destroyed; People Exiled (2 Kings 25:1-12)
SUNDAY: Zedekiah Must Submit to Babylonian Conquest (Jeremiah 38:14-23)

 


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