Today you should read: Jeremiah 40
As we turn the page to chapter 40, we hit a new section in the book of Jeremiah. One commentator wrote, “This section of the book begins with Jeremiah’s release. Though it largely focuses on the prophet after Jerusalem’s fall to the Babylonians, he is absent from the narrative from 40:7 to 42:2…‘It is, therefore, a mistake to understand these chapters in terms of a biography of Jeremiah or as merely a chronicle of events in Judah after 587 b.c. Their central concern is theological.’ The stricken people were having to rethink their theology to allow for a God who could punish as well as bless and protect” (New American Commentary). Despite the destruction, Judah failed to learn its lesson. We will continue to see a lack of trust in God and his plans.
In the first six verses of chapter 40, we see the great prophet released from his captivity. He is given a choice: go to Babylon under the protection and provision of his liberator, or go back to his homeland or wherever seems right. Jeremiah put his nation and his mission over comfort.
Verse 7 makes a hard shift. Now we read of the rise and fall of Gedaliah. Babylon appointed Gedaliah to rule as a governor. Soon he had the remaining exiles under control. Things were so good that refugees were now returning home. However, not all was well.
In verse 14, Johanan reports to Gedaliah that the king of Ammon was sending a Judean named Ishmael to kill him. It’s quite possible that as relations between Judah and Babylon under Gedaliah were improving, which was not good for Baalis, king of Ammon. Baalis wanted instability in Judah to avoid Babylon’s attention. Ishmael was the guy—he was of the line of David, yet was not pro-Babylon like Gedaliah.
Gedaliah did not receive Johanan’s warning. Johanan wanted to kill Ishmael (15) in order to spare Gedaliah and save the remnant of Judah. Gedaliah wouldn’t hear it and accused Johanan of telling lies (16). We’ll see tomorrow that this was a fatal error.
From chapter 40, one big lesson that we see both in Jeremiah and Gedaliah is the role of the intercessor. As a prophet, Jeremiah had a hard job. Nothing ever came easy to him and yet, instead of choosing comfort and privilege, he turned back homeward to continue in ministry to the remnant—a remnant who neither seemed to respect or like him. He had a mission and was determined to carry it out. The people did not want him, but they needed him. His example provided the context necessary to understand what God was doing through the Exile. He was an intercessor because he stood in the gap for Judah.
Another intercessor is Gedaliah. You’ll hear often at CPC, “Things just work better when you do them God’s way.” Well, in the case of Gedaliah, that is absolutely true. The people started to flourish and the Land started to produce. Gedaliah stood in the gap between Babylon and the people. In doing so, he brought prosperity out of tragedy.
What does it look like for us to intercede, to stand in the gap? We can do this through prayer and ministry like Jeremiah, or through helping the helpless like Gedaliah. Examples of intercession don’t need to be as extreme as exilic times, but might be as simple as discovering a need or hurt and saying, “Can I help? Can I pray?” Getting involved means choosing mission over comfort, but that is the role of an intercessor.
By: Tyler Short — Connections Ministry Associate
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