Jeremiah 37 Devotional
by Pastor Lawrence
Now the events move forward once again to just after the death of the proud king Jehoiakim with his dead body being devoured by the birds of the air and the beasts of the field. His son Jehoiachin has been taken captive to Babylon after ruling for only three months, and his brother Zedekiah has now been appointed king by Nebuchadnezzar. Zedekiah is also wicked in God’s sight, but he’s not as bold in sinning as his brother Jehoiakim was. He’s much more fearful of God’s judgment and wants to hear his word, although he doesn’t really listen to it and receive it when Jeremiah speaks. In this chapter he actually sends two men to find Jeremiah to ask him to pray for him and his kingdom.
The Egyptians have come out to fight against the Babylonians drawing them away from Jerusalem to the battle field, and while the inhabitants of Jerusalem have a temporary reprieve, the king is still anxious, for he doesn’t know what the outcome of that battle will be and what will happen to them as a result. He asks for Jeremiah to pray for him surely expecting a blessing of some kind. Instead the prophet tells these two men to convey to their king that the Babylonians are coming back and will burn the city of Jerusalem to the ground. It is a sure word from God that the Lord is against the king and not for him. Jeremiah actually promises him that even if he and his troops were able to defeat the Babylonians in battle, the wounded enemy would drag themselves out of their infirmary tents and still burn the city to the ground, for it was the will of the Lord.
Then, also during this reprieve, Jeremiah sets out to leave the city temporarily to get his priestly portion of food in his inheritance in the land of Benjamin, but when Irijah, one of the king’s men, sees him trying to go out of the gates of the city he accuses him of desertion. Immediately all of the king’s officials were furious with him, believing him to be traitor anyway, and they began beating him and had him thrown into a dungeon prison under the house of one of the king’s officials where he was greatly mistreated for a time.
But then Zedekiah in his fearfulness once again desires to hear a word from the Lord, calling for Jeremiah, hoping that the Lord would be merciful to him, even though he would not repent of his sins and obey the Lord. Notice that he does this in secret showing that the king is even afraid of his own men. Jeremiah once again tells him that the Babylonians will surely destroy the city but that his life will be preserved and that he will be taken captive to Babylon as a prisoner of Nebuchadnezzar. He then agrees to free Jeremiah from his dungeon cell and to have him held in the court of the guard instead where he would be regularly provided with bread from the baker’s shop until the day that all the bread ran out just prior to the destruction of the city.
It doesn’t take much for us to understand why it would have been hard to be a prophet in Jeremiah’s day. In yesterday’s chapter we saw that he and Baruch were hiding for their lives from King Jehoiakim who wanted to kill them. In today’s passage Jeremiah is thrown into a prison dungeon, and in tomorrow’s passage he will be thrown into a cistern. Although King Zedekiah doesn’t initiate these things himself, he certainly doesn’t stop them from happening. He is a weak king who is both sinful and foolish, but which do you think is better, to be ruled by a strong king who despises the word of the Lord or by a weak king who seems indifferent to it? In either situation, wickedness abounds and God’s people suffer. So let us not forget to pray for our kings today and for all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way, as Paul exhorts us in 1 Timothy 2:2. Let us also pray that all of our leaders would fear the Lord, revere his word, and have their hearts turned toward God’s people to aid us in advancing God’s kingdom and Christ’s gospel throughout our land.