Jeremiah 38

Jeremiah 38 Devotional
by Pastor Mark Hudson

If you are a follower of cultural trends, you have noticed the term `cancel culture.’  If you do not know the term, you know the concept.  Someone says something offensive and people demand that the person should be fired.  This discussion of what constitutes tolerance and intolerance is fascinating.  D. A. Carson’s book The Intolerance of Tolerance, although a bit dated, is an excellent elucidation of this dilemma .  But you need to read and watch this trend as it plays out in our culture.  This is not close to being over.

But, if you think this is a new trend, consider this chapter of Jeremiah.  In fact, during Jeremiah’s time people were saying if you say certain offensive things you should not just be fired . . . you should be killed.  These enemies of Jeremiah even got the king on their side v. 4-5.  The King did not give a lot of thought to his decision as we shall see soon.

So in v. 6, these wonderful, supportive Jewish believers let Jeremiah down to the bottom of an old cistern to sink in the mud.   Then they walked away and let him slowly die.  But God had other plans for Jeremiah.  In v. 7, an Ethiopian eunuch spoke to the King.   He pleaded with the King for Jeremiah’s life.  So in verse 10, the King reverses his earlier decision.  So they toss a rope and rags and pulled  Jeremiah out all muddy with sore arms.  That had to be difficult for Jeremiah; a faithful servant of God and lover of His people so shamefully treated.

Then in v. 14, this same King wants a private audience with Jeremiah.  Jeremiah learns that the king is afraid.  He is afraid of going to Babylon and being dealt with cruelly (v. 19) by his own people.  Sometimes we fail to understand that people in positions of power can feel afraid.  If you are younger you may not realize that adults often feel afraid.  It is not being afraid that is bad but what you do with or because of your fear.  It seems like King Zedekiah may actually heed Jeremiah’s words and go to Babylon.  One tip I learned from a professor in seminary: If you don’t  know the answer?  Keep reading.  Sadly, in the next chapter we read that Zedekiah could not overcome his fears and obey God.  His disobedience cost him dearly.

Jeremiah has been completely consistent with his message.  How many lives could have been saved if they would have listened and obeyed God?  How much tragedy and loss would have been avoided if they would listen to God’s word?  Can’t we say that in every age and in hundreds of times in our own lives?  We could live better, happier lives if we would obey God.  Sin brings misery, pain, hurt, and shame.  Obedience brings joy, blessings, peace, and contentment.  Why then are we so drawn to sin when we know the outcome?  How badly we need Christ.

One other verse of note in this passage.  Did Jeremiah lie in verse 26?  Was it wrong?  He did seem to lie.  Some will say it is always wrong to lie.  For my part if I am hiding a small child from a child molester, I’m lying to keep the child hid.  I’m also lying to Nazi to hide Jews.  Not everyone will agree on this point.  In Jere-miah’s defense (if he needs any), listen to what one commentator writes.  In his discussion of the Ninth Commandment (Systematic Theology – Volume III, Chapter XIX The Law), theologian Charles Hodge writes,  Examples of this kind of deception are numerous in the Old Testament. Some of them are simply re-corded facts, without anything to indicate how they were regarded in the sight of God; but others … received either directly or by implication the divine sanction.

… the principle [is] that a higher obligation absolves from a lower [one]. It is a dictate even of the natural conscience. It is evidently right to inflict pain in order to save life. It is right to subject travelers to quarantine, although it may grievously interfere with their wishes or interests, to save a city from pestilence.

The question … is not whether it is ever right to do wrong, … nor is the question whether it is ever right to lie.

The obligation to speak the truth is a very solemn one; and when the choice is left a man to tell a lie or lose his money, he had better let his money go. On the other hand, if a mother sees a murderer in pursuit of her child, she has a perfect right to mislead him by any means in her power, because the general obligation to speak the truth is merged or lost, for the time being, in the higher obligation.

And finally these observations: not only is Jeremiah’s life & ministry a higher value and more important than the curiosity of the court officials (who have NO right or business to know the answer to the question posed to Jeremiah, far less even act upon the curiosity and ask him), but Jeremiah’s answer was not for a wrong motivation. First, he was obeying his king! Second, he was looking to continue his (life endangering) ministry. Third, he was hoping to preserve human life (his own). Each of these are good and noble motivations.

Finally, when we look at the results of the possible answers, The only ones who would “gain” from “the truth” are those trying to do wrong! We have no obligation to intentionally prosper the wicked. By obeying the king, the court officials lost nothing; it caused them no harm. Furthermore, Jeremiah would be able to continue to minister (and live). Those are good.

In summary, we have three independent sets of evaluation each fully supporting Jeremiah’s actions. Did he mislead them? Yes. Was it WRONG? NO. To the contrary, submitting to the men out due to being afraid of not adhering to a principle (rather than the principle Giver) is living by faith in the Lord, nor truly loving Him or His People. It’s living afraid – of people and their self-made standards.