Jeremiah 41 Devotional
by Pastor Mark Hudson
Unfortunately you could make R rated movies from stories in the Bible. This is one violent chapter in a book that has quite a few violent chapters and stories. I think this chapter also shows that once you start down a path of disobedience it can get worse and worse.
As you have noticed, some of the Jews did go to Babylon. Maybe they were reluctant. Some of them had to be confused. But uncertainty and disappointment were shared by everyone leaving. But some were adamant: they were not going to Babylon. And they were violently opposed to anyone who sided with Jeremiah (and God). This nasty mix of nationalism, xenophobic or anti-Babylonian sentiments, rebellion, and a myopic view of the current state of affairs was a toxic brew. This sinful concoction erupts into what we read in chapter 41.
Over 70 people are murdered in these few verses. The perfidy of Ishmael is shameful. He east bread with Gedaliah. Remember, that Johanan the son of Kareah tried to warm Gedaliah about Ishmael in chapter 40. Ishmael’s murder was premeditated and directed at Babylon and all who supported Babylon.
Then, worshippers from Shechem and Shiloh and Samaria came to Mizpah not knowing what had happened. Ishmael came out, “weeping as he came. As he met them, he said to them, “Come in to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam.” V. 6. He deceives them pretending to weep (crying with blood-stained hands!) and greet them in the name of Gedaliah who had murdered a few days prior to their arrival. Then we read these fateful words: “7 When they came into the city, Ishmael the son of Nethaniah and the men with him slaughtered them and cast them into a cistern.” He kills 70 humble, worshipping pilgrims in this ruthless act of deceit and rebellion.
Ishmael took a number of people with him as he went to the Ammonites. Thankfully, Johanan rescues these people in v. 14 from Ishmael. But if you think Johanan is a good person in this story, keep reading. Johanan plans to go to Egypt because as soon as Babylon hears about Gedaliah’s murder, they will want retribution, Johanan reasons. Better to escape to Egypt than to get punished by Babylon.
Sometimes when you read the Bible remember to keep in mind the distinction between prescriptive and descriptive writing. In other words is the author prescribing behavior or merely describing what is happening. Clearly, this is descriptive writing. So why describe what is violent, evil, deceptive, and in the very least, unbecoming?
Hopefully, when we read passages like this we see the true face of sin. Oh, sin promises liberation, happiness, and fulfillment. But sin is so awful. Sin always degrades us, ushers in disunity, and makes us smaller, holds us in bondage, and never fulfills its promises. Sin separates us from God, from others, from the world God has given us, and even from ourselves.
This is why the gospel is good news. The good news will always be welcome news to humble, repentant sinners who want true joy, maximum satisfaction, eternal contentment, and peace with God, others, the world, and themselves. We must never tire of preaching the gospel to ourselves and as we experience His grace to share that news with others. Christ brings us what we seek . . . even when we attempt to seek our joy first in sin.