‘’The first twenty chapters of Jeremiah have come in roughly chronological order; the remaining chapters are arranged on the basis of subject matter rather than chronology. Here in this chapter, Jeremiah jumps forward to the ninth year of the reign of Judah’s last king, Zedekiah. Zedekiah had foolishly rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and now Babylon was attacking Jerusalem (see 2 Kings 24:18-20; 25:1; Jeremiah 52:1-4). Tom Hale: ‘The Applied Old Testament Commentary’, p.1105.
That’s a helpful introduction to this chapter and the remainder of the Book. I want to highlight three points:
Courage (1-7): It takes courage to tell people what you know they will not want to hear. Jeremiah would be considered a traitor for delivering messages such as these. ‘’But he was not pro-Babylonian, he was pro-Yahweh, and he saw clearly that Jerusalem’s only recourse was to submit to God’s righteous chastisement.’’ A.E. Cundall. Tom Hale points out that, regrettably, King Zedekiah was more interested in avoiding trouble than in avoiding the sins that caused him trouble. There comes a point where we cannot realistically expect God to answer our prayers if our hearts are set against doing His will. It is thought likely that verses 11-14 were spoken on an earlier occasion when there was still time for repentance. Such messages had been given, and rejected, over and over. They had been met with smug complacency. It was now too late for the desired miracle. Zedekiah (and this is still true of many today) wanted a ‘genie’ who would pop out of the bottle when required and grant him his wishes. At that moment he’d have settled for one. ‘’Maybe GOD will intervene with one of his famous miracles and make him leave.’’ The Message. It wasn’t going to happen; not this time. Jeremiah had to deliver this message, and he needed courage, for the messenger would be ‘shot’.
Consolation (5; see Romans 8:31): It is a terrible thing when God says He is against you. That’s not a ‘boat’ you want to be in. ‘’I’m joining their side and fighting against you, fighting all-out, holding nothing back.’’ The Message. But the consolation I find in this verse lies in the realisation that this can never be true of those who are ‘in Christ’. Paul teaches in Romans 8 that if God is ‘’for us’’ no-one can be against us.
Clarity (8-10): Within the unpopular message handed to Jeremiah to convey, there was nevertheless a ray of hope. It was not exactly what people wanted to hear, but ‘’the way of life and the way of death’’ were made utterly clear. It was not possible for Jerusalem to be saved, but it was the case that the populace, the people, could be saved. They could escape with their lives if they humbled themselves and surrendered. No one could be in any doubt about what they had to do. ‘’Listen carefully. I’m giving you a choice: life or death. Whoever stays in this city will die – either in battle or by starvation or disease. But whoever goes out and surrenders to the Chaldeans who have surrounded the city will live. You’ll lose everything – but not your life.’’ The Message. This sounds a lot like the message of the gospel which has been entrusted to us. It sets out clear alternatives (Matthew 7:13, 14), and we must communicate it in such a way that people know what they are. Let’s not make a simple message foggy. If people are prepared to lose their own lives for Jesus’ sake, they will then find them.