Scripture reading – Jeremiah 21

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Jeremiah 21

The introductory verses of Jeremiah 21 give us the time and setting for the chapter. At the time, Zedekiah was king in Judah (Jeremiah 21:1), and Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, laid siege to Jerusalem (Jeremiah 21:1-2).

King Zedekiah’s Appeal to Jeremiah (Jeremiah 21:1-2)

Jeremiah had spent his life prophesying to Judah and warning the kings and the people that if they continued in their wickedness, the LORD would judge the nation. The king had despised the words of Jeremiah, but now he sent a delegation asking the prophet to intercede with the LORD (Jeremiah 21:1-2a). King Zedekiah hoped the LORD might look favorably on Judah as He did when Assyria threatened Jerusalem (Isaiah 36-37). So, Zedekiah made a “last ditch effort” to appeal to the LORD to drive Babylon’s army away and save his throne and the city from destruction (Jeremiah 21:2b).

Jeremiah’s Frightening Response to the King’s Petition (Jeremiah 21:3-7)

Jeremiah responded to the king’s messengers with the LORD’s answer: The time for repentance was past, and God’s judgment of Jerusalem and Judah was determined (Jeremiah 21:3-4).  Not only would the LORD not spare the city, but He would lead the enemy “and assemble them into the midst” of Jerusalem (Jeremiah 21:4). In fact, the LORD declared that He would “fight against” the people. He would not pity them or show compassion (Jeremiah 21:5). Those whom the sword would not strike down would “die of a great pestilence” (Jeremiah 21:6). Not even the king would escape God’s judgment.

Therefore, the LORD declared, “I will deliver Zedekiah king of Judah, and his servants, and the people…into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, and into the hand of their enemies, and into the hand of those that seek their life: and he shall smite them with the edge of the sword; he shall not spare them, neither have pity, nor have mercy” (Jeremiah 21:7).

The Dilemma of Two Ways (21:8-10)

The Dilemma of Two Ways (Jeremiah 21:8-10)

Having warned the king that the wrath of the LORD would not be quenched, Jeremiah was commanded to declare to the citizens of Jerusalem that they faced two choices: “the way of life, and the way of death” (Jeremiah 21:8). To stay in the besieged city meant certain death, “by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence” (Jeremiah 21:9a). Jeremiah appealed to the people to surrender and promised: “He that goeth out [of the city], and falleth to the Chaldeans [i.e., Babylonians] that besiege you, he shall live, and his life shall be unto him for a prey [spoil to the enemy]” (Jeremiah 21:9). The time for repentance was past, for the LORD declared, “I have set my face against this city for evil, and not for good…it shall be given into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall burn it with fire” (Jeremiah 21:10).

 

Two Appeals (Jeremiah 21:11-14)

Jeremiah’s Exhortation: “Do Right!” or Die (Jeremiah 21:11-12)

Judah’s king and the citizens of Jerusalem stood at a crossroads and faced two choices: Leave and Live or Decline and Die. Tragically, Judah failed to heed the lesson they should have learned when northern Israel fell to Assyria because of that nation’s wickedness. Yet, in verses 11 and 12, we find another appeal to the king, and I suggest it might be summed up in two words: “Do Right.”

Jeremiah called on the king and his household to “Execute judgment in the morning, and deliver him that is spoiled out of the hand of the oppressor, lest my fury go out like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings” (Jeremiah 21:12). Though God’s judgment was inevitable, the appeal was that their suffering might be less if those in authority would rule according to the law and commandments, and deliver those wrongfully judged “out of the hand of the oppressor” (Jeremiah 21:12).

“I Am Against Thee” (Jeremiah 21:13-14)

God’s Declaration: “I Am Against Thee” (Jeremiah 21:13-14)

Jeremiah 21 concluded with the prophet tasked with a frightening pronouncement. The LORD declared, “Behold, I am against thee, O inhabitant of the valley, and rock of the plain, saith the Lord; which say, Who shall come down against us? or who shall enter into our habitations?” (Jeremiah 21:13-14).

The LORD had sent prophets to call Judah to repent of its wickedness and turn to Him. Yet, the citizens of Jerusalem despised God’s prophets and refused to set aside their idolatry and wicked ways. They took solace in the Temple in their midst. They believed the walls of Jerusalem were impregnable (Jeremiah 21:13). They presumed the LORD’s mercy and compassion, though they broke His covenant.

Not only was the LORD against them, but He declared, “I will punish you according to the fruit of your doings, saith the Lord: and I will kindle a fire in the forest thereof, and it shall devour all things round about it” (Jeremiah 21:14).

All came to pass as Jeremiah prophesied. Babylon cut down Judah’s trees and set a fire against the city’s wall, weakening it. When Babylon’s soldiers entered Jerusalem, the wood-built structures, including the Temple and Solomon’s palace, constructed with the cedars of Lebanon, were consumed by fire.

Closing thoughts –

Friend, every man, woman, boy, and girl is confronted by two ways of living. We can follow the path that is easy and applauded by the world, yet it is the way that ends in sorrow and death. Or, we can choose the way of the LORD, accept His offer of redemption and salvation through Christ, and walk in His Word, Law, and Commands.

In His Sermon on the Mount, Christ appealed to His followers, saying: 13Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:14Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).

Which path will you take? The way that leads to eternal life or the one that ends with death and eternal separation from God?

Copyright © 2024 – Travis D. Smith 

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