SCRIPTURE REFERENCES FOR THIS SERMON:
37:1 Zedekiah son of Josiah succeeded Jeconiah son of Jehoiakim as king. He was elevated to the throne of the land of Judah by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. 2 Neither he nor the officials who served him nor the people of Judah paid any attention to what the Lord said through the prophet Jeremiah.
3 King Zedekiah sent Jehucal son of Shelemiah and the priest Zephaniah son of Maaseiah to the prophet Jeremiah to say, “Please pray to the Lord our God on our behalf.” 4 (Now Jeremiah had not yet been put in prison. So he was still free to come and go among the people as he pleased. 5 At that time the Babylonian forces had temporarily given up their siege against Jerusalem. They had had it under siege, but withdrew when they heard that the army of Pharaoh had set out from Egypt.) 6 The Lord’s message came to the prophet Jeremiah, 7 “This is what the Lord God of Israel has said, ‘This is what you must say to the king of Judah who sent you to seek my help. “Beware, Pharaoh’s army that was on its way to help you is about to go back home to Egypt. 8 Then the Babylonian forces will return. They will attack the city and will capture it and burn it down. 9 Moreover, I, the Lord, warn you not to deceive yourselves into thinking that the Babylonian forces will go away and leave you alone. For they will not go away. 10 For even if you were to defeat all the Babylonian forces fighting against you so badly that only wounded men were left lying in their tents, they would get up and burn this city down.”’”
11 The following events also occurred while the Babylonian forces had temporarily withdrawn from Jerusalem because the army of Pharaoh was coming. 12 Jeremiah started to leave Jerusalem to go to the territory of Benjamin. He wanted to make sure he got his share of the property that was being divided up among his family there. 13 But he only got as far as the Benjamin Gate. There an officer in charge of the guards named Irijah, who was the son of Shelemiah and the grandson of Hananiah, stopped him. He seized Jeremiah and said, “You are deserting to the Babylonians!” 14 Jeremiah answered, “That’s a lie! I am not deserting to the Babylonians.” But Irijah would not listen to him. Irijah put Jeremiah under arrest and took him to the officials. 15 The officials were very angry with Jeremiah. They had him flogged and put in prison in the house of Jonathan, the royal secretary, which they had converted into a place for confining prisoners.
16 So Jeremiah was put in prison in a cell in the dungeon in Jonathan’s house. He was kept there for a long time. 17 Then King Zedekiah had him brought to the palace. There he questioned him privately and asked him, “Is there any message from the Lord?” Jeremiah answered, “Yes, there is.” Then he announced, “You will be handed over to the king of Babylon.” 18 Then Jeremiah asked King Zedekiah, “What crime have I committed against you, or the officials who serve you, or the people of Judah? What have I done to make you people throw me into prison? 19 Where now are the prophets who prophesied to you that the king of Babylon would not attack you or this land? 20 But now please listen, your royal Majesty, and grant my plea for mercy. Do not send me back to the house of Jonathan, the royal secretary. If you do, I will die there.” 21 Then King Zedekiah ordered that Jeremiah be committed to the courtyard of the guardhouse. He also ordered that a loaf of bread be given to him every day from the bakers’ street until all the bread in the city was gone. So Jeremiah was kept in the courtyard of the guardhouse.
38:1 Now Shephatiah son of Mattan, Gedaliah son of Pashhur, Jehucal son of Shelemiah, and Pashhur son of Malkijah had heard the things that Jeremiah had been telling the people. They had heard him say, 2 “The Lord says, ‘Those who stay in this city will die in battle or of starvation or disease. Those who leave the city and surrender to the Babylonians will live. They will escape with their lives.’” 3 They had also heard him say, “The Lord says, ‘This city will certainly be handed over to the army of the king of Babylon. They will capture it.’” 4 So these officials said to the king, “This man must be put to death. For he is demoralizing the soldiers who are left in the city as well as all the other people there by these things he is saying. This man is not seeking to help these people but is trying to harm them.” 5 King Zedekiah said to them, “Very well, you can do what you want with him. For I cannot do anything to stop you.” 6 So the officials took Jeremiah and put him in the cistern of Malkijah, one of the royal princes, that was in the courtyard of the guardhouse. There was no water in the cistern, only mud. So when they lowered Jeremiah into the cistern with ropes he sank in the mud.
7 An Ethiopian, Ebed Melech, a court official in the royal palace, heard that Jeremiah had been put in the cistern. While the king was holding court at the Benjamin Gate, 8 Ebed Melech departed the palace and went to speak to the king. He said to him, 9 “Your royal Majesty, those men have been very wicked in all that they have done to the prophet Jeremiah. They have thrown him into a cistern, and he is sure to die of starvation there because there is no food left in the city.” 10 Then the king gave Ebed Melech the Ethiopian the following order: “Take 30 men with you from here and go pull the prophet Jeremiah out of the cistern before he dies.” 11 So Ebed Melech took the men with him and went to a room under the treasure room in the palace. He got some worn-out clothes and old rags from there and let them down by ropes to Jeremiah in the cistern. 12 Ebed Melech called down to Jeremiah, “Put these rags and worn-out clothes under your armpits to pad the ropes.” Jeremiah did as Ebed Melech instructed. 13 So they pulled Jeremiah up from the cistern with ropes. Jeremiah, however, still remained confined to the courtyard of the guardhouse.
14 Some time later Zedekiah sent and had Jeremiah brought to him at the third entrance of the Lord’s temple. The king said to Jeremiah, “I would like to ask you a question. Do not hide anything from me when you answer.” 15 Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, “If I answer you, you will certainly kill me. If I give you advice, you will not listen to me.” 16 So King Zedekiah made a secret promise to Jeremiah and sealed it with an oath. He promised, “As surely as the Lord lives who has given us life and breath, I promise you this: I will not kill you or hand you over to those men who want to kill you.”
17 Then Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, “The Lord God of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says, ‘You must surrender to the officers of the king of Babylon. If you do, your life will be spared and this city will not be burned down. Indeed, you and your whole family will be spared. 18 But if you do not surrender to the officers of the king of Babylon, this city will be handed over to the Babylonians, and they will burn it down. You yourself will not escape from them.’” 19 Then King Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, “I am afraid of the Judeans who have deserted to the Babylonians. The Babylonians might hand me over to them, and they will torture me.” 20 Then Jeremiah answered, “You will not be handed over to them. Please obey the Lord by doing what I have been telling you. Then all will go well with you, and your life will be spared. 21 But if you refuse to surrender, the Lord has shown me a vision of what will happen. Here is what I saw: 22 All the women who are left in the royal palace of Judah will be led out to the officers of the king of Babylon. They will taunt you saying:
“‘Your trusted friends misled you;
they have gotten the best of you.
Now that your feet are stuck in the mud,
they have turned their backs on you.’
23 “All your wives and your children will be turned over to the Babylonians. You yourself will not escape from them but will be captured by the king of Babylon. This city will be burned down.”
24 Then Zedekiah told Jeremiah, “Do not let anyone know about the conversation we have had. If you do, you will die. 25 The officials may hear that I have talked with you. They may come to you and say, ‘Tell us what you said to the king and what the king said to you. Do not hide anything from us. If you do, we will kill you.’ 26 If they do this, tell them, ‘I was pleading with the king not to send me back to die in the dungeon of Jonathan’s house.’” 27 All the officials did indeed come and question Jeremiah. He told them exactly what the king had instructed him to say. They stopped questioning him any further because no one had actually heard their conversation. 28 So Jeremiah remained confined in the courtyard of the guardhouse until the day Jerusalem was captured.
The following events occurred when Jerusalem was captured.
39:1 King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came against Jerusalem with his whole army and laid siege to it. The siege began in the tenth month of the ninth year that Zedekiah ruled over Judah. 2 It lasted until the ninth day of the fourth month of Zedekiah’s eleventh year. On that day they broke through the city walls. 3 Then Nergal Sharezer of Samgar, Nebo Sarsekim (who was a chief officer), Nergal Sharezer (who was a high official), and all the other officers of the king of Babylon came and set up quarters in the Middle Gate. 4 When King Zedekiah of Judah and all his soldiers saw them, they tried to escape. They departed from the city during the night. They took a path through the king’s garden and passed out through the gate between the two walls. Then they headed for the rift valley. 5 But the Babylonian army chased after them. They caught up with Zedekiah in the plains of Jericho and captured him. They took him to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon at Riblah in the territory of Hamath, and Nebuchadnezzar passed sentence on him there. 6 There at Riblah the king of Babylon had Zedekiah’s sons put to death while Zedekiah was forced to watch. The king of Babylon also had all the nobles of Judah put to death. 7 Then he had Zedekiah’s eyes put out and had him bound in chains to be led off to Babylon. 8 The Babylonians burned down the royal palace, the temple of the Lord, and the people’s homes, and they tore down the wall of Jerusalem. 9 Then Nebuzaradan, the captain of the royal guard, took captive the rest of the people who were left in the city. He carried them off to Babylon along with the people who had deserted to him. 10 But he left behind in the land of Judah some of the poor people who owned nothing. He gave them fields and vineyards at that time.
11 Now King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had issued orders concerning Jeremiah. He had passed them on through Nebuzaradan, the captain of his royal guard, 12 “Find Jeremiah and look out for him. Do not do anything to harm him, but do with him whatever he tells you.” 13 So Nebuzaradan (the captain of the royal guard), Nebushazban (who was a chief officer), Nergal Sharezer (who was a high official), and all the other officers of the king of Babylon 14 sent and had Jeremiah brought from the courtyard of the guardhouse. They turned him over to Gedaliah, the son of Ahikam and the grandson of Shaphan, to take him home with him. But Jeremiah stayed among the people.
15 Now the Lord’s message had come to Jeremiah while he was still confined in the courtyard of the guardhouse, 16 “Go and tell Ebed Melech the Nubian, ‘This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, has said, “I will carry out against this city what I promised. It will mean disaster and not good fortune for it. When that disaster happens, you will be there to see it. 17 But I will rescue you when it happens. I, the Lord, affirm it! You will not be handed over to those whom you fear. 18 I will certainly save you. You will not fall victim to violence. You will escape with your life because you trust in me. I, the Lord, affirm it!”’”