DON’T SEEK GOD’S DELIVERANCE IF YOU ARE NOT PRACTICING SOCIAL JUSTICE
When we seek the Lord’s intervention and deliverance, apart from contrition and repentance, we should not be surprised to find that God has become our enemy. This new section in the book of Jeremiah flashes forward to the days of King Zedekiah and the siege under King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. The choice offered here to the inhabitance of Jerusalem is not very attractive: they can either continue to resist the enemy and be slaughtered or surrender and be subjected to captivity and oppression. But the problem is their own lack of social justice and their pursuit of wickedness despite persistent warnings from God’s prophets.
DON’T SEEK GOD’S DELIVERANCE IF YOU ARE NOT PRACTICING SOCIAL JUSTICE
I. (:1-2) PLEA FOR DELIVERANCE
A. (:1) Setting the Scene
“The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD when King Zedekiah sent to him Pashhur the son of Malchijah, and Zephaniah the priest, the son of Maaseiah, saying,”
Parunak: Zedekiah is already king, thus 597-586. Furthermore, Neb. Is currently fighting against the city (v. 2), and is said to have besieged it (v. 4), so we are catapaulted to the final attack against Jerusalem, which began in 588 and ended 18 months later in 586. . . They do not repent, or even ask for intercession, but simply want to know what is going to happen. But Jer. Has already told them, over and over again, what is going to happen. They refuse to believe the simple message of judgment that he has brought.
Adam Clarke: There can be little doubt that this Pashhur was a different person from him who was called the son of Immur in the preceding chapter.
B. (:2) Seeking Divine Deliverance
“Please inquire of the LORD on our behalf, for Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon is warring against us; perhaps the LORD will deal with us according to all His wonderful acts, that the enemy may withdraw from us.”
Constable: Zedekiah may have been hoping for a miraculous deliverance such as Jehoshaphat experienced from the Moabites, Ammonites, and Meunites (2 Chronicles 20). Hezekiah had also experienced supernatural deliverance when Sennacherib besieged Jerusalem (2 Kings 19; Isaiah 37).
Andrew Webb: But it doesn’t make sense! What kind of craziness would lead the king and the people of Jerusalem to believe that they could break covenant with God, worship false idols, corrupt his worship, ignore his ethical commands, mercilessly oppress the poor and enslaved, and then be miraculously delivered from the judgment God had told them was coming again and again and again.?
II. (:3-10) PROCLAMATION OF DEFEAT AND DEATH AND DESTRUCTION
A. (:3-6) Defeat and Death Personally Administered by the Hand of God
“Then Jeremiah said to them, ‘You shall say to Zedekiah as follows:’”
Surprising and Shocking response from the Lord to a plea for help and deliverance from His chosen nation that is under siege from the wicked nation of Babylon –
What does God promise He will do for them:
1. (:4a) Render Your Weapons Ineffective
“Thus says the LORD God of Israel, ‘Behold, I am about to turn back the weapons of war which are in your hands, with which you are warring against the king of Babylon and the Chaldeans who are besieging you outside the wall;”
2. (:4b) Allow the Enemy to Gain Control of Jerusalem
“and I shall gather them into the center of this city.’”
3. (:5) Personally Wage Intense War Against You
“And I Myself shall war against you with an outstretched hand and a mighty arm, even in anger and wrath and great indignation.”
Parunak: “With an outstretched hand and with a strong arm” is a quotation from earlier times: Duet. 4:34; 5:15; 26:8. 800 years before, this was how God delivered them from Egypt. But here the phrases are reversed, to emphasize that God’s strength now works in the reverse direction. The same strength that once saved the nation from one pagan lord now beats it into submission to another master.
Gill’s Exposition: even in anger, and in fury, and in great wrath; because of their sins and iniquities. This heap of words is used to show the greatness of his indignation: this was not the chastisement of a father, but the rebuke of an enemy; not a correction in love, but in hot displeasure; a punishment inflicted in vindictive wrath by a righteous Judge, appearing in a warlike manner.
4. (:6) Kill Every Man and Beast in the City with a Divine Plague
“I shall also strike down the inhabitants of this city, both man and beast;
they will die of a great pestilence.”
But that is not the end of it … God goes on and itemizes more devastation:
B. (:7) Defeat and Death Administered by the Sword of Nebuchadnezzar
1. No Escape
“’Then afterwards’ declares the LORD, ‘I shall give over Zedekiah king of Judah and his servants and the people, even those who survive in this city from the pestilence, the sword, and the famine, into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and into the hand of their foes, and into the hand of those who seek their lives;’”
Thompson: The building up of nouns in blocks of three which is characteristic of this passage (vv. 6, 7) adds vividness and emphasis to the grim picture.
2. No Victory
“and he will strike them down with the edge of the sword.”
3. No Mercy
“He will not spare them nor have pity nor compassion.”
C. (:8-10) Defeat and Destruction Destined for Jerusalem
1. (:8-9) Choice Between Way of Life and Way of Death
a. Offer of the Choice
“You shall also say to this people, ‘Thus says the LORD, Behold, I set before you the way of life and the way of death.’”
b. Option #1 = Way of Death
“He who dwells in this city will die by the sword and by famine and by pestilence;”
c. Option #2 = Way of Life
“but he who goes out and falls away to the Chaldeans who are besieging you will live, and he will have his own life as booty.”
MacArthur: Since a persistent lack of repentance had led to the conquest, Jeremiah urged the Jews to submit and surrender to the besieger so as to treated as captives of war and live rather than be killed.
2. (:10) The Die is Cast
a. Primary Enemy = God
“’For I have set My face against this city for harm and not for good,’ declares the LORD.”
b. Instrumental Enemy = Babylon
“It will be given into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he will burn it with fire.”
I. (:11-14) PRINCIPLE OF ACCOUNTABILITY: ADMINISTER SOCIAL JUSTICE OR EXPERIENCE GOD’S PUNISHMENT
“Then say to the household of the king of Judah, ‘Hear the word of the LORD, O house of David, thus says the LORD:’”
A. (:12b) The Administration of Justice is the Only Pathway to Escaping God’s Wrath
“Administer justice every morning; and deliver the person who has been robbed from the power of his oppressor, that My wrath may not go forth like fire And burn with none to extinguish it, because of the evil of their deeds.”
The administration of social justice was the responsibility of the king and his royal delegates. They had not acted with integrity in this regard.
Constable: Jeremiah was to tell the king of Judah and his administrators to be careful to dispense justice every day, particularly with the poor and powerless. If they did not, the Lord’s wrath would burn against them as an inextinguishable fire (cf. Jeremiah 4:4; Jeremiah 17:4; Jeremiah 17:27; Jeremiah 21:12; Jeremiah 21:14;Jeremiah 43:12; Jeremiah 49:27). Normally court convened in the morning to avoid the heat of the day (cf. 2 Samuel 4:5).
B. (:13) The Arrogance of Invincibility Cannot Stand Against God
“’Behold, I am against you, O valley dweller, O rocky plain,’ declares the LORD, ‘You men who say, Who will come down against us? Or who will enter into our habitations?’”
Wiersbe: The people of Jerusalem were certain that their city was impregnable and that there was no need to be afraid. Surrounded on three sides by valleys – Hinom on the south and west, and Kidron on the east – the city had to defend itself only on the north. Jerusalem’s inhabitants saw themselves enthroned on the rocky plateau, but God would soon dethrone them and cause them to lose their crown.
C. (:14) The Appropriateness of the Punishment Matches the Conduct
“’But I shall punish you according to the results of your deeds,’ declares the LORD, ‘And I shall kindle a fire in its forest That it may devour all its environs.’”
Wiersbe: Since the Babylonian army did set fire to the city, God did “kindle a fire in the forest” (Jer. 21:14). The phrase “the forest” probably refers to the structures in the city, especially to the king’s palace, the house of the forest of Lebanon (1 Kings 7:2; 10:17, 21). The cedars of Lebanon were used to construct various buildings in the city.