When truth is hard to swallow and even harder to obey, human, ungodly thought leads to snuffing out the messenger who annoys the status quo with truth.
Angry because Jeremiah’s words were hurting the war effort, four of Zedekiah’s officials banded together to urge the king to kill the prophet. They accused Jeremiah of not seeking the welfare of the people, yet the welfare of the people was the thing to which he had dedicated his life!
“Don’t shoot the messenger” is still a well-known phrase today. We all know what it means but here is a bit of history that describes what Jeremiah is experiencing as the Messenger of God is thrown into the mirey clay of a defunct cistern for revealing God’s Truth! An analogy of the phrase can come from the breaching of an unwritten code of conduct in war, in which a commanding officer was expected to receive and send back emissaries or diplomatic envoys sent by the enemy unharmed. During the early Warring States period of China, the concept of chivalry and virtue prevented the executions of messengers sent by opposing sides.
An ancient literary citing of “shooting the messenger” is in Plutarch’s Lives: “The first messenger, that gave notice of Lucullus’ coming was so far from pleasing Tigranes that, he had his head cut off for his pains; and no man dared to bring further information. Without any intelligence at all, Tigranes sat while war was already blazing around him, giving ear only to those who flattered him”.
GOD gives His people exactly what is going to happen along with what to do in a clear message spoken through His prophet Jeremiah. His people do not want to hear it, obey it or live it. The Babylonians are almost at the gate, war is stewing all around them, and they only want to hear good news.
Dear Friends, are we like that today, only wanting to hear good news from our pastors who reveal what God has told them to say?
What is the Truth? Can we handle the Truth?
Jeremiah 38, The Message
From the Dungeon to the Palace
38 Shaphatiah son of Mattan, Gedaliah son of Pashur, Jehucal son of Shelemiah, and Pashur son of Malkijah heard what Jeremiah was telling the people, namely:
2 “This is God’s Message: ‘Whoever stays in this town will die—will be killed or starve to death or get sick and die. But those who go over to the Babylonians will save their necks and live.’
3 “And, God’s sure Word: ‘This city is destined to fall to the army of the king of Babylon. He’s going to take it over.’”
4 These officials told the king, “Please, kill this man. He’s got to go! He’s ruining the resolve of the soldiers who are still left in the city, as well as the people themselves, by spreading these words. This man isn’t looking after the good of this people. He’s trying to ruin us!”
5 King Zedekiah caved in: “If you say so. Go ahead, handle it your way. You’re too much for me.”
6 So they took Jeremiah and threw him into the cistern of Malkijah the king’s son that was in the courtyard of the palace guard. They lowered him down with ropes. There wasn’t any water in the cistern, only mud. Jeremiah sank into the mud.
7-9 Ebed-melek the Ethiopian, a court official assigned to the royal palace, heard that they had thrown Jeremiah into the cistern. While the king was holding court in the Benjamin Gate, Ebed-melek went immediately from the palace to the king and said, “My master, O king—these men are committing a great crime in what they’re doing, throwing Jeremiah the prophet into the cistern and leaving him there to starve. He’s as good as dead. There isn’t a scrap of bread left in the city.”
10 So the king ordered Ebed-melek the Ethiopian, “Get three men and pull Jeremiah the prophet out of the cistern before he dies.”
11-12 Ebed-melek got three men and went to the palace wardrobe and got some scraps of old clothing, which they tied together and lowered down with ropes to Jeremiah in the cistern. Ebed-melek the Ethiopian called down to Jeremiah, “Put these scraps of old clothing under your armpits and around the ropes.”
Jeremiah did what he said.
13 And so they pulled Jeremiah up out of the cistern by the ropes. But he was still confined in the courtyard of the palace guard.
14 Later, King Zedekiah sent for Jeremiah the prophet and had him brought to the third entrance of the Temple of God. The king said to Jeremiah, “I’m going to ask you something. Don’t hold anything back from me.”
15 Jeremiah said, “If I told you the whole truth, you’d kill me. And no matter what I said, you wouldn’t pay any attention anyway.”
16 Zedekiah swore to Jeremiah right there, but in secret, “As sure as God lives, who gives us life, I won’t kill you, nor will I turn you over to the men who are trying to kill you.”
17-18 So Jeremiah told Zedekiah, “This is the Message from God, God-of-the-Angel-Armies, the God of Israel: ‘If you will turn yourself over to the generals of the king of Babylon, you will live, this city won’t be burned down, and your family will live. But if you don’t turn yourself over to the generals of the king of Babylon, this city will go into the hands of the Chaldeans and they’ll burn it down. And don’t for a minute think there’s any escape for you.’”
19 King Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, “But I’m afraid of the Judeans who have already deserted to the Chaldeans. If they get hold of me, they’ll rough me up good.”
20-22 Jeremiah assured him, “They won’t get hold of you. Listen, please. Listen to God’s voice. I’m telling you this for your own good so that you’ll live. But if you refuse to turn yourself over, this is what God has shown me will happen: Picture this in your mind—all the women still left in the palace of the king of Judah, led out to the officers of the king of Babylon, and as they’re led out they are saying:
“‘They lied to you and did you in,
those so-called friends of yours;
And now you’re stuck, about knee-deep in mud,
and your “friends,” where are they now?’
23 “They’ll take all your wives and children and give them to the Chaldeans. And you, don’t think you’ll get out of this—the king of Babylon will seize you and then burn this city to the ground.”
24-26 Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, “Don’t let anyone know of this conversation, if you know what’s good for you. If the government officials get wind that I’ve been talking with you, they may come and say, ‘Tell us what went on between you and the king, what you said and what he said. Hold nothing back and we won’t kill you.’ If this happens, tell them, ‘I presented my case to the king so that he wouldn’t send me back to the dungeon of Jonathan to die there.’”
27 And sure enough, all the officials came to Jeremiah and asked him. He responded as the king had instructed. So they quit asking. No one had overheard the conversation.
28 Jeremiah lived in the courtyard of the palace guards until the day that Jerusalem was captured.
WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?
Jeremiah assured the king that if he obeyed the Word of the Lord, God would protect him and the city. But if he disobeyed, even the women in the palace would taunt him before the Babylonians. We can appreciate the king’s concern for his wives and children, but the best way to protect them was to obey God’s will.
What a great example of truth-telling we have in Jeremiah. Tell the truth at all costs. Be, say and do what God says and He will provide for our needs and help us through the struggles of remaining in Truth. Many in our world do not want to hear the Truth or live the Truth.
Real Truth is the Person of Jesus Christ who was killed as the Messenger Son of God but rose from the grave, defeating death as our Savior. Jesus is The Way, The Truth, who leads us to Life everlasting.
This is the Truth: Believe God, repent in Jesus Name, be forgiven to live a life with God that never ends. Can you handle the Truth? If so, live to tell the Truth! Listen to His Messengers of Truth and obey.
Continue to give us courage, wisdom, with your words of Truth to tell, show and live it in ways that others will see and be drawn to Truth. We are tired of people telling us only what we want to hear because they are afraid to tell the whole truth. We are tired of fake people who arrogantly avoid Truth. We don’t want to be like that so help us, transform our thinking, and fill us with your Truth. I believe you, even when it hurts, for you are for our good.
In Jesus Name, Amen