Randy and I are watching a movie series that involves real thinking. We are constantly asking each other, “who is he, is he a good guy or a bad guy?” As the plot thickens, we learn he is a good-bad guy! He is the enemy but is not a killer. He is kind to the captives of the enemy. Then another person enters the scene who is supposed to be a good guy but he turns bad when he wants his way and wants to fight back. This is never good because the good-bad guy’s pride and anger will always get the best of him when he fights back. The good-bad guy also takes everyone down with him who follows in his ways.
This is the same thinking in our continuing story that began from yesterday’s reading. Today is part two of the continuing saga where one of the bad-good guys of Judah decides he will gather men to kill the good-bad guy! Confused? Pay attention, you’ll get it…
Jeremiah 41, The Message
41 1-3 But in the seventh month, Ishmael son of Nethaniah, son of Elishama, came. He had royal blood in his veins and had been one of the king’s high-ranking officers. He paid a visit to Gedaliah son of Ahikam at Mizpah with ten of his men. As they were eating together, Ishmael and his ten men jumped to their feet and knocked Gedaliah down and killed him, killed the man the king of Babylon had appointed governor of the land. Ishmael also killed all the Judeans who were with Gedaliah in Mizpah, as well as the Chaldean soldiers who were stationed there.
4-5 On the second day after the murder of Gedaliah—no one yet knew of it—men arrived from Shechem, Shiloh, and Samaria, eighty of them, with their beards shaved, their clothing ripped, and gashes on their bodies. They were pilgrims carrying grain offerings and incense on their way to worship at the Temple in Jerusalem.
6 Ishmael son of Nethaniah went out from Mizpah to welcome them, weeping ostentatiously. When he greeted them he invited them in: “Come and meet Gedaliah son of Ahikam.”
7-8 But as soon as they were inside the city, Ishmael son of Nethaniah and his henchmen slaughtered the pilgrims and dumped the bodies in a cistern. Ten of the men talked their way out of the massacre. They bargained with Ishmael, “Don’t kill us. We have a hidden store of wheat, barley, olive oil, and honey out in the fields.” So he held back and didn’t kill them with their fellow pilgrims.
9 Ishmael’s reason for dumping the bodies into a cistern was to cover up the earlier murder of Gedaliah. The cistern had been built by King Asa as a defense against Baasha king of Israel. This was the cistern that Ishmael son of Nethaniah filled with the slaughtered men.
10 Ishmael then took everyone else in Mizpah, including the king’s daughters entrusted to the care of Gedaliah son of Ahikam by Nebuzaradan the captain of the bodyguard, as prisoners. Rounding up the prisoners, Ishmael son of Nethaniah proceeded to take them over into the country of Ammon.
11-12 Johanan son of Kareah and all the army officers with him heard about the atrocities committed by Ishmael son of Nethaniah. They set off at once after Ishmael son of Nethaniah. They found him at the large pool at Gibeon.
13-15 When all the prisoners from Mizpah who had been taken by Ishmael saw Johanan son of Kareah and the army officers with him, they couldn’t believe their eyes. They were so happy! They all rallied around Johanan son of Kareah and headed back home. But Ishmael son of Nethaniah got away, escaping from Johanan with eight men into the land of Ammon.
16 Then Johanan son of Kareah and the army officers with him gathered together what was left of the people whom Ishmael son of Nethaniah had taken prisoner from Mizpah after the murder of Gedaliah son of Ahikam—men, women, children, eunuchs—and brought them back from Gibeon.
17-18 They set out at once for Egypt to get away from the Chaldeans, stopping on the way at Geruth-kimham near Bethlehem. They were afraid of what the Chaldeans might do in retaliation of Ishmael son of Nethaniah’s murder of Gedaliah son of Ahikam, whom the king of Babylon had appointed as governor of the country.
WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?
People like Ismael are not the right people to follow thoughtlessly. Here are a few reasons why:
- Plotting to kill leads to executing the kill.
- There will always be more killing in efforts to cover up the first kill.
- Killing becomes a lifestyle.
- After the kill you must then go into hiding, living in fear continuously.
In the Near East, when people eat together, they’re pledging their friendship and loyalty to one another. Ishmael, however, used the meal as a trap to catch Gedaliah and his men so he could kill them.
To his terrible breach of hospitality, Ismael added hypocrisy, weeping before the eighty Jewish pilgrims who had come to worship, and then killing seventy of them. His greed was revealed when he spared the other ten in order to find out where their supply of food was hidden. He was a cunning and ruthless man who would stop at nothing to get his own way.
The Good-Good Guy
Johanan showed courage in rescuing the Jews, but when he was finally in charge, he revealed his own lack of faith by wanting to take the remnant to Egypt! He didn’t remember the counsel of Gedaliah or the messages of Jeremiah, both of whom warned the Jews to stay in the land and not go to Egypt. Even a good man can go astray simply by turning away from God’s Word.
Still confused? Part three will be told tomorrow where the good-good guys return to Jeremiah for God’s message of true rescue and direction. Stay tuned!
So, how do we really respond to what we have learned today?
Gossip kills. Another form of murder is gossip. Gossip kills the ministry effectiveness of God’s church. Gossip kills relationships. Our form of murder today is gossip among those who say they love God and love others but use their position to “murder” the reputations of others. Gossip also destroys trust. Gossip sends people into hiding.
Respond, instead, with building each other up with love, mercy and grace as offered to us daily by our Lord. Avoid presuming we know what others are thinking. Avoid assuming we know how people will behave. Turn to God for guidance in avoiding gossip at all costs. Why? Gossip is a murder committed by the tongue. We all see it, we’ve all done it. Repent and be saved from it.
Jesus, in teaching his followers quoted the commandment “you shall not murder” and then clarified the thought behind it by adding; “You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment. But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.” Matthew 5:21-22, NLT
Gossip gives birth to murdering a person’s being. Do not murder with gossip.
You have used Jeremiah to tell your story of how to live a life that pleases you. We need you every hour of every day to abide in your love and live your Truth. Help us to think and behave more life you and less like our natural selves when left to our own devices. Help us to love others like you love us.
In Jesus Name, Amen