Today’s reading: Jeremiah 38-42.
“If I had only listened to that advice. Why was I so foolish?”
For those within earshot of a prophet, the major problem was a failure to listen. If you wanted to send a prophet into retirement, nothing would have worked better than to heed his words. Jeremiah’s people failed to follow his warnings for forty years, so he kept talking, and they kept ignoring him, right up to the fall of Jerusalem and even after its destruction.
King Zedekiah ignored Jeremiah’s final warning. Then Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, “This is what the LORD God Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘If you surrender to the officers of the king of Babylon, your life will be spared and this city will not be burned down; you and your family will live. But if you will 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 their hands.'”
Governor Gedaliah ignored a warning of personal danger. Johanan son of Kareah and all the army officers still in the open country came to Gedaliah at Mizpah and said to him, “Don’t you know that Baalis king of the Ammonites has sent Ishmael son of Nethaniah to take your life?” But Gedaliah son of Ahikam did not believe them. (Gedaliah wasn’t of royal descent but was a good man who was appointed by Babylon to govern the Jews remaining in Judah.)
The remnant in Judah ignored advice not to flee to Egypt. “This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘If you are determined to go to Egypt and you do go to settle there, then the sword you fear will overtake you there, and the famine you dread will follow you into Egypt, and there you will die.'”
In all these situations, someone disregarded wise counsel and disaster followed. Zedekiah continued to resist Babylon and Jerusalem was destroyed. Gedaliah took no precautions and Ishmael killed him, causing further hardship for the remaining Jews. The remnant did not remain in Judah but fled to Egypt against Jeremiah’s advice and suffered further violence there.
- Zedekiah was fearful of mistreatment by the Jewish exiles already in Babylon if he surrendered.
- Gedaliah seemed too naive of the potential wickedness in a man’s heart.
- The remnant was afraid of punishment by Babylon after Ishmael assassinated the appointed governor.
- All three put more confidence in their own assessment than in the advice of a counselor, even when the advice came directly from God.
We often judge ourselves too favorably and think less than we should of others. When our brothers or sisters in Christ share their counsel with us we should consider it seriously. Compare it with God’s word, of course. Listen to a number of wise persons if possible. But when receiving advice, remember not to look down on others and to have a sober judgment of yourself. Don’t reject godly advice. Put your own fears aside and put your trust in God’s promises.
Image by Jesslee Cuizon on Flickr, CC by 2.0