Fake Loyalty vs. Real Loyalty

August 24, 2018 at 9:28 am | Posted in Jeremiah | Leave a comment
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Jeremiah Chapter 34 deals with Zedekiah making an 11th-hour bid to try to bribe God into letting him keep his position as king of a kingdom (Judah) on the verge of destruction

Thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel; Go and speak to Zedekiah king of Judah, and tell him, Thus saith the LORD; Behold, I will give this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall burn it with fire: And thou shalt not escape out of his hand, but shalt surely be taken, and delivered into his hand; and thine eyes shall behold the eyes of the king of Babylon, and he shall speak with thee mouth to mouth, and thou shalt go to Babylon.

Jeremiah 34:2-3

Zedekiah’s plan was to have everyone free their slaves.

That every man should let his manservant, and every man his maidservant, being an Hebrew or an Hebrewess, go free; that none should serve himself of them, to wit, of a Jew his brother.

Jeremiah 34:9

This was indentured servitude rather than chattel slavery. Under the Law Jewish men and women could sell themselves into slavery, but the Law required that their masters treat them fairly and kindly, and they had to be released in the seventh (Sabbath) year. The Jewish people had not obeyed this law for centuries, but here Zedekiah had them make a formal covenant to do it.

Now when all the princes, and all the people, which had entered into the covenant, heard that every one should let his manservant, and every one his maidservant, go free, that none should serve themselves of them any more, then they obeyed, and let them go.

Jeremiah 34:10

This was ostensibly to obey God, but it is also likely that Zedekiah and his advisers hoped to escape the responsibility and obligation of having to feed their servants during a siege. Furthermore, they had the ulterior motive of hoping that these released servants would join in the fight against Babylon.

Of course, after making this big official statement, and making a big deal about doing it via a sworn covenant, they changed their minds and forced the servants to return to servitude, which only incited the anger of the Lord more.

But afterward they turned, and caused the servants and the handmaids, whom they had let go free, to return, and brought them into subjection for servants and for handmaids. Therefore the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, Thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel; I made a covenant with your fathers in the day that I brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondmen, saying, At the end of seven years let ye go every man his brother an Hebrew, which hath been sold unto thee; and when he hath served thee six years, thou shalt let him go free from thee: but your fathers hearkened not unto me, neither inclined their ear. And ye were now turned, and had done right in my sight, in proclaiming liberty every man to his neighbour; and ye had made a covenant before me in the house which is called by my name: But ye turned and polluted my name, and caused every man his servant, and every man his handmaid, whom he had set at liberty at their pleasure, to return, and brought them into subjection, to be unto you for servants and for handmaids.

Jeremiah 34:11-16

Chapter 35 shows us another means by which Jeremiah showed the faithlessness of the people of Judah.

The word which came unto Jeremiah from the LORD in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, saying, Go unto the house of the Rechabites, and speak unto them, and bring them into the house of the LORD, into one of the chambers, and give them wine to drink.

Jeremiah 35:1-2

The Rechabites were a part of the Kenites – nomadic wanderers who had attached themselves to the Israelites during the wilderness wandering, and had come with them into the promised land. The Rechabites, who traced their ancestry to Jonadab (not the “friend” of Ammon who helped him seduce or rape his half-sister Tamar when David was king, but another Jonadab), and who believed that God’s people should never drink any alcohol nor settle down in homes, but should always live in tents. They had obeyed this rule faithfully for 250 years

God was not here condoning their principles, but He had Jeremiah round them up for an example and an illustration.

Then I took Jaazaniah the son of Jeremiah, the son of Habaziniah, and his brethren, and all his sons, and the whole house of the Rechabites; And I brought them into the house of the LORD, into the chamber of the sons of Hanan, the son of Igdaliah, a man of God, which was by the chamber of the princes, which was above the chamber of Maaseiah the son of Shallum, the keeper of the door: And I set before the sons of the house of the Rechabites pots full of wine, and cups, and I said unto them, Drink ye wine.

Jeremiah 35:3-5

This was a huge amount of wine, and Jeremiah was not really trying to tempt them, but he was very expansive and welcoming, basically inviting them to, “Help yourself to the wine, have all you want.” What was admirable about the Rechabites was not their rules, but their unwillingness to forsake their principles in the face of pressure to violate them: their long-standing faithfulness to their commitment, their founder, and perhaps their view of God.

Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Go and tell the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, Will ye not receive instruction to hearken to my words? saith the LORD.

Jeremiah 35:13

The Lord contrasted His people’s rebellion and faithlessness with the Rechabites’ faithfulness and obedience, and He promised to bring blessings upon them, and curses upon His own people.

The words of Jonadab the son of Rechab, that he commanded his sons not to drink wine, are performed; for unto this day they drink none, but obey their father’s commandment: notwithstanding I have spoken unto you, rising early and speaking; but ye hearkened not unto me. I have sent also unto you all my servants the prophets, rising up early and sending them, saying, Return ye now every man from his evil way, and amend your doings, and go not after other gods to serve them, and ye shall dwell in the land which I have given to you and to your fathers: but ye have not inclined your ear, nor hearkened unto me. Because the sons of Jonadab the son of Rechab have performed the commandment of their father, which he commanded them; but this people hath not hearkened unto me: Therefore thus saith the LORD God of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will bring upon Judah and upon all the inhabitants of Jerusalem all the evil that I have pronounced against them: because I have spoken unto them, but they have not heard; and I have called unto them, but they have not answered.

Jeremiah 35:14-17


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