11 Now Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had given these orders about Jeremiah through Nebuzaradan commander of the imperial guard:12 “Take him and look after him; don’t harm him but do for him whatever he asks.” 13 So Nebuzaradan the commander of the guard, Nebushazban a chief officer, Nergal-Sharezer a high official and all the other officers of the king of Babylon 14 sent and had Jeremiah taken out of the courtyard of the guard. They turned him over to Gedaliah son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, to take him back to his home. So he remained among his own people.
15 While Jeremiah had been confined in the courtyard of the guard, the word of the Lord came to him: 16 “Go and tell Ebed-Melek the Cushite, ‘This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: I am about to fulfill my words against this city—words concerning disaster, not prosperity. At that time they will be fulfilled before your eyes. 17 But I will rescue you on that day, declares the Lord; you will not be given into the hands of those you fear. 18 I will save you; you will not fall by the sword but will escape with your life, because you trust in me, declares the Lord.’”
(Jeremiah 39:11-18 NIV)
In the first half of Chapter 39 that we studied yesterday, we saw God’s promises fulfilled against Jerusalem, King Zedekiah, and his officials. The unfaithfulness of the king, his government officials, and the people to the Lord yielded precisely what God had promised – plague, famine, exile, and death.
In the second half of Chapter 39, we see God’s promises fulfilled toward those who remained faithful to Him. In verses 11 – 14, we see the Lord’s hand of protection on Jeremiah. God’s Providence was working from Jerusalem to Babylon and back, as King Nebuchadnezzar had heard of Jeremiah and ordered his chiefs to look after him.
King Nebuchadnezzar most likely heard of Jeremiah from the early Judean deserters – those who heeded Jeremiah’s words from the Lord to surrender to Babylon voluntarily. We don’t know if Jeremiah’s prophetic words fed the king’s ego, or if the king was sympathetic toward anyone who supported his cause. Whatever the reason from a human perspective, we know God’s hand was at work to protect Jeremiah as He had promised.
Jeremiah was turned over to Gedaliah (whom we shall learn in Chapter 40 is the new governor of Judah, appointed by Nebuchadnezzar). Gedaliah was part of the family of Shaphan (his grandson), one of the faithful men of God through three generations.
Shaphan was Secretary of State under King Josiah the reformer (2 Kings 22); Shaphan’s son Ahikam supported and protected Jeremiah when the other officials wanted to kill him (26:24); Shaphan’s other son Elasah faithfully carried Jeremiah’s letter to the exiles in Babylon (29:3). Shaphan’s son Gemariah allowed Baruch to read the words of the Lord through Jeremiah to the people in the Temple courtyard (36:10). Shaphan’s grandson (Gemariah’s son) Michaiah heard the word of the Lord through Baruch and reported everything to his father, who carried the message to King Jehoiakim (36:11-26).
In verses 15 – 18, the Lord speaks to Jeremiah during the uncertainty and insanity of the day regarding Ebed-Melek, the Ethiopian eunuch who had confronted King Zedekiah about the other officials throwing Jeremiah into the muddy cistern to die a slow death.
God’s message to this Ethiopian eunuch and government official was both comforting and emphatic – God would rescue him and preserve his life. From God’s message through Jeremiah, we note that the man was likely fearing for his life, and wonders what punishment lies ahead. The Lord is at work – it is His hand that is against the city, and the man should not fear the Babylonians. God promises emphatically that He will rescue this man “on that day” yet to come.
The most important message from the Lord is why God is saving this man. Was it because of his kindness to Jeremiah? Was it because he did not try to escape and run away with King Zedekiah and the other government officials? No to both of these reasons. The reason God spared this man’s life was that he trusted in the Lord (v. 18).
May we remember that actions and consequences always go together. In the first half of this chapter, we saw the negative side of this truth; in the second half, the positive side.
May we see that God’s grace is active in even the most horrific circumstances, as evidenced by the Lord’s word through Jeremiah to the Ethiopian eunuch.
May we see God’s hand at work and remember His promise to “uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.” (1:10). Sometimes God has to remove the old to build the new. May we find comfort that God loves us so much that He won’t let us linger in our old ways; He removes the old to make us new so that we are more like Him.