Daily Devotional

April 29, 2020

Daybreak: Jeremiah 39:1-18

“Now Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon gave charge concerning Jeremiah to Nebuzar-adan the captain of the guard, saying, Take him, and look well to him, and do him no harm; but do unto him even as he shall say unto thee.” (Jeremiah 39:11-12)  

God always cares and watches out for His faithful followers, and sometimes that is demonstrated in remarkable ways. For example, in the late 1970s, a young Christian man, Beni, was conscripted into the army in communist Romania. He knew that God would be with him and “look well” to him as he continued serving the Lord while in the military. 

Beni was first sent to the military base in the country’s capital, Bucharest. While there at a general assembly, an extremely gruff colonel asked the large crowd of new soldiers, “Are there any Christians here?” Beni hesitated for a moment and then raised his hand. He was the only one in the crowd of over one thousand men to do so. Quickly the military police came and took him away. 

A captain then gave him a second chance — an opportunity to change his mind — but he was unwilling to deny his faith. The captain let Beni know that he was going to send him to a prison where there was an exceptionally cruel guard. He said this guard was so mean that he literally walked around grinding his teeth and relished beating the inmates.

A few days after arriving at the prison, the mean guard came into Beni’s cell and roared, “So, you’re a Christian!” “Yes I am,” Beni replied. At that reply, the guard’s countenance softened and he told Beni that his mother was a Christian. Rather than causing Beni any harm, this guard treated him well and protected him during his time at that prison. None of the harm the captain imagined ever happened to Beni while he was in the army. Because of Beni’s faithfulness, God caused the guard to act in an uncharacteristic way. 

Similarly, God caused Nebuchadnezzar to act in an unusual way and arrange for the Prophet Jeremiah to be treated well. Jeremiah was in Jerusalem when the Babylonian army, which was known for its cruelty, breached the walls and sacked the city. However, Jeremiah had remained faithful in his service to God and during this time of vicious destruction, he was treated well and no harm came to him.

Like Beni and Jeremiah, if we determine to be faithful and stand for God no matter the personal cost, the Lord will work on our behalf. At times it may not seem as if our lives “go well,” and we may not have the blessing of being free from harm here on earth. However, we will have the benefits of God’s comfort and strength even during the most difficult of times. And in addition, we have the ultimate “no harm” promise of eternal life to come as we keep faithfully serving Christ.

Background

Chapter 39 tells of the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecies when the king of Babylon took and destroyed Jerusalem, the care given to Jeremiah, and God’s promise to Ebed-melech. 

The Lord used Nebuchadnezzar as an instrument of judgment against the rebellious country of Judah. The Babylonian army besieged Jerusalem, beginning in the winter — December/January — and finally breaking through the walls in June/July, eighteen months later. The conquerors established themselves at the “middle gate.” Bible scholars are unsure of exactly where this gate was located, but some believe it was between the upper and lower portions of the city. From this place the Chaldeans exercised their control, no doubt thoroughly searching the city for potential ambushes. 

Zedekiah, Judah’s king, had been appointed by Nebuchadnezzar but had rebelled, prompting this enemy attack. Jeremiah had counseled Zedekiah to submit to the Chaldeans (38:17), but he had refused. When Zedekiah saw that the enemy had triumphed, he fled the city, but he was soon captured and brought before Nebuchadnezzar for sentencing. His sons were killed in front of him before his eyes were put out. Since Zedekiah was in his early thirties, these children were probably quite young. Nebuchadnezzar also killed all the nobles of Judah. Jeremiah had warned all of these people to surrender to the king of Babylon and live. Their refusal to heed God’s warnings led to their violent deaths. 

A month after taking Jerusalem (Jeremiah 52:12), under Nebuzar-adan’s leadership, the Babylonians burned the Temple and the king’s palace and destroyed the city’s fortifications. The final deportation took place, and only poor people who would offer no resistance were left in Judah. 

King Nebuchadnezzar gave direct instructions concerning Jeremiah. No doubt Babylonian officials had heard of Jeremiah, either from their own military intelligence work or from Jewish deserters and captives. They would have known that Jeremiah had prophesied of their victory and had urged Judah’s leaders to surrender willingly. Perhaps for that reason, Nebuzar-adan was told to allow Jeremiah whatever he asked for. He was committed to Gedaliah, who had been appointed as the area governor, and Gedaliah may have taken him to his own house.

Jeremiah had faithfully declared God’s words, and at this time, God faithfully fulfilled His promise to Jeremiah (Jeremiah 15:11). The false prophets had said destruction was not coming and were destroyed when it arrived. Jeremiah had declared the pending judgment, and when it came, he was delivered.

Verse 15 begins the message Jeremiah gave from God to Ebed-melech. This promise was given while Jeremiah was still in prison, and it fits chronologically after verse 13 of chapter 38, when Ebed-melech had obtained permission from King Zedekiah to deliver Jeremiah from the dungeon. Although Ebed-melech had demonstrated great courage in his defense of Jeremiah, he was afraid. Perhaps he feared the Jewish nobility because he had withstood them and helped Jeremiah, or he may have been fearful of being killed by the Chaldeans. God promised Ebed-melech deliverance because he had faith in Him. 

Amplified Outline

(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II.   The pronouncement of judgment against Judah
     D.   The circumstances of the prophet
            2.   Jeremiah’s experiences during Jerusalem’s fall 
                  f.   The fall of Jerusalem (39:1-18)
                        (1)   The capture of the city (39:1-10)
                        (2)   The release of Jeremiah (39:11-14)
                        (3)   The reward of Ebed-Melech (39:15-18)

A Closer Look

  1. What was the name of the captain of the guard for the Babylonian army?
     
  2. Why do you feel that Nebuchadnezzar decided to treat Jeremiah well?
     
  3. How should we encourage others when we know they are suffering adversity?

Conclusion

It’s wonderful to know that as we faithfully serve God, He will look well on us and be our help and strength day by day.

Reference Materials