Welcome Valley Media                                                                                                                                                                      

Grown-Up Bible Stories

God Was Big Enough After All

We remember Jeremiah as the weeping prophet. He had good reason to weep. Not only did he see the destruction of his country, but also serving God cost him dearly. Everyone whose life touched his knew unhappiness. The only two men brave enough to serve alongside him did so at personal risk.

The times were hard. The Chaldeans under Nebuchadnezzar had marched from their northern home to conquer the Middle East. The Assyrians had already permanently relocated the northern tribes of Israel. Now only Judah, which also included the smaller tribe of Benjamin, stood as a Jewish outpost in a hostile world. It wasn't a large nation, and Chaldea was a super power.

The Chaldeans actually gave Judah a bit of a break at first. They removed one king, leaving his son on the throne. Three months later, the Chaldeans hauled this vassal king to Chaldea and replaced him with his uncle, Zedekiah. Zedekiah was really only a puppet, and some of his most promising young nobles had been relocated to serve in the Chaldean capital, Babylon. With Judah back under control, the Chaldeans turned their attention elsewhere.

Unfortunately, Zedekiah let things go to his head. Maybe it was nationalism. Maybe he harbored the hope that his casual worship would cause God to take him seriously. Maybe the excitement of wearing a crown brought on old-fashioned pride. In any event, he rebelled, likely by refusing to pay taxes to Nebuchadnezzar. Soon the Chaldeans were back.

Jeremiah became unpopular long before the foreign army renewed its siege. As a divine spokesman, he had run afoul of conventional wisdom. Popular thought held that offering sacrifices to God in the temple was a good thing, but the old idea of worshiping God alone was outmoded. Jeremiah's contemporaries maintained the temple and called themselves the people of God while also keeping shrines to the many deities their world believed in. After all, people worshiped in hope of gaining earthly advantages from the heavens, and they needed all the help they could get. God, in their minds, wasn't big enough to cover all life's contingencies. Jeremiah's reminders that God expected exclusive worship didn't go over very well. His proclamations of such biblical duties as Sabbath keeping and justice deepened the controversy engulfing him. He stood as God's spokesman to a nation that preferred to decide spiritual matters for themselves. Standing for God's rightful place required a thick skin.

Now Jeremiah found God giving him an even more unpopular message. Patriots rallied in Jerusalem and manned the ramparts. Doubtlessly they took comfort in their miraculous history of God's deliverance. They were ready to stand and fight for home and country, and Jeremiah kept saying, “God wants you to surrender.” First he'd irritated them by confronting their sins. Now he risked everything by siding with the enemy. Jeremiah went from being unpopular to being unsafe. [Quotations are not necessarily exact unless accompanied by a reference.]

Zedekiah was a puppet with his strings cut. The army of the man who'd put him in office had him surrounded outside the city. Inside the defensive walls, Zedekiah lacked the strength to override the nobles. He eventually considered Jeremiah's call to surrender, but feared abuse by his countrymen already in captivity. Jeremiah's assurance that God would keep him safe in Babylon didn't do the trick. Apparently, the king doubted if God was big enough to carry through on His promises.

If Zedekiah was embattled, Jeremiah had it worse. He could claim a total of two friends. One friend came from the ranks of nobility. Baruch the son of Neriah became a secretary of sorts for the prophet. As Jeremiah spoke the words God gave him, Baruch wrote them in leather scrolls.

Judah was only part of Nebuchadnezzar's imperial ambitions. A day came in which other interests caused the Chaldeans to temporarily lift their siege. Jeremiah saw his chance to escape his bad situation. He headed for the city gate and the relief offered by some rural land he'd purchased. A guard saw him evacuating and assumed the worst. He arrested Jeremiah for defecting to the enemy. Jeremiah found himself in the less desirable of the city's two prisons. Faithful Baruch continued taking dictation.

Eventually, the king moved Jeremiah to the royal prison, which seems to have included an open courtyard. He wasn't in solitary confinement, and he continued to speak. He warned people to repent. He told all who could hear that God was using the Chaldeans to punish their unfaithfulness. Patriotism and bravery were vain. The Chaldeans would win. Anybody wanting to survive must accept God's will and surrender.

The controversy continued to swirl around the prophet. A royal scribe burned the scroll containing his prophecies. Jeremiah recalled his words, and Baruch recopied the missing document. Jeremiah and Baruch had to hide within the prison for their own safety. It was a terrible, turbulent time as nerves strained inside the besieged city.

Jeremiah had not yet reached bottom, however. An angry noble class didn't find prison bad enough for their critic. They demanded worse. The king, helpless against them, gave in and allowed them to dump Jeremiah into a makeshift dungeon. Normally a water storage cistern, Jeremiah's new prison now held deep mud. The city above was under siege, and food was scarce to begin with. Unable to fend for himself and out of sight, Jeremiah's doom was sealed. His enemies had found a deep, dark, miserable hole in which he could starve to death.

Jeremiah's second friend wasn't exactly nobility. He was an Ethiopian servant in the king's household. Only a staffer, Ebed-Melech used his small influence on Jeremiah's behalf. He went to the king and explained how the noblemen's punishment must mean a slow, painful death for the man of God. He secured quiet permission to return Jeremiah to the main prison courtyard.

Ebed-Melech lowered ropes into Jeremiah's deep, mucky grave. He even included rotten rags for padding between Jeremiah and the ropes. Soon Jeremiah was a normal prisoner with rations again.

Eventually the Chaldeans breached the city wall. The king and his army tried to escape at night. The enemy captured them. Zedekiah experienced Nebuchadnezzar's tendency for grandiose cruelty. The Chaldean dictator order the defeated monarch's sons executed in front of him. Then, the conqueror's servants gouged out the loser's eyes. Zedekiah was blind when he finally drug his shackles into Babylon.

Back in Jerusalem, the end proved nearly as ugly. Some of the noble class were already prisoners. The victors summarily executed a number of leading citizens. The survivors trekked under guard to Babylon where their skills would be exploited for the conquerors' benefit. It would take the ministry of the captive prophets Ezekiel and Daniel and seventy years before the elderly survivors and two younger generations reached the point where God allowed them to return to Judah. In the meantime, the enemy looted and destroyed the city before leaving.

The Chaldeans did leave a few people behind. These were poor, politically insignificant folk who could farm the land. Not willing to risk another king, puppet or otherwise, they promoted a Jewish man named Gedaliah to be their governor in Judah.

Jeremiah finally received treatment worthy of a prophet. The Chaldeans viewed his calls to surrender as advocacy on Nebuchadnezzar's behalf. They released him from jail and gave him the option of either coming with them or staying with his impoverished countrymen. Doubtlessly following God's leading, he chose to stay.

God's people were defeated, but they had not surrendered to God. Idolatry and rebellion remained in their hearts. The soldiers who had been on duty away from the capital returned after the Chaldeans left. They submitted to Gedaliah and the Babylonians while retaining their pride. Among the survivors was a man with royal blood. Apparently motivated by jealousy, he murdered the governor. The military men expected Chaldean retaliation and determined to take the whole remaining Jewish population and escape into Egypt.

Jeremiah warned against this move. He prophesied that the Chaldeans would not punish them all for one man's rebellion. God wanted them to submit to the Chaldeans.

The leaders refused to listen. God's word didn't seem as reliable as their own judgment. They compelled Jeremiah and the rest of the survivors to head for expected safety in Egypt. The leaders could force Jeremiah to travel with them, but they couldn't keep him from warning of certain disaster if they continued on to Egypt.

There was also a confrontation over idolatry. Jeremiah scolded the women for burning incense to a goddess known as the queen of heaven. Their husbands backed them in telling the prophet that bad things had happened when they'd restricted their worship to God. The queen of heaven promised some relief. They had no intention of limiting their chances by worshiping only God.

Jeremiah's recorded story ends in Egypt, with the prophet waiting the destruction of the people he had sacrificed so much to warn.

Of those not taken to Babylon, the only ones other than Jeremiah to escape disaster were Baruch and Ebed-Melech. To the average observer, choosing to serve God hadn't done them much good, but in the end, that choice proved invaluable. Even as he prophesied ruin for those who didn't see God as trustworthy, Jeremiah transmitted God's promises of deliverance to the only two who did trust Him. Ebed-Melech's life was changing, but God promised that the Chaldeans he feared would neither take nor control his life. Baruch's noble lineage wasn't going to mean so much in a destroyed kingdom, but God promised to preserve his life wherever he went. Three men survived the impossible. They survived because they trusted in the God for whom nothing is impossible. Contrary to what His critics proclaimed, God was more than big enough to sustain those who were faithful.

He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. (Of Abraham in Romans 4:20-21)

For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. (Romans 10:11)

So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me. (Hebrews 13:6)

This work is in the pubic domain and may be copied and distributed freely.


How to Have a Relationship with God

Home    Bible Studies    Easy English    Essays    Grown-Up Bible Stories   Multimedia    Stories from the Book Itself

About this Site    Copyright Release    Links    Contact: mail@welcomevalley.com