Today we finish up Jeremiah, ending with passages from chapters 40-44. It’s rather a complicated end. Nebuchadnezzar has placed Gedaliah in charge of the remnant left in Judah. He is assassinated by Ishmael, because the people do not want to listen to his advice to settle down in what’s left of the land. Ishmael doesn’t trust Gedaliah, so he gathers men around him to rebel.
After Gedaliah is killed, the men asked Jeremiah what to do. They realize that the Babylonians will have to address the murder of their governor, and they are afraid. They promise Jeremiah to obey whatever the Lord tells them to do. After 10 days, the Lord speaks to Jeremiah. His answer is the same as it was before: settle down in Judah and endure, trusting God to care for them and protect them. Instead of obeying, the people decide a better option is to run to Egypt and seek protection from the Pharaoh. What they fail to realize is that Babylon has already begun conquering Egypt, and Jeremiah’s words will come true. If they run to Egypt, they will fall to the sword as Nebuchadnezzar expands the Babylonian empire.
Jeremiah is forced to go with this rebellious group to Egypt. The Bible doesn’t tell us what happened to him, but there is evidence his own people stoned him while living in Egypt. Perhaps in that pagan culture, the exiled Hebrews lost all respect for a prophet of God and finally decided to get rid of him for speaking against their sin. History also tells us that Babylon did invade Egypt shortly after this; God kept His word.
From one perspective, Jeremiah’s life was a failure. He spent all those years preaching and teaching, and in the end, the nation was scattered, the temple destroyed, and the land lay desolate for 70 years. His life’s goal was to turn the people back to God, and it never happened. What we forget is that history was written from the perspective of the nation as a whole, but we have no idea of the impact Jeremiah made on individual lives. I’m quite sure there were many men and women who made different choices personally, who responded to the conviction of sin and followed God in the face of a resistant culture. Men like Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who either went into exile in Babylon with a desire to follow God wholeheartedly or who were part of the remnant forced, like Jeremiah, to go to Egypt against their will.
Jeremiah’s ministry is still impacting the world today. We just spent weeks reading about him, learning more of the character of God and how we should respond to Him. We’ve gained insight and examined our own hearts for idols, hopefully growing in faith and obedience, all because a lonely prophet of God willingly stood against the tide of ungodliness and sinful rebellion that he saw all around him.
We don’t know how or when our lives will end. We might not think we’re making a difference, and we might believe that no one will remember us when we’re gone. From the world’s perspective, our lives might seem wasted and unfulfilled. But don’t underestimate what God can do with your faithful obedience. I look forward to the day when I can meet Jeremiah in heaven and say thank you for his unwavering obedience to what God called him to do and pray that I will be faithful to the end, just as he was. Let’s determine to stand firm and leave the outcome to God.