Jeremiah 38, we have this story in the life of Jeremiah, just to give you a little background on the book of Jeremiah. When you read the book of Jeremiah, most of it is just solid preaching. It's giving us all of the preaching that Jeremiah did, the word of the Lord that came unto Jeremiah, and he does a lot of really hard preaching. In fact, many people don't realize this but Jeremiah is the longest book in the Bible. A lot of people thinks its Psalms just because Psalms has 150 chapters but a lot of those chapters are pretty short. If you go word by word, Jeremiah is the longest book in the Bible. It has a lot of very negative preaching because it was preached at the time that the children of Judah and the nation of Judah had sinned against the Lord and they're about to go into captivity to the King of Babylon. They're going to be judged for their sins. It's a low point in the history of God's people in the nation of Judah. Jeremiah is pronouncing their judgement, their destruction. He's telling them all the sins that they've been guilty of and why God is going to destroy their nation, why they're going to be taken captive, and in this chapter, it's not as much preaching but a story.
As you read throughout the book of Jeremiah, peppered in every several chapters will be a chapter that's more like a story, just explaining things that happened in the life of Jeremiah. In this particular story, Jeremiah has been spending a lot of time in prison. He was put in prisons that had very bad conditions. In one place, they fed him a load of bread every day from the baker street but then there started to be a famine in the land as part of the result of their sin and the result of being besieged by the Babylonian army and the bread ran out. Jeremiah is in prison and he's not even being fed. Then, at another point, he's put into a prison where he's put in a pit under ground, like a dungeon, and there's mire and muck in the bottom of this ... There's no water but it's just slime, muck, filth, and the Bible says that Jeremiah sunk down into the mire.
Why was Jeremiah so unpopular? Why does Jeremiah keep on being put in prison, because of the fact that the children of Judah, they wanted to fight against the Babylonian army that had come and surrounded them. God was bringing that Babylonian army as a judgement upon them. They wanted to fight back and Jeremiah said, "This is happening to you because of your sins. There's no use fighting back. You might as well just surrender to the King of Babylon." Now, stop and think about that. Try to apply this to today. What if there was an enemy that was at war with the United States, someone was attacking the United States and a preacher gets up and says, "This is happening to us because of our sins and we need to just surrender. God has told me ..." Jeremiah did receive direct revelation from God. We don't receive that kind of revelation today as preachers but we do have this huge revelation in our hand, the word of God, the Bible.
There's so much to teach and to preach, and this tells us everything we need for today, but at that time, God had directly revealed to Jeremiah that if they would believe the Lord, if they would admit that they had been in sin and that they had done all this wickedness and just surrender to the King of Babylon, then things would go well for them. Stop and think about it. What if somebody at a time of war is saying "Hey, let's just surrender. We've done wrong. We deserve this." What would you probably call that? What would it be? Treason. You're treason. You're giving aid and comfort to the enemy, but Jeremiah had no choice but to preach what God was telling him to preach. God gave Jeremiah a very unpopular message. They arrest him and say "You're weakening the hands of the men of war. We want our soldiers to believe in what they're doing. We want them to have courage and boldness. You're telling them it's a lost cause. God's not pleased with us. God's judging us."
In the book of Jeremiah, God specifically says, he says "If you fight against the Babylonians, I will fight against you." He says, "I will gather the weapons and fight against you." He said, "Even if you were to defeat the entire Babylonian army and they were all killed or wounded," he said "My spirit would basically cause the wounded men to get up and fight and defeat you. You will lose because I am angry with you," is what God is saying throughout the book of Jeremiah, and he lists all of the sins that they've done why he's going to defeat them. Jeremiah is asked to preach a very unpopular message, a very difficult job and he's punished for it and put into prison for it.
What I want to focus on today, I want to give you the atmosphere and the background of the book, but in Jeremiah 38, King Zedekiah, who is an ungodly king a wicked man who has punished Jeremiah in the past and allowed him to be punished in the past, he starts to get nervous because he sees that the Babylonians have the upper hand and that it's looking bad and he wants to see what the Lord has to say. He secretly calls for Jeremiah and he even tells Jeremiah, "Don't let anybody know that I brought you in there, that I talked to you," sort of like when Nicodemus came to Jesus by night. They want to hear what he has to say but they don't want to be publicly seen as being interested in what God had to say.
Zedekiah secretly calls for Jeremiah and he says in verse 14, look down at your Bible there, "Then Zedekiah the king sent, and took Jeremiah the prophet unto him into the third entry that is in the house of the Lord: and the king said unto Jeremiah, I will ask thee a thing; hide nothing from me." He's saying "Look, just tell me the truth. I want to know." "Then Jeremiah said unto Zedekiah, If I declare it unto thee, wilt thou not surely put me to death? and if I give thee counsel, wilt thou not hearken unto me?" He's saying "Why should I, why should I tell you what God said? Why should I preach the word of God to you? You'll probably put me to death if I say what's really the truth, and if I tell you God's word, you're not going to hearken to it anyway," but look what Zedekiah says in verse 16, "So Zedekiah the king sware secretly unto Jeremiah, saying, As the Lord liveth, that made us this soul, I will not put thee to death, neither will I give thee into the hand of these men that seek thy life. Then said Jeremiah unto Zedekiah, Thus saith the Lord, the God of hosts, the God of Israel; If thou wilt assuredly go forth unto the king of Babylon's princes."
Basically, he's saying "If you'll just surrender to them, if you will defect unto them, "then thy soul shall live, and this city shall not be burned with fire; and thou shalt live, and thine house:: What does he mean when he says your house will live? What does he mean? Your family is going to live. Not only will you save your life but your children will also live and the city will not be burned, "But if thou wilt not go forth to the king of Babylon's princes, then shall this city be given into the hand of the Chaldeans, and they shall burn it with fire, and thou shalt not escape out of their hand." A pretty clear message of what Zedekiah needs to do. Jeremiah is asking him to do something that's not easy but he says if you do it everything will go well for you. If you don't do it, you will not be spared. Look what Zedekiah's answer is. "And Zedekiah the king said unto Jeremiah," and I want to focus on these 3 words, "I am afraid."
That's what I want to preach about this morning, being afraid to do what's right, being afraid to do what God has told us to do. He said "I am afraid." Jeremiah said "This is what God has commanded you to do. It's simple. It's easy to understand. If you do this, you die. If you do this, you live. If you do this, I'll bless you. If you do this, you'll be cursed, but he says "I am afraid. Let's keep reading. He said, "I am afraid of the Jews that are fallen to the Chaldeans, lest they deliver me into their hand, and they mock me." He expressed fear to Jeremiah and he's honest with him. Here's what I'm afraid is going to happen. When I get turned over to the Babylonians after I come and surrender to the princes, I am afraid that they're going to turn me over to the Jews that have already fallen to the Chaldeans and I'm going to be mocked and made fun of and they're going to abuse me is what he's basically saying.
Look what it says next, "But Jeremiah said," verse 20, "They shall not deliver thee." Jeremiah alleviates his fear and says "Okay, that's what you fear. It's not going to happen. You're going to be okay. God has shown me this," and he says they shall not deliver thee, "Obey, I beseech thee, the voice of the Lord, which I speak unto thee: so it shall be well unto thee, and thy soul shall live. But if thou refuse to go forth, this is the word that the Lord hath shewed me: And, behold, all the women that are left in the king of Judah's house shall be brought forth to the king of Babylon's princes, and those women shall say, Thy friends have set thee on, and have prevailed against thee:" He said "Look you're going to be made fun of by these women if you do that which is wrong." He says "Thy feet are sunk in the mire, and they are turned away back. So they shall bring out all thy wives and thy children to the Chaldeans: and thou shalt not escape out of their hand, but shalt be taken by the hand of the king of Babylon: and thou shalt cause this city to be burned with fire. Then said Zedekiah unto Jeremiah, Let no man know of these words, and thou shalt not die."
He doesn't say he's going to obey, and in fact, he doesn't obey. He disobeys the advice. Why, because he lacks faith in what he's being told. If he truly believed what Jeremiah was telling him then the choice would be obvious, do this and live, do this and be blessed, don't do it and you're going to be mocked, you're going to fail, you're going to die, your children will die." Let's go chapter 39 quickly to see what the result of Zedekiah's disobedience is. Because Zedekiah refused to hearken unto the word of the Lord that Jeremiah spake it says in verse 6 of Jeremiah 39, "Then the king of Babylon slew the sons of Zedekiah in Riblah before his eyes:" How would you like to watch your children be killed right in front of you? Can you imagine a more awful sight than to have your sons brought out and killed in your sight, in front of you? This is the result of disobeying God's word. It says "They were slain before his eyes also the king of Babylon slew all the nobles of Judah. Moreover he put out Zedekiah's eyes, and bound him with chains, to carry him to Babylon. And the Chaldeans burned the king's house, and the houses of the people, with fire, and brake down the walls of Jerusalem."
There's so much we can learn from this story. When we sin it effects the people around us. One man has a choice, Zedekiah. Do right or do wrong? He makes the wrong choice and not only is he punished by being blinded, his eyes are put out ... By the way, what was the last thing he ever saw, his children being killed. They show him his children being killed before his eyes, then his eyes are put out. He is made a mockery of. Not only are his children killed, all the nobles of Judah are killed. Not only is his house burned with fire, everybody's house is burned with fire. When we disobey God's word, when we don't hearken unto his word, we destroy ourselves, we destroy the people around us, and that's what we see in this story. He's bound with chains. He's carried to Babylon. The Bible doesn't give us a whole lot of detail. We know that in the prophecy he was told he would be mocked, which is exactly what he was afraid of. This story, of course, reminds me of the story of of Samson just because Samson also had his eyes put out, and after his eyes were put out, what did they do to him? They made sport of him, they mocked him, and they made a fool of him. We can assume the same thing happened to Zedekiah because that's what Jeremiah prophesied would happen unto him.
How can we apply this today? Go to Proverbs 3. The title of this sermon is "Being Afraid To Do What's Right". The whole crux of the matter was that he was told what he had to do and his answer was "I am afraid. I am scared. I am afraid to do what's right." What was the purpose of that fear or what was the ... What was the source of that fear, his lack of faith in God's word. If he would have had faith in God's word, there would be no fear because he would have believed Jeremiah who said "Do right and you'll be fine."
\Look at Proverbs 3, it says in verse 5 "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths." Zedekiah was leaning on his own understanding. He should have trusted in the Lord, and another word for trust is believe, put faith in. It's saying "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding." Zedekiah, instead of trusting what God said, "Surrender and you'll be fine. You'll be blessed. You will not be mocked. You'll save the lives of these people. God has given the children of Judah into the hand of the King of Babylon for 70 years. They will be in Babylon for 70 years, and after that 70 years is over, they will return." He didn't believe that. He leaned on his own understanding and said "Well, if I do this then this is going to happen. Logic tells me this. My opinion says this. My rational says this. My experience tells me this," and that in many people's lives trumps God's word, what they think is going to happen, what they think is going to be the result if they do what's right.
The Bible is telling us don't lean on your own understanding, just trust in the Lord, do what he says and he will direct your path. I want God to direct my paths. I don't want to just go through life just wondering are things going to work out, am I going to be a failure, am I going to be a loser. I want to know that God is leading me. I want to get to the end of my life and say "Jesus led me all the way." When we trust in the Lord with all our heart and lean not unto our own understanding, that's how we're going to live our lives. Let me give you some examples of this. There are really a lot of examples of this.
Go to Matthew 25. One example of this ... If we take the exact situation that Zedekiah was in, he was afraid of being mocked. He said "I am afraid that they're going to mock me." Another example of this is that often we today could be afraid to do what's right because we're afraid of being made fun of or we're afraid of what people are going to think of us. Maybe children who go to school or children who have worldly friends or ungodly friends or even Christian friends that are not interested in living for God. They might think if I take a stand for what's right, if I refuse to partake in the things that they partake of ...
The Bible says that when you live for God that the ungodly or the unsaved will often think it's strange that you don't run to the same excess of riot and drunkenness. They think that you're weird. They think that you're a square. They think that you're fuddy-duddy or a goody two shoes. You don't want to have any fun. You're so boring. Why won't you drink a beer with us? Why don't you go out and party with us? Go to the club with us. Let's go to the bar. Let's go out and do this. Let's go to the rock concert. Let's go wherever. You'll often be made fun of when you say no, "No, I'm a Christian. I want to live for God. I want to have fun but only good clean fun, only things that are not prohibited by God's word."
By the way, only losers need alcohol to have a good time. It's funny how our society tries to brainwash you that if you drink alcohol you're cool. It's all just a brainwashing that's done through TV. It's done through magazines. It's done through advertising where they put all these really good-looking guys and they're really muscular and then you have all these beautiful women and they're having so much fun, and they put it out there like "See these really cool people, this is how they got cool, by drinking. This is how they got this perfect body, by drinking." The perfect body was brought to you by PhotoShop by the way. Seriously. That's how they got ... They don't show you the beer gut.