GOD’S MESSAGE OF MERCY FOR ISRAEL
At this point in the history of Israel, God had decided to destroy the city of Jerusalem and everything in it. Israel had defiled the land with idolatry and profaned the name of God. He refused to dwell there and determined to thrust Israel from the land for its sin.
God chose Babylon as his instrument to accomplish his will. So, he decreed that Jerusalem would fall to the Babylonians. The Babylonians would burn the city. See 37:10.
Yet, despite all of the sin, the idolatry and the rejection of the covenant by the Israelites, God extended them mercy. His word of mercy, spoken by Jeremiah, lands Jeremiah in the cistern.
God’s message was that anyone who surrendered to the Chaldeans would live. They would live in Babylon, but they would live. It was God’s will and word that the Israelites go into captivity. Therefore, whoever surrendered to the Babylonians (Chaldeans) would be surrendering to the will of God.
To be saved, the Israelite must believe God’s word of mercy, leave the false protection of the walls and surrender to God’s will.
Although it is a different context, this passage reminds me of 1 Corinthians 10:13. That says:
“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape that you may be able to endure it.”
The word for “temptation” may also be translated “trial”. It is translated that way in Galatians 4:14. In the midst of this terrible trial and the temptation to reject God’s message and stubbornly try to succeed with their own strength, the Israelites were offered a way out by the merciful God.
God’s Act of Mercy To Jeremiah
The leaders put Jeremiah in a muddy cistern hoping he would die and slow and agonizing death.
But God rescued him. He used an unlikely figure, an Ethiopian eunuch in service to the king. Eunuchs were often used to guard or serve the king’s women. Jews usually would not do this to themselves, so foreigners were used. This man went to his king and asked to save Jeremiah. He realized the evil of letting Jeremiah starve to death. The king was passive and let the man save Jeremiah. Verse 28 tells us Jeremiah stayed in the court of the guard until the day Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians.
So, God again extended mercy, this time to his prophet. He used an unlikely person to do his work. God often uses those we would not choose. He does this to display his own power and glory. Even of Jesus, Isaiah prophesied “he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him”. (Isaiah 53:2)
God’s Offer of Mercy To Zedekiah
God made a great offer of mercy to Zedekiah, both for himself and his people. God’s off is set out in verse 17. If Zedekiah would surrender to the officials of the king of Babylon, he would live, with his family and Jerusalem would not be burned. By obeying God, Zedekiah could save himself, his family and the buildings of is city. But he was afraid of is enemies and would not trust God to save him.
In this chapter, we have seen God make 2 offers of mercy and one act of mercy. The offers were conditioned on faith and obedience. The Israelites and Zedekiah had to believe God’s word that he would save them. Then they had to obey God by surrendering to the Babylonians.
God’s act of mercy to Jeremiah was unconditional. He delivered him from the pit. He did not require faith or obedience as a condition, because Jeremiah already believed God and obeyed him.
Hebrews 11:6 says “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him”.
God is not all judgment or all mercy, he is both judgment and mercy. Romans makes clear that all men and women are under God’s judgment, for all have sinned and deserve death. (Romans 3:23, 6:23) Yet, God extended mercy to us. 1Peter 2:10 says “once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy”. Just as in this passage in Jeremiah, people today must respond to God’s offer of mercy with faith and obedience. Romans 10:9-10 says:
If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.
We must have faith. We must believe that Jesus is who he said he was, the son of God who rules over all. We must believe that God raised him from the dead. Then we will be justified. We must also obey by confessing our faith, stating it publicly, so that we receive God’s mercy and are saved.
Take the way out. Believe Jesus and confess him. Then you will be saved from God’s judgment.