And now, behold, I loose thee this day from the chains which were upon thine hand. If it seem good unto thee to come with me into Babylon, come; and I will look well unto thee: but if it seem ill unto thee to come with me into Babylon, forbear: behold, all the land is before thee: whither it seemeth good and convenient for thee to go, thither go. — Jeremiah 40:4
As a young man, Henry Martyn (1781-1812) made a life-changing choice. When he was twenty years old, he won the highest Mathematics award at Cambridge University and was a distinguished student there. In addition, he had great ability with languages. His plan was to practice law, and his future looked promising.
However, Henry lacked a sense of fulfillment. He heard about missionary work in India, and was impacted enough to make a decision to change careers. When he was twenty-four years old, he went to India, where he served as a chaplain and studied languages. Before he passed away six years later, he had translated the New Testament into Persian and Hindi, as well as revising an Arabic translation and completing other Biblical translation work. He had prayed that he could “burn out” for God, and his choice to pour himself into God’s service had far-reaching effects.
In today’s focus verse, Jeremiah was given a choice. The Chaldean commander gave Jeremiah the option of going to Babylon to live, and assured him that he would be well taken care of. This offer included protection, provision, and favorable treatment. However, Jeremiah was also free to stay in Judah along with the poor whom the Babylonians were leaving there. Jeremiah remained in Judah and suffered along with the people who stayed. God had called him to be a prophet to the Jewish people, and he was true to his calling to the end of his life.
Like Henry Martyn and Jeremiah, all of us must make choices. Many of our decisions will not be as life-impacting as the choices these men faced. We will, however, face our own set of circumstances. And our decisions, even small ones, can influence the spiritual walks of both ourselves and others. We can be inspired by those who have faithfully fulfilled God’s calling on their lives. We, too, can choose to follow God and let Him use us as He wills. It’s a decision we will not regret.
Today’s text begins a portion of the Book of Jeremiah (chapters 40-45) that recounts what happened to Jeremiah and the remaining people of Judah after Jerusalem fell to Babylon and the majority of the people were carried away as captives. Jeremiah’s release from prison is recorded in both chapters 39 and 40. The text in 39:11-14 tells how Nebuzar-adan (captain of the Chaldean guard) released Jeremiah, and he went to dwell among the people — most likely in Jerusalem. Some Bible scholars believe that when the army was ready to burn Jerusalem, they took any people (including Jeremiah) still left there to Ramah. Situated about five miles to the north of Jerusalem, Ramah was used for organizing the deportation of the captives. When Jeremiah arrived in Ramah with the other captives, he was released again (Jeremiah 40:1).
In verses 2-5 Nebuzar-adan quoted Jeremiah’s prophesies back to him. This instance indicates that the Babylonians were aware of Jeremiah and some of his previous predictions and recommendations to the rulers of Judah, which may be why they gave him preferential treatment. Nebuzar-adan offered Jeremiah the option of going to Babylon or staying in Judah. Jeremiah chose to stay in Judah, and settled in Mizpah, which was north of Jerusalem and close to Ramah. He was given food and a reward.
Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, appointed Gedaliah to be the governor of Judah. Gedaliah was from a distinguished family. Ahikam, his father, had some importance during the reigns of Josiah and Jehoiakim (2 Kings 22:12,14) and had helped spare Jeremiah’s life (Jeremiah 26:24). Shaphan, his grandfather, was the scribe for Josiah (2 Kings 22:3,10).
Gedaliah’s assignment included supervising the few Jewish people left in Judah. He was also to maintain order among multiple scattered Jewish military leaders with their bands of soldiers who were active throughout the area. Five of those leaders are named in verse 8. Jewish people who had escaped to neighboring countries returned, and Gedaliah gave them food.
Ishmael, one of the military leaders, was a descendant of David, and he conspired with Baalis, the king of the Ammonites, against Gedaliah. Although Johanan, another of the military leaders, warned Gedaliah of their plans, he refused to believe it. Bible scholars are unsure how long Gedaliah was the governor; some think it may have been approximately five years. Chapter 41 records that the conspiracy to slay Gedaliah was indeed carried out.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II. The pronouncement of judgment against Judah
D. The circumstances of the prophet
3. Jeremiah’s experiences after Jerusalem’s fall
a. The choice of Jeremiah (40:1-6)
b. The governorship of Gedaliah (40:7-12)
c. The rebellion against Babylon
(1) The assassination of Gedaliah
(a) The plot formed (40:13-16)
With God’s help, we can make choices that are pleasing to Him.