Reading through the Bible Story #239 Jeremiah 40
Reading through the Bible is almost always an adventure. On almost every page there are true stories of real people in actual life situations. And God is always the most important presence, though distinct.
The chronology is taking me through Jeremiah during these times of pandemic, police brutality, rioting in the streets, and dueling political party conventions. There are many parallels.
Today, the story is about the prophet Jeremiah taken against his will from Jerusalem to Egypt. Jerusalem had just fallen to the invading Babylonian army. Most of the leaders as well as all who had obeyed were taken captive to Babylon. Jeremiah was in prison by king Zedekiah for preaching that their only salvation was to give in to the Babylonians. The Babylonian General of the Guards (MPs?) pardoned Jeremiah and gave him complete freedom of movement and action.
In today’s story the few Jewish leaders who had fled, returned with a plan. In direct disobedience to the Babylonian general’s order and God’s will as prophesied by Jeremiah, they mandated that everyone including Jeremiah escape with them to Egypt.
Now, here is the rub in case you missed it. Jeremiah who was given complete freedom by a foreign General is now forced against his will and his understanding of God’s will to go to Egypt by those supposed to be “God’s people” (that is what the Bible calls Jews).
It would be going further than the Bible itself allows to draw firm conclusions about who are “God’s people” in truth and who are not in our day. I do think, though, that the Bible is our starting point for sharp discernment between freedom and coercion. Free people need to beware using force or being forced by others, especially against the known will of God.
Furthermore, the Bible elsewhere instructs us that while God provides human government to protect our God-given freedom, it is only God’s Spirit who can enable free people to be ‘self-controlled’. In other words, responsible to use and maintain our freedom for good and not for evil.