Hopes Raised and Dashed
God of sunshine and rain, You stilled the storm and brought calm into my life. I’m very, very grateful.
Read Jeremiah 40:1-41:15
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society.
“Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (Matt. 10:16). Now that’s a challenge!
The Babylonians appoint Gedaliah as governor over those left in Judah. His center is the previously insignificant Mizpah, a village just to the north of Jerusalem. We are repeatedly told of Gedaliah’s immediate ancestry (son of Ahikam, son of Shaphan), and a good ancestry it is. Ahikam had protected Jeremiah when temple officials had been in a murderous mood (Jer. 26, especially v. 24), while Shaphan had played a key role in the discovery of the Book of the Law which he had read to Josiah (2 Kings 22). Gedaliah’s family is known for faithfulness to the Lord and for public service. His appointment would inspire confidence. When people gather to him, and there is an abundant harvest, one can readily imagine fresh hope for the future arising (40:1-12).
We see Gedaliah’s integrity at the same time as we see his inexperience and naivety. He rightly refuses to let Johanan preventively assassinate Ishmael; but he wrongly refuses to suspect the malice he faces and to take appropriate precautions. Thus Ishmael with only ten accomplices can slaughter all the leadership at Mizpah without any real opposition, or even enough present for some to escape and make it known (40:13–41:4). Ishmael seems to have been a plausible figure: he can even turn on tears to lull the group of pilgrim mourners going to worship in the ruins of the temple. But his plausible exterior conceals total ruthlessness; even innocent (and presumably unarmed) pilgrims are fair game if one is out to kill new hope for Judah (41:4-9). Although Johanan can rescue some captives, Ishmael escapes with only two men lost (41:10-15); from Ishmael’s and an Ammonite perspective, it’s a most successful mission. It is a grim narrative. Gedaliah’s goodness is extinguished, Ishmael’s atrocities are triumphant.
We downplay the extent of resistance to God’s rule at our peril. How are you and your church resisting evil today? What more could you do?
Father, I need divine wisdom to live each day for You. Help me navigate successfully through every situation that arises today.
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