They may not be easy to have, but they essential to have. They may not be easy to hear, but they are essential to have. They may are important messages to communicate. They are critical conversations to have. So having a way to frame it and communicate is helpful. These conversation take place when the stakes are high! These conversations take place when the people have opposing opinions! These conversations take place when there is strong emotions! Have you needed to have a crucial conversation?
Imagine God sending you to have a crucial conversation with the king or the president or the prime minister of your country. Today’s reading begins with Jeremiah having to have a crucial conversation with the king. It had high stakes! It had opposing opinions! It had strong emotions! And God had a message that needed to be given to Zedekiah…
Warning to Zedekiah
1While Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and all his army and all the kingdoms and peoples in the empire he ruled were fighting against Jerusalem and all its surrounding towns, this word came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 2“This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Go to Zedekiah king of Judah and tell him, ‘This is what the Lord says: I am about to give this city into the hands of the king of Babylon, and he will burn it down. 3You will not escape from his grasp but will surely be captured and given into his hands. You will see the king of Babylon with your own eyes, and he will speak with you face to face. And you will go to Babylon.
4“ ‘Yet hear the Lordʼs promise to you, Zedekiah king of Judah. This is what the Lord says concerning you: You will not die by the sword; 5you will die peacefully. As people made a funeral fire in honor of your predecessors, the kings who ruled before you, so they will make a fire in your honor and lament, “Alas, master!” I myself make this promise, declares the Lord.’ ”
6Then Jeremiah the prophet told all this to Zedekiah king of Judah, in Jerusalem, 7while the army of the king of Babylon was fighting against Jerusalem and the other cities of Judah that were still holding out—Lachish and Azekah. These were the only fortified cities left in Judah.
Freedom for Slaves
8The word came to Jeremiah from the Lord after King Zedekiah had made a covenant with all the people in Jerusalem to proclaim freedom for the slaves. 9Everyone was to free their Hebrew slaves, both male and female; no one was to hold a fellow Hebrew in bondage. 10So all the officials and people who entered into this covenant agreed that they would free their male and female slaves and no longer hold them in bondage. They agreed, and set them free. 11But afterward they changed their minds and took back the slaves they had freed and enslaved them again.
12Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: 13“This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I made a covenant with your ancestors when I brought them out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. I said, 14‘Every seventh year each of you must free any fellow Hebrews who have sold themselves to you. After they have served you six years, you must let them go free.’ Your ancestors, however, did not listen to me or pay attention to me. 15Recently you repented and did what is right in my sight: Each of you proclaimed freedom to your own people. You even made a covenant before me in the house that bears my Name. 16But now you have turned around and profaned my name; each of you has taken back the male and female slaves you had set free to go where they wished. You have forced them to become your slaves again.
17“Therefore this is what the Lord says: You have not obeyed me; you have not proclaimed freedom to your own people. So I now proclaim ‘freedom’ for you, declares the Lord—‘freedom’ to fall by the sword, plague and famine. I will make you abhorrent to all the kingdoms of the earth. 18Those who have violated my covenant and have not fulfilled the terms of the covenant they made before me, I will treat like the calf they cut in two and then walked between its pieces. 19The leaders of Judah and Jerusalem, the court officials, the priests and all the people of the land who walked between the pieces of the calf, 20I will deliver into the hands of their enemies who want to kill them. Their dead bodies will become food for the birds and the wild animals.
21“I will deliver Zedekiah king of Judah and his officials into the hands of their enemies who want to kill them, to the army of the king of Babylon, which has withdrawn from you. 22I am going to give the order, declares the Lord, and I will bring them back to this city. They will fight against it, take it and burn it down. And I will lay waste the towns of Judah so no one can live there.”
Are you being prompted by God to have a crucial conversation with someone? Is there something that needs to be discussed? Is there a conversation God is prompting you to have with someone? Will you be obedient and have it? Will you allow God to give you the words to speak? Will you allow Him to guide your words and your actions in this situation so that it will turn out the way God has planned?
You can find favor by speaking the truth in love! You can have a conversation that won’t escalate but will become a conversation rather than an argument! You can come to an agreement!
Jeremiah in Prison
1Zedekiah son of Josiah was made king of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; he reigned in place of Jehoiachin son of Jehoiakim. 2Neither he nor his attendants nor the people of the land paid any attention to the words the Lord had spoken through Jeremiah the prophet.
3King Zedekiah, however, sent Jehukal son of Shelemiah with the priest Zephaniah son of Maaseiah to Jeremiah the prophet with this message: “Please pray to the Lord our God for us.”
4Now Jeremiah was free to come and go among the people, for he had not yet been put in prison. 5Pharaohʼs army had marched out of Egypt, and when the Babylonians who were besieging Jerusalem heard the report about them, they withdrew from Jerusalem.
6Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah the prophet: 7“This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Tell the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of me, ‘Pharaohʼs army, which has marched out to support you, will go back to its own land, to Egypt. 8Then the Babylonians will return and attack this city; they will capture it and burn it down.’
9“This is what the Lord says: Do not deceive yourselves, thinking, ‘The Babylonians will surely leave us.’ They will not! 10Even if you were to defeat the entire Babylonian army that is attacking you and only wounded men were left in their tents, they would come out and burn this city down.”
11After the Babylonian army had withdrawn from Jerusalem because of Pharaohʼs army, 12Jeremiah started to leave the city to go to the territory of Benjamin to get his share of the property among the people there. 13But when he reached the Benjamin Gate, the captain of the guard, whose name was Irijah son of Shelemiah, the son of Hananiah, arrested him and said, “You are deserting to the Babylonians!”
14“Thatʼs not true!” Jeremiah said. “I am not deserting to the Babylonians.” But Irijah would not listen to him; instead, he arrested Jeremiah and brought him to the officials. 15They were angry with Jeremiah and had him beaten and imprisoned in the house of Jonathan the secretary, which they had made into a prison.
16Jeremiah was put into a vaulted cell in a dungeon, where he remained a long time. 17Then King Zedekiah sent for him and had him brought to the palace, where he asked him privately, “Is there any word from the Lord?”
“Yes,” Jeremiah replied, “you will be delivered into the hands of the king of Babylon.”
18Then Jeremiah said to King Zedekiah, “What crime have I committed against you or your attendants or this people, that you have put me in prison? 19Where are your prophets who prophesied to you, ‘The king of Babylon will not attack you or this land’? 20But now, my lord the king, please listen. Let me bring my petition before you: Do not send me back to the house of Jonathan the secretary, or I will die there.”
21King Zedekiah then gave orders for Jeremiah to be placed in the courtyard of the guard and given a loaf of bread from the street of the bakers each day until all the bread in the city was gone. So Jeremiah remained in the courtyard of the guard.
So will you speak out the truth in love? Will you trust God’s wisdom and direction? Will you trust God to provide you with discernment? Will you be obedient to His commands?
What if the conversation was one of life or death? Would that be enough to step out and have a crucial conversation? What if it was so important that it would let them know they have a choice to make — the stakes are high — but because you love and care for them so much that you have to let them know? What if the outcome for you wouldn’t end up being good (even if just temporarily, even if long duration) — would you obey God’s command and speak it? Would you be like Jonah and try to run from it till God would be able to persuade you? Would you be like Jeremiah who discussed it with God and then did it? How would you respond to being asked to go and have such a conversation? Would you be like Gideon who just needed to make sure and have some proof to convince Him?
Jeremiah was speaking the truth in love to the people wanting them to live rather than die. He was speaking the truth provided by God that if they stay in the city they would die either by sword, famine, or plague and warning them to flee and live. This message wasn’t being well received by the authorities. Let’s see how that plays out…would you trust God in and through the trials and the troubles? Will you trust God enough to answer truthfully when asked? Even if it happens to be bad news? at least bad from the recipient’s perspective…
Jeremiah Thrown Into a Cistern
1Shephatiah son of Mattan, Gedaliah son of Pashhur, Jehukal son of Shelemiah, and Pashhur son of Malkijah heard what Jeremiah was telling all the people when he said, 2“This is what the Lord says: ‘Whoever stays in this city will die by the sword, famine or plague, but whoever goes over to the Babylonians will live. They will escape with their lives; they will live.’ 3And this is what the Lord says: ‘This city will certainly be given into the hands of the army of the king of Babylon, who will capture it.’ ”
4Then the officials said to the king, “This man should be put to death. He is discouraging the soldiers who are left in this city, as well as all the people, by the things he is saying to them. This man is not seeking the good of these people but their ruin.”
5“He is in your hands,” King Zedekiah answered. “The king can do nothing to oppose you.”
6So they took Jeremiah and put him into the cistern of Malkijah, the kingʼs son, which was in the courtyard of the guard. They lowered Jeremiah by ropes into the cistern; it had no water in it, only mud, and Jeremiah sank down into the mud.
7But Ebed-Melek, a Cushite, an official in the royal palace, heard that they had put Jeremiah into the cistern. While the king was sitting in the Benjamin Gate, 8Ebed-Melek went out of the palace and said to him, 9“My lord the king, these men have acted wickedly in all they have done to Jeremiah the prophet. They have thrown him into a cistern, where he will starve to death when there is no longer any bread in the city.”
10Then the king commanded Ebed-Melek the Cushite, “Take thirty men from here with you and lift Jeremiah the prophet out of the cistern before he dies.”
11So Ebed-Melek took the men with him and went to a room under the treasury in the palace. He took some old rags and worn-out clothes from there and let them down with ropes to Jeremiah in the cistern. 12Ebed-Melek the Cushite said to Jeremiah, “Put these old rags and worn-out clothes under your arms to pad the ropes.” Jeremiah did so, 13and they pulled him up with the ropes and lifted him out of the cistern. And Jeremiah remained in the courtyard of the guard.
Zedekiah Questions Jeremiah Again
14Then King Zedekiah sent for Jeremiah the prophet and had him brought to the third entrance to the temple of the Lord. “I am going to ask you something,” the king said to Jeremiah. “Do not hide anything from me.”
15Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, “If I give you an answer, will you not kill me? Even if I did give you counsel, you would not listen to me.”
16But King Zedekiah swore this oath secretly to Jeremiah: “As surely as the Lord lives, who has given us breath, I will neither kill you nor hand you over to those who want to kill you.”
17Then Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, “This is what the Lord God Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘If you surrender to the officers of the king of Babylon, your life will be spared and this city will not be burned down; you and your family will live. 18But if you will not surrender to the officers of the king of Babylon, this city will be given into the hands of the Babylonians and they will burn it down; you yourself will not escape from them.’ ”
19King Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, “I am afraid of the Jews who have gone over to the Babylonians, for the Babylonians may hand me over to them and they will mistreat me.”
20“They will not hand you over,” Jeremiah replied. “Obey the Lord by doing what I tell you. Then it will go well with you, and your life will be spared. 21But if you refuse to surrender, this is what the Lord has revealed to me: 22All the women left in the palace of the king of Judah will be brought out to the officials of the king of Babylon. Those women will say to you:
“ ‘They misled you and overcame you—
those trusted friends of yours.
Your feet are sunk in the mud;
your friends have deserted you.’
23“All your wives and children will be brought out to the Babylonians. You yourself will not escape from their hands but will be captured by the king of Babylon; and this city will be burned down.”
24Then Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, “Do not let anyone know about this conversation, or you may die. 25If the officials hear that I talked with you, and they come to you and say, ‘Tell us what you said to the king and what the king said to you; do not hide it from us or we will kill you,’ 26then tell them, ‘I was pleading with the king not to send me back to Jonathanʼs house to die there.’ ”
27All the officials did come to Jeremiah and question him, and he told them everything the king had ordered him to say. So they said no more to him, for no one had heard his conversation with the king.
28And Jeremiah remained in the courtyard of the guard until the day Jerusalem was captured.
This is how Jerusalem was taken:
Want to know what happens? What to read ahead? Check out Jeremiah 39.
How will God be lifted up in these times? How will God be given the glory in these times? How can you be used? How can I be used? How can the leaders be used? How can the government be used? Trust in God in and thru it all! Ask Jesus into your heart and into your life! Allow Him to be your king no matter who else is leading in your part of the world! Allow Jesus to be your Lord and Savior! Be transformed! Allow Jesus to create a new heart in you! Allow Jesus to cleanse your mind! It goes beyond our actions, it goes beyond our heritage, it goes beyond our generation, it is a matter of faith! We need to believe in Jesus!
Paulʼs Anguish Over Israel
1I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit— 2I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, 4the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption to sonship; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. 5Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.
Godʼs Sovereign Choice
6It is not as though Godʼs word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. 7Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abrahamʼs children. On the contrary, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” 8In other words, it is not the children by physical descent who are Godʼs children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abrahamʼs offspring. 9For this was how the promise was stated: “At the appointed time I will return, and Sarah will have a son.”
10Not only that, but Rebekahʼs children were conceived at the same time by our father Isaac. 11Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that Godʼs purpose in election might stand: 12not by works but by him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
14What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! 15For he says to Moses,
“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”
16It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on Godʼs mercy. 17For Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.
19One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?” 20But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’ ” 21Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?
22What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? 23What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory— 24even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles? 25As he says in Hosea:
“I will call them ‘my people’ who are not my people;
and I will call her ‘my loved one’ who is not my loved one,”
“In the very place where it was said to them,
‘You are not my people,’
there they will be called ‘children of the living God.’ ”
27Isaiah cries out concerning Israel:
“Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea,
only the remnant will be saved.
28For the Lord will carry out
his sentence on earth with speed and finality.”
29It is just as Isaiah said previously:
“Unless the Lord Almighty
had left us descendants,
we would have become like Sodom,
we would have been like Gomorrah.”
30What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; 31but the people of Israel, who pursued the law as the way of righteousness, have not attained their goal. 32Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone. 33As it is written:
“See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes people to stumble
and a rock that makes them fall,
and the one who believes in him will never be put to shame.”
Additional Reference: Crucial Conversations