Thursday after the Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity Sunday
Scripture: Jeremiah 39:1-18 (NKJV)
1 In the ninth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, in the tenth month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and all his army came against Jerusalem, and besieged it. 2 In the eleventh year of Zedekiah, in the fourth month, on the ninth day of the month, the city was penetrated.
3 Then all the princes of the king of Babylon came in and sat in the Middle Gate: Nergal-Sharezer, Samgar-Nebo, Sarsechim, Rabsaris, Nergal-Sarezer, Rabmag, with the rest of the princes of the king of Babylon.
4 So it was, when Zedekiah the king of Judah and all the men of war saw them, that they fled and went out of the city by night, by way of the king’s garden, by the gate between the two walls. And he went out by way of the plain. 5 But the Chaldean army pursued them and overtook Zedekiah in the plains of Jericho. And when they had captured him, they brought him up to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, to Riblah in the land of Hamath, where he pronounced judgment on him. 6 Then the king of Babylon killed the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes in Riblah; the king of Babylon also killed all the nobles of Judah. 7 Moreover he put out Zedekiah’s eyes, and bound him with bronze fetters to carry him off to Babylon. 8 And the Chaldeans burned the king’s house and the houses of the people with fire, and broke down the walls of Jerusalem. 9 Then Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried away captive to Babylon the remnant of the people who remained in the city and those who defected to him, with the rest of the people who remained. 10 But Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard left in the land of Judah the poor people, who had nothing, and gave them vineyards and fields at the same time.
11 Now Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon gave charge concerning Jeremiah to Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard, saying, 12 “Take him and look after him, and do him no harm; but do to him just as he says to you.” 13 So Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard sent Nebushasban, Rabsaris, Nergal-Sharezer, Rabmag, and all the king of Babylon’s chief officers; 14 then they sent someone to take Jeremiah from the court of the prison, and committed him to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, that he should take him home. So he dwelt among the people.
15 Meanwhile the word of the LORD had come to Jeremiah while he was shut up in the court of the prison, saying, 16 “Go and speak to Ebed-Melech the Ethiopian, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: “Behold, I will bring My words upon this city for adversity and not for good, and they shall be performed in that day before you. 17 But I will deliver you in that day,” says the LORD, “and you shall not be given into the hand of the men of whom you are afraid. 18 For I will surely deliver you, and you shall not fall by the sword; but your life shall be as a prize to you, because you have put your trust in Me,” says the LORD.'”
With God’s people there is always a remnant. The wicked leaders of the people, who led them to destruction, certainly find their just punishment but, God sees the faithful remnant. They do not escape the broader consequences of the destruction of the city but, they are shielded from the direct punishment. The poor and powerless, who had no say in the course of action, are not torn from the land. And, most especially, Ebed-Melech the Ethiopian was spared because of his faith in God.
This is often the case with God. The faithful remnant inherit the land and prosper, in the long run. Of course, this cannot be guaranteed in any particular case. With Ebed-Melech we have a specific revelation explaining his situation, but often, the faithful remain. And even when they do not, they inherit their eternal rewards.
Now, this is not to say these poor inherit any kingdom on Earth. The point of the exile is to extinguish the corrupt and faithless kingdom and to eventually found a new one in its place. The poor are inconsequential in this matter. They had no power in the previous kingdom and will have none in the next one, but, their children will live to see it. God often spares the poor faithful individuals in the midst of the judgment on the kingdom as a whole.
We pray: Lord, as we find ourselves in the midst of wicked kingdoms, help us to be shining lights of faithfulness. Lord, help us preserve our households in the midst of darkness. Amen.