Chapter 40 in Jeremiah begins with the aftermath of the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians led by King Nebuchadnezzar. Jeremiah found himself bound in chains among the captives from Jerusalem and Judah who were being carried into exile to Babylon (verse 1).
The start of this chapter begins with “The word came to Jeremiah from the Lord.” Usually, we read the message of the Lord right after these words but it was not so this time. We see God’s word to Jeremiah through a Babylonian military commander.
In the previous chapter, 39 verses 11-12 we read “Now Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had given these orders about Jeremiah through Nebuzaradan, commander of the imperial guard, take him and look after him, don’t harm him but do for him whatever he asks.”
Despite Nebuchadnezzar’s command for considerate treatment towards Jeremiah, at this point (chained and among the exiles) Jeremiah would have probably resigned himself to a fate of being an exile in Babylon.
As a prophet, he was not treated too kindly by his very own people, so it would not be unexpected to presume that Jeremiah was probably not anticipating the Babylonians to treat him with much respect or to keep their word (Nebuchadnezzar’s order).
While in chains, bound and headed to Babylon, comes an unexpected turn of events. Nebuzaradan, the commander of King Nebuchadnezzar’s guard recognises Jeremiah among the exiles and frees him.
The commander says in verses 2-4 “When the commander of the guard found Jeremiah, he said to him, “The Lord your God decreed this disaster for this place. And now the Lord has brought it about; he has done just as he said he would. All this happened because you people sinned against the Lord and did not obey him. But today I am freeing you from the chains on your wrists.”
For us: God works in unexpected ways and many a times when we least expect it. God made a way for Jeremiah; Scripture reminds us time and time again to not fear because God is with us. Knowing this passively is one thing but actively living that truth out is something that we cannot do in our own strength.
Reflecting on all that Jeremiah went through while staying obedient to God, and after the fall of Jerusalem, finding himself chained to be taken forcibly among the exiles, he could easily have felt frustrated and angry at God. We know that it can be easy to start reacting in the flesh when things start falling apart.
But Jeremiah stood firm on God’s word to him “Do not be afraid for I am with you.” (Jeremiah 1:8). “For I am with you and will rescue you.” (Jeremiah 1:19b)
For us: At times in our lives, we look for a door to open, to get out of a miserable situation, for a new opportunity or a lifeline thrown from God. But like my mum once said to me, our job is to keep walking along in the corridor of life surrendering to God and only when we approach and are close enough to those sliding doors, will they open, not when we are at the start of the corridor or any place in between. God’s timing can often be like that, the doors will seem shut, it may seem pointless to keep walking faithfully when we don’t see any plausible way out or through, but just as we know those sliding doors will open only when we get right in front of it, we got to trust and walk on in the path that God is leading and guiding us on and trust that when the time is right, He will make a way.
God is our Jehovah Jireh; He provides for us, maybe not in the way we expect but the promise is that He will.
Philippians 4:19. “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”
Let’s take a look at the provision God gives Jeremiah through the Babylonian in this chapter.
Jeremiah 40: 4-6 “But today I am freeing you from the chains on your wrists. Come with me to Babylon, if you like, and I will look after you; but if you do not want to, then don’t come. Look, the whole country lies before you; go wherever you please.” However, before Jeremiah turned to go, Nebuzaradan added, “Go back to Gedaliah son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, whom the king of Babylon has appointed over the towns of Judah, and live with him among the people, or go anywhere else you please.” Then the commander gave him provisions and a present and let him go. So, Jeremiah went to Gedaliah son of Ahikam at Mizpah and stayed with him among the people who were left behind in the land.”
- Jeremiah is freed from captivity.
- The Babylonian commander recognises who he is and treats him with respect – all the disrespect Jeremiah might have faced through the disregard of the people when he spoke God’s word, God in a way shows Jeremiah that I saw your pain there and I am going to give you this here where you least expect it.
- Jeremiah is given a choice – a relatively attractive offer to go and live comfortably in Babylon because the captain of the guard would look after him. Those who were taken captive were compelled to go, they did not have a choice.
- Or go to Gedaliah – Gedaliah as it says in the verses above is the one, King Nebuchadnezzar appointed over the towns of Judah. That means that Jeremiah would again be well looked after.
- Or he could go anywhere he would please – For choices like this to be given, does it even sound like the Jeremiah belonged to the people who were taken captive by the Babylonians.
- And the Babylonian in addition gives him provisions and a present and sends Jeremiah.
The way Jeremiah was provided for was beyond what one would imagine or anticipate, this reminded me of the verse in Ephesians 3:20 “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.”
This story in scripture reminds us that in the midst of a trail when we feel God is far away, He is right there with you making a way for you. His provision can come through unexpected ways and through unexpected means. He is Lord of your hill tops and your valleys, cling to His faithfulness and trust in His word because God is sovereign, trustworthy, faithful and is working on your behalf – place your trust in Him.