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Jeremiah 39:1-41:18; 2 Timothy 1:1-18; Psalms 90:1-91:16; Proverbs 26:1-2 (The Voice)

Jeremiah 39-41

39 This is how Jerusalem fell: When the Egyptian threat in the south was over, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon brought his army back to Jerusalem and resumed the siege. This began in the 10th month of the 9th year of Zedekiah’s reign as Judah’s king. For the next 18 months, the siege continued until the 9th day of the 4th month of Zedekiah’s 11th year. On that sad summer day, Jerusalem finally fell when the Chaldeans broke through the city wall. All the officials designated by Babylon’s king to exercise his authority entered the city and sat at the middle gate. These included Nergal-sar-ezer, Samgar-nebu, Sar-sekim (who was a chief officer), Nergal-sar-ezer (a high official), and all the other officials sent by the king of Babylon.

When King Zedekiah of Judah and his troops saw the Babylonians break through the wall on the north side of the city, they fled under the cloak of darkness. They made their way out of the city by passing through the king’s garden and then through the gate between the two walls. Once they left, they headed toward the Jordan Valley. But the Chaldean army discovered this and chased after Zedekiah, capturing him on the plains of Jericho. They took him to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, who had set up his command post at Riblah in the old Aramean city of Hamath. It was here that the dreaded king pronounced judgment on Zedekiah for rebelling against him. Zedekiah was forced to watch as his own sons and the nobles of Judah were slaughtered right in front of him. This was the very last thing he saw, because Nebuchadnezzar then blinded the eyes of Zedekiah. This blinded and humiliated king was then placed in bronze shackles and carried off to Babylon. Back in Jerusalem, the Chaldean troops burned down the king’s palace and the commoners’ houses and then tore down the walls of the city. Those who were left in the city, along with those who had previously surrendered, were then deported to Babylon by Nebuzaradan (captain of the imperial guard). 10 But he left some of the poorest people in Judah and gave them vineyards and fields to care for.

Removing only the rich and influential citizens, who might cause them trouble, is a political strategy. They leave behind the poor and destitute to serve as their labor force.

11 In these days of conquest, King Nebuchadnezzar learned about the prophet Jeremiah and gave this order to his captain of the imperial guard, Nebuzaradan:

King Nebuchadnezzar: 12 Go and get this prophet they call Jeremiah, and look after him. Make sure he isn’t harmed, and give him whatever he wants.

13 So Nebuzaradan (the captain of the imperial guard), Nebushazban (a chief officer), Nergal-sar-ezer (a high-ranking official), and the other officials from Babylon 14 ordered Jeremiah released from the court of the guard and brought to them. They eventually handed him over to the care of Gedaliah (son of Ahikam and grandson of Shaphan), who took Jeremiah back to his home. And so it was that Jeremiah was allowed to remain in the land of Judah among his people.

15 While Jeremiah was still confined in the court of the guard, the word of the Eternal came to him.

Eternal One: 16 Go and give this message to Ebed-melech, the Ethiopian. “This is what the Eternal, Commander of heavenly armies and God of Israel, promises you: ‘Look! Very soon I will bring disaster not prosperity on Jerusalem and her citizens as I warned through Jeremiah. And you, Ebed-melech, will see all this happen with your own eyes. 17 But do not worry, for I will rescue you on that day so that you will not be taken prisoner by those you fear. 18 I will protect you, and you will not die in the war. Your life will be your reward because you trusted in Me. I, the Eternal One, declare this to you.’”

40 The word of the Eternal came again to Jeremiah after Nebuzaradan (captain of the imperial guard) found the prophet in chains with the rest of the exiles from Jerusalem and Judah and let him go. He had been taken to Ramah with the others who would soon be deported to Babylon. When the captain of the imperial guard learned of the mix-up, he took Jeremiah aside and spoke to him.

In the aftermath of war, confusion and mistakes are rampant. Nebuchadnezzar himself has ordered that Jeremiah be placed in the care of Gedaliah (39:11–12), but some incompetent staff member has sent Jeremiah to be processed for exile in Babylon. It falls to Nebuzaradan to try to fix the mistake, before it is too late.

Nebuzaradan: Your God, the Eternal, commanded all of this to happen. He brought this disaster on this land, just as He said He would. And it all happened because your people sinned against the Eternal and refused to obey His voice. But today I am giving you your freedom. I am ordering the chains removed from your wrists. I am also giving you the chance to decide where you will live. If you’d like, you can come with me to Babylon, and I will look out for you. But if you’d rather not come to Babylon, then don’t. Look around you; you can go from here today and live anywhere you want. You decide.

But before Jeremiah turned to leave, Nebuzaradan made a suggestion.

Nebuzaradan: Why don’t you go back to Gedaliah (son of Ahikim and grandson of Shaphan)? The king of Babylon has put him in charge of the towns of Judah. You could live with him and still be among your people. But again, feel free to go where you please.

At this point, the captain gave Jeremiah some food and supplies, along with a gift, and released him. Jeremiah took his advice and went to Mizpah where Gedaliah (son of Ahikim) had settled. There he remained with the others who had been left behind in the land of Judah.

The news reached Judah’s army officers and soldiers who were scattered throughout the countryside that the king of Babylon had appointed Gedaliah (son of Ahikam) governor and put him in charge of the men, women, and children—the poor people of the land—who had not been deported to Babylon. So a group of them came to Gedaliah’s home in Mizpah to meet with him. These included Ishmael (son of Nethaniah), Johanan and Jonathan (sons of Kareah), Seraiah (son of Tanhumeth), the sons of Ephai the Netophathite, and Jezaniah (son of the Maacathite), along with all their men. Gedaliah (son of Ahikam and grandson of Shaphan) reassured those who gathered.

Gedaliah (to the leaders and their men): Do not be afraid to serve the Chaldeans. If you will settle peacefully in the land, agree to serve the king of Babylon, and give up any idea of rebelling against him, things will go well for you. 10 I will continue to live here in Mizpah and act as your representative whenever the Chaldeans come and want something from us. Go back and live in the villages and towns you have taken over. Harvest the grapes for wine, the summer fruits, and the olives for oil. Store what you gather, and live your lives in peace.

11 When all the Judeans living in Moab, Ammon, Edom, and the other neighboring nations heard that the king of Babylon had permitted a few people to remain in Judah and left Gedaliah (son of Ahikam and grandson of Shaphan) in charge, 12 they began to return home to the land of Judah from all the places to which they had run. With Gedaliah as their leader, governing from Mizpah, they returned to their ancestral lands to gather a great harvest of grapes for wine and summer crops.

This ragtag group of fugitives and survivors, along with the poorest of the poor, try to go back to life as normal. Perhaps there is still a glimmer of hope.

13 Now Johanan (son of Kareah) and the rest of the army officers who were still in the field came to Mizpah to speak with Gedaliah.

Johanan (speaking for the rest): 14 Are you aware that Ishmael (son of Nethaniah) has been hired by Baalis, the king of the Ammonites, to kill you?

But Gedaliah (son of Ahikam) had not heard of this threat and was not inclined to believe them. 15 So while he was in Mizpah, Johanan asked to speak with Gedaliah privately.

Johanan: Authorize me to go and kill Ishmael (son of Nethaniah). No one will know what happened. Should he be allowed to kill you just because he thinks you’re a pawn of Babylon? Think of what will happen to those Jews who have returned home and look to you as their leader. They will be scattered again, left to die because Babylon would consider this an act of aggression against them.

Gedaliah: 16 Do not kill him! What you are saying about Ishmael is not true!

41 But in the seventh month of the year, this same Ishmael (son of Nethaniah and grandson of Elishama)—a member of Judah’s royal family and a former captain of the king—came with 10 of his men to Mizpah to visit Gedaliah (son of Ahikam). As they were eating together, Ishmael (son of Nethaniah) and his 10 men betrayed their host and suddenly got up and with their swords attacked and killed Gedaliah (son of Ahikam and grandson of Shaphan), the man the king of Babylon had appointed governor of the land. Ishmael and his men then killed all the rest of the Judeans who were with Gedaliah at Mizpah and the Chaldean soldiers who had been left there.

The next day, before anyone had learned of Gedaliah’s assassination, a group of 80 men arrived from Shechem, Shiloh, and Samaria. They were on their way to Jerusalem, bringing grain offerings and incense to what was left of the temple of the Eternal. It was obvious they were in mourning, having shaved their beards, torn their clothing, and cut their bodies. Ishmael (son of Nethaniah) met them just outside Mizpah, weeping as if something terrible had happened. When he got to their company, he said:

Ishmael: Please, come and see what has happened to Gedaliah (son of Ahikam).

7-8 But once they were in the city, Ishmael and his men started to slaughter the innocent worshipers and throw their murdered corpses into a large cistern. Now there were 10 of these men who pled with Ishmael.

Men: Please do not kill us. We have a large quantity of wheat, barley, oil, and honey hidden in the field.

Ishmael agreed to let them live in exchange for these supplies. But he did kill 70 of their company.

Now the cistern into which Ishmael threw the corpses of Gedaliah, his men, and these worshipers on their way to Jerusalem had been dug by King Asa years ago when he was preparing for an attack from King Baasha of Israel. Ishmael (son of Nethaniah) filled it with dead bodies.[a] 10 After this massacre, Ishmael took the rest of the people in Mizpah captive, including the royal princesses and the others left under the care of Gedaliah (son of Ahikam) by Nebuzaradan (captain of the imperial guard). Ishmael (son of Nethaniah) forced everyone to leave the city with him as he escaped to the land of the Ammonites.

11-12 Now when Johanan (son of Kareah) and the other army leaders who were with him heard about this massacre carried out by Ishmael, they rallied all their men and pursued Ishmael (son of Nethaniah) to fight him. They caught up with him not far from the great pool in Gibeon. 13 When the people Ishmael had captured saw Johanan (son of Kareah) and the other army leaders closing in, they rejoiced. 14 All those who had been taken prisoner by Ishmael at Mizpah escaped and joined Johanan (son of Kareah) in the fight against Ishmael. 15 But somehow Ishmael (son of Nethaniah) and eight of his men were able to escape from Johanan and cross over into the land of the Ammonites.

What little hope there is for a relatively peaceful future in Judah quickly vanishes with the massacre at Mizpah. The Babylonians show leniency in allowing Gedaliah—one of their own—to rule over this region, but that will change. There will be a response from Nebuchadnezzar. It will be swift and brutal. The question on the minds of those still living in the land is this: how can we escape the vengeance of Babylon? Johanan, by default, has become the new leader of these people. Although he quickly decides the next move, both he and this remnant of Judah hope it is not a mistake.

16 Then Johanan (son of Kareah) and the other army leaders led the people they had just rescued away from Gibeon. This group (who had been taken from Mizpah after Ishmael assassinated Gedaliah) included soldiers, women, children, and court officials. 17 They made their way south and stopped at Geruth Chimham near the village of Bethlehem. The entire company was on its way to Egypt 18 to escape the Chaldeans; for the Judeans were afraid of what would happen when the Chaldeans discovered that Ishmael (son of Nethaniah) had killed Gedaliah (son of Ahikam), the man appointed governor of the land by the king of Babylon.

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2 Timothy 1

Paul, an emissary[a] of Jesus the Anointed commissioned by God’s will according to the promise of life found only in Jesus the Anointed, to you, my dear child Timothy.

May grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and our Lord Jesus the Anointed be yours.

3-4 Timothy, you are constantly in my prayers. Day and night I remember you before God and give thanks to Him whom I serve with a clean conscience, as did my ancestors. I really want to see you, especially when I remember how you cried the last time we were together. Yes, I know it would make me joyful to see you again. What strikes me most is how natural and sincere your faith is. I am convinced that the same faith that dwelt in your grandmother, Lois, and your mother, Eunice, abides in you as well. This is why I write to remind you to stir up the gift of God that was conveyed to you when I laid my hands upon you. You see, God did not give us a cowardly spirit but a powerful, loving, and disciplined spirit.

God’s gift of faith is like a flame, and when the embers of the fire have cooled you must fan them again and keep them ablaze.

So don’t be embarrassed to testify about our Lord or for me, His prisoner. Join us in suffering for the good news by the strength and power of God. God has already saved us and called us to this holy calling—not because of any good works we may have done, but because of His own intention and because eons and eons ago (before time itself existed), He gave us this grace in Jesus the Anointed, the Liberating King. 10 And now, the time has come! That grace was revealed when our Savior, Jesus the Anointed, appeared; and through His resurrection He has wiped out death and brought to light life and immortality by way of this good news. 11 I was appointed a preacher, emissary,[b] and teacher of this message. 12 This is exactly why I am suffering. But I am not ashamed because I know Him and I have put my trust in Him. And I am fully certain that He has the ability to protect what I have placed in His care until that day.

13 Remember the words that you heard from me. Retain them as the model for healthy and sound teaching in the faith and love that are available in Jesus the Anointed. 14 As for the precious thing entrusted to you, protect it with the help of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us.

Paul singles out several individuals in this letter, some for praise, others for harsh criticism. Timothy is an example of one who stayed true to Jesus and His emissary, the imprisoned Paul. Later Paul mentions Hymenaeus and Philetus as victims of a cancer within the church who have turned from the truth. Demas, too, is drawn into the attractions of the world, while Alexander the coppersmith opposes their message. With so many who have abandoned and opposed Paul, it’s refreshing to hear of Onesiphorus, who—against all odds—has stayed true to Paul and often visits him in prison to keep up his spirits. Clearly the message is that many may fall away, but a few will continue to be strong for the Lord.

15 You may know by now that all those in Asia have turned their backs on me, including Phygelus and Hermogenes. 16-17 But Onesiphorus was not ashamed of my chains. So when he arrived in Rome, he searched for me and found me. May the Lord show mercy to his house because he has often stopped by to refresh my weary soul. 18 And may the Lord shower him with divine mercy on the last day. You are well aware of all he did to serve me in Ephesus.

Footnotes:

  1. 1:1 Literally, apostle
  2. 1:11 Literally, apostle
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Psalm 90-91

Book Four

There are endless reasons to praise God, and many of them are included in the Book of Psalms. Book Four (Psalms 90–106) is made up of songs that praise and celebrate God for His creation, strength, work in history, and kingship. Although these songs are written to honor God, many require something from us. Throughout these psalms is the Hebrew word hallelujah, translated “Praise the Eternal!” That’s not just a passive verb, as in, “Praise be to the Eternal”; it’s an active imperative! We are commanded to praise Him. We are commanded to join angels above, people below, and all creatures in praising Him!

Psalm 90

A prayer of Moses, a man of God.

Lord, You have always been our refuge.
    Our ancestors made You their home long ago.
Before mountains were born,
    before You fashioned the earth and filled it with life,
    from ages past to distant futures,
    You are truly God.

You turn people back to dust,
    saying, “Go back to the dust, children of Adam.”
For You a thousand years is like a day when it is over,
    a watch during the night;
    there is no difference to You.

5-6 You release the waters of death to sweep mankind away in his slumber.
    In the morning, we are blades of grass,
Growing rapidly under the sun but withering quickly;
    yet in the evening, we fade and die, soon to be cut down.

For Your anger has consumed us.
    Your wrath has shaken us to the core
    and left us deeply troubled.
You have written our offenses before You—
    the light of Your presence shines brightly on our secret sins,
    and we can’t run or hide.

For all our days are spent beneath Your wrath;
    our youth gives way to old age, and then
    one day our years come to an end with a sigh.
10 We may journey through life for 70 years;
    some may live and breathe 80 years—if we are strong.
Yet our time here is only toil and trouble;
    soon our days are gone, and we fly away.
11 Who can truly comprehend the power unleashed by Your anger?
    Your wrath matches the fear that is due to You.
12 Teach us to number our days
    so that we may truly live and achieve wisdom.

13 How long will we wait here alone?
    Return, O Eternal One, with mercy.
    Rescue Your servants with compassion.
14 With every sun’s rising, surprise us with Your love,
    satisfy us with Your kindness.
    Then we will sing with joy and celebrate every day we are alive.
15 You have spent many days afflicting us with pain and sorrow;
    now match those with years of unspent joy.
16 Let Your work of love be on display for all Your servants;
    let Your children see Your majesty.
17 And then let the beauty and grace of the Lord—our God—rest upon us
    and bring success to all we do;
    yes, bring success to all we do!

Psalm 91

He who takes refuge in the shelter of the Most High
    will be safe in the shadow of the Almighty.
He will say to the Eternal, “My shelter, my mighty fortress,
    my God, I place all my trust in You.”
For He will rescue you from the snares set by your enemies who entrap you
    and from deadly plagues.
Like a bird protecting its young, God will cover you with His feathers,
    will protect you under His great wings;
    His faithfulness will form a shield around you, a rock-solid wall to protect you.

Psalm 91 is a beautiful psalm of trust in God. But how does God take care of all His people, all at the same time? Well, keep reading because Psalm 91 is one of just a few places in Scripture that describe what we might call “guardian angels” (Exodus 23:20; Psalm 43:3). Though rare, these passages teach that God is not alone in maintaining and protecting His creation and His people. He has made a host of heavenly messengers ready to do His bidding, and His bidding is often to guard His people throughout their lives and protect them—sometimes from dangers they are not even aware of.

You will not dread the terrors that haunt the night
    or enemy arrows that fly in the day
Or the plagues that lurk in darkness
    or the disasters that wreak havoc at noon.

A thousand may fall on your left,
    ten thousand may die on your right,
    but these horrors won’t come near you.
Only your eyes will witness
    the punishment that awaits the evil,
    but you will not suffer because of it.

For you made the Eternal [your][a] refuge,
    the Most High your only home.
10 No evil will come to you;
    plagues will be turned away at your door.

11 He will command His heavenly messengers to guard you,
    to keep you safe in every way.
12 They will hold you up in their hands
    so that you will not crash, or fall, or even graze your foot on a stone.[b]
13 You will walk on the lion and the cobra;
    you will trample the lion and the serpent underfoot.

14 “Because he clings to Me in love,
    I will rescue him from harm;
    I will set him above danger.
Because he has known Me by name,
15 He will call on Me, and I will answer.
    I’ll be with him through hard times;
    I’ll rescue him and grant him honor.
16 I’ll reward him with many good years on this earth
    and let him witness My salvation.”

Footnotes:

  1. 91:9 Hebrew manuscripts read, “who is my.”
  2. 91:11–12 Matthew 4:6; Luke 4:10–11
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Proverbs 26:1-2

26 Like snow in the summer and rain in the time of harvest,
    so honor is never fitting for a fool.
Like a bird that flits and flutters or a swallow in mid-flight,
    so a curse that lacks cause will never come to light.

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The Voice (VOICE)

The Voice Bible Copyright © 2012 Thomas Nelson, Inc. The Voice™ translation © 2012 Ecclesia Bible Society All rights reserved.

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