Jeremiah 37:20
But now please listen, O my lord the king. May my petition come before you. Do not send me back to the house of Jonathan the scribe, or I will die there."
Out of Weakness Made StrongS. Conway Jeremiah 37:20
Jeremiah PersecutedG. F. Pentecost, D. D.Jeremiah 37:11-21

Jeremiah 37:20
Jeremiah 37:20. "Out of weakness made strong." This verse an utterance, not of a sturdy invincible soul, but one of a gentle, shrinking, and often timid nature. Note -

I. THE PROPHET JEREMIAH belonged to the company of those who, out of weakness, God has made strong.

1. By nature and temperament he was the reverse of strong. Proof in this verse. Suffering was ever terrible to him. Hence he piteously pleads for the king's help. And passim we have indications of the gentleness of his nature (cf. Jeremiah 1:6, "Ah, Lord, I cannot;" and homily on Jeremiah 4:19-30, "The fellowship of Christ's sufferings," vol. 1. p. 100). But:

2. Notwithstanding this, see how strong he became. When it came to the test, how he endured (cf. Jeremiah 1:10, 17, 18)! Nothing would induce him to alter his word towards the king, the prophets, and the people generally. He softened not one line of his message, although it would have been so much to his advantage to have done so. Now -

II. THIS IS THE GLORY OF GOD'S GRACE ALWAYS. There will be glory by and by, an outward glory on every child of God. "Eye hath not seen," etc. But the present glory of God's grace is this, that out of weakness it makes its recipients strong. See what it did for the apostles, and especially for St. Peter - they the recreants and the denier of the Lord, but afterwards his valiant and undaunted witnesses. And grace has done the same for not a few in prospect of suffering and trial from which beforehand they would have utterly shrunk away. Women and children were amongst the number of the martyrs; and in the moral martyrdoms of this softer age they are so still. God strengthens his servants "with might by his Spirit in the inner man? And this is the glory of his grace. Not the numbers of the Church, nor her wealth, rank, gifts, or aught of such sort, but the spiritual strength that characterizes her. "I can do all things," said St. Paul, "through Christ which strengtheneth me." And it will be so yonder in the better world hereafter. The glory of that day will not be the golden streets, the gates of pearl, the foundations of precious stones; not the vast throng of the redeemed, nor aught that belongs only to their circumstances, happy as they will be; but it will be the character of them all. And this will be their security also. The defences of that condition of the redeemed will not be outward, but inward. They, having been strengthened with might by the Spirit of God in the inner man, will have come to be rooted - like the giant oak, which no tempest can uproot from the ground - and grounded - like the deep-laid foundation of the temple, which naught can overthrow - in love, and so Christ will dwell in their hearts. Yes, their glory will be their defence also. CONCLUSION. Seek, therefore, this grace of Divine strength. Bow your "knees to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ," that, "according to the riches of his glory," he would grant you this. Then, though weak and wavering by nature, steadiness and strength shall be given to your will, your heart, and so God will make you as he did his prophet - as "a defenced city, an iron pillar, a brazen wall" (Jeremiah 1:18). - C.

Is there any word from the Lord?... There is.
The man who asked this momentous question belonged to the class of solemn triflers. He came with the right question in his mouth, and sometimes to get a right question is to be half-way on to the answer. To get the question rightly stated is ofttimes already the answer half-given. And he came with his question to the right quarter. He had come to the man that had a living connection with God. Yet we know from the way he treated the answer to the question that he came in the wrong spirit. Not that there was any gaiety or carelessness about his manner. He was as solemn as solemn could be when he asked this question of the prophet of God, "Is there any word from the Lord?" But he went away to show that he had been merely trifling with the question. And what was possible for Zedekiah is possible for you and for me. We may come to the Word of God with the right question in our mouth, we may come with a solemn reverent manner about us, we may pride ourselves that we are not of those who make jokes about the Word of God, or treat the ordinances of God's house with any levity, we may pride ourselves that we are not of those who turn the house of God into a theatre or place of amusement, we have the conviction that the institution of God's house is meant to get us into a closer connection with God, we believe that the Word of God which lies before us is a very message from God to man, and we come to the open Bible Sunday after Sunday with this question professedly, "Is there any word from Jehovah?" any word from Jehovah about my duty for to-day, about my duty for to-morrow — is there any word from Jehovah? We have got the right question, and we come in a reverent manner. God forbid that we should be triflers as Zedekiah was, and mistake solemnity of manner for obedience to the Word of God. By his sword on the field of battle the King of Babylon had won this right — the right to put on the head of whomsoever he would the crown of Judah. He offered it to Mattaniah; he offered it, accompanied by one condition. The King of Babylon could not afford that Judah should form an alliance with Egypt, that great rival power to him. He was in a gracious mood, and though he had conquered Israel, he was willing that an Israelite — one of the seed royal should yet hold the throne of David. And in that gracious mood he offered to Mattaniah the throne of Judah, accompanying his offer with this simple condition: he asked him to swear loyalty to the King of Babylon, and take an oath of allegiance to the King of Babylon. It was meant to keep the King of Judah from forming an alliance with a hostile power, from forming an alliance with Egypt. And Mattaniah had sense to see it was a grand offer that was made him. He knew that this king had power to take him away in chains to Babylon, and to take his people with him. He knew that human nature was frail, he knew that this new-made king had much reason to keep him walking in the path of gratitude. But knowing that human nature was frail, he wanted to fence him in by the continual remembrance of that oath, and he changed his name from Mattaniah, "the gift of Jehovah," to Zedekiah, "the justice of Jehovah." And ever afterwards when that king's name was mentioned, it would take his mind back to that oath when he sware by the justice of Jehovah that he would be loyal to the king who had so befriended him. At first he felt no inconvenience from his vow, but as the years passed on his gratitude seemed to melt away. The King of Egypt made overtures to him, and his people were inclined to listen. He had prophets in great number, and they urged him to accept the overtures of the King of Egypt. There was one prophet in his city that warned him that he could not do a dishonourable thing and prosper. There was one prophet who reminded him that the man of God was a man who, though he swore to his hurt, would keep his oath. We may suppose that Jeremiah pleaded with Zedekiah even with tears "Do the righteous thing." What will the heathen nations say, what will outsiders say, if the people of God break their bargain and lightly hold their oaths? Will not they, blaspheme the God of Israel? An honourable heathen man will keep his oath. So spoke Jeremiah, as he pleaded with his king, but his warning voice fell unheeded on that deaf ear. By and by came the army of the Chaldeans and besieged Jerusalem. They were closely shut up for a while, and still the prophet of God was allowed to remain in the prison. The king had secret hopes that the King of Egypt would come to his help, and so long as he had hope from another quarter he would not trouble the messenger of God. By and by the army of the Chaldeans removed from the city. They went away to fight the army that was coming from Egypt to help the besieged. The general that was at the head of these forces knew well how to conduct a campaign. He had no desire that the army that was coming to help Israel should get the length of Jerusalem. He would rather deal with them separately. He went and met the army and turned it aside the way that it came, and then he came back to the city and closely invested it on every side. Then, when all hope of Egypt was shut off; then, when Zedekiah had proved that they who lean on Egypt lean on a broken reed which enters into the heart of man and pierces him; then it was that the old, old story was told. When death is thundering at the door the scoffer takes down the Bible from the shelf. So was it with Zedekiah. So long as he had one single hope from men, of being himself able to overcome, or of getting help from Egypt — so long he left the prophet of God to pine in the prison cell, and did not feel it necessary to go and seek help from him. But when at last all hope of being saved in any other way was taken away, then he secretly came to the messenger of Jehovah as the scoffer secretly takes out the Bible and tries to find out what the Word of the Lord is. Then he came and asked this question, "Is there any word from the Lord?" Zedekiah had made God the last shift, and God had a good excuse for withholding any light from the king who had acted so dishonourably. But He is long-suffering, He is patient, even though we make Him the last shift. Even from the bed of death ofttimes He hears the cry for mercy and reveals His will. "There is," said Jeremiah, "there is word from the Lord to thee. Thou shalt be delivered into the hand of the King of Babylon." An honest, kindly, blunt, definite statement. "Thou shalt delivered into the hand of the King of Babylon." Ah, sometimes we have seen it in the individual, that deceitful disease consumption has laid hold on him, and the prophets of smooth things say, "You will get better"; and they feed his hopes upon this; and .the prophet of God comes his way and tells him he is a dying man, that there is no escape for him. It is felt to be impend. The prophets of smooth things would not have plainly said, "Thou shalt be delivered into the hands of the King of Babylon." They would have hid that. But this is the kinder way of the two. Yet Zedekiah did not act upon the light that he had received. Somehow he had a hope that he would escape. Even though the walls had a breach in them there was that private way of escape. That was his last resource, and so long as he thought there was the least possibility of escape he was scarcely prepared to receive the Word of the Lord, this message that God had sent to him, so that he did not act upon it. He bore no grudge to the prophet for speaking so plainly. He had no unkindly feelings towards him, but the opposite, he had very kindly feelings towards him, and was willing to run a serious risk of difficulty with his cabinet rather than not do kindness to the prophet of Jehovah, the faithful servant of king and country. And thus it came to pass that they were again brought together in friendly conference. He had done an act of kindness to the prophet of the Lord. The cup of cold water that is given to a disciple never loses its reward. After that deed of kindness done there was a fuller revelation of the will of God. At first it had only been, "Thou shalt be delivered into the hand of the King of Babylon," and the second time Jeremiah pointed to the way of salvation. "Escape there is none if you are to trust to your own power to fight or to trust to Egypt. There is no escape; thou shalt be delivered into the hand of the King of Babylon. The simple question is whether you are going just now to give yourself into his hands or are going to wait until you are dragged by force by his servants into his presence." "Go forth now." he says, "and surrender to him, and though thy sin has been great he will pardon thee. Surrender to him, lay down thine arms, yield to him, and thou shalt live, and thy city shall be saved." It was a double-sided message this. The first part of it was, "Thou shalt be delivered into the hand of the King of Babylon." That was certain. The second part was, "If thou surrender now thou shalt find salvation." This is a message for us to-day. Have not we acted as that ungrateful king acted? Although rebellion was in our blood, has not God treated us with grace and given us this fair earth, and life on such an earth as this is a blessing not to be lightly esteemed. And our King, when this race rebelled, might easily have swept it off. Instead, He gave us another chance also. And though He treated us so kindly, allowed us with rebellion in our very hands to love and enjoy the benefits of life on this fair earth, have not we done just what Zedekiah did, forgotten allegiance to our gracious King and listened to the overtures of His enemy, and gone and done what Satan wanted us to do? And our city, what is it but the city of destruction? We see that death is coming nearer, escape there is none, and we come to the Prophet of God, not to Jeremiah, but to Jesus, who is the Mediator of the new covenant, and we say to Him, "Is there any word from Jehovah?" And He says, "There is." "Thou shalt surely die, thou shalt surely be delivered into the hands of God." We cannot escape. We will be delivered into the hands of the King against whom we have rebelled. That is one fact there is no blinking of. And we say, "Is that all the message?" Thank God it is not all. Jesus says, "There is a way of salvation." Don't wait until you are taken and dropped by force into His presence by that servant of His that is called Death. But go forth now and yield to Him, surrender to Him, and all will be well. Let us mark well the penalty that followed Zedekiah for his disobedience to the Word of Jehovah. He went away clinging to that hope that he would yet escape. He did not act upon the light that he had been given. He still had the hope that he would escape by that private path, by the way of the king's garden, and so he had not courage to go out and put himself into the hands of the princes and the King of Babylon, the princes that were at the head of the army. He did not act upon the light he had received when Jeremiah pleaded with him to do it. "Obey," said he, "the voice of the Lord, and it shall be well with thee and thy house." All that Zedekiah could say was, "I am afraid the Jews will mock me if I do — mock me, they will mock me." He had not a doubt that Nebuchadnezzar would pardon. He knew there was pardon awaiting him out there, he knew there was life awaiting him out there, but he knew that he would be mocked if he did it. Many a one has been laughed into hell; I never knew of any one being laughed out of it. Ofttimes the young seeker feels that it has come to a point, and, just when he is taking the step, it is the jeer of the companion that comes in. "I am afraid my companion will mock me." A godless companion will mock you. What of that? Are you not manly enough to be laughed at? "They will mock me," said poor Zedekiah, and he had not courage to be mocked. That cursed pride had scared him past the gate that led to salvation. And by and by there was a breach in the walls, and the princes of the King of Babylon s army were in the breach, and when Zedekiah saw that, he took the secret way of escape; and by night he made for the hills away down through the ravine that led to Jericho, escaping away to the hills of Palestine. But the army of the Chaldeans pursued after him and over. took him on the plains of Jericho, and brought him before the king. Then he saw his two sons put to death before his eyes; then they came to him and put his eyes out — be was only thirty-two years of age; then they loaded him with fetters, and condemned him to this awful imprisonment for life. And the bitterest pang in the torment of all, he had this knowledge, that he might have escaped it if he had only done what the Lord had wanted him to do. "Had I only obeyed the voice of Jeremiah I might have had my two sons yet; I would have had my eyesight; I would not have had these chains." It was the sting of the scorpion in his torment, this memory of what might have been, had he only taken the step — a single step of surrender.

(James Paterson, M. A.).

Babylonians, Benjamin, Coniah, Hananiah, Irijah, Jehoiachin, Jehoiakim, Jehucal, Jeremiah, Jonathan, Josiah, Maaseiah, Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadrezzar, Pharaoh, Shelemiah, Zedekiah, Zephaniah
Babylon, Benjamin Gate, Egypt, Jerusalem
Accepted, Bring, Cause, Death, Die, Ear, Fall, Fear, Hearken, Humble, Jonathan, Lest, Listen, O, Petition, Plea, Please, Pleased, Prayer, Presented, Return, Scribe, Secretary, Supplication
1. The Egyptians having raised the siege of the Chaldeans,
3. king Zedekiah sends to Jeremiah to pray for the people.
6. Jeremiah prophesies the Chaldeans' certain return and victory.
11. He is taken for a fugitive, beaten, and put in prison.
16. He assures Zedekiah of the captivity.
18. Entreating for his liberty, he obtains some favor.

Dictionary of Bible Themes
Jeremiah 37:18

     5461   prisoners

'Zedekiah the son of Josiah reigned as king ... whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon made king'--JER. xxxvii. 1. Zedekiah was a small man on a great stage, a weakling set to face circumstances that would have taxed the strongest. He was a youth at his accession to the throne of a distracted kingdom, and if he had had any political insight he would have seen that his only chance was to adhere firmly to Babylon, and to repress the foolish aristocracy who hankered after alliance with the rival power
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

The World's Wages to a Prophet
'And it came to pass, that when the army of the Chaldeans was broken up from Jerusalem for fear of Pharaoh's arm, 12. Then Jeremiah went forth out of Jerusalem to go into the land of Benjamin, to separate himself thence in the midst of the people. 13. And when he was in the gate of Benjamin, a captain of the ward was there, whose name was Irijah, the son of Shelemiah, the son of Hananiah; and he took Jeremiah the prophet, saying, Thou fallest away to the Chaldeans. 14. Then said Jeremiah, It is false;
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

The interest of the book of Jeremiah is unique. On the one hand, it is our most reliable and elaborate source for the long period of history which it covers; on the other, it presents us with prophecy in its most intensely human phase, manifesting itself through a strangely attractive personality that was subject to like doubts and passions with ourselves. At his call, in 626 B.C., he was young and inexperienced, i. 6, so that he cannot have been born earlier than 650. The political and religious
John Edgar McFadyen—Introduction to the Old Testament

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