At the beginning of Israel's national history, when He gave His laws to Moses, God made provision for the release of slaves (Exodus 21:2). The seventh year was the year of release. Israelite slaves were to go free.
Judah is at a crossroad. In the midst of the Babylonian siege the King of Judah declares a release--the Israelite slaves were to go free in accordance with the word of God. The wealthy of Judah had reneged, however, after their initial agreement and had retaken their slaves by force. They had not done this lightly, for when they had released the slaves they had cut a covenant. Jeremiah describes the cutting of the covenant in vivid detail (chapter 34:18)--an animal has been split into two halves; those who make the covenant pass between the parts of this split animal, saying and meaning, "If I break this covenant, may what has been done to this animal be done to me." For all their "show" of cutting and keeping the covenant, they broke it and now God expresses His displeasure.
Why? Israel is a reflection of God and He is a covenant keeper. When they violate this covenant they tell a lie to the world about the character of God; this, God will not tolerate. He promises punishment upon His people because they have so misrepresented Him to the world. Since they have misrepresented Him to the world He will demonstrate that He is the covenant keeper, but the covenant that He will keep is the covenant of judgment that He has promised to His children who forsake His ways. He told Israel long ago that He would let the land lie fallow and remember the Sabbaths. Israel's long history of rebellion reveals God's commitment to keep His covenant.
Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
- What does God promise will happen to King Zedekiah and how does the king respond to his message? What does this tell you about him?
- How were the wealthy of Jerusalem treating those less fortunate?
- After releasing the slaves what did the people do?
- What kind of freedom does the Lord promise the inhabitants of Jerusalem?
- How long does Nebuchadnezzar lay siege against Jerusalem?
- What happens when the food runs out? What does this tell you about human nature?
- What does King Zedekiah do? What does this tell you about the king?
- What happens to the king when he is captured by the Babylonian army? To the city of Jerusalem?
- How does God demonstrate His pity toward His people and how do they respond?
- How long will the people be in exile and the land remain untended?
- How does God reward Ebed-Melech for his delivering Jeremiah out of the pit? What does this tell you about God?
Thank the Lord that He is the Covenant Keeper, that promises made are promises fulfilled.