July 4, 2015

Jeremiah 39-41
 In the ninth year and tenth month of Zedekiah king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came with his entire army and laid siege to Jerusalem. In the eleventh year and fourth month, on the ninth day of Zedekiah’s reign, they broke through into the city.....When Zedekiah king of Judah and his remaining soldiers saw this, they ran for their lives. They slipped out at night on a path in the king’s garden through the gate between two walls and headed for the wilderness, toward the Jordan Valley. The Babylonian army chased them and caught Zedekiah in the wilderness of Jericho. They seized him and took him to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon... The king of Babylon killed all the sons of Zedekiah in Riblah right before his eyes and then killed all the nobles of Judah. After Zedekiah had seen the slaughter, Nebuchadnezzar blinded him, chained him up, and then took him off to Babylon.  Meanwhile, the Babylonians burned down the royal palace, the Temple, and all the homes of the people. They leveled the walls of Jerusalem. 

Nebuzaradan, commander of the king’s bodyguard, rounded up everyone left in the city, along with those who had surrendered to him, and herded them off to exile in Babylon. He didn’t bother taking the few poor people who had nothing. He left them in the land of Judah to eke out a living as best they could in the vineyards and fields.  Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon gave Nebuzaradan captain of the king’s bodyguard special orders regarding Jeremiah: “Look out for him. Make sure nothing bad happens to him. Give him anything he wants.”...

Earlier, while Jeremiah was still in custody in the courtyard of the royal guards, God’s Message came to him: “Go and speak with Ebed-melek the Ethiopian. Tell him, God-of-the-Angel-Armies, the God of Israel, says, Listen carefully: I will do exactly what I said I would do to this city—bad news, not good news. When it happens, you will be there to see it. But I’ll deliver you on that doomsday. You won’t be handed over to those men whom you have good reason to fear. Yes, I’ll most certainly save you. You won’t be killed. You’ll walk out of there safe and sound because you trusted me.’” God’s Decree....

The captain of the bodyguard singled out Jeremiah and said to him,...  I’m setting you free, taking the chains off your hands. If you’d like to come to Babylon with me, come along. I’ll take good care of you. But if you don’t want to come to Babylon with me, that’s just fine, too. Look, the whole land stretches out before you. Do what you like. Go and live wherever you wish.... Jeremiah went to Gedaliah son of Ahikam at Mizpah and made his home with him and the people who were left behind in the land.

When the army leaders and their men, who had been hiding out in the fields, heard that the king of Babylon had appointed Gedaliah son of Ahikam as governor of the land, putting him in charge of the men, women, and children of the poorest of the poor who hadn’t been taken off to exile in Babylon, they came to Gedaliah at Mizpah: Ishmael, Johanan and Jonathan, Seraiah, the sons of Ephai the Netophathite, and Jaazaniah, accompanied by their men.  Gedaliah son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, promised them and their men, “You have nothing to fear from the Chaldean officials. Stay here on the land. Be subject to the king of Babylon. You’ll get along just fine....

One day Johanan and all the officers of the army who had been hiding out in the backcountry came to Gedaliah at Mizpah and told him, “You know, don’t you, that Baaliss king of Ammon has sent Ishmael to kill you?” But Gedaliah didn’t believe them.  Then Johanan took Gedaliah aside privately in Mizpah: “Let me go and kill Ishmael. No one needs to know about it. Why should we let him kill you and plunge the land into anarchy? Why let everyone you’ve taken care of be scattered and what’s left of Judah destroyed?” But Gedaliah told Johanan, “Don’t do it. I forbid it. You’re spreading a false rumor about Ishmael.”

But in the seventh month, Ishmael came. He had royal blood in his veins and had been one of the king’s high-ranking officers. He paid a visit to Gedaliah at Mizpah with ten of his men. As they were eating together, Ishmael and his ten men jumped to their feet and knocked Gedaliah down and killed him, killed the man the king of Babylon had appointed governor of the land. Ishmael also killed all the Judeans who were with Gedaliah in Mizpah, as well as the Chaldean soldiers who were stationed there.

On the second day after the murder of Gedaliah—no one yet knew of it—men arrived from Shechem, Shiloh, and Samaria, eighty of them, with their beards shaved, their clothing ripped, and gashes on their bodies. They were pilgrims carrying grain offerings and incense on their way to worship at the Temple in Jerusalem....But as soon as they were inside the city, Ishmael son of Nethaniah and his henchmen slaughtered the pilgrims and dumped the bodies in a cistern. Ten of the men talked their way out of the massacre.... Ishmael then took everyone else in Mizpah, including the king’s daughters entrusted to the care of Gedaliah by Nebuzaradan the captain of the bodyguard, as prisoners. Rounding up the prisoners, Ishmael proceeded to take them over into the country of Ammon.

Johanan and all the army officers with him heard about the atrocities committed by Ishmael. They set off at once after Ishmael. They found him at the large pool at Gibeon.  When all the prisoners from Mizpah who had been taken by Ishmael saw Johanan and the army officers with him, they couldn’t believe their eyes. They were so happy! They all rallied around Johanan and headed back home. But Ishmael got away, escaping from Johanan with eight men into the land of Ammon.

Then Johanan and the army officers with him gathered together what was left of the people...—and brought them back from Gibeon.  They set out at once for Egypt to get away from the Chaldeans,... They were afraid of what the Chaldeans might do in retaliation of Ishmael’s murder of Gedaliah whom the king of Babylon had appointed as governor of the country.

Acts 8:26-8:40
Later God’s angel spoke to Philip: “At noon today I want you to walk over to that desolate road that goes from Jerusalem down to Gaza.” He got up and went. He met an Ethiopian eunuch coming down the road. The eunuch had been on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and was returning to Ethiopia, where he was minister in charge of all the finances of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. He was riding in a chariot and reading the prophet Isaiah.

The Spirit told Philip, “Climb into the chariot.” Running up alongside, Philip heard the eunuch reading Isaiah and asked, “Do you understand what you’re reading?”  He answered, “How can I without some help?” and invited Philip into the chariot with him....

The eunuch said, “Tell me, who is the prophet talking about: himself or some other?” Philip grabbed his chance. Using this passage as his text, he preached Jesus to him.  

As they continued down the road, they came to a stream of water. The eunuch said, “Here’s water. Why can’t I be baptized?” He ordered the chariot to stop. They both went down to the water, and Philip baptized him on the spot. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of God suddenly took Philip off, and that was the last the eunuch saw of him. But he didn’t mind. He had what he’d come for and went on down the road as happy as he could be....