July 3, 2016

Jeremiah 36-38 - 
In the fourth year of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, Jeremiah received this Message from God:
“Get a scroll and write down everything I’ve told you regarding Israel and Judah and all the other nations from the time I first started speaking to you in Josiah’s reign right up to the present day. Maybe the community of Judah will finally get it, finally understand the catastrophe that I’m planning for them, turn back from their bad lives, and let me forgive their perversity and sin.”

So Jeremiah called in Baruch son of Neriah. Jeremiah dictated and Baruch wrote down on a scroll everything that God had said to him.  Then Jeremiah told Baruch, “I’m blacklisted. I can’t go into God’s Temple, so you’ll have to go in my place. Go into the Temple and read everything you’ve written at my dictation. Wait for a day of fasting when everyone is there to hear you. And make sure that all the people who come from the Judean villages hear you....

 Baruch son of Neriah did everything Jeremiah the prophet told him to do. In the Temple of God he read the Message of God from the scroll.  It came about in December of the fifth year of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah that all the people of Jerusalem, along with all the people from the Judean villages, were there in Jerusalem to observe a fast to God....

The moment Micaiah the son of Gemariah heard what was being read from the scroll—God’s Message!—he went straight to the palace and to the chambers of the secretary of state where all the government officials were holding a meeting:... Micaiah reported everything he had heard Baruch read from the scroll as the officials listened.  Immediately they dispatched Jehudi to Baruch, ordering him, “Take the scroll that you have read to the people and bring it here.” So Baruch went and retrieved the scroll....The government officials told Baruch, “You need to get out of here. Go into hiding, you and Jeremiah. Don’t let anyone know where you are!”...

 The officials went to the court of the palace to report to the king,... After Jehudi would read three or four columns, the king would cut them off the scroll with his pocketknife and throw them in the fire. He continued in this way until the entire scroll had been burned up in the fire. Neither the king nor any of his officials showed the slightest twinge of conscience as they listened to the messages read.... He just plowed ahead and ordered Prince Jerahameel, Seraiah son of Azriel, and Shelemiah son of Abdeel to arrest Jeremiah the prophet and his secretary Baruch. But God had hidden them away.

After the king had burned the scroll that Baruch had written at Jeremiah’s dictation, Jeremiah received this Message from God: “Get another blank scroll and do it all over again. Write out everything that was in that first scroll that Jehoiakim king of Judah burned up.  And send this personal message to Jehoiakim king of Judah: ‘God says, You had the gall to burn this scroll and then the nerve to say, “What kind of nonsense is this written here—that the king of Babylon will come and destroy this land and kill everything in it?  Well, do you want to know what God says about Jehoiakim king of Judah? This: No descendant of his will ever rule from David’s throne....

So Jeremiah went and got another scroll and gave it to Baruch son of Neriah, his secretary. At Jeremiah’s dictation he again wrote down everything that Jehoiakim king of Judah had burned in the fire. There were also generous additions, but of the same kind of thing....

King Zedekiah son of Josiah, a puppet king set on the throne by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon in the land of Judah, was now king in place of Jehoiachin son of Jehoiakim. But neither he nor his officials nor the people themselves paid a bit of attention to the Message God gave by Jeremiah the prophet.  However, King Zedekiah sent Jehucal son of Shelemiah, and Zephaniah the priest, son of Maaseiah, to Jeremiah the prophet, saying, “Pray for us—pray hard!—to the Master, our God.”  Jeremiah was still moving about freely among the people in those days. This was before he had been put in jail.

When the Chaldean army pulled back from Jerusalem, Jeremiah left Jerusalem to go over to the territory of Benjamin to take care of some personal business. When he got to the Benjamin Gate, the officer on guard there, Irijah grabbed Jeremiah the prophet, accusing him, “You’re deserting to the Chaldeans!” “That’s a lie,” protested Jeremiah. “I wouldn’t think of deserting to the Chaldeans.”  But Irijah wouldn’t listen to him. He arrested him and took him to the police. The police were furious with Jeremiah. They beat him up and threw him into jail in the house of Jonathan the secretary of state. (They were using the house for a prison cell.) So Jeremiah entered an underground cell in a cistern turned into a dungeon. He stayed there a long time.

Later King Zedekiah had Jeremiah brought to him. The king questioned him privately, “Is there a Message from God?”
“There certainly is,” said Jeremiah. “You’re going to be turned over to the king of Babylon.” Jeremiah continued speaking to King Zedekiah: “Can you tell me why you threw me into prison? What crime did I commit against you or your officials or this people? And tell me, whatever has become of your prophets who preached all those sermons saying that the king of Babylon would never attack you or this land? Listen to me, please, my master—my king! Please don’t send me back to that dungeon in the house of Jonathan the secretary. I’ll die there!”  So King Zedekiah ordered that Jeremiah be assigned to the courtyard of the palace guards. He was given a loaf of bread from Bakers’ Alley every day until all the bread in the city was gone. And that’s where Jeremiah remained—in the courtyard of the palace guards.

Shaphatiah, Gedaliah, Jehucal, and Pashur heard what Jeremiah was telling the people...These officials told the king, “Please, kill this man. He’s got to go! He’s ruining the resolve of the soldiers who are still left in the city, as well as the people themselves, by spreading these words. This man isn’t looking after the good of this people. He’s trying to ruin us!”  King Zedekiah caved in: “If you say so. Go ahead, handle it your way. You’re too much for me.”  So they took Jeremiah and threw him into the cistern of Malkijah the king’s son that was in the courtyard of the palace guard. They lowered him down with ropes. There wasn’t any water in the cistern, only mud. Jeremiah sank into the mud.

Ebed-melek the Ethiopian, a court official assigned to the royal palace, heard that they had thrown Jeremiah into the cistern. While the king was holding court in the Benjamin Gate, Ebed-melek went immediately from the palace to the king and said, “My master, O king—these men are committing a great crime in what they’re doing, throwing Jeremiah the prophet into the cistern and leaving him there to starve. He’s as good as dead. There isn’t a scrap of bread left in the city.”  So the king ordered Ebed-melek the Ethiopian, “Get three men and pull Jeremiah the prophet out of the cistern before he dies. Ebed-melek got three men and went to the palace wardrobe and got some scraps of old clothing, which they tied together and lowered down with ropes to Jeremiah in the cistern. Ebed-melek the Ethiopian called down to Jeremiah, “Put these scraps of old clothing under your armpits and around the ropes.” Jeremiah did what he said.  And so they pulled Jeremiah up out of the cistern by the ropes. But he was still confined in the courtyard of the palace guard.

Later, King Zedekiah sent for Jeremiah the prophet and had him brought to the third entrance of the Temple of God. The king said to Jeremiah, “I’m going to ask you something. Don’t hold anything back from me.” Jeremiah said, “If I told you the whole truth, you’d kill me. And no matter what I said, you wouldn’t pay any attention anyway.” Zedekiah swore to Jeremiah right there, but in secret, “As sure as God lives, who gives us life, I won’t kill you, nor will I turn you over to the men who are trying to kill you.”...

Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, “Don’t let anyone know of this conversation, if you know what’s good for you. If the government officials get wind that I’ve been talking with you, they may come and say, ‘Tell us what went on between you and the king, what you said and what he said. Hold nothing back and we won’t kill you.’ If this happens, tell them, ‘I presented my case to the king so that he wouldn’t send me back to the dungeon of Jonathan to die there.’” And sure enough, all the officials came to Jeremiah and asked him. He responded as the king had instructed. So they quit asking. No one had overheard the conversation. Jeremiah lived in the courtyard of the palace guards until the day that Jerusalem was captured.

Acts 8:1-8:25 - 
Stephen’s stoning set off a terrible persecution of the church in Jerusalem.  The believers were all scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. All, that is, but the apostles. Good and brave men buried Stephen, giving him a solemn funeral—not many dry eyes that day!

And Saul just went wild, devastating the church, entering house after house after house, dragging men and women off to jail.  Forced to leave home base, the followers of Jesus all became missionaries. Wherever they were scattered, they preached the Message about Jesus. Going down to a Samaritan city, Philip proclaimed the Message of the Messiah. When the people heard what he had to say and saw the miracles, the clear signs of God’s action, they hung on his every word. Many who could neither stand nor walk were healed that day. The evil spirits protested loudly as they were sent on their way. And what joy in the city!...

 When the apostles in Jerusalem received the report that Samaria had accepted God’s Message, they sent Peter and John down to pray for them to receive the Holy Spirit. Up to this point they had only been baptized in the name of the Master Jesus; the Holy Spirit hadn’t yet fallen on them. Then the apostles laid their hands on them and they did receive the Holy Spirit....

And with that, the apostles were on their way, continuing to witness and spread the Message of God’s salvation, preaching in every Samaritan town they passed through on their return to Jerusalem.