Something remarkable appears at the close of the prophetic book of Jeremiah. (Though the book is utterly filled with the remarkable as we would expect.) But if we gave up reading it to its conclusion we would miss it entirely, miss what may be the most important or certainly among the most important passages of the whole book. Remember that Jeremiah was writing before and during the Israeli tribe of Judah's exile in Babylon, one of the "bookends" of Israel's history to that point, the other being the Exodus from Egypt. They had been carried off in captivity to Babylon because of their gross idolatry. The prophet Jeremiah had seen it coming and had tried to warn his people, but they wouldn't listen. Jehoiachin, a descendant of King David was was Judah's king at the time. The other tribes of the Northern Kingdom had already been carried off into captivity by the Assyrians about 150 years earlier. (The kingdom had been divided after the reign of David's son Solomon, just as Solomon's heart had been divided through his relationships with multiple pagan wives) Jehoiachin's life was spared and he was imprisoned in Babylon. He may have wished that he had been killed because there seemed to be no hope or future for him year after year in prison, until he had been there almost 38 years! But Jeremiah himself had prophesied concerning his people in Babylon that the LORD Yahweh had plans for them for their welfare and not for disaster to give them a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29 v11) So when EVIL-merodach became king of Babylon things began to suddenly change. With a name like that with the word "evil" in it we might not think that good would come, but it did. It shows that we can't go by appearances and first impressions when it comes to the dealings of God. For some inexplicable reason this king showed favor to Jehoiachin who must have thought by then, languishing in that prison, that he had been long forgotten by men and even by God. Yet this new Babylonian king smiled upon him mysteriously (perhaps because hope and a future had been prophesied) and gave him a pardon, and released him from prison. Not only that but he also spoke kindly to Jehoiachin and, as if that was not enough, set him upon a throne ABOVE the thrones of the other kings who were with him in Babylon.(see Jeremiah chapter 52 verses 31-34) Jehoiachin was no doubt overwhelmed by this time, but Evil-merodach did not stop there. He changed Jehoiachin's prison clothes to those suitable for royalty. There is a passage in the book of Zechariah the prophet chapter 3 that relates to this. The high priest Joshua was standing in filthy clothes before the Angel where Satan was accusing him. But the LORD rebuked Satan and called for Joshua's dirty clothes to be removed and replaced by splendid robes of righteousness. His guilt was now gone! Beyond that, a clean turban was placed on his head symbolizing a whole new way of thinking and responding to the world. Satan had no more case against him, all charges were there settled once and for all! This is what was happening to Jehoiachin. He dined regularly after that on royal fare in the presence of the king of Babylon for the rest of his life! He ate king's food daily and received a regular allowance from the king until the day he died. (Compare with how David treated Mephibosheth for the sake of his covenant with Saul's son Jonathan. (2 Samuel 9) This symbolizes how Jesus redeemed each of us who believe from a life of bondage to sin, clothed us in His righteousness, renewed our minds with His word and fellowship, and provides all our needs as an allowance going forward in His kingdom, all while we are seated with Him positionally in the heavenlies. This all happened when many of us had given up and lost hope. He "speaks kindly" to us every day about his earthly and eternal plans for us and others, if we will only listen. There is no rhyme or reason for it all because none of us deserve it, no reason except that it is kind nature to be and do all this for us out of his deep love and graciousness. Jehoiachin (also called Jechoniah) goes on to have a son Salathiel, one of the ancestors of Jesus through his appointed father Joseph. (Matthew 1 v. 11-12) That is how Jechoniah goes on to bear fruit in God's purposes as we do with all these wonderful and unmerited advantages. Strange how failure and disappointment can become a firm foundation within us for a new motivation toward a new future. It reminds us also of John 5 verse 5 where Jesus healed the paralytic who had been sick for exactly 38 years, the time roughly of Jehoiachin's stay in prison) Yet still Jesus asked him if he really wanted to be healed! Why? Wasn't it obvious? Not to Jesus. He perceived that the man was growing accustomed to his illness, and had to choose if he was willing to define himself differently and "move" forward to a completely new and unknown kind of life! Thank God he WAS willing and may we be equally willing for the miracle He wants to do in us that will revolutionize the way we define ourselves, to be much closer to how HE defines us. (John the Baptist is a good example for us in this regard in that he defined himself FROM SCRIPTURE as a "voice crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way for the Lord--") It is there in scripture that we can find ourselves to be continually redefined for the better. I find it interesting too that this falls in the 5th chapter of John and the 5th verse, since in Biblical numerology five is the number of GRACE or the unmerited favor of God. Yet God's grace is not only the unmerited favor of God, it is the UNMERITABLE favor of God. Amen!
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