The word which came to Jeremiah from the Lord after King Zedekiah had made a covenant with all the people who were in Jerusalem to proclaim release to them, (34:8).
It’s a little confusing trying to follow along at this point. We are used to a linear story line, while prophetic books skip around, between past, present and future. So I had to do a bit of searching to get my bearings.
“The prophecy (Jer 34:1-7) as to Zedekiah is an amplification of that in Jer 32:1-5, in consequence of which Jeremiah was then shut up in the court of the prison. The prophecy (Jer 34:8-22) refers to the Jews, who, afraid of the capture of the city, had, in obedience to the law, granted freedom to their servants at the end of seven years, but on the intermission of the siege forced them back into bondage,” Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary.
Today is a further development of the prophecy given in Jeremiah 32.
“Behold, I am about to give this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he will take it; 4 and Zedekiah king of Judah will not escape out of the hand of the Chaldeans,” (Jeremiah 32:3-4).
And Jeremiah is shut up in prison because of it, while Zedekiah is resolute in his ignoring the Word of the Lord. But at some point, a healthy dose of fear seems to have kicked in, and in response to the siege of the Babylonian king, the people “obeyed” God, according to the Law of Moses, and released their Hebrew slaves. But, sadly, so short lived. For when it appeared as though Egypt was gaining ground against the Babylonians, the people repented of their repentance.
Meanwhile, Pharaoh’s army had set out from Egypt; and when the Chaldeans who had been besieging Jerusalem heard the report about them, they lifted the siege from Jerusalem, (Jeremiah 37:5).
But afterward they turned around and took back the male servants and the female servants whom they had set free, and brought them into subjection for male servants and for female servants, (34:11).
“During the interruption of the siege by Pharaoh-hophra (compare Jer 34:21, 22, with Jer 37:5-10), the Jews reduced their servants to bondage again,” Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary.
There is speculation that the slaves had only been released to help fight against the Babylonians, but the fact is the slaves had been released. In their time of distress the people of Judah had turned to God. But when they learned the Egyptian army was making their way towards the city and that the Babylonian army had backed off, they quickly turned away from God and turned right back to their rebellious ways in seeking help and safety from Pharaoh’s army.
Seeking help from Egypt of all places! Egypt was the very reason God had established His Covenant that Proclaims Release to His people. He had brought them out of bondage, and expected them to extend the same grace to others that they had received from Him. But they didn’t listen then… and the pattern continued.
“Thus says the Lord God of Israel, ‘I made a covenant with your forefathers in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, saying, 14 “At the end of seven years each of you shall set free his Hebrew brother who has been sold to you and has served you six years, you shall send him out free from you; but your forefathers did not obey Me or incline their ear to Me,” (34:13-14).
And because of their stiff-necked disobedience, bondage and worse would now become their fate.
“Therefore thus says the Lord, ‘You have not obeyed Me in proclaiming release each man to his brother and each man to his neighbor. Behold, I am proclaiming a release to you,’ declares the Lord, ‘to the sword, to the pestilence and to the famine; and I will make you a terror to all the kingdoms of the earth… 21 Zedekiah king of Judah and his officials I will give into the hand of their enemies and into the hand of those who seek their life, and into the hand of the army of the king of Babylon which has gone away from you. 22 Behold, I am going to command,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will bring them back to this city; and they will fight against it and take it and burn it with fire; and I will make the cities of Judah a desolation without inhabitant.’” (34:17, 21-22).
What the people failed to realize, what they failed to understand, was God was the One Who was commanding the forces, not Nebuchadnezzar and not Pharaoh. And in their choosing to seek rescue from the world, they denied His very means of salvation. And in refusing to set their fellow brothers and sisters free, they rejected His Covenant that Proclaims Release.
Consider His Covenant that Proclaims Release
His Covenant that Proclaims Release was given in the Law to the children of Israel when they came out of the bondage of Egypt. While slavery in this time was an acceptable means of paying off a debt, it was never acceptable for life. And in His Law, the Lord made provision in His Covenant that Proclaims Release.
“If you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve for six years; but on the seventh he shall go out as a free man without payment,” (Exodus 21:2).
“that each man should set free his male servant and each man his female servant, a Hebrew man or a Hebrew woman; so that no one should keep them, a Jew his brother, in bondage,” (34:9).
God began a nation by calling them out of bondage. It is a key tenet of our faith, for we are all held captive, enslaved in sin and all in need of Release from slavery. And His Covenant that Proclaims Release was fulfilled indeed in His Son, Christ Jesus.
“Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. 36 So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed,” (John 8:34-36).
His provision in His Covenant that Proclaims Release for the slaves was a foreshadow of His amazing grace that would be provided in His New Covenant in Christ. And all the good promises of His Covenant that Proclaims Release can only be entered into through Faith. That has been His purpose and plan since the beginning.
The Law of the Old Covenant was given to show us our absolute inability to keep the Law and our need for what only He could do, for only God can Release the slave of sin. And when we come to Him through faith in Jesus Christ, His Covenant Proclaims Release out of the bondage of sin and into His Forgiveness, our Freedom, our Future, and into His Family Likeness.
- His Covenant Proclaims Release through Faith
- Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be! For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law. 22 But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. 23 But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. 24 Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. 26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise, (Galatians 3:21-29).
- His Covenant Proclaims Release into His Forgiveness
- “for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins,” (Matthew 26:28).
- His Covenant Proclaims Release into our Freedom
- Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death, (Romans 8:1-2).
- His Covenant Proclaims Release into our Future
- For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance, (Hebrews 9:15).
- His Covenant Proclaims Release into His Family Likeness
- And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren, (Romans 8:28-29).
How do we respond to His Covenant that Proclaims Release?
It is our choice. Will we obey His Word and place our Faith in His New Covenant through the sacrifice of Christ to be Released into His Forgiveness, our Freedom, our Future, and His Family Likeness? Or will we reject His offer and be Released into eternal separation from Him?
“Therefore thus says the Lord, ‘You have not obeyed Me in proclaiming release each man to his brother and each man to his neighbor. Behold, I am proclaiming a release to you,’ declares the Lord, ‘to the sword, to the pestilence and to the famine; and I will make you a terror to all the kingdoms of the earth,’” (34:17).
“He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God,” (John 3:18).
It is the most critical decision we will ever make, for it is a decision that affects all of eternity. If you are unsure, I pray that today, you hear His Word and believe Him, that you would place your faith in His Covenant that Proclaims Release out of death and into eternal life.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life,” (John 5:24).
And when we trust Him for our salvation, it is still all about Faith. Only God can Release us as His workmanship to live in Him and for Him.
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them, (Ephesians 2:10).
Let us trust His work in us that we would grow in His Family likeness to obey His Covenant that Proclaims His Release to our brothers and sisters. For how can we keep others enslaved in unforgiveness when we have been forgiven so much?
bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you, (Colossians 3:13).
Oh, that we would trust His Covenant that Proclaims Release into His Family Likeness, that we would become more and more like Him as we are Released by faith to live the crucified life.
I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me, (Galatians 2:20).