Commonsense Christianity

Depending upon our interests, those of us who live in the world of mass media can rattle off names of note in the sports arena, TV land, cinematic Fantasia, network “news,” political affront, musical medley, or the religious circus, er, circuit.

Field of Dreams inspirational oil painting of meadow hills and trees in rural country setting by Steve Henderson

No matter how long we live, or how important we think we are, we are ultimately like the flowers of the field — here today, and gone tomorrow. Field of Dreams, original oil painting by Steve Henderson.

So well versed are we in this trivia that entire game shows are set up so that contestants can show off this “knowledge,” with the one who answers the most about the least of significance, taking home the prize.

But names and faces are funny things — they pretty much last a generation, unless they are mythologized and set into a high school history textbook — and the actors and actresses who caused our grandparents to swoon provoke a response in today’s generation that’s more along the lines of, “Who’s that? What weird hair.”

Such is fame — it’s fleeting, representing “a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” (James 4:14)

4 Unpronounceable Names

Take Shephatiah, Gedaliah, Jethucal, and Pashhur, for example.

These men were powerful — so much so that the top politico of their nation, Zedekiah the king of Judah, was afraid of them, and they were able to set policy and bring about actions to their liking, without really worrying about Z’s opinion on the matter. It sounds a bit like many governments today, with the president or monarch or prime minister or whatever term is given to the top dog, working “in conjunction” with his political and corporate “advisers.”

Now Zedekiah was the last official king of Judah, in Israel, before the Babylonians swooped in and took over the land in 586 B.C., dismantling the government and sending the people into exile. He was regularly approached by Jeremiah, the prophet, and told what he must do:

“Do not deceive yourselves, thinking, ‘The Babylonians will surely leave us,’  They will not!” Jeremiah told him not once, but multiple times. (Jeremiah 37:9).

“This is what the Lord God Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘If you surrender to the officers of the king of Babylon, your life will be spared and this city will not be burned down; you and your family will live.

“But if you will not surrender to the officers of the king of Babylon, this city will be handed over to the Babylonians and they will burn it down; you yourself will not escape from their hands.” (38:17-18)

Don’t Wanna to Hear This

Like pretty much everything Jeremiah foretold, this was not an appreciated, or welcomed, message, and when Shephatiah, Gedaliah, Jehucal, and Pashhur (are they starting to sound familiar yet?) saw that Jeremiah wasn’t going to shut up, and line up with the state-approved prophets who were foretelling peace, prosperity, and success, they went to the king, in all their administrative power and wisdom, and said,

Chimu inspirational original oil painting still life of peruvian pottery by Steve Henderson

These four pots have a longer shelf life, so to speak, then the four administrators with the unpronounceable, and highly forgettable, names. Chimu, original painting by Steve Henderson, sold.

“This man should be put to death. He is discouraging the soldiers who are left in this city, as well as all the people, by the things he is saying to them. This man is not seeking the good of these people but their ruin.” (38:4)

It did not matter whether Jeremiah’s words were true — it mattered that his words made powerful people look bad, and caused the non-powerful people, the masses, to question the motives and driving factors of their leaders. The general result of this, in any nation ruled by men who profit by their positions of governance, is the suppression of truth.

Toss out the Truth

In Jeremiah’s case, it meant that he was tossed into an empty, mud-filled cistern, left to die except for the bravery of one man — Ebed-Melech (his is a name truly worth remembering) — who went to the vacillating king and spoke for Jeremiah:

“My lord the king, these men have acted wickedly in all they have done to Jeremiah the prophet.” (38:8)

Why so they have, the king admitted, giving permission to Ebed-Melech to rescue Jeremiah. Quietly, of course, and keeping his name out of it. If history teaches us anything, it is that men will act like men — cowardly or valiantly — in all cultures, and throughout all time.

How does this all end? For those who believe Jeremiah’s words — not Zedekiah, not his officials — the end shouldn’t be a surprise, since it is exactly what Jeremiah foretold, several times. Rather than die peacefully, which was the promise if he submitted to the king of Babylon (34:4), Zedekiah was captured as he fled the city, and watched as his sons were slaughtered in front of him. His eyes were gouged out, and he was bound in bronze shackles and taken to Babylon, where he was put in prison until the day of his death. (52:10-11)

So much for dying peacefully.

Ebed-Melech — Worth Remembering

And Shephatiah, Gedaliah, Jehucal, and Pashhur? Their names go missing, although 2 Kings 25:19 mentions five royal advisers who were executed. Clever as the four men were, and self-seeking, perhaps they managed to merge with the exiles led to Babylon, but while they may have escaped the notice of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, it’s a sure bet that God didn’t forget their deeds.

Neither did he forget the kindness of Ebed-Melech, the only one honorable enough, and brave enough, to speak up for Jeremiah, and against the actions of four powerful men, whose names are difficult to remember even after repeating them multiple times. God promised Ebed-Melech that he would escape with his life, “because you trust in me, declares the Lord.” (39:18)

Money. Power. Fame, and Name. These are four earthly treasures that people, throughout history, seek, and while they may grasp it for awhile, we all die, our earthly remnants rotting into the ground. For  Shephatiah, Gedaliah, Jehucal, and Pashhur, all that really remains are their names in a book that millions of people read, but despite this fame, the only ones who know those names are the people who win trivia contests on game shows.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity, where I write for the ordinary person, the one whose name matters very much to God.

Posts complementing this one are

Money, Power, Fame, and Name

When Powerful People Repent — Is It Real?

Mass Manipulation by the Mass Media


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