"The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord, after King Zedekiah had made a covenant with all the people in Jerusalem to make a proclamation of liberty to them - that all should set free their Hebrew slaves, male & female, so that no one should hold another Judean in slavery."
Jerusalem was under siege! The Babylonians were attacking & things weren't looking good for the "home team." In the midst of the entanglement, God sent a message to the people through the prophet Jeremiah: "Release all your Hebrew slaves. Now!"
Scholars postulate why this command might have been given God... the food supply was running low (releasing slaves would be less mouths to feed!)... freed slaves might help defend the city (D-FENSE!)... or even in the midst of crisis, it would turn many hearts (back) to the LORD. And King Zedekiah listened and obeyed. All Hebrew slaves were freed. Hallelujah!
But then the Egyptian army (with ties to Judah) approached from the south & the Babylonians retreated (momentarily) to meet that resistance. Jerusalem was given a reprieve (if only for a moment)! Praise God! So what did they do to celebrate? They took back their (former) slaves. WHAT!?!? How sad is that?!?
God noticed. He sent word back with Jeremiah that since the people disobeyed His directions to release their slaves, he would "grant them a release" - a release of pestilence, famine & sword! God wanted no take backs!! When He gave a command it was to be followed. Period. Not "when it's convenient" or "under stressful situations only" or "when it seems to your advantage."
I think if we're honest, we're guilty of this all the time. God has given us the words of life in the Bible... not a follow-this-instruction-sheet kind of a listing, but a take-this-in-and-allow-God's-spirit-to-direct-your steps kind of thing. But we often have "selective hearing" (or is it "selective reading?")... choosing to follow/obey when it's convenient or practical or to our advantage. Whether it's an issue of financial stewardship or caring for the environment or working for peace or loving our enemies or reaching out to help the poor (the list could go on and on!)... there are numerous times we "take back" a commitment we've made to God.
May we have the courage to follow through on our discipleship with the Lord. May we trust that god knows what He's talking about when He calls us to obey. And may we come to know the joy that is a life lived in obedience! AMEN.