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Grace Notes

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WHO?
by Philip Owen

            Elasah and Gemariah. Who? Is that any way to start a “Grace Note”? I’d be surprised if anyone reading these words could identify those two individuals off the top of his head. I know I couldn’t. Elasah was the son of Shaphan, and Gemariah was the son of Hilkiah. Does that help? It doesn’t help me much. But here is our text.

Now these are the words of the letter which Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem to the rest of the elders of the exile, the priests, the prophets and all the people whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon. . . . The letter was sent by the hand of Elasah the son of Shaphan, and Gemariah the son of Hilkiah, whom Zedekiah king of Judah sent to Babylon to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon.                                                                                  Jeremiah 29:1, 3

Here’s the setting. Because of Israel’s idolatry, her wholesale rebellion against God, and her utter rejection of the warnings God had given her through Isaiah and other prophets, God had sent His people into captivity at the hand of the pagan king Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. Through the prophet Jeremiah, God sent word to His people regarding how they were to respond to their captivity. They were not to rebel; they were not to question it. Rather, they were to “Build houses and live in them; and plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and become the fathers of sons and daughters, and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; and multiply there and do not decrease” (vv. 5, 6). In other words, they were to recognize that their unusual and unpleasant circumstances were being governed by God; they were to rest in that fact, trust Him despite their difficulties, and live a “normal” life with the expectation that, although God was chastening them for their sins, He would still provide for them. Additionally, Jeremiah’s letter explained that God had instructed them to “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare” (v. 7). Remarkable! They were to pray for and seek the welfare of the nation that had killed many of their family members, stolen or destroyed their property, and then taken them as captives to a heathen land.

Does that sound like material for a principle that should govern believers today who are living as aliens in a hostile world? Now back to our text.

Jeremiah we know. He received the message from God. He is the prophet. But God is pleased to give us the names and heritage of the two mail carriers who delivered Jeremiah’s letter. And two? How many people does it take to deliver one written paragraph? Apparently, two in this case. And God chose to memorialize both names eternally in inspired writ. Elasah and Gemariah seem to have had a small task—one that anyone could perform. Yes, it may have taken time, perhaps some courage, but neither special ability nor special training was required. Again, any able-bodied person could have accomplished the simple task.

What’s the point? Some opportunities to serve God are small or insignificant only from our flawed vantage. If God takes up space in His holy Word to identify these two men, if He rewards a cup of cold water given in His name, what kind of God do we serve? How can we begin to measure the wealth of His grace? But more soberly, how many “little” opportunities to honor Him with humble service have we missed because they were beneath our attention to perform or too insignificant to take the trouble to do? How many times have we failed to honor the Lord in the “little” things? How many eternal blessings have we forfeited because we were too busy, too proud, or too self-important to trouble ourselves over some ignominious duty? God blessed Solomon’s temple, yes. But He also blessed the restored temple under Ezra—one so mean in comparison with Solomon’s that old men who recalled the original wept at the sight of it. But when God indwells an edifice—or a person—and is pleased to task each as He will, He is glorified. How will you glorify the Lord in some small thing today? Elasah and Gemariah give testimony to the value of any godly service.

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