By Russ Ramsey
As we all know, The Empire Strikes Back is the best Star Wars movie by, like, a hundred parsecs. The reason it’s my favorite is because of the Shakespearean way it ends in tragedy. Han is betrayed by Lando and subsequently frozen in carbonite. The evil Emperor’s Imperial forces basically decimate the Rebel Alliance. Luke loses his hand to Vader after learning the Sith is his father, and he throws himself off a balcony in Cloud City into what appears to be a bottomless abyss. Every advantage the good guys possess seems to be erased by evil.
But then we see Luke, dangling from an antenna, telepathically calling to Leia to come get him. And though Luke doesn’t look like much at the time—defeated and diminished—we know the fight isn’t completely over yet. Hope hangs on, and that’s all we need in order to believe good will triumph in the end.
This last chapter of Jeremiah summarizes a lot of the book. What it shares in common with The Empire Strikes Back is that on almost every count, the destruction that befalls Judah is a catastrophe. Everything is destroyed. Enemy armies burned the city and broke down the walls. The civic infrastructure collapsed. Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, captured Judah’s king, Zedekiah, killed his children in front of him, and then gouged out his eyes. Nebuchadnezzar carried God’s people off into exile. The temple was destroyed, and intentionally defiled in the process. It’s a brutal scene. Is there any hope at all?
Yes. In the last four verses, like Luke clinging to that space antenna, hope hangs on. A tender shoot from the stump of Jesse pokes up through the ashes and rubble. Jehoiachin, languishing in Nebuchadnezzar’s dungeon, lives. He descends from the family of David, a king in the line of succession. God promised David that his throne would be established forever, and that the Messiah would come from his line (Jeremiah 23:1–8; 33:14–22). That promise holds, even when everything else seems to be ruined.
In Matthew’s genealogy, guess whose name appears in the lineage from Abraham to Christ? Jehoiachin’s (there spelled Jeconiah.) The line remained unbroken. David’s line survived, and thirteen generations later, Jesus was born to Mary and her husband Joseph, from the line of Jehoiachin.
I imagine that only a few during Jeremiah’s time would have believed David’s line would survive, and from it the Messiah would come. But what the many or few believe doesn’t really matter. All that matters is what God promises to do. God’s promises do not fail. They cannot fail. He cannot be overcome.
Written by Russ Ramsey