Friday, May 5, 2017
Daily reading assignment: Jeremiah 27-31
The setting of today’s reading in Jeremiah is in the midst of the reign of Zedekiah, the last king of Judah whose reign ended when the armies of Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the temple and the city of Jerusalem and took the nation captive.
In today’s passage, the LORD has given Jeremiah a prophecy he is to declare, not only to Judah, but also the surrounding nations… Edom, Moab, Ammon, Tyrus, and Zidon (27:3-4). Employing the symbol of a yoke and ropes, Jeremiah was to declare to the nations that resisting Nebuchadnezzar’s domination was futile and self-destructive.
Declaring He is Creator and Sovereign of the earth (27:5-6), and Nebuchadnezzar is “My servant” (27:6), the LORD revealed the rule of Babylon over the nations would span three generations, that of Nebuchadnezzar, “his son, and his son’s son” (27:7). Jeremiah warned those nations that resisted Babylon would be destroyed and urged the nations to succumb to Nebuchadnezzar’s rule with the promise they would be restored to their lands (27:8-11).
Jeremiah was to exhort Zedekiah, king of Judah, to accept the yoke of Babylon as the fate God had determined for the people and to dismiss the prophesies of false prophets who pretend to prophesy in the name of the LORD. Some falsely prophesied the exiled king Jechoniah and the vessels of the temple taken by Babylon would be restored shortly (27:12-17, 20); however, God had determined He would no longer tolerate the sin and rebellion of Judah and the only hope of the people was restoration to the land after the captivity (27:18-22).
Jeremiah 28 is a dramatic scene in the Temple between a false prophet named Hananiah and the prophet Jeremiah. Jeremiah, bearing the yoke and ropes the LORD commanded him to fashion in chapter 27, listens as Hananiah falsely prophesies the restoration of king Jeconiah, father of Zedekiah, and the defeat of Babylon (28:1-5). Reminding the people the test of whether or not a prophet is of the LORD is if his prophecies come to pass; Jeremiah answers Hananiah’s false prophecy of the king’s restoration with “Amen” (28:6-9).
Breaking Jeremiah’s yoke, Hananiah mocked the prophet and prophesied the yoke of Babylon on Judah would span only two years (28:10-11). Jeremiah went out of the Temple, but the LORD sent him to confront Hananiah for his lies and warn he would die in the course of that same year (28:12-17).
Jeremiah 29 records a letter Jeremiah sent to those whom Nebuchadnezzar had first taken captive to Babylon (29:1-4), instructing the people to set their roots in Babylon for a season… “build ye houses…plant gardens…Take ye wives…bear sons and daughters…seek the peace of the city…and pray unto the LORD for it” (29:5-7). Urging the people to dismiss false prophets who predict a brief captivity, Jeremiah prophesied the captivity would be for 70 years, but also promising they would one day return to the land the LORD had promised them (29:8-10).
Jeremiah encouraged the people with the fact of the LORD’s love and longsuffering, promising to one day restore His people to their land (29:11-14).
Jeremiah 29:11-13 – “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
12 Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.
13 And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.”
Continuing his role as God’s prophet, Jeremiah prophesied the remaining remnant of God’s people in Jerusalem and Judah would, because of their sin and rebellion, suffer many things before Nebuchadnezzar would take them captive (29:14-23). In the closing verses of chapter 29, Jeremiah addresses a letter from Shemaiah, a false prophet in Babylon living among the Jewish captivity.
The LORD revealed in a dream to Jeremiah the restoration of the Jews to their land in chapters 30-31. The prophecies recorded in these chapters had an immediate implication and would be fulfilled in 70 years (29:10). However, there is also a future fulfillment described as “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (30:7) when the LORD will judge the nations of the earth at the close of the Tribulation when Jesus Christ will reign on David’s throne (30:9). The LORD promised Israel will return to her land (30:10-22).
Jeremiah 31 continues the theme of Israel’s restoration to the land. Jeremiah 31:2-22 points to the return of the Jewish people after being scattered throughout the earth (note that “Ephraim” and “Samaria” refer to the Northern Ten Tribes taken captive by the Assyrians and were not part of the Babylonian captivity and return to Judah).
I close with the observation that the LORD knows His people and He has never forsaken Israel. Unlike the fickle love of men, the LORD’s love for His people is unconditional love. Jeremiah writes, “The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee” (Jeremiah 31:3).
The Jews continue as a persecuted, scattered people; however, be assured, “He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him, as a shepherd doth his flock” (Jeremiah 31:10).
In the closing verses of Jeremiah 31, the LORD promises to establish a “new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah” (31:31). The “new covenant” will be the law the LORD writes on the hearts of His people with the promise He “will be their God, and they shall be my people” (31:33, and quoted in Hebrews 8:6-13; 10:14-18). I believe the “new covenant” is established through the blood and sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross (Matthew 26:27-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:19-20).
Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith