A Comfort in Times of Sorrow (Jeremiah 28; Jeremiah 29)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 28; Jeremiah 29

Jeremiah prophesied the utter destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem, and the captivity that would remove the people to Babylon, leaving Judah a desolate land (27:19-22). There were false prophets who offered comfort to the people, saying all that Jeremiah had prophesied would not come to pass (27:16). Nevertheless, the prophet faithfully declared what would come to pass, and warned the people would be “carried to Babylon” where they would serve “seventy years” (Jeremiah 25:11, 12; 29:10).

Jeremiah 28

The time of Jeremiah 28 is during the reign of Zedekiah, the last king of Judah (28:1). The setting is the Temple, and there a false prophet named Hananiah dared rebuke Jeremiah. Bearing the yoke the LORD commanded him to fashion as a symbol of Judah’s bondage to Babylon (27:2), Jeremiah listened as Hananiah claimed to speak for the LORD (28:2). Contradicting the prophet, Hananiah falsely prophesied the LORD had said, “I have broken the yoke of the king of Babylon” (28:3). Giving the people false hope, Hananiah prophesied king Jeconiah would return to Judah, and Babylon would be defeated (28:4-5).

Jeremiah answered Hananiah’s false prophecy with “Amen” (28:6), for he longed to see Hananiah’s prophecy fulfilled (28:6-9). Yet, he reminded the people, the test of whether or not a prophet is of the LORD is if his prophecies come to pass (28:7-9).

Angered by Jeremiah’s rebuke, Hananiah rose up and broke Jeremiah’s yoke, and mocked the prophet. He went on to repeat his false prophesy, and claimed Babylon’s yoke on Judah would be broken in two years (28:10-11).  Rather than answer the prophet’s lies, Jeremiah departed the Temple, only to have the LORD send him to denounce Hananiah for his lies (28:12). Rather than a yoke of wood, Jeremiah prophesied the people would bear the weight of “yokes of iron” (28:13-14). Because he had led the people astray with his lies, Jeremiah prophesied Hananiah would die in that same year (28:15-17).

Jeremiah 29

The reign of Zedekiah was marked by the first deportations of God’s people to Babylon. We find recorded in Jeremiah 29 a letter that was sent from Jeremiah to the captives in Babylon (29:1-7). Among the first captives were king Jeconiah and his mother (for he had been deposed in favor of Zedekiah who reigned in his stead, 29:1-2; 2 Kings 24:12-16).

Using diplomatic carriers (29:3), the letter was addressed to captives who listened to false prophets, and believed the Babylonian captivity would be brief. The purpose of Jeremiah’s letter was to encourage the people to accept God’s will, and from a human perspective, “make the best of a bad situation” (29:4-7)

In his letter, Jeremiah instructed the people to set their roots in Babylon, saying “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).  He urged the people to dismiss the lies of the false prophets who predicted a brief captivity (29:8-9).  Jeremiah stated the captivity in Babylon would be 70 years, but assured the people the nation would one day return to the land the LORD had promised Israel (29:8-10).

Though far from home, subjects of Nebuchadnezzar, and living in the midst of a heathen nation, Jeremiah encouraged the people they were not beyond the LORD’s loving care and longsuffering. Assuring the captives the LORD heard their cries and prayers (29:10-13), Jeremiah wrote:

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.”

Jeremiah prophesied to the remnant of God’s people that remained in Jerusalem and Judah, that they would suffer many things before being taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar  (29:14-23). He urged the people to refuse the lies of the false prophets, and warned them they would become the object of great sorrows (29:17-19).

There were false prophets in Babylon, and Jeremiah boldly named and condemned them in his letter (29:20-22). They had sinned against the LORD and His people. They were adulterers, and liars, and God declared, “even I know, and am a witness, saith the Lord” (29:23).

Jeremiah’s letter closed, addressing a false prophet named Shemaiah, who was living among the Jewish captives (29:24-28). Shemaiah was not content with speaking lies, he made accusations against Jeremiah, and accused the priest Zephaniah of being lenient for failing to imprison Jeremiah (29:24-27). Shemaiah accused Jeremiah of lies, and sowing despair among the people (29:27-28; note, 29:5-7).

Jeremiah responded to Shemaiah’s accusations, and condemned him as a false prophet who had mislead the captives (29:30-31). Declaring God’s judgment, Jeremiah prophesied Shemaiah would suffer, and his lineage would never see the blessings God had planned for His people. Why? For Shemaiah had “taught rebellion against the LORD” (29:32).

Closing thought – We find ourselves living in troubling times, and yet, we should take heart, and be comforted by the LORD’s loving care, and omniscience. Surely, His thoughts toward us are “thoughts of peace, and not of evil” (29:11) and when we pray we can take comfort He hears and answers prayer (29:12). Yet, that wonderful promise comes with a condition: We must turn from our sins, seek the LORD, and search for Him with all our heart. (29:13).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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