Today: [Jeremiah 29] The Promise of God in the Midst of Disappointment. Are you facing disappointment? Have your plans failed and desires come to nothing? In this chapter Jeremiah speaks to a people living their worst nightmare. They have been plucked from their beloved city of Jerusalem and forced into Babylonian captivity. Yet the plan of God and the promise of God is that things will work out to their betterment – just not on their time table.
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[Jer 29:1-32 KJV] 1 Now these [are] the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem unto the residue of the elders which were carried away captives, and to the priests, and to the prophets, and to all the people whom Nebuchadnezzar had carried away captive from Jerusalem to Babylon; 2 (After that Jeconiah the king, and the queen, and the eunuchs, the princes of Judah and Jerusalem, and the carpenters, and the smiths, were departed from Jerusalem;) 3 By the hand of Elasah the son of Shaphan, and Gemariah the son of Hilkiah, (whom Zedekiah king of Judah sent unto Babylon to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon) saying, 4 Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, unto all that are carried away captives, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem unto Babylon; 5 Build ye houses, and dwell [in them]; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them; 6 Take ye wives, and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons, and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; that ye may be increased there, and not diminished. 7 And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the LORD for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace. 8 For thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Let not your prophets and your diviners, that [be] in the midst of you, deceive you, neither hearken to your dreams which ye cause to be dreamed. 9 For they prophesy falsely unto you in my name: I have not sent them, saith the LORD.
In this chapter Jeremiah speaks to a group of elders of the city of Jerusalem who have been carried into captivity in Babylon. The time line of the book of Jeremiah is unclear as he speaks to later kings of Judah and then earlier kings in subsequent chapters, but the period covered is from Josiah’s successor to the last king by the name of Zedekiah, during whose reign the city was razed and the temple destroyed. At this point the captivity is beginning while other figures in the population of Jerusalem have fled to Egypt. Therefore we see three groups, those that are in captivity, those that fled to Egypt and those that remained still in the city of Jerusalem which was not yet totally destroyed. The reason for such a wide dispersion is because Judah is caught in the conflict between the nation of Egypt and Babylon. When Egypt prevails then Judah throws its support to Egypt. When Babylon prevails then Jerusalem capitulates to the king of Babylon. Eventually Egypt is defeated by Babylon and the Babylonians then come to completely destroy the city of Jerusalem, leaving only a few shepherds and vinedressers in the once great city of David.
Jeremiah during this time is directed to speak to those who have been taken in captivity to Babylon early on. These families no doubt hoped to see their fortunes reversed and be given opportunity to return to their homeland in the nation of Judah. It is to this desire that Jeremiah speaks – telling the captives to settle in and know that the captivity will last much longer than they realize. They are told by the word of the Lord to build houses, build their families and to live peaceably in the cities of Babylon to where they have been dispersed because the captivity will last 70 years during which time all the original captives except for a few will die in Babylon.
What was to be the response of these captives at this unfortunate news? Have you ever had God tell you something you didn’t want to hear? There are times that life will take a turn not to your liking and you have to decide will you try to have your own way or will you simply soldier on in the midst of a difficult situation, trusting that God will work things out in due time. In this case the word of the Lord only holds promise for the second generation from the original captives. What if God told you what you were believing for would not come to pass for you but your children. Remember when Hezekiah entertained emissaries from Babylon he was told that the end result would be destruction of Jerusalem, but not in his life time. He shrugged his shoulders and said it didn’t matter because he would be dead at the time. Are you thinking generationally? Many evangelicals have adopted the perspective that only looks at today because we have been taught that the coming of the Lord might be in our time so tomorrow doesn’t matter. This is an immature view. The coming of Christ and the doctrine of the second coming were never intended to be a basis of not taking responsibility for our testimony on this side of heaven.
10 For thus saith the LORD, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place. 11 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. 14 And I will be found of you, saith the LORD: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the LORD; and I will bring you again into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive. 15 Because ye have said, The LORD hath raised us up prophets in Babylon; 16 [Know] that thus saith the LORD of the king that sitteth upon the throne of David, and of all the people that dwelleth in this city, [and] of your brethren that are not gone forth with you into captivity; 17 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Behold, I will send upon them the sword, the famine, and the pestilence, and will make them like vile figs, that cannot be eaten, they are so evil. 18 And I will persecute them with the sword, with the famine, and with the pestilence, and will deliver them to be removed to all the kingdoms of the earth, to be a curse, and an astonishment, and an hissing, and a reproach, among all the nations whither I have driven them: 19 Because they have not hearkened to my words, saith the LORD, which I sent unto them by my servants the prophets, rising up early and sending [them]; but ye would not hear, saith the LORD. 20 Hear ye therefore the word of the LORD, all ye of the captivity, whom I have sent from Jerusalem to Babylon: 21 Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, of Ahab the son of Kolaiah, and of Zedekiah the son of Maaseiah, which prophesy a lie unto you in my name; Behold, I will deliver them into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon; and he shall slay them before your eyes; 22 And of them shall be taken up a curse by all the captivity of Judah which [are] in Babylon, saying, The LORD make thee like Zedekiah and like Ahab, whom the king of Babylon roasted in the fire; 23 Because they have committed villany in Israel, and have committed adultery with their neighbours’ wives, and have spoken lying words in my name, which I have not commanded them; even I know, and [am] a witness, saith the LORD.
In verse 10 the number of years of captivity is prophesied to be 70 years. There is also a promise that after 70 years the people will be returned to rebuild the city and the temple. This indeed will happen, but Judah will no longer be a nation – not until 1948 – almost 3800 years later. Though the culture of Judaism will be recovered it will only be as a province of one conquering world power or another. In the midst of this the promise of God in verse 11 is that God’s thoughts are of peace toward His people in spite of allowing them to reap the consequences of centuries of idolatry and sinful behavior. It is as though He is answering the accusation of the people toward the words of Jeremiah with the insistence that though it looks bleak there is a plan to bring about their ultimate hope and blessing of returning to their homes. The people may feel like God has not heard their prayers. In a sense this is true because they were trying to avoid what God had determined was going to happen – i.e. the captivity. It was never necessary that the captivity took place, but because of decades of refusal on the part of the people to abandon idolatrous practices, there were going to be consequences, even though mercy would come about later in behalf of a generation to come.
Are there areas of your life where you have gone on for years entertaining something in your heart that is displeasing to God. Simply because we are willing to ignore sin in our lives does not mean that consequences will not be forthcoming. Just because it seems as though God is ignoring ungodliness in our lives does not mean we will not be held accountable. During the span of 100’s of years and the rise and fall of many kings of the line of David, the city lingered on and things for the most part continued in a normal pattern of life. Then the end came. God is not only the Alpha, He is the Omega. He will make an end. If you are living with the aftermath of sinful habits of life you didn’t deal with – humble yourself. God still has a plan to bless you if you will call upon Him and amend your ways. There is no substitute for repentance. Repentance means more than hating evil but also actually abandoning it. God will accept no substitute. We have said God looks in the heart and that is true but if there is repentance in your heart there will be contrition in your life. Your life and your choices between what is in your heart and there are always consequences to deal with sooner or later, as the nation of Judah has now discovered.
24 [Thus] shalt thou also speak to Shemaiah the Nehelamite, saying, 25 Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, saying, Because thou hast sent letters in thy name unto all the people that [are] at Jerusalem, and to Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah the priest, and to all the priests, saying, 26 The LORD hath made thee priest in the stead of Jehoiada the priest, that ye should be officers in the house of the LORD, for every man [that is] mad, and maketh himself a prophet, that thou shouldest put him in prison, and in the stocks. 27 Now therefore why hast thou not reproved Jeremiah of Anathoth, which maketh himself a prophet to you? 28 For therefore he sent unto us [in] Babylon, saying, This [captivity is] long: build ye houses, and dwell [in them]; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them. 29 And Zephaniah the priest read this letter in the ears of Jeremiah the prophet. 30 Then came the word of the LORD unto Jeremiah, saying, 31 Send to all them of the captivity, saying, Thus saith the LORD concerning Shemaiah the Nehelamite; Because that Shemaiah hath prophesied unto you, and I sent him not, and he caused you to trust in a lie: 32 Therefore thus saith the LORD; Behold, I will punish Shemaiah the Nehelamite, and his seed: he shall not have a man to dwell among this people; neither shall he behold the good that I will do for my people, saith the LORD; because he hath taught rebellion against the LORD.
In verse 24 Jeremiah deals with a man named Shemaiah who would have been promoted to the high priesthood had he been a faithful messenger. At first he brings Jeremiah’s message to the captives in Babylon, but then repudiates Jeremiah’s words and agrees with the false prophecies that the captivity will not last. Because Shemiaiah has rejected the word of the Lord and spoken publically against Jeremiah to the captivity, he will suffer the consequences.
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