A STUDY OF THE BOOK OF JEREMIAH
Wanting to Have Your Ears Tickled
Jeremiah 29 SCC 3/19/17
29:1-3 Jeremiah wrote to all the people whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon v 1. There were 3 deportations altogether. He identifies this one as after King Jeconiah...had departed from Jerusalem to Babylon v 2. This deportation occurred in 597 B.C., so this letter must have been written after that date. The recipients included the elders, priests, prophets, the queen mother, court officials, princes, craftsmen, smiths (or artisans), and other citizens. This letter was sent by the hand of Elasah the son of Shaphan v 3.
Application: Communication has always been a trait of humanity. Here Jeremiah writes. Paul wrote letters to the believers in other cities. Even today we write texts, tweets, posts, Facebook messaging and video.
GODS PLAN PROMPTS RESISTANCE BECAUSE OF UNWILLINGNESS TO ACCEPT IT
29:4-9 The letter was really a message from God Almighty, Israel's God v 4. The exiles needed to recognize that He had sent them to Babylon; they were not there primarily because of Nebuchadnezzar. Jeremiah’s advice: Build houses and live in them, Plant gardens, and eat their produce v 5, take wives and become the fathers of sons and daughters, have your children marry and have children, ...multiply there and do not decrease v 6. The exiles were to settle down in Babylon, and carry on life as usual, rather than to plan on returning home soon. 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. Rather than plotting the cities downfall they were even to pray for God’s blessing on it.
Do not let your prophets who are in your midst…deceive you v 8...for they prophesy false to you in My name; I have not sent them, declares the Lord v 9. The false prophets evidently would say that they would only be in Babylon a short time. But Jeremiah says it will be 70 years, according to God’s Word.
Application: One might think because the false prophets were wrong and Jeremiah right, they would be wiser about who they listened to. But no, they took the false prophets with them to Babylon and continued to believe them, even though their very existence in Babylon was proof Jeremiah was right!
29:10-14 God again gives the exact timeframe: When 70 years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place v 10. Again, we see the timing is completely in God’s hands, and it’s according to His Word. Jesus said, “I am telling you before it comes to pass, so that when it does occur, you may believe that I am He” (John 13:19). Seventy years is because of the number of years they did not give the land its Sabbath rests. Therefore, God gave the land its rest (2 Chronicles 36:21). In this passage the writer chronicles the demise of Judah. Ultimately it is because there is no remedy v 16. God had no other options. Judah’s rebellion left no other alternatives for God. So it is when we get to the point of no return with our sin.
God’s plans for Judah were plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope v 11.
NB: Sometimes it does not seem like that. How would the exiles know this while they were experiencing exile? Because God said so. Its just that we cannot see what his plan is. How could it possibly be good for me to lose my job; have rebellious adult children; experience a wage decrease; lose my dearest friend; or health forcing me to change my lifestyle? Well, it is God meeting your needs. Its just that He gets to determine those needs.
The judgment would prompt the people to seek God. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you v 12. They would find Him when they sought Him wholeheartedly v 13. And I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile v 14. The Lord's plans for His people was they would have a future beyond the Exile, so they could have hope. The returns from exile under Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah were only partial fulfillments of these promises. Most of the exiles chose not to return (Mordecai and Esther). Perhaps others of them could not return (Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, Abed-nego).
Application: God keeps His word literally. Sometimes I get sked ‘how can you view future prophecy as being literally fulfilled?” Because past prophecy was also literally fulfilled. The prophecies about Israel’s demise. The prophecies about Jesus Christ were all literally fulfilled. Those who followed God did, too. Like Daniel over in Babylon 70 years later: in the first year of his reign [Persian King Darius] I, Daniel, observed in the books the number of years which was revealed as the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet for the completion of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years. So I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications...O Lord, listen and take action! (Daniel 9:2-19).
THIS RESISTANCE IS BASED IN ATTEMPTS TO REINTERPRET GODS PLAN
29:15-19 The message of the false prophets in Babylon contradicted Jeremiah’s message. The people were concluding falsely that the Lord had raised up prophets for them in Babylon v 15. They were proclaiming the safety of Jerusalem and the soon return of those in captivity. But Jeremiah said that for your brothers who did not go with you into exile v 16 thus says the Lord of hosts, Behold, I am sending upon them the sword, famine, and pestilence. God will make them like split open figs that cannot be eaten due to rottenness v 17. The true message from God concerning Zedekiah, and the remaining Judah’s in Jerusalem was that they would experience war, famine, and plagues. They would be like rotten figs: good for nothing. They would become objects of horror and shame to the nations where He would drive them v 18. Why? Because they have not listened to My words, declared the Lord, which I sent to them again and again by My servants the prophets; but you did not listen v 19. The Lord Himself would drive them from the land and kill them.
Application: The problem has always been the problem. They looked past God, his prophets, his Word, his will to shape a future of their own making. They refused to listen to Gods.
29:20-23 Since Jerusalem had not listened to God, and would therefore suffer punishment, it was important that the exiles in Babylon pay attention to the Lord's words to them v 20. Jeremiah singled out two men, who were false prophets. Their names were Ahab and Zedekiah v 21. Only two things are known about them: (1) who are prophesying to you falsely in My name and (2) have committed adultery with their neighbors’ wives’ v 23. The Lord said He knew exactly what these men were doing. God delivered them over to Neb, and he shall slay them before your eyes. Their slaying actually becomes a curse repeated by the people: May the Lord make you like Zedekiah and like Ahab, whom the king of Babylon roasted in the fire v 22. This was a punishment often used in Babylon (Daniel 3:6-23).
REINTERPRETING GODS PLAN IS TRUSTING LIES AND PROMOTING REBELLION
29:24-28 Shemaiah was another false prophet in Babylon. He sent a letter back to Jerusalem in his own name, not God’s, to the priest Zephaniah v 24-25. He exhorted Zephaniah that, as priest, he was the overseer in the house of the Lord over every madman who prophesies, to put him in the stocks v 26. So he wants to know why Zephaniah has not done that to Jeremiah because, quoting Jeremiah’s first letter to the exiles, Jeremiah has said the exile will be a long time (and we don’t like that—neither did Hanniniah chp 28). Zephaniah was to put any mad man who prophesied in the Lord's name in the stocks and his neck in an iron collar. Shemaiah also reproved Zephaniah for not rebuking Jeremiah v 27, because Jeremiah had written the exiles encouraging them to settle down in Babylon v 28. The main reason for this section is to expose the wicked advice Shemaiah was giving Zephaniah.
29:29-32 But instead of putting Jeremiah in stocks, Zephaniah the priest read this letter to Jeremiah the prophet v 29. Jeremiah then sent a second message to the exiles. This letter contained God’s judgment against Shemaiah because Shemaiah has prophesied to you, although I [God] did not send him, and he has made you trust in a lie v 30-31. God would punish Shemaiah...and his descendants...he shall not see the good that I am about to do My people. Shemaiah would not take part in these good things (30-33) because by urging those in Jerusalem to oppose Jeremiah, he had preached rebellion against the Lord v 32. The Lord would cut off his family line, and Shemaiah would not live to see the good that God would do to His people.
Application: When speaking to some Jews, Jesus said, “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar, and the father of lies” (John 8:44).
While Gods plan is only known by what happens, the challenge is trusting that God is pursuing his good purposes and meeting our needs by what is happening.
The reason that is a challenge for us is because our fallback is fear of the unknown and that we cannot control our circumstances. But even more, it belies our knowledge of God.
Our unbelief can make us so uncomfortable that we are willing to contradict our faith in order to manage things so we are pleased rather than God.
So, like the false prophets, we have no qualms trusting lies that assist us in justifying what we desperately hope to be true.