From chapter 21-28 Jeremiah is called to bring messages of judgement. The information goes to several of the last kings of Judah, especially Jehoiakim and Zedekiah. Jeremiah now writes in prose and things are not necessarily in chronological order. The first ten verses take us to the beginning of the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem in 588 B.C. Zedekiah is mentioned here. He reigned from 597-586 B.C. but the Pashhur referenced here is not the same one we saw in chapter 20. They had different fathers. Both he and Zephaniah bore the full authority of the king but when they encountered Jeremiah they begged him for the Lord’s help. It seems they regarded him as a man of great authority. Zedekiah may have as well, but he lacked the courage or moral integrity to do the right thing. When Nebuchadnezzar attacked, Zedekiah did not pray to the Lord, but he did expect Jeremiah to perform a miracle and turn God’s wrath away. The Lord did answer Zedekiah’s messengers, by saying they had no hope because He, the Lord, was fighting on the Babylonians side. The Lord had decided to destroy Jerusalem but the people still had a choice between life…probably as slaves in Babylon, or death, by a Babylonian sword. There would be no miracles. God was now holding them accountable for their sins, but He gave the royal family of Judah the choice of treating the people with justice or facing the Lord’s anger. The people of Jerusalem had put their faith in the mighty fortress of the city and now it would be destroyed. The Lord was fighting against it.
Chapter 22:1-23:8 is a collection of messages to the last of the Davidic kings, culminating in a promise that God would one day place a true descendant of David over His people. Jeremiah begins with a statement taken from the Sinai covenant that summarized the duties of a Judean king. If the kings were obedient, the Davidic dynasty would continue to rule in Jerusalem but disobedience would result in disaster. The kings had chosen disaster. Their deeds were evil. They were neither fair minded or just. They refused to help the poor, widows, or orphans. They robbed the poor and mistreated everyone else. When you looked at Jerusalem there were two impressive structures. First the temple and then the royal palace. Not only was the palace the kings home, but it was the center of their government. Even though the Lord was partial to Jerusalem, nothing would escape destruction. Valuable crops grew around Gilead and Lebanon was famous for her cedar trees, but the ruin of Jerusalem would greatly impact other nations as well. Verses 10-30 contain a series of severe indictments against the descendants of Josiah. The dead king referred to here is Josiah, who was killed by Egyptians at the battle of Megiddo in 609 B.C. The people of Judah were not to mourn his death. Instead their sorrow should be focused on his son who became the new king. But after three months Jehoahaz was taken into exile in Egypt. He spent the rest of his life there. The Egyptians put another son on the throne, Eliakim, and changed his name to Jehoiakim. He was evil as well and the Lord put him on trial because of his faithlessness and greed. He was declared guilty and sentenced to death. He built many projects in Jerusalem but he used unpaid slave labor. The walls of the city had injustice built into them. Compared to Josiah, Jehoiakim was not a great king. He was not as prosperous and he dealt in corruption and oppression. He was greedy and dishonest, and he died in disgrace. Perhaps he believed the nations close ties with Lebanon and Bashas would save him but they were of no help because the Babylonians had already decimated them. The days of prosperity were gone and chaos began to reign in Jerusalem. Royal delusions were cast aside and the consequences of the wicked king caused him some shame.
Jehoiakim’s son, Jehoiachin came to the throne in 597 B.C. at the age of 18. He reigned three months and surrendered, taken captive to Babylon along with most of the rest of the royal family. Young Jehoiachin was fearful he would be killed, no doubt because that was the usual practice. The last three verses of this chapter are a taunt directed to Jehoiachin. They were rhetorical questions with the expected answer of, I don’t know. Even with the knowledge of his evil ways the people still struggled to accept the justice of his exile. At this time, faithful nature is called as a witness against the faithless people. Jehoiachin had seven sons but was called childless because none of them ever sat on David’s throne.
The Lord rebuked the three kings from chapter 22 and contrasted them with the righteous leader He would place over His people after exile. Leaders in this day were often called shepherds. Good shepherds would care for and protect their people but Judah’s kings scattered their people. As the Good Shepherd, the Lord would gather the exiles and put them in their own sheepfold, the land of Judah. There they would be fruitful and increase in number. Once this was done the Lord would appoint responsible shepherds to care for their people. In contrast to the bad shepherds the Lord had just rebuked, this King would have wisdom and act in a way that was just and right. He would have the name, The Lord is our Righteousness, which is the opposite of king Zedekiah’s name, righteous is the Lord. His character and the chaos of his reign would be the opposite of the future king. The rest of chapter 23; 9-32 are short poems that appear to be excerpts from a session where the Lord was preparing Jeremiah to prosecute the false prophets. These leaders had misused the Lord’s name and incurred His wrath.
Jeremiah stood in the Lord’s presence, shocked by the severity of the Lord’s doom. People were engaged in all manner of detestable practices and not just in the high places but in the temple as well. Now there was only danger. Samaria, the capital of the northern kingdom had been dominated by Baal worship and false prophets and now, the leaders of Judah were even worse. Like Sodom and Gomorrah worse. The people needed to be held responsible for their sins, but the leaders bore the blame for Jerusalem’s spiritual apostasy. Jeremiah preached a message of hope and repentance but the false prophets gave the people futile hopes, using ideas that came from their own imaginations. They promised peace that would not come, and none of them had ever been in the Lord’s presence. Instead of peace, the world was facing the storm of the Lord’s anger. The Lord had planned this, so it was sure to take place. The Lord expressed His anger at these false prophets because He knew if these so called prophets had come to Him they would have had a very different message. God wanted the people to reject their evil ways and return to Him.
There was a distinct difference between the one true God and the idols. The idols were close at hand, like being a part of nature. The Lord was close at hand because He had created all of nature, but He was also far away because He is also present in all the heavens and the earth. The false prophets had ‘dreams’ but they were not from the Lord. The people could listen to these false prophets or they could listen to Jeremiah. This allowed the people to see the difference between the two. The Lord’s word has power, like fire to destroy false prophecies. And His Word would smash the walls of Jerusalem like a mighty hammer. God would rebuke the false prophets. The false prophets would taunt Jeremiah by asking for the latest message the Lord had burdened him with, calling Jeremiah the burden. This was a word play. In reality the false prophets were the heavy load that the Lord would throw off and abandon. Those who bragged they had heard a prophecy from the Lord in order to exact authority would be severely punished because doing this constituted a misuse of God’s name. Eventually, the false prophets would become an object of ridicule.
The first part of chapter 24 is a discussion of the meaning of the exile in 597 B.C. Some believed God used it to get the rotten figs out of Jerusalem so the good figs could survive. Jeremiah told the people just the opposite was the case. The good figs had been taken out of Jerusalem to exile for survival and the bad would be destroyed. Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar had taken Jehoiachin into captivity in 597 B.C. His surrender had spared Jerusalem but all of its treasures and 10,000 elite citizens had gone into exile. Those who had gone into exile had a much better future than those who didn’t because God would plant the exiles into a new community of reformed people after the exile. He would do marvelous work in the hearts of the exiles, helping them to know the Lord as their personal God. The old covenant would now become a reality for them and they too could say, You will be our God and we will be your people. They would not mix religious loyalties but would be completely committed to the Lord. The bad figs would be scattered because of their rottenness.
The Lord had been patient with Jerusalem’s rebellion and refusal to listen but now He had reached the breaking point and the time for judgement was at hand. One of the first things the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar did was force Jerusalem’s king jehoiakim to confess loyalty to him. Jeremiah’s prophetic ministry began in 627 B.C. but for many generations God had sent prophets to the people to warn them. Few listened. Time and again the Lord appealed to His people to repent and return to Him. He wanted badly to bless them but they only moved farther away. They turned to their idols so now they would be completely destroyed. There would be no more singing, laughing, or celebrations. And there would be no more idol worship. Now we see the time of the exile…70 years, nearly two generations. However, even though God used the Babylonians to carry out judgement in Judah, they would be held accountable for their sins and brutality, and eventually God would use the Persians and the Medes to carry out discipline on Babylon. For centuries many nations and great kings reduced the Babylonians to slavery and the territory did not become Independent again until 1932, as modern Iraq. Jeremiah reminds us yet again that the Lord is sovereign over all nations and their rebellion was about to result in judgement. This is represented as a cup of wine that Jeremiah is to make the nations drink from. God wanted them to hear the message of condemnation and to experience the promised judgement. The nations staggering from drinking the cup of God’s wrath was caused by the warfare from which they could not protect themselves. In their confession, they would panic.
All the nations drinking from the cup was completed by the announcing of God’s judgement. Many who heard the message had fled from Judah and neighboring countries to Egypt. The nations listed were all around the territory of Judah and Jerusalem. They were unable to escape the Lord’s wrath. The words Jeremiah used to describe this judgement emphasized the awful nature of the wars that tore many nations apart during the 500’s B.C. God’s judgement would be so fierce it would be like a lion seeking and destroying its prey. As the object of the Lord’s fierce anger, all the nations would be helpless.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W