Listen to God

Posted: July 3, 2014 in Jeremiah

Jeremiah 28-29, “Listen to God”

False prophets come in all shapes and sizes.  They can be found among every church group (denominational and independent).  They can be found in every time period, OT & NT.  Paul, Peter, John, and Jude all wrote specifically against false prophets they had encountered, but they weren’t encountering anything new among servants of God.  There were false prophets teaching lies to the OT Jews just as there were to the NT Christians.  And just as God dealt with it in the NT, He dealt with it in the OT.

False prophets impart false hope.  What they teach isn’t just wrong; it’s a lie.  It leads people astray and it confuses them from what God is truly teaching in His word.  We need to be able to discern the word of God if we’re going to listen to God’s word, heed it, and seek His face.  False teachers who get in the way of that bring judgment upon themselves…and that’s what God deals with through Jeremiah in Ch 28-29.

Jeremiah 28 – False prophets in Jerusalem

  • Hananiah’s initial false prophecy & Jeremiah’s response (vss. 1-9)

1 And it happened in the same year, at the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah king of Judah, in the fourth year and in the fifth month, that Hananiah the son of Azur the prophet, who was from Gibeon, spoke to me in the house of the LORD in the presence of the priests and of all the people, saying,

  • Take note of the timeline. “And it happened in the same year…” The same year as what?  Chapter 27.  Jeremiah’s prophecies don’t always proceed chronologically, but these do – as will be made plain in the context.  The events of Ch 28 are directly based off of the prophecies given in Ch 27.
    • Remember that there is a variance in many manuscripts of 27:1 – (NKJV) “In the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah…”  At least three different references show Ch 27 to take place during the reign of Zedekiah (27:3, 12, 20).  The reference to Jehoiakim is either misplaced from Ch 26, or is a simple copyist error.  Neither affects doctrine in the slightest, and the accurate historical timeframe is easily determined from the text of Scripture itself.
  • What Jeremiah notes here is a very specific date for these events, which are based off of the previous ones.  “In the fourth year and in the fifth month…”  Pay attention to that, because that is going to play a large role in what God proclaims at the end of Ch 28.
    • God’s word is verifiable.  Our faith is an intelligent one, based upon fact and history.
  • What actually happens?  Seemingly one prophet is speaking to another prophet.  “Hananiah the son of Azur the prophet” called out Jeremiah, and spoke to him in the Jerusalem temple in front of all of the Jews – both priests and laypeople.  Azur may have been a prophet, but it will become quickly apparent that Hananiah is not…though he thinks himself one.  He calls all sorts of attention to himself, and takes upon all kinds of authority that he had not been given, and he proceeds to publicly call out a true prophet of God.
    • Question: was Jeremiah beyond reproach?  Of course not.  If he had sinned or spoken something that the Lord had not commanded him, it would have been proper to call Jeremiah to the carpet.  God would have rightly judged him for his sin, and the people of God had a responsibility to take part in it.  No elder, pastor, or any minister is beyond correction or reproach, and God’s word gives us very specific guidelines on dealing with sin among those in leadership. … Verifiable accusations (2-3 witnesses, 1 Tim 5:19-20)
    • The problem here is that Jeremiah hadn’t done anything wrong.  People may not have liked the prophet’s message, but it’s not as if Jeremiah had invented it.  He simply spoke to the Jews what it was he himself had been given by God.  Jeremiah did not deserve reproach; he was the one proclaiming God’s reproach among the people.  He spoke truly, despite the fact that it wasn’t received well by the people.
      • People aren’t always going to like our message, or our stand for the things of God.  But that doesn’t mean we should stop.  As with Jeremiah, there may be some that disagree with us, even using the name of the Lord to do so.  They’ll say, “Jesus wouldn’t say that!  The Jesus I worship would never judge, or speak out, or ____.”  They can use the name “Jesus” all they want, but if their Jesus isn’t the Jesus of the Bible, then it’s obvious that they don’t know Jesus, nor has Jesus sent them.  We need to stay true to the words and commands of our Lord Jesus, no matter what.

2 “Thus speaks the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, saying: ‘I have broken the yoke of the king of Babylon. 3 Within two full years I will bring back to this place all the vessels of the LORD’s house, that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon took away from this place and carried to Babylon. 4 And I will bring back to this place Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, with all the captives of Judah who went to Babylon,’ says the LORD, ‘for I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon.’ ”

  • Hananiah directly contradicted the message proclaimed by Jeremiah.  Jeremiah had also spoken in the name of “the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel” (27:4 – one of God’s favorite titles for Himself throughout the prophecies of Jeremiah), and God had given Jeremiah a visual illustration of the Babylonian conquest by having Jeremiah build yokes for various nations, sending them to the capital cities.  Jeremiah was actually to wear one of these yokes personally (27:2), demonstrating that the same slavery was to come to the kingdom of Judah.  God got even more specific to Judah with a direct word to King Zedekiah, commanding him to “Bring your necks under the yoke of the king of Babylon, and serve him and his people, and live!” (27:12)  God had specifically said that servitude and slavery would come, but it would not mean the extermination of the Jewish people.  It was just to be a brief time of punishment, which God Himself had ordained.  To resist it would be to resist the will of God, and to bring further punishment and curses upon themselves.
  • That’s what Jeremiah had said; Hananiah said the opposite.  Also supposedly speaking in the name of “the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel,” Hananiah said that the yoke of Babylon wouldn’t last long – only two years, and then Babylon would be finished.  There was no reason for the Jews to fear Nebuchadnezzar or submit to him – all they needed to do was to wait him out, and they would see their kingdom and treasures restored.  According to Hananiah, God would “break the yoke of the king of Babylon,” and all their problems would be solved.
  • So two prophecies were given – each spoken in the name of the Lord, with all of the authority that entailed.  They could not both be true, as they completely contradicted one another.  Which prophet was true, and which prophet was false?  The message of one prophet certainly sounded better in the ears of the people than the others.  After all, who wouldn’t prefer to hear a prophecy of victory, than one of slavery?  The people would have to make a decision which one to believe.
    • The same sort of thing happens today.  There are people who claim to speak in the name of the Lord, promising all kinds of good things.  And who wouldn’t want some of the things that they say to be true?  Who doesn’t like a promise of healing, or of financial prosperity and wealth?  All of that sure sounds a lot more appealing than a promise of troubles and tribulation.  We have to make a choice which one to believe.  Are we going to choose the words that appeal to our flesh, but are difficult to base in Scripture – or are we going to choose what we know to be the word of God, though it might be tougher to bear?
    • Don’t misunderstand…God DOES promise many good things!  Whether through the gift of prophecy today, or in the pages of written revealed Scripture, there are many wonderful promises to which we can cling.  We have promises of forgiveness – of eternity – of power in the Holy Spirit – of grace, and more.  But if we’re being honest, much of what is proclaimed in the name of “prophecy” is really materialism designed to stroke our egos or our flesh.  That’s not of the Lord.  The true word of God is always going to give glory to God, and place the focus back upon Him.
  • So Jeremiah has been publicly confronted and contradicted.  How does he respond?  See vs. 5…

5 Then the prophet Jeremiah spoke to the prophet Hananiah in the presence of the priests and in the presence of all the people who stood in the house of the LORD, 6 and the prophet Jeremiah said, “Amen! The LORD do so; the LORD perform your words which you have prophesied, to bring back the vessels of the LORD’s house and all who were carried away captive, from Babylon to this place.

  • Interesting response!  We might expect Jeremiah to call Hananiah on the carpet…he will, but he doesn’t do so initially.  At first, Jeremiah doesn’t argue at all.  He actually seems to be glad at the word of Hananiah, desiring the outcome Hananiah predicted.
  • And why not?  It was a good word for God’s people.  Why wouldn’t Jeremiah desire these things for his brethren?  Jeremiah was a Jew, just like the rest.  He didn’t desire to see them suffer and die in battle – he didn’t desire to see them imprisoned and enslaved.  There was no doubt that was going to come, but it wasn’t something that pleased the prophet.  And there’s no reason it should have pleased him.  Jeremiah would have been far happier if the Jews of Jerusalem had actually humbled themselves in repentance before God, and seen God relent from the destruction He promised to bring.  That would have been a truly wonderful outcome…it just wasn’t going to be the real outcome.
    • There is a reason why some false teaching sounds so appealing: it speaks of good.  Universalism sounds wonderful because no one goes to hell.  Who wants to conceive of anyone suffering in an eternal lake of fire?  The word-faith doctrine sounds great because vast healing and riches are available for the asking.  Who doesn’t want to be healthy & well-off?  All of this sounds great, and we might desire that all people be saved, and all people be healed…but the reality is this isn’t going to happen.  God desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth, but hell is still populated with people.  The eternal New Jerusalem will have streets paved with the purest gold, but trials and tribulations are promised for us now.  It may not change our desire, but it keeps us grounded in reality and the word of God.
  • Jeremiah knew the reality – and he was about to reiterate it to the false prophet.  See vs. 7…

7 Nevertheless hear now this word that I speak in your hearing and in the hearing of all the people: 8 The prophets who have been before me and before you of old prophesied against many countries and great kingdoms—of war and disaster and pestilence. 9 As for the prophet who prophesies of peace, when the word of the prophet comes to pass, the prophet will be known as one whom the LORD has truly sent.”

  • Here was the test: reality.  Many prophets had come in the past, and just like Jeremiah, they had also spoken of “war and disaster and pestilence.”  None of these things had been easy to hear, but all of them had been true.  When someone was truly sent of the Lord, then the things that the Lord gave him to proclaim actually came to pass.  That would be the test of the supposed “prophet who prophesies of peace.”  What would be result of his prophecy?  Would it be war or peace?  Those who speak of the future in the name of God ought to be able to see the results of what they speak.  The prophets who spoke of war saw war…thus they were true.  Would the same thing be able to be said of the prophet who spoke of peace?  His message might sound better, but was it true?
    • It doesn’t matter how good a supposed word of prophecy might sound if that word is false.  What good does false hope bring?  What good is it to trust in the lie?  Even if the words sound smooth to our ears, if they’re wrong then they don’t matter at all.  We’re not called to trust every person who supposedly speaks in the name of God; we’re called to trust GOD.  Someone who truly speaks the words of God will speak truth; and that truth will be verifiable.
  • Verifiability was the test.  Jeremiah told the Jews to look for the outcome.  Hananiah had said that the yoke of Babylon would be broken in two years…in two years everyone would know the answer.  The proof would be in the reality that came to pass.
    • When God speaks, His word is reliable.  When God speaks, His word is verifiable.  God had always called His people to judge the prophets.  Deuteronomy 18:21–22, "(21) And if you say in your heart, ‘How shall we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?’—(22) when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him." []  Not only did God invite His people to test and judge the prophets that were sent, He commanded them to do so!  Basically tells them: “Look & see!  If what the prophet said was void, ignore him…don’t fear him.”
    • That’s true of the OT prophets, and that’s still true of NT prophecy.  The church is specifically told to judge the prophets: 1 Corinthians 14:29–32, "(29) Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge. (30) But if anything is revealed to another who sits by, let the first keep silent. (31) For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged. (32) And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets." [] Paul’s primary context is in regards to orderly church meetings.  The Corinthians had been wild and confusing in their exercise of the spiritual gifts – everything had been going on at one time, and everything was accepted as being of the Lord.  But God is not the author of confusion (1 Cor 14:33).  One of the safeguards God gave to the church is that when prophecies arise, they are to be shared in an orderly manner, and they are to be judged.  Are the words in line with what is already taught in Scripture?  God does not contradict, so neither will His revelation.  Are the words verifiable?  I.e. if someone declares something that has already (or will) come to pass, are those words judged in light of reality?  If it’s of God, it will always be true.  No exception.
  • Hananiah’s 2nd false prophecy & God’s response (vss. 10-14)

10 Then Hananiah the prophet took the yoke off the prophet Jeremiah’s neck and broke it. 11 And Hananiah spoke in the presence of all the people, saying, “Thus says the LORD: ‘Even so I will break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon from the neck of all nations within the space of two full years.’ ” And the prophet Jeremiah went his way.

  • One would think that the warning from Jeremiah might have caused Hananiah to back off a bit.  Knowing that his prophecy would be held up to the light of judgment might have caused other potential prophets to hedge their bets and try to water down what they said.  Not Hananiah…he doubled down.  God had commanded Jeremiah to physically wear a yoke in Ch 27, and Hananiah takes it upon himself to break it off.  He uses symbolism of his own to contradict the symbolism portrayed by Jeremiah.  This was his way of “proving” that what he said God had given him was true.  Some might say that he “spoke this word boldly in faith, believing without doubt and declaring it to be true.”  Others might say he was nuts. J  It was foolish enough to knowingly lie in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel – it was another thing entirely to go further in deception even when given the opportunity to repent.
    • When God gives us an opportunity to repent, we need to take it!  We see so many wasted opportunities in the Scriptures.  Hananiah – Judas Iscariot – Ananias and Sapphira…all of them had an opportunity to come clean and humble themselves, and all of them wasted it unto their death.  God is gracious; we dare not take His mercy for granted!
  • How did Jeremiah respond this time?  He didn’t.  He doesn’t bother arguing with Hananiah, nor does he try to persuade the people.  Ultimately, it wasn’t his argument.  Hananiah had spoken falsely against the Lord, and there is no doubt that the Lord is fully capable of defending Himself and His word.  And that’s exactly what the Lord did. 

12 Now the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah, after Hananiah the prophet had broken the yoke from the neck of the prophet Jeremiah, saying, 13 “Go and tell Hananiah, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD: “You have broken the yokes of wood, but you have made in their place yokes of iron.” 14 For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: “I have put a yoke of iron on the neck of all these nations, that they may serve Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; and they shall serve him. I have given him the beasts of the field also.” ’ ”

  • This was the true word of God.  God gives His proclamation in all His authority once again.  Hananiah may have used the title, but this time God was using it in truth.  He is “the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel” – He had spoken His judgment, and He did not change His mind.  The false prophet could put on whatever show he wanted, breaking off the symbolic wooden yoke of Jeremiah, but it didn’t change the reality.  This time, the yoke wasn’t described as wood, but iron…something totally unbreakable by the hand of the false prophet.  (Whether or not Jeremiah actually wore an iron yoke is unsaid…it certainly would have brought the point visually!)  The nations of the Middle East (including Judah) would indeed serve Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon.  That yoke had not been broken at all; it had been strengthened.  Even “the beasts of the field” would serve the Babylonian king.
  • God’s word doesn’t change…
  • Hananiah’s judgment (vss. 15-17)

15 Then the prophet Jeremiah said to Hananiah the prophet, “Hear now, Hananiah, the LORD has not sent you, but you make this people trust in a lie. 16 Therefore thus says the LORD: ‘Behold, I will cast you from the face of the earth. This year you shall die, because you have taught rebellion against the LORD.’ ”

  • Ultimately, what is false prophecy?  “A lie.”  God had neither sent Hananiah, nor given him a word of prophecy to share.  Hananiah brought judgment upon himself because he presumed to speak a word that God never gave him, and he presumed the authority of a prophet of which he was never endowed.
    • How careful we need to be with God’s word!  He values it, and He will not tolerate it to be used in deception!
  • This time, God gave Jeremiah a very specific timeframe – and it was regarding the judgment of the false prophet.  “This year you shall die.”  Which year?  Look again at 28:1, “in the fourth year and in the fifth month.”  Within that specific calendar year, Hananiah would be judged by God.  How much time was left? 12 months in a year, minus 5 months already gone…only 7 months remaining.

17 So Hananiah the prophet died the same year in the seventh month.

  • God didn’t even wait the full 7 months that were left.  Only 2 months later, Hananiah died.  Hananiah’s false prophecy had a timeframe of 2 years; he never lived to see his prophecy fail.  God judged him far sooner.

Jeremiah 29 – False prophets in Babylon

  • Introduction to the 1st letter (vss. 1-3)

1 Now these are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem to the remainder of the elders who were carried away captive—to the priests, the prophets, and all the people whom Nebuchadnezzar had carried away captive from Jerusalem to Babylon. 2 (This happened after Jeconiah the king, the queen mother, the eunuchs, the princes of Judah and Jerusalem, the craftsmen, and the smiths had departed from Jerusalem.)

  • Apparently Jeremiah did not merely speak the word of God and write down his words later (or have them recorded by a faithful scribe) – there were times that Jeremiah needed to write the words of prophecy.  Ch 29 introduces two letters written by Jeremiah to the captives who had been taken to Babylon, both letters specifically commanded by the Lord God for Jeremiah to write.  Like the other original autographs of Scripture, the original letters are lost to history, but the words were copied and placed within the book of Jeremiah.
  • Again, there is another timeframe given as to when this prophecy was given.  This came after the first wave of captivity, when the initial royal court and craftsmen were taken away.  We’re not told exactly when this was given (it’s not nearly as specific as Ch 28), though it’s possible that these letters were sent in response to some of the false prophecy that popped up in Ch 27-28.  During that time (the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah), people were looking for a quick return of those who had been enslaved and taken captive.  They were all hoping that their trials would blow over quickly, and that they could go back to life as usual.  Of course, that was not to be the case.  God had already told the people through Jeremiah that the captivity was to last 70 years (25:11-12), and that was back when Jehoiakim was on the throne (25:1), prior to Jeconiah/Jehoiachin ever ascending to the throne and later imprisoned.  The bottom line: years earlier, God had clearly spoken about 70 years’ worth of captivity, and the people hadn’t believed Him.  Even though all of the other things had come to pass exactly as God had said, they refused to believe God on the remainder of the prophecies.
    • Be careful not to point too many fingers here…we do the same thing.  Despite the number of times God proves Himself faithful to His word, we still tend to question Him.  We still doubt.  Beloved, God’s word is true.  His track record is flawless.  He could be trusted in the past, and He can still be trusted in the future.

3 The letter was sent by the hand of Elasah the son of Shaphan, and Gemariah the son of Hilkiah, whom Zedekiah king of Judah sent to Babylon, to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, saying,

  • The list of names is interesting, if for no other reason that it emphasizes the historicity of it all.  Not only do we have the word of God written down, but we have the names of the messengers who acted as the postal service in delivery.  Again, God’s word is historic & verifiable.  We may not know these people, but no doubt the original readers of Jeremiah knew them.  They could track down the families and ask whether or not the account was true.  (And obviously, it was…it stood the test of time.)
  • God’s plan for His people (vss. 4-14)

4 Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all who were carried away captive, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem to Babylon:

  • God again presents Himself in all of His royal, divine authority.  He is the I AM, the ever-existent commander of the heavenly armies, and the ultimate divine ruler of the nation of Israel, as established through the lineage of Abraham.  THIS God is the One who is delivering His decree to His people.  Where? “Babylon.”  Israel did not stop being Israel in captivity, nor did God stop being their God.  His covenant-relationship with His people never changed, though they themselves wavered in their faith.  God was always going to be faithful to His people, no matter where they might be.
    • God’s love for His people never changes!  Be it OT Israel, or the NT Church, God’s love never changes.  Though we wander from God, God never wanders from us.  Though we are inconsistent, our Heavenly Father never changes.  We have a covenant relationship to God purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ, and there is nothing that can separate us from His love.
    • That’s not to say that God won’t allow us to experience the consequences of our actions…He certainly did that with Israel!  But God was always right there, constantly available to them when they came to a point of repentance.  Likewise with us.  We may have taken 1000 steps away, but repentance only takes one single step in return.  Our God is our God – and He never forsakes us!
  • God not only has authority and relationship; He has responsibility.  It was God who “caused” the Jews “to be carried away from Jerusalem to Babylon.”  This was the consequence of the sin of the Jews, but the execution of it was completely the plan of God.  No other nation could have come in and carried away the Jews; only Babylon.  Why?  Because God is in control, and He would allow only Babylon to do it.  God had told His people many times in the past about His divine plan, and they could look around and see it played out right before their very eyes.  This was the doing  of God, so they had better listen to what God was now telling them.

5 Build houses and dwell in them; plant gardens and eat their fruit. 6 Take wives and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, so that they may bear sons and daughters—that you may be increased there, and not diminished.

  • Years earlier, God had told the people that He was removing the voice of gladness, of the bridegroom, and the bride (25:10).  The people of Jerusalem had no need to marry because they had no reason to rejoice.  They would be taken away, and it was impossible to live a life of peace.  Yet now, all that has changed.  Why?  Because they had already been relocated.  Now, they could plant gardens, get married, raise a family, and put down roots.  God is basically telling them, “Get used to your surroundings; you’re not going anywhere.”  The false prophets had spoken of a quick return to Jerusalem (i.e. Hananiah’s 2 years), but God is telling them the opposite.  The truth was that they were going to be in Babylon a long time, so they needed to prepare to wait it out.
  • More than that, they needed to “be increased there, and not diminished.”  It would have been easy for the captive Jews to simply give up and basically allow themselves to be bred out of existence.  That’s the way it was for many nations and people groups around the world.  Once they leave their ancestral home, they never return, and it’s rare to ever hear from them again.  But that wasn’t God’s plan for the Jews.  God did not want His people to diminish, but to grow.  He wanted them to become more numerous.  Not to lose their identity as a nation, but to be solidified in it.
  • And there’s more.  They weren’t just to seek the best for the Jewish nation, but also for the Babylonian one…

7 And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the LORD for it; for in its peace you will have peace.

  • No doubt that out of everything else Jeremiah wrote in the letter to the captives, this line would have stood out the most.  Not only was God saying that the people needed to settle in Babylon, but they needed to seek the good of Babylon.  “Pray to the LORD for it.”  Pray for their captors?  Pray for the peace of their conquerors?  Why?!  Shouldn’t they pray for revenge!?  No.  Vengeance belongs to the Lord, and God had spoken many times how He would hold the Babylonians accountable for their own sin.  However, while the Jews were in the hands of the Babylonians, they needed the Babylonians to be at peace.  If the Babylonians had peace, so would the Jews.  Basically, God is telling them to pray for international stability.  As long as the Babylonians didn’t feel any threat, then the Jews would be free to live out their lives in relative quiet and peacefulness.
    • That’s no different than how we’re supposed to pray for our governmental leaders today.  We don’t have to agree with their policies, nor do we need to bow to anti-biblical legislation – but we do need to pray for “kings and all who are in authority.” (1 Tim 2:2a)  Why?  Specifically so that “we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.” (1 Tim 2:2b)  God’s plan may not be for Christians to lead this nation right now, but God’s plan IS for Christians to continue to live for the gospel and to make disciples of all the nations.  Part of doing that is praying for the leaders of this country, so that we would have the freedom to continue to evangelize.
  • Ultimately, what is God telling His people?  “Submit to My plan for you.  Stop rebelling against it.”  Like Paul prior to his conversion, the Jews had been kicking against the goads.  They were resisting the plan of the Lord for them, and all it would do would cause more problems.
    • Ever feel like you’re kicking against the goads?  There’s a simple solution: stop.  Humble yourself before the Lord Jesus in submission to Him, and simply allow Him to be God.  His ways are always best.

8 For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are in your midst deceive you, nor listen to your dreams which you cause to be dreamed. 9 For they prophesy falsely to you in My name; I have not sent them, says the LORD.

  • God couldn’t make it any clearer: the Hananiahs of the world were liars.  The people who said something different than what God had revealed were speaking falsehoods and deceptions.  It didn’t matter how “good” it sounded – it didn’t matter how much emotion that the prophet could muster, or anything else.  If it contradicted what God had already revealed, it was a lie.  God hadn’t sent them, nor had God spoken through them.
  • Again, prophecy always needs to be judged.  What doesn’t line up with Scripture needs to be tossed.  When God has already revealed His will, we can be sure He will not contradict Himself.

10 For thus says the LORD: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place. 11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

  • Just in case there were any doubts, God reiterates the timeframe.  Years earlier, God had told them they would be in Babylon for 70 years, and now that the Jews had been taken to Babylon, how long now did God say they would be there?  70 years.  God’s word is unchanging because God Himself is unchanging.  Most the people initially taken would not survive 7 decades abroad, which is why they needed to marry, have children, plant gardens, etc.  For the most part, it would be a different generation that would return.  This is something that the Jews simply needed to accept.  This was the reality given them by God.
  • But that said, there is grace here, because 70 years is ALL that they would be gone.  One day, the 70 years would be “completed,” and then God would do something else.  He would bring them back to the land, and do all the good things for them that they so desired to hear through the words of the false prophets.  All they needed to do was wait, and they would see the goodness of the Lord revealed.
  • That all brings us to vs. 11, which is one of the most quoted verses of the OT, and one of the verses most quoted out of context. J  In light of everything that God has already said to the captive Jews, what is verse 11 saying?  God’s not done with them yet.  God has a plan for His people, to bring them back from Babylon to Jerusalem, with a future yet in store for them.  Often, Christians quote 29:11 for the rosiest of occasions, saying “God won’t let anything bad happen to me, because He thinks good thoughts towards me, and has promises me a future and a hope!”  But that’s not what this verse is saying at all.  God is speaking to the Jews in their darkest hour, in the midst of what they would have received as a depressing message.  Their home city has been conquered – they’ve been enslaved & carried to a foreign nation – they’ve been told to give up hope of a quick return, and that many of them will never live to see the return.  That’s NOT the news the Jews wanted to hear.  Yet this is the promise of vs. 11: God hadn’t given up on them, so they shouldn’t give up on God.  What looked to be horrible was only temporary.  They had not been cast off as the people of God, though it surely would have looked to have been that way from the outside.  What was the worst of circumstances was not yet the end.  God DID have something better for them, but they were going to have to do something they hadn’t done for decades: trust God by faith.  God had a future plan in store for them, but the only way most of them would experience it would be by faith. 
    • Obviously, this is a specific word to a specific people: the captive Jews in Babylon.  But the underlying principle DOES apply to all of God’s people through the centuries.  But the way we quote this verse likely needs to change to fit what God said originally to the Jews.  Can you trust God even in the worst of your times?  Do you believe even in your darkest hour that Jesus has not abandoned you?  THAT’s the promise of Jeremiah 29:11.  And that’s something we desperately need to cling to today!

12 Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.

  • Then” – when?  After the 70 years are completed.  The Jews had worshipped idols in the land God had given them, so God had them taken to an idolatrous land where they would have to relearn to worship the One True God alone.  And they would.  Three Hebrew boys put their lives on the line when commanded to bow to a golden statue of Nebuchadnezzar.  Daniel put his life on the line by refusing to pray to anyone but God.  Esther put her life on the line when she stood firm in the face of a plot against the Jewish people.  And there were more.  Eventually, there would be three waves of Jews that returned from Babylon to the land of Israel, seeking to worship the One True God according to their covenant relationship.
  • Out of all of the Scriptures in Ch 29, perhaps vss. 12-13 ought to be far more quoted by Christians today than anything else. J  Those principles still ring true!  What is the quickest way to revival?  Whole-hearted prayer.  When we seek the Lord with all our hearts, turning to Him in humility and prayer, we can be absolutely certain that God hears us.  When we seek the Lord, we will find Him.  We have not only the OT prophecy from Jeremiah, but also the words of Jesus on the matter: Luke 11:9–13, "(9) “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. (10) For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. (11) If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? (12) Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? (13) If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”" []

14 I will be found by you, says the LORD, and I will bring you back from your captivity; I will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the LORD, and I will bring you to the place from which I cause you to be carried away captive.

  • God did not only promise revival, but also restoration.  The Jews would be regathered as a nation – not just from Babylon, but “from all the nations from all the places where I have driven you.”  Historically, we know that the Jewish nation was regathered after the return from Babylonian captivity – but this seems to look forward to an even greater regathering.  After all, as wonderful as the restoration of the nation was, it was only partial.  Some of the Jews chose to stay behind in Babylon and other places.  Yet this promise from God speaks of a total restoration.  Quite possibly, this is a prophecy yet to be fulfilled during the Millennial Kingdom.
  • So to summarize the letter so far, God reiterated the time that the Jews would be gone, and their need to submit to His plan.  The problem was that there were people teaching something other than what God had said.  God addresses them next…
  • God’s plan for judgment on those who resist (vss. 15-20)

15 Because you have said, “The LORD has raised up prophets for us in Babylon”— 16 therefore thus says the LORD concerning the king who sits on the throne of David, concerning all the people who dwell in this city, and concerning your brethren who have not gone out with you into captivity— 17 thus says the LORD of hosts: Behold, I will send on them the sword, the famine, and the pestilence, and will make them like rotten figs that cannot be eaten, they are so bad.

  • Question: DID God raise up prophets in Babylon?  Yes.  Daniel is a prime example.  However, that’s not who is in view here.  Just as there were false prophets in Jerusalem, there were false prophets among the rest of the Jews who went into captivity.  They were busying themselves by confusing the people, teaching the opposite of what God had told them.  (That seems to have been the primary motivation for God to send this letter through Jeremiah.)  In regards to the false teaching, God reiterates what He had already taught through Jeremiah: the people left back in Jerusalem were not the ones who were blessed; they were “like rotten figs that cannot be eaten.” (24:8)  They had not escaped the judgment of God; they were busy resisting the judgment of God.  And there was no question that there would be no escape from it.

18 And I will pursue them with the sword, with famine, and with pestilence; and I will deliver them to trouble among all the kingdoms of the earth—to be a curse, an astonishment, a hissing, and a reproach among all the nations where I have driven them, 19 because they have not heeded My words, says the LORD, which I sent to them by My servants the prophets, rising up early and sending them; neither would you heed, says the LORD. 20 Therefore hear the word of the LORD, all you of the captivity, whom I have sent from Jerusalem to Babylon.

  • All had disobeyed God, and all would experience His anger and judgment.  The Jews left behind might not all go to Babylon, but they would be scattered among the other nations.  Some would attempt to flee to Egypt to escape God’s judgment, but it would be futile…they would still be pursued “with the sword, with famine, and with pestilence.
  • There is no escape from the judgment of God!  There can be only covering, as we find shelter in the sacrifice of Christ Jesus.
  • God’s plan for judgment on the false prophets Ahab & Zedekiah (vss. 21-23)

21 Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, concerning Ahab the son of Kolaiah, and Zedekiah the son of Maaseiah, who prophesy a lie to you in My name: Behold, I will deliver them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and he shall slay them before your eyes. 22 And because of them a curse shall be taken up by all the captivity of Judah who are in Babylon, saying, “The LORD make you like Zedekiah and Ahab, whom the king of Babylon roasted in the fire”; 23 because they have done disgraceful things in Israel, have committed adultery with their neighbors’ wives, and have spoken lying words in My name, which I have not commanded them. Indeed I know, and am a witness, says the LORD.

  • Although they were in Babylon, God knew these false prophets by name.  He called them out, and declared their judgment.  They had done far more than prophesy falsely (which was bad enough); they had engaged in rampant sin.  God wasn’t going to let this stand, whether they were in Babylon or not.  God would use Nebuchadnezzar again as His instrument of judgment, and Ahab and Zedekiah would be burned alive.
  • 2nd letter dealing with another false prophet, Shemaiah (vss. 24-32)

24 You shall also speak to Shemaiah the Nehelamite, saying, 25 Thus speaks the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, saying: You have sent letters in your name to all the people who are at Jerusalem, to Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah the priest, and to all the priests, saying, 26 “The LORD has made you priest instead of Jehoiada the priest, so that there should be officers in the house of the LORD over every man who is demented and considers himself a prophet, that you should put him in prison and in the stocks. 27 Now therefore, why have you not rebuked Jeremiah of Anathoth who makes himself a prophet to you? 28 For he has sent to us in Babylon, saying, ‘This captivity is long; build houses and dwell in them, and plant gardens and eat their fruit.’ ”

  • We’re not told the timeframe of this, but it seems to have come in response to the first letter that Jeremiah sent off.  Apparently, it was circulated around Babylon, and another false prophet took issue with it.  This prophet, Shemaiah, sent a letter back condemning the words of Jeremiah, and declaring that he ought to be imprisoned, placed in the stocks.  He (and, likely many of the people) could not believe that God would actually say the things that Jeremiah had said within the letter, and demanded that the local priest in Jerusalem rise up and treat Jeremiah as a false prophet.
    • Again, whether or not we agree with the word of God has no bearing on whether or not it is true.  God’s word does not depend on our acceptance. 

29 Now Zephaniah the priest read this letter in the hearing of Jeremiah the prophet. 30 Then the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah, saying: 31 Send to all those in captivity, saying, Thus says the LORD concerning Shemaiah the Nehelamite: Because Shemaiah has prophesied to you, and I have not sent him, and he has caused you to trust in a lie— 32 therefore thus says the LORD: Behold, I will punish Shemaiah the Nehelamite and his family: he shall not have anyone to dwell among this people, nor shall he see the good that I will do for My people, says the LORD, because he has taught rebellion against the LORD.

  • Thankfully, Zephaniah was not intimidated by Shemaiah, and the priest did not put the true prophet of God into the stocks.  Instead, he read to Jeremiah the letter he had received, and let Jeremiah deal with it.  And ultimately, Jeremiah let GOD deal with it.
  • God had a word of judgment for this false prophet as well.  Shemaiah would also die in Babylon.  He was not decreed to be burned to death, but no one from his family would live to see the goodness of God in Jerusalem.  Shemaiah did not submit to God’s plan, and thus he wouldn’t experience it.  The false prophet would have no heirs, and no future.
    • It didn’t have to be this way…it never does.

Conclusion:
There has never been a lack of false prophets among God’s people.  There will always be men and women proclaiming a name for themselves, trying to convince others of the words God is speaking through them.  It sounds good & exciting…but is it true?  That’s what matters most.  Yes, God does speak through prophets – examples abound in both OT & NT.  Yet those prophets always prove true.  God’s word is always verifiable.  It can be tested, and proven true.  It’s our responsibility to test the words proclaimed by people to claim to be prophets, and it’s also our responsibility to beware of how we ourselves treat the word of God.

Once we’ve discerned the word of God, do we submit to it?  Do we obey?  It’s one thing to hear the word; it’s another to heed it.  The Jews didn’t want to believe that what God spoke was true, but it was.  If they only heeded what God had to say, they would eventually see the goodness of God for themselves.  It’s no different with us.  We need to hear God’s word, and trust Him.  When we do so, we will be seeking the Lord…and we can be assured that we will find Him!

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