Nobody escapes the scrutiny of our all-knowing God. Kings, prophets, leaders, and all people must answer to Him. At the same time, there is mercy and grace available to all who will come to Him in faith.
Four Prophecies of Judgment
Jeremiah chapters 21 through 25 continue a very unpopular message to the nation of Judah. Jeremiah will deliver four prophecies of judgment in these chapters. And the first one, in chapter 21, is directed against the last four kings of Judah.
We have already met these kings in our Wisdom Journey, but we need to bring them back out on stage for a few moments. After godly King Josiah died, his son Jehoahaz became king. He is known here in the book of Jeremiah by the name Shallum.
Jehoahaz, or Shallum, reigns for three months before being replaced by his brother, Jehoiakim. Jehoiakim reigns in Judah for eleven years before the Babylonian army arrives in Jerusalem and takes the vessels from the temple. They also deport a number of captives back to Babylon, one of them being a young man named Daniel.
The next ruler of Judah is Jehoiakim’s son Jehoiachin. He reigns for only three months. He is also known as Jeconiah or Coniah. During his reign Nebuchadnezzar comes back to Jerusalem and takes him captive, along with others, including a prophet by the name of Ezekiel.
The final king of Judah is Zedekiah. His reign lasts eleven years and ends with the final fall and destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC.
Now the first part of this prophecy here in chapter 21 takes place during Zedekiah’s reign. It is a shocking prophecy that God is actually going to help the Babylonians fight against Jerusalem and, as verse 6 says, “strike down the inhabitants of this city.”
Jeremiah goes on to tell the people, “He who goes out and surrenders to the Chaldeans [Babylonians] . . . shall live” (verse 9). In other words, their only option is to wave the white flag and surrender to Nebuchadnezzar. This prophecy will be used to label Jeremiah as a traitor to his people.
Now down in chapter 22, in verse 11, Shallum, or Jehoahaz, has been taken in captivity to Babylon, and Jeremiah prophesies that the king will never see his homeland again.
Next is King Jehoiakim of whom Jeremiah prophesies in verse 19, “With the burial of a donkey he shall be buried.” No one is going to care when this king dies, and nobody is coming to the funeral. It will be like somebody’s old donkey finally fell over and died.
Now you can understand why Jeremiah was not the favorite prophet around town.
Next, we are told here in verse 30 that Coniah, or Jehoiachin, is going to die without having any children. He will not produce an heir to the throne; in fact, the next and last king of Judah will be his uncle, Zedekiah.
In chapter 23, God describes all these godless kings of Judah as worthless shepherds. Verse 1 says, “Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!”
But in the midst of these dark days without godly leaders, the Lord points to a future hope. Listen to this promise God gives them:
I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more. (verses 3-4)
This promise is related to the future regathering of Israel and the reign of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, in His coming kingdom.
And if there is any doubt who this Good Shepherd is, God removes it in verses 5-6:
“I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely . . . in his days Judah will be saved and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which He will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’”
Beloved, this future King is, without a doubt, the Messiah, the Son of David, King Jesus. Even His title here, referring to Him as Lord, reveals His deity.
In the rest of chapter 23, Jeremiah turns from the kings to prophesy against the false prophets. God does not pull any punches here with these fake prophets. They have been opposing Jeremiah this whole time, and they have been popular because they have prophesied peace and victory. But God sees through it all and says here in verse 21, “I did not send [these] prophets, yet they ran; I did not speak to them, yet they prophesied.”
And let me tell you, beloved, to this very day the most popular voices are not necessarily speaking God’s word. Oh, they might have a following, and they might have their dreams and visions; but listen to what God says here in verse 28: “Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let him who has my word speak my word faithfully.”
Now Jeremiah’s third prophecy, here in chapter 24, is specifically against King Zedekiah. Jeremiah is given a true vision from God of two baskets of figs. One basket is filled with good figs, representing some of the Jewish captives already in Babylon; the Lord says in verse 7, “I will give them a heart to know that I am the Lord, and . . . they shall return to me with their whole heart.” God is going to bring some of them back from Babylon, but the ultimate promise here looks out into the future when the Jewish people are in their land and the kingdom of Christ begins on earth.
The other basket in Jeremiah’s vision contains bad figs that “cannot be eaten,” according to verse 8. This represents Zedekiah and all his officials and those left in Jerusalem who continue to defy God.
And with that we have in chapter 25 the fourth and final prophecy in this section of Jeremiah, and this one is directed against the people of Judah. Despite repeated warnings, these people cling to their idolatry and their immorality.
Babylon is going to serve as the discipline of God. Verse 11 says, “This whole land shall become a ruin and a waste, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years.” Punishment is inevitable, but it will not last forever. In fact, years later, Daniel will read Jeremiah’s prophecy and realize that Judah’s seventy-year exile in Babylon is coming to an end (Daniel 9:2).
And what about these Babylonians? After all, while they are God’s instrument of judgment upon Judah, they are no better than Judah spiritually or morally; they are wicked and idolatrous. Well, God has a promise for them here in verse 12:
“After seventy years are completed, I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation . . . for their iniquity, declares the Lord, making the land an everlasting waste.”
There is a point to be made here, beloved. God can use wicked leaders and wicked nations to advance His plans on Planet Earth. But they will still be held accountable to God.
The Lord tells Jeremiah in verse 15, “Take from my hand this cup of the wine of wrath, and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it.” By this symbol, the Lord promises His future judgment upon all the ungodly nations that rise up against God’s chosen people.
We have covered a lot of material today, but here is a principle I want to leave with you: the judgment of God might not take place immediately, but it certainly will arrive eventually. Where are you today, my friend? God will judge sin and the sinner in that final judgment described in Revelation 20. Your only hope is found in the death and resurrection of Christ. He died to pay for your sins so you can be forgiven. Today, right where you are, repent of your sin, place your faith in Jesus Christ, and ask Him to save you. No matter what you have done, no matter where you are, the Bible promises that if you call on the name of the Lord, He will hear you, and you will be saved from the wrath of God. (Romans 10:13).