When the truth is spoken, it makes liars of all who stand against it. This guarantees that, like Jeremiah, when we commit ourselves to teaching the truth of God, we are going to have enemies. But we also are going to be on God’s side, and that is always the winning side.
The Promise of a Future and a Hope
For eighteen years, the prophet Jeremiah has stepped into the pulpit there in Judah, so to speak, and preached the word of God. For eighteen years, without fail, he has obeyed his commission from God to speak whatever the Lord commanded him (Jeremiah 1:7). And the response has been exactly what God told him it would be: “They will fight against you” (1:19).
Beloved, dedicating your life to following the Lord means facing opposition in the world. Jesus told His disciples the world would hate them (John 15:18-19), and the apostle Paul warned the church that all who seek to live godly lives in Christ will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12). Your life did not get easier when you became a Christian; in many ways, it got a little harder. The opposition to Jeremiah is only going to increase, and he hasn’t even reached the mid-point of his lengthy ministry yet.
Chapter 26 of Jeremiah takes us back to the reign of Jehoiakim. Here in verse 2, the Lord speaks to Jeremiah again:
“Stand in the court of the Lord’s house, and speak to all the cities of Judah . . . all the words that I command you to speak to them; do not hold back a word.”
Once again, Jeremiah does exactly what the Lord says.
There is still some hope the people might yet repent. But Jeremiah warns them if they don’t, God is going to destroy their beautiful temple. They are not to think their temple is some kind of good-luck charm that will protect them from God’s judgment. The temple is no guarantee of safety.
And here is the response to his sermon:
When Jeremiah had finished speaking all that the Lord had commanded him to speak to all the people, then the priests and the prophets and all the people laid hold of him, saying, “You shall die!” (verse 8)
I have had people angry with me after I’ve preached a sermon. I have had several people over the years contact my office and demand I stop preaching about them, although I never named them or had them in mind—evidently the shoe fit, so to speak. But I have never had people try to kill me after a sermon . . . at least not yet.
I remember visiting the chapel in England where John Wesley preached. The guide told us that on one occasion he preached against the evils of slavery, and the congregation erupted and broke apart many of the pews there in the sanctuary. John Wesley escaped through the choir loft.
Well, Jeremiah is put on trial here, and the priests and prophets are ready to put him to death. He steps into the witness stand there in the courtroom and declares here in verse 15:
“Know for certain that if you put me to death, you will bring innocent blood upon yourselves and upon this city and its inhabitants, for in truth the Lord sent me to you to speak all these words.”
Some older men there in this courtroom scene remind the people that the prophet Micah was not put to death for his unpopular message; so, they had better be careful not to harm Jeremiah. Consequently, Jeremiah’s life is spared.
In chapter 27, Jeremiah delivers a prophecy at the beginning of Zedekiah’s reign. Remember, Zedekiah is the last king in Judah before Babylon arrives to take the nation into exile. Zedekiah has called political leaders from several surrounding countries to plan a revolt against Babylon. Jeremiah shows up and delivers one of those action sermons where he literally plays out what is going to happen.
The Lord has Jeremiah make a wooden yoke like those used to tie teams of oxen together, and Jeremiah puts this yoke on his own neck and shoulders.
He then speaks to Zedekiah and these other leaders in verse 8:
“If any nation or kingdom will not serve this Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and put its neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, I will punish that nation with the sword, with famine, and with pestilence, declares the Lord.”
In other words, Judah’s exile in Babylon is the will of God—it is God’s judgment on Judah for their rebellion. They are to willingly put their necks under the yoke of Babylon.
Jeremiah repeats the prophecy to Zedekiah in verse 12: “Bring your necks under the yoke of the king of Babylon, and serve him and his people and live.”
Then, a false prophet named Hananiah steps forward to oppose Jeremiah and his message. Chapter 28 records the false teaching of this man. Hananiah goes over and takes hold of that wooden yoke Jeremiah had made, and he breaks it apart. He effectively tells the people, “Jeremiah is lying; Babylon’s yoke of oppression will soon be broken.”
Jeremiah responds that this wooden yoke will be replaced by an iron yoke, and nobody will be able to break that one apart. With that, Jeremiah delivers a personal prophecy to this false prophet here in verse 16:
“Thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, I will remove you from the face of the earth. This year you shall die, because you have uttered rebellion against the Lord.’”
And two months later, the word of the Lord through Jeremiah comes to pass, and Hananiah dies. Now that should get the attention of King Zedekiah and all the other false prophets, but it doesn’t.
Here in chapter 29, the opposition to Jeremiah grows even stronger. False prophets who have already been deported to Babylon are telling the people their exile will not last long, and they will be going back to Jerusalem in no time at all.
So, Jeremiah sends a letter to Babylon, telling the exiles the exact opposite. Note what he writes here in verses 5-7:
“Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters . . . seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf.”
Beloved, this is godly advice for every believer in every nation to this day. This is where God has appointed you. Serve as good citizens, and obey the authorities so long as they do not demand that you violate God’s law. Settle down, plant fruit trees, beautify your home, and work well at your job. God has not abandoned you. Babylon is not your permanent home, but do not try to destroy it. Instead, pray for it; pray for the people as you live among them, as you wait for the Lord.
Verse 11 is a promise that there is a better day coming. The Lord says to the exiles through Jeremiah, “I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
The Lord has wonderful plans for their future. In the meantime, they are to serve the Lord right where He has assigned them—even there in the land of Babylon.
Now this chapter ends with more opposition to Jeremiah. This time the false prophet’s name is Shemaiah. He sends a letter back to Judah, telling the priests and the people to rebuke Jeremiah for writing a letter telling the exiles to settle down in Babylon. Essentially, he says, “You all need to rebuke Jeremiah for such a ridiculous, pessimistic message.” But Shemaiah is wrong, and Jeremiah is right.
As you deliver to your world today the truth of God’s Word, you might be ignored, rejected, ridiculed, and maybe even persecuted. But let me tell you, they are wrong, and you are right. And in the end, God will have the last word.
In the meantime, remember beloved, even as you live in Babylon today, God has plans for you—plans for your welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. And what a future we will have with our Lord one day.