Thursday, August 13, 2015

Circumstances Didn’t Change God’s Word

Jeremiah 29:1-32

“Now these are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem unto the residue of the elders which were carried away captives, and to the priests, and to the prophets, and to all the people whom Nebuchadnezzar had carried away captive from Jerusalem to Babylon; (After that Jeconiah the king, and the queen, and the eunuchs, the princes of Judah and Jerusalem, and the carpenters, and the smiths, were departed from Jerusalem;) By the hand of Elasah the son of Shaphan, and Gemariah the son of Hilkiah, (whom Zedekiah king of Judah sent unto Babylon to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon) saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, unto all that are carried away captives, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem unto Babylon; Build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them; Take ye wives, and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons, and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; that ye may be increased there, and not diminished.” (Jeremiah 29:1-6)

After  Nebuchadnezzar carried Jehoiakim, also known as Jeconiah away as a captive, the Israelites made his eight year old son Jehoiachin king, and rebelled against Babylon.  Nebuchadnezzar returned there months later and carried away Jehoiachin and most of the rest of the leaders as well.  making Zedekiah king instead.  Jeremiah was left in Judah, but he sent a letter to the people who had been carried away when Zedekiah sent messengers to Babylon.  In the letter he instructed them to establish homes and lives among the Babylonians, and flourish there. 

“And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the LORD for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace.  For thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Let not your prophets and your diviners, that be in the midst of you, deceive you, neither hearken to your dreams which ye cause to be dreamed.  For they prophesy falsely unto you in my name: I have not sent them, saith the LORD.” (Jeremiah 29:7-9)

They were to actively seek to strengthen the land of Babylon, because the their own prosperity and peace would be depend on the peace and prosperity of Babylon.  They were not to allow the prophets and leaders to stir up resentment and cause conflict with the Babylonians, claiming to have a message from God or a dream of freedom.   Such prophets and leaders were false prophets, lying to and deceiving the people.  They were not from God.    

“For thus saith the LORD, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place.  For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.  Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.  And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.  And I will be found of you, saith the LORD: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the LORD; and I will bring you again into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive.” (Jeremiah 29:10-14)

God’s desire for Israel was only for their good, not the evil they expected.    If they will trust him and live for him in Babylon without rebellion or resentment, they can expect Him to keep His promises and to listen to their prayers.  When they devote their energies to pleasing God, he will reveal himself to them, and deliver them from captivity, enabling them to return to Judah.  It is very similar to what he commanded Christians in Romans 13:1-7.  “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.  Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.  For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.  Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.  For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing.  Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.

Any prophet advocating civil disobedience and violence is not sent by God and is rebelling against the powers God has established.  This does not mean we follow their orders instead of God’s, but that we trust God to take care of us and do not deliberately antagonize them. 

Because ye have said, The LORD hath raised us up prophets in Babylon; Know that thus saith the LORD of the king that sitteth upon the throne of David, and of all the people that dwelleth in this city, and of your brethren that are not gone forth with you into captivity; Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Behold, I will send upon them the sword, the famine, and the pestilence, and will make them like vile figs, that cannot be eaten, they are so evil. And I will persecute them with the sword, with the famine, and with the pestilence, and will deliver them to be removed to all the kingdoms of the earth, to be a curse, and an astonishment, and an hissing, and a reproach, among all the nations whither I have driven them: Because they have not hearkened to my words, saith the LORD, which I sent unto them by my servants the prophets, rising up early and sending them; but ye would not hear, saith the LORD.” (Jeremiah 29:15-19)

Since being taken into captivity there was a new generation of prophets and leaders coming to the fore.  Their natural instinct would be to look back at Judah and to want to return.  They needed to understand that those who had been left behind were not the ones who were blessed.   They would become like spoiled figs to God, and would be killed in battles, die of starvation, and of various pandemics, eventually being  almost totally wiped out because they refused to listen to God’s word and God’s preachers.   The few survivors would be despised wherever they went.    
“Hear ye therefore the word of the LORD, all ye of the captivity, whom I have sent from Jerusalem to Babylon: Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, of Ahab the son of Kolaiah, and of Zedekiah the son of Maaseiah, which prophesy a lie unto you in my name; Behold, I will deliver them into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon; and he shall slay them before your eyes; And of them shall be taken up a curse by all the captivity of Judah which are in Babylon, saying, The LORD make thee like Zedekiah and like Ahab, whom the king of Babylon roasted in the fire; Because they have committed villany in Israel, and have committed adultery with their neighbours' wives, and have spoken lying words in my name, which I have not commanded them; even I know, and am a witness, saith the LORD.” (Jeremiah 29:20-23)

Two of the new prophets and religious leaders were Ahab the son of Kolajah, and Zedekiah the son of Maaseiah.  They would be arrested and burned in the fiery furnace because they were claiming to be from God and were using their position to take advantage of others and seduce the women.  Their very names would become a threat to others that they would suffer the same fate, because God knew exactly what they were doing. 

“Thus shalt thou also speak to Shemaiah the Nehelamite, saying, Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, saying, Because thou hast sent letters in thy name unto all the people that are at Jerusalem, and to Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah the priest, and to all the priests, saying, The LORD hath made thee priest in the stead of Jehoiada the priest, that ye should be officers in the house of the LORD, for every man that is mad, and maketh himself a prophet, that thou shouldest put him in prison, and in the stocks.  Now therefore why hast thou not reproved Jeremiah of Anathoth, which maketh himself a prophet to you?  For therefore he sent unto us in Babylon, saying, This captivity is long: build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them.” (Jeremiah 29:24-28)

Another of the new prophets had sent a letter to Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah saying that God had ordained Zephaniah to become the new high priest and force out Jehoiada.  He said that God had called them to be his officers and to arrest and imprison anyone who claimed to be a prophet and went against their ideas.  He said they should have already arrested jeremiah for claiming to be a prophet and telling them they should submit to Nebuchadnezzar and plan on staying in Babylon. 

“And Zephaniah the priest read this letter in the ears of Jeremiah the prophet.  Then came the word of the LORD unto Jeremiah, saying, Send to all them of the captivity, saying, Thus saith the LORD concerning Shemaiah the Nehelamite; Because that Shemaiah hath prophesied unto you, and I sent him not, and he caused you to trust in a lie: Therefore thus saith the LORD; Behold, I will punish Shemaiah the Nehelamite, and his seed: he shall not have a man to dwell among this people; neither shall he behold the good that I will do for my people, saith the LORD; because he hath taught rebellion against the LORD.” (Jeremiah 29:29-32)

While Shelemiah’s message would resonate with patriotic Jews, it was a lie.  God sent a message that he had not sent Shelemiah, and that he would punish him, so he wouldn’t have any descendants in the nation, nor would he get to see the blessing God would one day do for Israel, though many others would survive and return to the land.  He was teaching the people to go against what God had actually said.  

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