Jeremiah 26-29: Seek the Peace of the City
October 11, 2020
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
Jeremiah 26-29, Ecclesiastes 8, John 4:1-14, James 5:7-12
Speaking truth in love—tough words, however gently delivered—is no easy task. But it is one to which Jeremiah is called. But he must stand in the court of the LORD’s house (26:2), in a public place, right in the holy realm, and declare God’s judgment against that house. This, of course, did not go down well. In fact, he is told “you shall die!” (26:8). So unpopular are Jeremiah’s words that there is some danger of a lynch mob. Fortunately, or rather providentially, some of the elders remember faithful prophets from the past who similarly prophesied judgment (26:18), causing God’s people to repent (26:19). To underline the very real and present danger facing Jeremiah, another prophet, called Uriah, prophesied similarly to Jeremiah and was killed for it (26:23). But Jeremiah has a powerful friend close to the king, and so Jeremiah is protected (26:24; 2 Kings 22:12).
To aid Jeremiah in the task of this difficult communication, God gives him a “visual aid”—yoke-bars. They are to be placed around his neck, and they symbolize the “yoke” of Babylon that will come on God’s people (27:2 and following).
Such prophecy is never popular, and soon enough a “prophet” who is more inclined to say what the people want to hear arises. His name is Hananiah (28:1), and he says that God will actually “break the yoke of the king of Babylon” (28:4). In fact, he goes so far as to take the yoke-bars off Jeremiah and ceremonially break them to make his point (28:10). If only it were true, but Hananiah’s words are mere wishful thinking, not the word of God. Indeed, God says to Jeremiah, in place of the wooden bars will be “bars of iron” (28:13). And later, Hananiah himself dies (28:17).
What then are God’s people in exile to do? Jeremiah writes a letter to them (29:1). The advice is simple: make the most of where you have been placed. “Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce” (29:5). Do not rail against your captors, much less rebel against them. Instead “seek the welfare of the city” (29:7). And when the “seventy years” are concluded (29:10), they will return from exile. God knows the plans he has—they are not their plans, but they are still good plans (29:11). When the work of discipline, through exile, has done its job, when they seek God “with all their heart” (29:13) they will find God and their fortunes will be restored. Shemaiah’s letters (29:24-25) are, by contrast, false hopes, and in fact Shemaiah will be punished for speaking lies in God’s name (29:31-32).
The lesson of Jeremiah is clear. Covenant breaking leads to discipline. Once that discipline is in place, the only right response is to yield to it. God is sovereign, and even hard things can be used for a good purpose. Seek the peace and prosperity of the city, and, most of all, seek God.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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