Scriptures

Jeremiah 27

Introduction

There are a number of occasions when the prophets of God did some pretty bizarre things in order to get their prophesying message over. Micah rolled in the dust, or even in the mud, and screamed like a bird. Isaiah went barefoot and naked for two years. And here Jeremiah is told to wear a yoke around his neck, and he did so in front of the king of Judah and representatives from five foreign nations.

This chapter speaks of the yoke of Babylon. The nations, they are named in verse 3, are warned of this yoke. So, what is this yoke? Jeremiah is told to make it and put it round his neck. It is made of wood. Jeremiah’s message is clear. God has given Nebuchadnezzar the other lands, and it was God’s right to do so. After all, says God, ‘I made the earth and its people’.

So, God expected the inhabitants to fall into shape, to knuckle under Nebuchadnezzar’s rule. God would pay a visit to those who didn’t. Again, we see two options here:

1. If you do what I say you can stay in your own land under Nebuchadnezzar. If you bow under the yoke of Babylon you can till your own land, or

2. If not, you will be taken away. The choice is simple.

Even where Judah is concerned their attitude is strange. It would seem better to serve as a freedman than a slave. Each nation is told, don’t listen to your wise men, your magicians and your prophets. Judah was not the only people to say, this won’t happen to us.

Other nations had their own false prophets saying that it wouldn’t happen to them. But it would. God wants to know, from Judah, why will you choose to die? That is the message asked to Zedekiah personally. Why die, instead of acknowledging Nebuchadnezzar?

‘Early in the reign of Zedekiah son of Josiah king of Judah, this word came to Jeremiah from the LORD: This is what the LORD said to me: ‘Make a yoke out of straps and crossbars and put it on your neck. Then send word to the kings of Edom, Moab, Ammon, Tyre and Sidon through the envoys who have come to Jerusalem to Zedekiah king of Judah.’ Jeremiah 27:1-3

Does anybody have Jehoiakim instead of Zedekiah in the first verse 1?

Some versions, including the King James, have Jehoiakim. It is obvious from verse 3 that this should be Zedekiah. In fact, the version that I mainly use, the NIV, and I know that the RSV does so also, have Zedekiah in the first verse. This is obviously some kind of error.

Most scholars believe that some ancient copyist copied the first verse of the previous chapter here by mistake. Such errors are very rare. It is fortunate that in the third verse of this chapter, which tells us that Zedekiah was the king at this time, that we are able to connect this first verse.

An ox yoke was for two animals. And this contraption would have been very uncomfortable to wear for Jeremiah. Not only that, he must have looked a hideous figure in front of the king dressed like this.

‘Charge them to give their masters a message from me. Tell them, ‘The LORD God of Israel who rules over all says to give your masters this message. ‘I made the earth and the people and animals on it by my mighty power and great strength, and I give it to whomever I see fit. I have at this time placed all these nations of yours under the power of my servant, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. I have even made all the wild animals subject to him. All nations must serve him and his son and grandson until the time comes for his own nation to fall. Then many nations and great kings will in turn subjugate Babylon.’ Jeremiah 27:4-7

This is a tremendous thought, especially as it seems that the men who are the most evil are given the most power by God.

Matthew Henry says, ‘The things of this world are not the best things, for God often gives the largest share of them to bad men, men who are rivals of God and rebel against him. Nebuchadnezzar was a proud, wicked man, but he had world dominion by divine right. He was a very bad man, but God called him his servant. If God so uses and rewards evil men who serve him, however unwittingly, how much more wonderfully will God reward and honour those who love God and truly serve him!’

God reveals Himself as not only the creator and sustainer of all that He created, but as Sovereign Lord and controller. He is the God of history who has His hand firmly on all nations, not just Judah.

‘But suppose a nation or a kingdom will not be subject to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. Suppose it will not submit to the yoke of servitude to him. I, the LORD, affirm that I will punish that nation. I will use the king of Babylon to punish it with war, starvation, and disease until I have destroyed it. So, do not listen to your prophets or to those who claim to predict the future by divination, by dreams, by consulting the dead, or by practicing magic. They keep telling you, ‘You do not need to be subject to the king of Babylon.’ Do not listen to them, because their prophecies are lies. Listening to them will only cause you to be taken far away from your native land. I will drive you out of your country and you will die in exile. Things will go better for the nation that submits to the yoke of servitude to the king of Babylon and is subject to him. I will leave that nation in its native land. Its people can continue to farm it and live in it. I, the LORD, affirm it!’ Jeremiah 27:8-11

Even at this late date, it seems that Judah would have been spared going into captivity if it hadn’t been for Zedekiah. If he had led the people to accept God’s word, and faithfully serve Nebuchadnezzar, things could have been different. But it was Zedekiah’s rebellion against Babylon that led to the total ruin of Jerusalem and the temple.

‘I told King Zedekiah of Judah the same thing. I said, ‘Submit to the yoke of servitude to the king of Babylon. Be subject to him and his people. Then you will continue to live. There is no reason why you and your people should die in war or from starvation or disease! That’s what the LORD says will happen to any nation that will not be subject to the king of Babylon. Do not listen to the prophets who are telling you that you do not need to serve the king of Babylon. For they are prophesying lies to you. For I, the LORD, affirm that I did not send them. They are prophesying lies to you. If you listen to them, I will drive you and the prophets who are prophesying lies out of the land and you will all die in exile.’ Jeremiah 27:12-15

This section shows that Jeremiah repeated, for Zedekiah, the same message that accompanied the yoke, when Jeremiah spoke to the representatives of the five other nations. Serve the king of Babylon, Zedekiah. Do not listen to the false prophets and false teachers of other nations, they are only prophesying lies.

‘I also told the priests and all the people, ‘The LORD says, ‘Do not listen to what your prophets are saying. They are prophesying to you that the valuable articles taken from the LORD’s temple will be brought back from Babylon very soon. But they are prophesying a lie to you. Do not listen to them. Be subject to the king of Babylon. Then you will continue to live. Why should this city be made a pile of rubble?’ I also told them, ‘If they are really prophets and the LORD is speaking to them, let them pray earnestly to the LORD who rules over all. Let them plead with him not to let the valuable articles that are still left in the LORD’s temple, in the royal palace, and in Jerusalem be taken away to Babylon.’ Jeremiah 27:16-18

Jeremiah turns to the priests. The false prophets of Judah were saying that not only would things be good in the land, but the vessels taken from the Temple would also be returned, 2 Kings 24:10-13.

Jeremiah was quite courageous here. Not only did he tell all these false prophets, soothsayers, etc., that they were liars, he told them to their face. He also told them that they were not only lying when they said that the temple vessels would shortly be returned, but that the remaining vessels would also be carried to Babylon.

‘For the LORD who rules over all has already spoken about the two bronze pillars, the large bronze basin called ‘The Sea,’ and the movable bronze stands. He has already spoken about the rest of the valuable articles that are left in this city. He has already spoken about these things that King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon did not take away when he carried Jehoiakim’s son King Jeconiah of Judah and the nobles of Judah and Jerusalem away as captives. Indeed, the LORD God of Israel who rules over all has already spoken about the valuable articles that are left in the LORD’s temple, in the royal palace of Judah, and in Jerusalem. He has said, ‘They will be carried off to Babylon. They will remain there until it is time for me to show consideration for them again. Then I will bring them back and restore them to this place.’ I, the LORD, affirm this!’ Jeremiah 27:19-22

What a fantastic prophesy this was. Not only would the remaining treasures of the temple be taken, but the king’s house, the people and contents of the city of Jerusalem, would be taken. Not only that, it was predicted that the vessels would not be destroyed in Babylon, and that God would restore them to Jerusalem in due course.

Did all of this happen? You bet it did. But wasn’t this prophecy written after the event? Certainly not. That is a ridiculous thought. The man who announced this was wearing an ox yoke. If it had already happened, wouldn’t he have looked ridiculous standing there dressed as he was? He was only wearing the yoke to persuade these evil men to believe the truth. They didn’t believe it. Obviously they would have believed it, if it had already happened.

I like the wording of verses 21-22, don’t they show the power of God?

The vessels that are in the temple and in the palace of the king, ‘will be taken to Babylon and there they will remain until the day I come for them,’ declares the Lord.’ Then I will bring them back and restore them to this place.’

God says, through Jeremiah, the exact opposite to what the false prophets were saying. More than that, even the vessels that are still left in the temple will be taken to Babylon. They would be the spoils of war.

I don’t think we can stress enough the fantastic prophecy that we have in this chapter.

A hundred years before the birth of Jeremiah, Isaiah promised the ‘return of the remnant.’ I guess he proved the prophecy by calling one of his sons, ‘a remnant shall return’.

Would Jeremiah have known about that promise? Of course, he would.

So now was a good time not only to mention it, but add to that prophecy an additional prophecy, in that last verse of this chapter, God would return the treasures of the temple.

Go To Jeremiah 28

 

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"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."

John 10:10

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