LETTER TO THE EXILES
Jeremiah sends a letter to the leaders of the exiles in Babylon. Jerusalem does not look the same, and many of its people have been taken to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar. The letter was carried to the people who had been dispatched to Babylon. The letter began with a reminder that these were the words of the Lord and it was he who had sent the people into captivity. He commands the people settle in Babylon. They were instructed to make this unfamiliar place their home by building houses and planting gardens. Life was to continue, so they were to marry and begin families. The people of Judah were expected to live in this new location. The people were to seek the welfare of the city and pray to that end as well. Since Babylon was their new home, the welfare of the city would impact the condition of their lives. If Babylon prospered, so would God's people who lived there. God instructs the people to disregard any message from prophets or diviners that indicated that the people would soon be delivered from Babylon. Jeremiah cautioned the people against their false prophecies. God would leave his people in Babylon for seventy years before he would visit them and bring them back to Jerusalem. God knew the plans that he had for his people including his plan to exile them for seventy years as a judgment against their sins. God is always working for his glory and the good of his people. There was a future and hope, but it would not be realized until repentance and earnest seeking took place. The people would seek God, and he would be found when they sought him with ll their heart. God has not hidden himself, and the evidence of his existence can be seen in creation. However, he will not be found because of superstition or spells. God knows the hearts of all men, and he will only be found when his people repent and seek him earnestly. God never rejects the penitent, and he would be found when the people sought him wholeheartedly. God would restore his people and gather them from the places where they had been exiled. Jeremiah knew that some would reject his message in favor of a message that proclaimed imminent freedom and so he explained that these false prophets would experience severe suffering because of their false messages. Jerusalem's suffering was not over, and the inhabitants there could expect sword, famine, and pestilence. The Lord had sent his prophets over and over to no avail. The people stubbornly refused to listen. Jeremiah specifically mentions two false prophets by name who would be taken by Nebuchadnezzar and burned before the eyes of the people. The lack of character demonstrated by these two prophets by their adultery should have served as an indicator that their prophecies should have been disregarded. God would bear witness against these two false prophets.
Jeremiah's letter was not well received by everyone and opposition came from a man named Shemaiah. He sent letters to the priests in Jerusalem to contradict Jeremiah and see him punished. In his letter to these officials, Shemaiah argued that Jeremiah should be punished by being placed in the stocks and neck-irons. Shemaiah questioned why Zephaniah was not doing his job and why he had not rebuked Jeremiah for saying that the people should plan to live in Babylon for some time. Zephaniah read the letter to Jeremiah, and the Lord spoke to Jeremiah concerning Shemaiah. Jeremiah sent another letter to the exiles denouncing the false prophet Shemaiah. God did not send him, and he was lying to the people. Judgment was coming to the house of Shemaiah. He would not have any male in his house survive, and he would not see the restoration of god's people. He had spoken rebellion against the Lord, and now he would receive the due penalty for his treason.
Things To Consider:
- What does this passage teach about God's work during suffering?
- Why did God send his people into exile?
- How can we seek the welfare of our city?
- How is our welfare connected to our cities?
- How does the reality of seventy years of exile change the way verse eleven should be understood?
- Why is the heart so important to God?
- How do we test the words of preachers today?
- Why does sin bring judgment?
- Why does character matter in the lives of leaders?