SUBMIT TO GOD’S AUTHORITY – EVEN WHEN IT IS ADMINISTERED IN SURPRISING WAYS
Sometimes our conviction regarding the sovereignty of God can be severely tested. We easily acknowledge that the Bible teaches that God can put whoever He wants in a position of power – whether in government or in other arenas of authority. But we also have an innate propensity to assume that God is always making our paths more comfortable and pleasant. So we have difficulty embracing the path of oppression and suffering.
Certainly the nation of Israel felt superior to foreign powers like Babylon. When God chose to discipline His people with the rod of King Nebuchadnezzar, it was a difficult pill to swallow. In fact, the prophets of the land continued to advocate a path of resistance – promising the people that the God of the Covenant would take their side in the immediate future. But God had other plans. He commissioned Jeremiah, His true spokesman, to act out another object lesson – wearing the yoke of submission to signify that God’s plans involved temporary subjugation to Babylon.
SUBMIT TO GOD’S AUTHORITY – EVEN WHEN IT IS ADMINISTERED IN SURPRISING WAYS
I. (:1-11) DELIVERANCE THRU SUBMISSION –
OBJECT LESSON FOR JEREMIAH OF YOKES OF BONDAGE – REINFORCING THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD OVER ALL NATIONS
“In the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah the son of Josiah, king of Judah, this word came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying— thus says the LORD to me—”
A. (:2B) Act Out the Object Lesson
“Make for yourself bonds and yokes and put them on your neck,”
Parunak: It is a common image in the Bible . . . that a subject people wears the yoke of the ruler. Shows that they are subject to the king, just as an ox is subject to the farmer whose plow it pulls. Here Jer is to prepare these symbols of subjection, wear them himself, and give them to the ambassadors gathered in Jerusalem to take back to their kings. Certainly, not part of the ceremonies that Zed had planned for his guests!
Mackay: The animal that wore the yoke was one that had been domesticated and was under the control of its owner. If it was a slave with a yoke on his shoulders, his status too was evident. Consequently, “yoke” was used as a term for domination by another party (Deut. 28:48; 1 Kgs. 22:10-11; Ezek. 7:23). Jeremiah’s message therefore was that the nations had to accept the political subjugation to Nebuchadnezzar. This would involve paying tribute to him and sending conscripts to serve in his army, but would have left their countries relatively intact.
B. (:3-8) Announce Divine Appointment of Nebuchadnezzar as Ruling Power
1. (:3) Send Word to the Surrounding Kings via Their Ambassasors
“and send word to the king of Edom, to the king of Moab, to the king of the sons of Ammon, to the king of Tyre and to the king of Sidon by the messengers who come to Jerusalem to Zedekiah king of Judah.”
Parunak: The western kings have sent their ambassadors to Jerusalem to plan a coalition to throw off Babylonian control.
Constable: The Babylonian Chronicles illuminate the historical background of this situation. Two years earlier an unnamed enemy had attacked Nebuchadnezzar, and the following year he had to deal with a revolt within his borders. Smaller nations in the west saw this as an opportunity to throw off Babylon”s authority. The same nations had formed a confederacy to revolt against Assyria years earlier, so the purpose of these messengers seems to have been to form another treaty but this time against Babylon.
Feinberg: Jeremiah required great courage to stand against these envoys as well as his own countrymen, but Jeremiah was exercising his commission as a prophet to the nations (cf. 1:10).
2. (:4-7) Set Up Nebuchadnezzar as the Ruling Power
a. (:4-5) Based on God’s Sovereignty
“Command them to go to their masters, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, thus you shall say to your masters, I have made the earth, the men and the beasts which are on the face of the earth by My great power and by My outstretched arm, and I will give it to the one who is pleasing in My sight.’”
b. (:6-7) Balanced by Eventual Overthrow
“Now I have given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, My servant, and I have given him also the wild animals of the field to serve him. All the nations shall serve him and his son and his grandson until the time of his own land comes; then many nations and great kings will make him their servant.”
Mackay: If even the untamed animals will be subject to him, how much more the domestic animals who bear the yoke? It is therefore wisdom to accept the yoke of his dominion.
3. (:8) Specify Punishment for Refusal to Submit
“’It will be, that the nation or the kingdom which will not serve him, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and which will not 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, ‘until I have destroyed it by his hand.’”
C. (:9-10) Avoid the Lies of the False Prophets
“But as for you, do not listen to your prophets, your diviners, your dreamers, your soothsayers or your sorcerers who speak to you, saying,‘You will not serve the king of Babylon.’ For they prophesy a lie to you in order to remove you far from your land; and I will drive you out and you will perish.”
Mackay: There was a variety of ways in which the message of false hope and rebellion might be generated, but all of them were to be ignored even in foreign lands where they represented accepted practice.
D. (:11) Accept the Benefits of Oppressive Submission
“’But the nation which will bring its neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon and serve him, I will let remain on its land,’ declares the LORD, ‘and they will till it and dwell in it.’”
Thompson: Nebuchadnezzar was Yahweh’s servant, and as long as he was needed he was irresistible. His service was confined to the destruction of the things in which Israel was placing a false confidence. One day Babylon would have fulfilled Yahweh’s purpose of destroying all these things and of bringing exiles to repentance. Then he would be set aside. This was not shrewd political comment but something Jeremiah received as he stood in the council of Yahweh.
II. (:12-15) SUBMISSION = THE WILL OF GOD –
COMMAND TO ZEDEKIAH TO SUBMIT TO THE YOKE OF THE KING OF BABYLON
A. (:12) Submit to God’s Plan
“I spoke words like all these to Zedekiah king of Judah, saying, ‘Bring your necks under the yoke of the king of Babylon and serve him and his people, and live!’”
B. (:13) Don’t Fight God’s Revealed Will
“Why will you die, you and your people, by the sword, famine and pestilence, as the LORD has spoken to that nation which will not serve the king of Babylon?”
C. (:14-15) Don’t Embrace False Hopes
“’So do not listen to the words of the prophets who speak to you, saying, ‘You will not serve the king of Babylon,’ for they prophesy a lie to you; for I have not sent them,’ declares the LORD, ‘but they prophesy falsely in My name, in order that I may drive you out and that you may perish, you and the prophets who prophesy to you.’”
III. (:16-22) DELIVERANCE TIED TO DISCERNMENT –
WARNING TO THE PRIESTS AND THE PEOPLE TO REJECT THE MESSAGE OF THE FALSE PROPHETS
A. (:16-17) The Lie of the False Prophets and Its Consequences
“Then I spoke to the priests and to all this people, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD: Do not listen to the words of your prophets who prophesy to you, saying, ‘Behold, the vessels of the LORD’s house will now shortly be brought again from Babylon’; for they are prophesying a lie to you. Do not listen to them; serve the king of Babylon, and live! Why should this city become a ruin?’”
Feinberg: The vessels were originally made by Solomon but were doubtless added to through the years by gifts from the people (cf. 1 Kings 7:15, 23, 27, 48-50). Some were carried away in the deportation of Jehoiakim (cf. 2 Chron 36:5-6), and even more were carried in 597 B.C. (cf. v. 20; 2 Kings 24:13).
B. (:18-22) The Litmus Test for Genuine Prophets – Compare Their Agenda to God’s Agenda
1. (:18) Their Agenda = What They Say Will Happen
“But if they are prophets, and if the word of the LORD is with them, let them now entreat the LORD of hosts that the vessels which are left in the house of the LORD, in the house of the king of Judah and in Jerusalem may not go to Babylon.”
Constable: If the false prophets were true, they should ask Yahweh to keep the remaining temple, palace, and city furnishings and accessories still in Jerusalem, from being taken captive to Babylon (cf. 2 Kings 25:13-17; Daniel 1:1-2). The granting of their petition would validate them as authentic prophets.
2. (:19-22) God’s Agenda = What God Actually Makes Happen
“For thus says the LORD of hosts concerning the pillars, concerning the sea, concerning the stands and concerning the rest of the vessels that are left in this city, which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon did not take when he carried into exile Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, from Jerusalem to Babylon, and all the nobles of Judah and Jerusalem. Yes, thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, concerning the vessels that are left in the house of the LORD and in the house of the king of Judah and in Jerusalem, ‘They will be carried to Babylon and they will be there until the day I visit them,’ declares the LORD. ‘Then I will bring them back and restore them to this place.’”
Thompson: Yahweh’s final word was that the accessories of the temple and the royal palace would be taken to Babylon despite the words of the false prophets (v. 16). There they would remain until the day when Yahweh would give attention to them. Then they would be brought back and restored to their place. The chapter thus ends on a note of hope for the future. The nation stood under judgment, but beyond the judgment Yahweh promised restoration.