12 I gave the same message to Zedekiah king of Judah. I said, “Bow your neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon; serve him and his people, and you will live. 13 Why will you and your people die by the sword, famine and plague with which the Lord has threatened any nation that will not serve the king of Babylon? 14 Do not listen to the words of the prophets who say to you, ‘You will not serve the king of Babylon,’ for they are prophesying lies to you. 15 ‘I have not sent them,’ declares the Lord. ‘They are prophesying lies in my name. Therefore, I will banish you and you will perish, both you and the prophets who prophesy to you.’”
16 Then I said to the priests and all these people, “This is what the Lord says: Do not listen to the prophets who say, ‘Very soon now the articles from the Lord’s house will be brought back from Babylon.’ They are prophesying lies to you. 17 Do not listen to them. Serve the king of Babylon, and you will live. Why should this city become a ruin? 18 If they are prophets and have the word of the Lord, let them plead with the Lord Almighty that the articles remaining in the house of the Lord and in the palace of the king of Judah and in Jerusalem not be taken to Babylon. 19 For this is what the Lord Almighty says about the pillars, the bronze Sea, the movable stands and the other articles that are left in this city, 20 which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon did not take away when he carried Jehoiachin son of Jehoiakim king of Judah into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon, along with all the nobles of Judah and Jerusalem— 21 yes, this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says about the things that are left in the house of the Lord and in the palace of the king of Judah and in Jerusalem: 22 ‘They 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.’”
(Jeremiah 27:12-22 NIV)
Chapter 27 contains three warnings: first to the nations around Judah (vv. 1 – 11), then to Zedekiah, king of Judah (vv. 12 – 15), and finally, to the priests and the people of Judah (vv. 16 – 22). In the previous devotional, we looked at the historical setting as well as the first warning. In today’s text, we will look at the second and third warnings.
The Lord gave Jeremiah a message and an accompanying object lesson to deliver to each of his audiences. The object lesson was an oxen’s yoke which Jeremiah wore around his neck while giving God’s message to each recipient. The yoke represented servitude, not freedom. Freedom would eventually come, but for now, all three groups were told to serve Babylon.
The message to the five ambassadors to take back to their kings and King Zedekiah was the same: Serve Babylon, and don’t believe the lie of the prophets who tell you not to serve Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon. If you do disobey God’s Word, you will pay with your life and the lives of your people.
The message to the priests and the people of Judah (vv. 16 – 22) was similar: Don’t listen to the lies of the prophets who tell you that the objects from the temple will be returned soon. In fact, the message from the Lord was the opposite: the holy objects already in Babylon would stay in Babylon, and the remaining objects in Jerusalem would be taken to Babylon until the Lord would return all of the objects.
The objects of worship served as another parallel to Judah’s current situation and what was to come. Part of the Lord’s prophecies that Jeremiah had preached had come true, but not all of them (there was more to come). Nebuchadnezzar had conquered Judah and the surrounding nations but left Jerusalem standing. Part of the Temple treasures had been carried off to Babylon, but not all of them. Thus, the false prophets still could perpetuate the lies that all was going to be well, that things would turn around soon, and the nations would soon enjoy their freedom and autonomy.
Notice that the people seemed to be more concerned with the objects used during worship than their relationship with the God whom they were to be worshipping. God wanted His people restored in right relationship with Him. The people wanted their Temple objects back. The nation of Judah had not learned their lesson yet.
May we remember our calling in Christ (1 Peter 2:9) to be like Him in all our ways.
And when we see others still in the “messy” part of life, still learning how to walk with the Lord, may we come alongside them and walk with them, gently encouraging and offering grace to them as Christ gives grace to us.