15 You may say, “The Lord has raised up prophets for us in Babylon,”16 but this is what the Lord says about the king who sits on David’s throne and all the people who remain in this city, your fellow citizens who did not go with you into exile— 17 yes, this is what the Lord Almighty says: “I will send the sword, famine and plague against them and I will make them like figs that are so bad they cannot be eaten.18 I will pursue them with the sword, famine and plague and will make them abhorrent to all the kingdoms of the earth, a curse and an object of horror, of scorn and reproach, among all the nations where I drive them. 19 For they have not listened to my words,” declares the Lord, “words that I sent to them again and again by my servants the prophets. And you exiles have not listened either,” declares the Lord.
20 Therefore, hear the word of the Lord, all you exiles whom I have sent away from Jerusalem to Babylon. 21 This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says about Ahab son of Kolaiah and Zedekiah son of Maaseiah, who are prophesying lies to you in my name: “I will deliver them into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and he will put them to death before your very eyes.22 Because of them, all the exiles from Judah who are in Babylon will use this curse: ‘May the Lord treat you like Zedekiah and Ahab, whom the king of Babylon burned in the fire.’ 23 For they have done outrageous things in Israel; they have committed adultery with their neighbors’ wives, and in my name they have uttered lies—which I did not authorize. I know it and am a witness to it,” declares the Lord.
(Jeremiah 29:15-23 NIV)
In the first fourteen verses of Chapter 29, the Lord reset the exiles’ expectations for freedom. They would be in Babylon for seventy years. The Lord encouraged them to get on with living and quit believing the lies of the prophets who said that freedom was just around the corner.
The good news was that the Lord promised to restore them – in right relationship with Him, to their homeland, in their families, in their hopes, in their possessions – in short, for the future they had hoped.
In today’s passage, the Lord deals with the false prophets that are in Babylonian exile. Today’s text is a carryover from verse 8, where the Lord told the people not to believe or encourage the false prophets. From verse 4 – 7 and 15, we can read between the lines and see that these false prophets were saying that they would be going home soon – back to Jerusalem.
Their argument was logical, from a human perspective: Jerusalem is still standing, and there is still a king from David’s royal lineage on the throne, and there are still Jewish people living in Jerusalem. Therefore, the prophecies from the likes of Jeremiah and others saying that the Lord will destroy Jerusalem are not accurate. The Lord must have relented and will soon free the exiles to return to Jerusalem, right?
In verses 16 – 19, the Lord puts those arguments to rest by reminding the exiles that those left behind in Jerusalem will die by the sword, famine, and plague. The Lord recalls the object lesson of the good and bad figs (see Chapter 24), using the bad figs to describe those remaining in Jerusalem.
In verses – 23, the Lord addresses the exiles again. The Lord specifically calls out two exiled false prophets who are notoriously evil – Ahab, son of Kolaiah and Zedekiah, son of Maaseiah. The Lord held them accountable for prophesying lies and for committing adultery with their neighbors’ wives.
Reading between the lines again, these two false prophets must have been “drinking their own kool-aid”, believing their lies and taking action on those lies by participating in plots to free themselves from Nebuchadnezzar’s bondage.
Nebuchadnezzar would not have cared about these two prophets wishing to go back home, nor would he have cared about them committing adultery. What Nebuchadnezzar did take action on, however, was the insurrection against Babylon. And what was the punishment for such treachery? Death by burning. If you want a vivid description of this type of execution and the wrath of Nebuchadnezzar, read Daniel Chapter 3.
May we listen to and obey the Lord’s commands, even when “common sense” and public opinion seem to prevail.
Even though written to the exiles of Jerusalem and Judah many years ago, may we remember God’s promises in verses 10 – 14. God’s heart is to draw us closer to Himself, to be our eternal Hope and promise of eternal life through His Son Jesus.
May we listen and obey, and ignore the lies of the false prophets declaring otherwise.