THE DAY GOD REMOVED HIS HAND
It’s about 588 BC, and Babylonian armies have surrounded Jerusalem. Zedekiah wants Jeremiah to seek God. Perhaps he will rescue them. But God speaks clearly: Babylon’s armies will enter Jerusalem because he is fighting against Judah himself. Surrendering to the Babylonians is the only way to live.
Most likely addressing Zedekiah, God speaks about the shame of his predecessors—Shallum (Jehoahaz), Jehoiakim and Jehoiachin. The people’s shepherds have tended their flock miserably. So God himself is going to gather his scattered flock from the nations and put them under the care of a King who will be called “The Lord Our Righteous Savior.”
Earlier, when Jehoiachin and the second group of exiles were carried off to Babylon in 597 BC, God gives Jeremiah a vision of two baskets of figs—one good and one bad. The good figs represent the exiles God will watch over. They will return to the Lord with all their heart, and he will bring them back home. The bad figs are King Zedekiah and those who survive the first two deportations and remain in Jerusalem. God is going to banish and destroy them when Jerusalem falls in 586.
Previously, in 605, God outlined the exile to Jeremiah: The exiles will serve the king of Babylon for 70 years. But once the 70 years are over, God is going to destroy the Babylonians, paving the way for his people to be set free.
The King’s Heart
God had raised up his nation from among all the peoples of the world. They were to be a beacon of light in a dark, broken world, showing the world how good he is and that his is the path that leads to life.
They had failed. There was nothing distinctive about them. They worshiped the same dark false gods as the other nations. Their enemies even viewed the Lord as if he was just another limited local idol-god (see Isaiah 36:18-20).
For centuries, God’s people had sent him a clear message: “We don’t want you.”
God saw that he wasn’t wanted and that he wouldn’t be unless something drastically changed. So the God of Abraham, Moses and David did what he needed to do to preserve his promises: He removed his hand of protection. “I am against you,” he told his people (Jeremiah 21:13). And he began to work their salvation another way.
While in captivity in Babylon, Daniel read Jeremiah’s words about the exile lasting 70 years (see Daniel 9:2). They were the catalyst for his prayers that God would bring his people home.
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