I love getting mail, in particular, I love getting letters in the mail. There is just something nice about opening a piece of mail and reading what someone has written to you, at least most of the time. However in Jeremiah 29, that’s not the case. The exiles of Judah received a letter from Jeremiah while they were captives in Babylon. Imagine their delight when they realized that this letter was on behalf of the God of Israel. They were probably thinking, “Finally, we are going to get some good news. God is probably going to tells us that everything will be okay and that we will be out of here in no time.”
As optimistic as that seemed, that was not what the letter was about. The letter began like this: “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon” (Jer. 29:4). Now, wait just one minute. Did that say what I think that said? Is God actually taking credit for them being captives in Babylon? They thought it was Nebuchadnezzar who was responsible for their captivity (2 Kgs. 24-25). They probably had built up hatred toward this evil king because they thought it was him who was responsible for their present situation. However, in this letter they find out that God is responsible for their current misery.
The question that we must ask is, “Why did God allow Nebuchadnezzar to invade the land of His people and take them away into captivity?” The answer can be found in Jeremiah 25. There we are told that God spoke to the people of Judah through the prophet Jeremiah and said, “These twenty-three years the word of the Lord has come to me, and I have spoken to you again and again, but you have not listened. And the Lord has sent to you all His servants and prophets again and again, but you have not listened nor inclined your ear to hear, saying, ‘Turn now everyone from his evil way and from the evil of your deeds, and dwell on the land which the Lord has given to you and your forefathers forever and ever; and do not go after other gods to serve them and to worship them, and do not provoke Me to anger with the work of your hands and I will do you no harm.’ Yet you have not listened to Me, declares the Lord, in order that you might provoke Me to anger with the work of your hands to your own harm” (Jer. 25:3-7).
We find out the reason for the people being in captivity is because of their own sins and failures to heed the words of the Lord. Jeremiah told them that God sent them prophets, but they still would not listen. God gave them plenty of opportunities to repent and turn from their sins, but they failed to do that. So God did something that would get their attention. He used Nebuchadnezzar as His servant (Jer. 27:6). Nebuchadnezzar was an evil king who didn’t worship the one true and living God. In fact, he and his people were more evil than Judah, but God used him as His servant to make Judah pay for their sins.
Judah found themselves in some unpleasant circumstances because they failed to do what God expected them to do. They didn’t listen to Him, they didn’t obey Him, they didn’t worship Him, they worshipped idols and they even executed some of the prophets that God had sent to them. Judah had removed God from their way of life so God punished them!
Friends, let us learn from the example of the people of Judah. We may choose to turn our backs on God and ignore His commands and will for our lives. We may choose to live as though He doesn’t exist, but remember this…the time is coming when God will have had enough and those who fail to obey His commands will pay the ultimate price, eternal separation from the presence of the Lord.
The apostle Paul wrote, “For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2 Thessalonians 1:6-9).
Now that’s Something to Think About!