Today’s stories follow no defined timeline, but at least they are clearly marked. The first, in chapter 25, comes in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, about 605 B.C. More critically, it is the first year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. Jeremiah warns Jehoiakim that the LORD will bring Nebuchadnezzar – whom the LORD calls “my servant” – against this land and its inhabitants… and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. Unfortunately, we know that Jehoiakim did not heed Jeremiah’s warning.
At the beginning of chapter 26, Jeremiah recalls events from four years earlier, at the beginning of Jehhoiakim’s reign. Judah was a vassal of Egypt at the time, and Jeremiah was sent to warn the king and his court that it is neither Egypt, nor Babylon, that they should fear: “Thus says the LORD: If you will not listen to me, to walk in my law… and to listen to the words of my servants the prophets… then I will make this house like Shiloh, and I will make this city a curse for all the nations of the earth.”
The final chapter moves forward a dozen years. Judah is now subject to Babylon, and Zedekiah is enthroned as Nebuchadnezzar’s puppet. It smells like there’s a conspiracy afoot among the rulers in the region to buck Babylon’s power. Jeremiah warns against this. In fact, the LORD has ordained Babylon’s position: “Now I have given these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, my servant…” The LORD promises to punish any nation that will not serve Babylon, and to spare the nations that do.
Listen for common threads throughout today’s reading. Prophets, good and bad, are a repeated subject. So is the stubbornness of Judah’s rulers. Notice where and to whom Jeremiah makes his proclamations, and consider the trouble it gets him in. Finally, and significantly, notice the LORD’s sovereign control over the story. If Judah ascends, it is because of the LORD’s hand; if Babylon ascends, it is likewise because of the LORD’s hand.
Our verse for this week is Hebrews 8:10: For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Jeremiah 25 through 27. Now let’s read it!
“Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?