Now I will give all your countries into the hands of my servant Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; I will make even the wild animals subject to him. All nations will serve him and his son and his grandson until the time for his land comes; then many nations and great kings will subjugate him.
Jeremiah 27:6-7 (NIV)
Context is always crucial when it comes to interpreting the ancient prophets and getting a clear picture of what they meant back then, so I can then find the connections to the implications for me today.
I mentioned in an earlier post that the relationship between the emerging Babylonian empire under Nebuchadnezzar and the nation of Judah was just under 20 years. It was 20 years of Babylon imposing their political will and demanding tribute from the people of Jerusalem and Judah. Today’s chapter begins by identifying the events and message “early in the reign of Zedekiah.” King Z was the last puppet placed on the throne by Nebuchadnezzar in 597 BC. He reigned 11 years before his own rebellion against Nubuchadnezzar prompted the destruction of Jerusalem in 586.
There is a political convention taking place in Jerusalem, the most prominent of city-states in the region, and hosted by King Z. Ambassadors from all of the smaller nations in the area (also subject to Babylonian rule) are in attendance and “the Babylon question” is the hot topic of conversation. The Babylonians have already deposed two kings of Judah, taken the best and brightest back to captivity in Babylon, and those remaining in Jerusalem want both security and independence. They want to throw off the yoke of Babylonian servitude.
The city is bustling with political figures and politics is on everyone’s minds, even among the plethora of deities, idols, and shrines and their prophets, diviners, dream interpreters, mediums, and sorcerers. According to Jerry, all of these keep saying the one reassuring thing all of these national leaders want to hear:
“You won’t serve the king of Babylon.”
Even the prophets of God in Solomon’s Temple, which had been partially ransacked and plundered during Babylon’s original takeover of the city less than ten years before, are saying that things will get better, not worse:
“Very soon the articles from the Lord’s house will be brought back from Babylon.”
It’s into this atmosphere that God calls Jeremiah to do a little public performance art. Jerry fashions a yoke (like the metaphorical one all the politicians want to throw off), puts his own neck in the yoke, and addresses all of the ambassadors of the political summit with a message to take back to their kings. Only Jeremiah’s message stands in sharp contrast to what all the other prophets, diviners, dream interpreters, mediums, and sorcerers are saying.
God’s message through Jeremiah is fascinating. God has a plan. That plan includes “times” set for the nations. He states that his listeners have only two options: 1) Submit and surrender to Babylon if you want to live or 2) Continue to resist the Babylonians and die in the impending destruction (now about ten years away). God through Jeremiah further states that Babylon will continue as an empire through the reigns of Nebuchadnezzar, his son, and grandson before “the time for his land comes” and Babylon falls to multiple enemies and God will bring back His people and restore them in Jerusalem.
Everything that Jeremiah states in his message in today’s chapter will be fulfilled in the following 80 years.
As I contemplated these things in the quiet this morning, there were three things that came to my mind.
First, throughout the Great Story, God continually reminds me that there is a plan for “the nations” and there are “times” appointed. Jesus made this very clear as well, noting that some of those “times” were unknown even to Him.
Second, the things that “everyone” is saying does not necessarily make it true. In fact, when it is politically incorrect and possibly dangerous to proclaim a contrasting opinion, then it’s likely that motivations other than truth lie behind the things “everyone” is being coerced into believing.
Third, Jeremiah was able to correctly speak the truth of the current situation because he was maintaining a connections and relationship with God and viewing current events through the lens of the larger Great Story that God is authoring in the moment, rather than letting his personal, momentary earthly security and safety dictate what he wanted to believe.
Emotions are powerful. It is our “emotional” brain that first functions in infancy to motivate survival through our base appetites and desires. Only as my brain fully develops with the addition of complex thought do I have the ability and opportunity to understand how my emotions may still be the dominant force leading my thoughts into believing what will appease those same emotional desires for safety, security, and survival.
I enter my day today with the words of Paul (who knew a few things about choosing God’s direction even at the expense of his own safety, security, and survival): “…we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.