Jeremiah 26-29
(Plans to Prosper)
August 12th

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

"For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope."

- Jeremiah 29:11 (NRSV)

Summary of Chapters

Today's chapters begin the second half of the book of Jeremiah and begin a section of ten chapters that are linked by a theme of hopefulness. These first three chapters address the topic of false hope from unreliable sources versus the truth of God's plans as proclaimed by Jeremiah.

Chapter 26 begins with the LORD telling Jeremiah to speak in the temple and give a final warning to the people. The scripture notes that this event occurred during the early part of the reign of Jehoiakim. You may recall from yesterday's study that Jehoiakim was the second son of Josiah. Jehoiakim was inserted by the Egyptians as the replacement for Jehoahaz circa 609 B.C. He reigned for about 11 years, during which he and his officials frequently clashed with Jeremiah, who warned the people on more than one occasion of the consequences of their current behavior. We read about one of those clashes today.

The message Jeremiah delivered at the temple that day was that if the people repent, then there would not be an imminent disaster, otherwise there will be total destruction. This message was not well received, so the priests and other people seized him and demanded his death:

Jeremiah seized the opportunity to defend himself and warned the people of the guilt they would incur if they killed an innocent man. Cooler heads prevailed as some of the elders reminded the crowd that the prophet Micah had made similar prophecies during the reign of King Hezekiah, but that king did not have him put to death. Others also defended Jeremiah and he was released.

In chapter 27, the LORD gave Jeremiah his next symbolic assignment: He was told to walk around with a wooden yoke on his neck and warn the people to bow down to the yoke of Babylon or they will perish. He took the yoke and the message to King Zedekiah and to officials gathered from other countries that may have been plotting a futile strategy to defeat Babylon. Zedekiah was the replacement for the replacement after Jehoiakim and others had been taken into exile along with many of the sacred objects from the temple. Zedekiah was bound by a vassal treaty with Babylon, but was considering reneging.

Chapter 28 records the response from the false prophet Hananiah and a subsequent contest of dueling prophesies between him and Jeremiah. Hananiah said that the LORD said he will break the yoke of Babylon and bring back the treasures of Jerusalem within two years. Jeremiah replied saying, yes – that would be fantastic! If it happens as you say, then you truly are sent by God.

Hananiah was offended by that statement so he took the wooden yoke from Jeremiah, broke it, and repeated his prophesy. Jeremiah left the scene of the attack at that point, but came back later with a new word from the LORD: “ 'I've put an iron yoke on all these nations. They're harnessed to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. They'll do just what he tells them. Why, I'm even putting him in charge of the wild animals.' " (Jer 28:14 - MSG).”

Then Jeremiah made clear to Hananiah that he (Hananiah) had been misleading the people, and as a result, the LORD decreed that he should die that year. This prophecy came true, while Hananiah’s did not.

Chapter 29 records a series of exchanges of letters, beginning with one from Jeremiah to the people in exile (King Jehoiachin, his court, and others). In this letter Jeremiah relayed the word of the LORD that the people should settle down where they had been placed in exile.

But the people who remained in Jerusalem and did not listen would be subjected to “sword, famine, and plagues (Jer 29:17 - NIV).” In addition, the LORD would make these people like “poor figs that are so bad that they cannot be eaten (Jer 29:17 - NIV).”

The end of the chapter informs the reader of a sequence of events that resulted from a man named Shenaiah, who wrote a nasty-gram calling for Jeremiah to be put in neck irons for suggesting that the exiles remain in Babylon. Zephaniah, who was one of the recipients, forwarded the letter to Jeremiah, who then wrote a reply to all the people in exile. He told them that because Shenaiah has done this that he and his descendents will be punished and will not see the good things that the LORD will do.

Reflection and Application

There is a lot of topics from today's study on which we can reflect. One is the theme of false hope and deceitful leaders who encourage it. Sometimes false hope sounds better than the hard truth, so we are attracted to it. From the outcomes described in this book it seems that God reserved some of his harshest punishments for the propagators of falsehoods who misrepresented God and gave false hopes to the people. The listeners who followed them were guilty by association, but God put more of the blame on the false prophets.

We don’t want to fall into either profile. If we have been spreading lies and false hopes, then we need to retract and correct ourselves ASAP. If we have been going along with half-truths and myths, then we need to examine what we hear against what we read in the Bible and determine what is right and wrong. We can listen for God’s guidance and can feel in our heart when we are headed the wrong way.

Jeremiah was quick on his feet to defend himself. In a similar situation, Jesus chose not to defend himself when he was brought before Pontius Pilate. He also had been persecuted for statements regarding the destruction of the temple and for other alleged crimes:

Why did Jeremiah seek to vindicate himself but Jesus did not? Perhaps the answer is because both were following the instructions that God assigned to them, accepting the cup given to them. Jeremiah had more work yet to do.

Sometimes when we speak up to defend ourselves or others we suddenly find that we have supporters who have otherwise been mute. Maybe they just needed that extra nudge to speak up. Maybe there were many officials and other people who had a long term respect for Jeremiah because of his long-suffering ministry. Maybe God nudged them to step in and save one of the true prophets. Any of these are possible explanations. Anything is possible with God. We may sometimes feel like we are in a quiet minority, but if we are on God’s side, then we have the man with the veto power watching our back.

How many of us would walk around our town with a yoke around our neck? Jeremiah was truly a loyal servant who trusted in God – no wonder God continued to save him over and over. We may not consciously put a yoke on, but many of us walk around with the yoke of our past. We don’t need to. We can offer up our shortcomings to God and he will break that yoke, wipe the slate clean, and set us free.

God certainly owned Hananiah in the dueling prophesies. Big H thought he was the man because he took the wooden yoke away from Jeremiah, but God came back saying he was going to latch on an iron yoke, and made Hananiah pay the ultimate price. Snap! We don’t want to take on God in a duel. Instead, we should let him fight our battles.

Sometimes we find ourselves at a loss for words in difficult situations. We might be well served to retreat for a bit, gather our thoughts, and pray, as Jeremiah did following his encounter with Hananiah. An answer may come to us. It might be a direct message from the LORD, as Jeremiah experienced, or it might be a gentle nudge or an idea that seems to come from our own minds. The next time we are in a confrontation, we may want to remember this example.

Verse 29:11 is a favorite of many people and one that we often repeat in times of trouble or confusion (“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”). How reassuring is it to know that God has a plan for us? He wants us to prosper. He also wants us to bloom where we are planted. We might not appreciate our current situation, but God wants us to make the best of it because it is part of his broader plan.

We hear about the bad figs again in today’s study. This is a useful analogy for those who plant and tend fruit trees. They work hard to nurture and harvest the figs, apples, or other food, but there are always some bad apples. They all had the same opportunity, but some did not work out. Unlike the figs and apples we have free will that can help us to avoid becoming spoiled fruit. Don’t blame the tree.

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

Related Questions

  1. What is the oddest outfit that you ever wore in public?
  2. In what situations have other people unexpectedly stood up to defend you?
  3. What do you think the plans are that God has for you?

Recommended Prayer
Father in heaven, we know you have a plan for all of us. Help us to bloom where you have planted us.

Suggested Prayer Concerns
Growers of Fruit Trees

Looking Ahead

Tomorrow's reading: Jeremiah 30-33 (Vision of a New Jerusalem)

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