An Urgent Letter to the Captivities
The Good Figs Weren’t Good
It could be conjectured that the Good Figs were indeed good, but according to Jeremiah 29:1-32 it wasn’t so. The truth be told, the Good Figs weren’t good! Indeed, “peace”, goodness (“not of evil” – Jer. 29:11), and “an expected end” was offered to the Jewish Captives of Babylon, BUT THEY REJECTED IT. They unwaveringly desired the peace and goodness of the Covenantal Ideals existing only in Jerusalem. God was providentially making available an extraordinary and unusual peace and goodness UNTIL the 70-year Tribulation Period expired and the Covenantal Ideals were restored (Jer. 29:5-7, 10-11), but they had no heart to suffer any further tribulation and they had no patience to wait for true and lasting peace (“If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! But now they are hid from thine eyes.” – Lk. 19:41-42). They rashly insisted upon the presently unavailable, and boasted: “The LORD hath raised us up Prophets in Babylon” (Jer. 29:15). SHOCKING!
“The LORD hath raised us up Prophets in Babylon” – Jer. 29:15
False prophets had spawned in the Land of the Chaldeans, of all places! These men, the Jewish false prophets who were of the Captivities, were prophesying that the captivity was going to be short and that they would soon return to Judah and Jerusalem (Jer. 29:8-9). The deception of false security was so prevalent that – even in Babylon! – the people thought it wise and reasonable that salvation would be quickly and easily restored. Oh, that evil doctrine! That evil disease! The decision to believe for salvation whilst undecided concerning repentance! Ah, these “vain and foolish things” (Lam. 2:14)! With damnable iniquities yet undiscovered, the people boasted in the free grace of God to turn away their Captivity (Lam. 2:14). On this wise, this Evil People (the Good Figs) loathed the offering of divine goodness. They were so evil, they refused good! Inconsiderate of the length of their iniquities, the backslidden Church refused to believe their punishment was long. Yet, God said, “For the punishment of the iniquity of the daughter of My people IS GREATER than the punishment of the sin of Sodom, that was overthrown as in a moment, and no hands stayed on her” (Lam. 4:6). Hence, God has evil planned for the good-less people so that in the latter end they’d become good, but first the LORD needed strip from them the happy chant, “The LORD hath raised up Prophets in Babylon” (Jer. 29:15). God had some bad news for the people’s happy agenda and, secondarily, men needed to die.
“Because ye [the Captives of Babylon] have said, The LORD hath raised us up prophets in Babylon; Know that thus saith the LORD of the King that sitteth upon the throne of David [the Kingdom of Judah], and of all the people that dwelleth in this City [Jerusalem], and of your brethren that are not gone forth with you into captivity; Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Behold, I will send upon them the sword, the famine, and the pestilence, and will make them like Vile Figs, that cannot be eaten, they are so evil. And I will persecute them with the sword, with the famine, and with the pestilence, and will deliver them to be removed to all the Kingdoms of the earth, to be a curse, and an astonishment, and an hissing, and a reproach, among all the nations whither I have driven them: Because they have not hearkened to My words, saith the LORD, which I sent unto them by my servants the prophets, rising up early and sending them; but ye would not hear, saith the LORD.” – Jer. 29:15-19
After this, God saw fit to slay some notorious false Prophets that arose in the Land of Babylon lest the Good Figs don’t ever become good! Think of it, my reader! In the Land of the Chaldeans – the only place of refuge from the person by person annihilation via the sword, the pestilence, and the famine – THE KILLING CONTINUED! For good reason, though.
Swift and Fatal Judgment upon the Persecutors
Naming names, the jealous Finger of God pointed to the Jewish false Prophets that dwelt in the Land of Babylon and, THEY DIED! Shockingly, Jeremiah precisely prophesied of their death while abiding in the distant Land of Jerusalem. A letter was written in the Land of Judah and sent to the Land of Babylon, and Jeremiah named names: AHAB, ZEDEKIAH, & SHEMAIAH (Ahab & Zedekiah, Jer. 29:21; Shemaiah, Jer. 29:32)! How fearful would it be to find your name in a letter carried all the way from Jerusalem to Babylon?
All of this was a divine testimony to those who were longing to return to the Kingdom of Judah. They looked from Babylon to Jerusalem with longing, with readiness to return, not knowing that the inhabitants of Jerusalem were hopelessly lost and mercilessly doomed in time and in eternity, excepting that they too were graciously carried to Babylon as a Prisoner of Hope (Zech. 9:12). The false Prophets effectually turned their eyes upon death, proclaiming: “LIFE!” That is, they turned their eyes upon Jerusalem, proclaiming: “LIFE!” Of course, the devil was in hot-pursuit after the Good Figs… and so was GOD!
In the conflict, it appears that a return Letter was immediately sent by Shemaiah to the authorities of Jerusalem. Immediately, I say, because it is highly unlikely that this letter was sent after the LORD roasted Ahab and Zedekiah in the fire. This event was so impactful to the falsehood-fervent Jews in Babylon that, in turn, they feared and gave glory to God, saying (and proverbially remembering): “The LORD make thee like Zedekiah and like Ahab, whom the King of Babylon roasted in the fire” (Jer. 29:22). Before this, Shemaiah had the boldness to write to the authorities of Jerusalem, saying:
“The LORD hath made thee Priest in the stead of Jehoiada the Priest, that ye should be Officers in the House of the LORD, for every man that is mad, and maketh himself a Prophet, that thou shouldest put him in prison, and in the stocks. Now therefore why hast thou not reproved Jeremiah of Anathoth, which maketh himself a Prophet to you? For therefore he sent unto us in Babylon, saying, This Captivity is LONG: build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them.” – Jer. 29:26-28
I am sure this letter was not well received by the Priesthood in Jerusalem. Why? They, having recently beheld the death of Hananiah in Jerusalem (the last Prophet to boldly defy Jeremiah), were not so easily bewitched by Shemaiah’s enticements. Notably, even Shemaiah recognized how freely and untouched Jeremiah preached and ministered during this time (Jer. 29:27). In a restraining sense, the terror of God was upon them (Gen. 35:5). At once, Jeremiah responded to Shemaiah, saying,
“Send to all them of the Captivity, saying, Thus saith the LORD concerning Shemaiah the Nehelamite; Because that Shemaiah hath prophesied unto you, and I sent him not, and he caused you to trust in a lie: Therefore thus saith the LORD; Behold, I will punish Shemaiah the Nehelamite, and his seed: he shall not have a man to dwell among this people; neither shall he behold the good that I will do for my people, saith the LORD; because he hath taught rebellion against the LORD.” – Jer. 29:31-32
So, here’s the situation… the Good Figs (Jer. 24:5-7, 29:4-7) were being bombarded by false Prophets in the Land of Babylon, God was speaking unto them goodly words (Jer. 29:4-7), and the Prophets, Diviners, and Dreamers were contradicting and blaspheming with flattering speeches (Jer. 29:8-9, 15). The people were indeed being bewitched, so they said, “The LORD hath raised us up prophets in Babylon” (Jer. 29:15), and because the heart of the Good Figs was made to trust in the false Prophets – the LORD briskly responded in word (Jer. 29:15-18) and in deed (Jer. 29:20-32). Fierce retaliation was necessary if God was going to recover the Good Figs from the past and present condition of unchangeable evil.
The false prophets were causing the Good Figs (Jer. 29:4-7) to wish for the fate of the Evil Figs (Jer. 29::16-18), hence the quick and urgent retaliation. They were causing the Evil Figs to believe that the judgment of God did effectually come upon the Good Figs while they, being in Judah, were in the promising boundaries of eternal security. What a wicked and fearful contradiction! By position, the Hopefuls hoped to be with the Hopeless while the Hopeless derided the Hopefuls as Hopeless! So, how did the LORD respond? He roasted Ahab and Zedekiah in the fire, literally! Furthermore, He cursed Shemaiah and his seed! The LORD jealously defended the Good Figs from the encroaching deception of false Prophets on location in Babylon. Concerning these judgments, revealed to Jeremiah from the distant Land of Judah, God said: “Even I know, and am witness, saith the LORD” (Jer. 29:23). God Almighty was RIGHT THERE on site in Babylon, make no mistake about it! He was intent upon bringing the Good Figs to repentance through the 70-year Captivity, and not without it! After the purifying effect of the 70-year Tribulation, God said (in the future tense):
“Then shall ye call upon Me, and ye shall go and pray unto Me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek Me, and find Me, when ye shall search for Me with all your heart. And I will be found of you, saith the LORD: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the LORD; and I will bring you again into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive.” – Jer. 29:12-14
They needed the 70-year Captivity, my reader. The Good Figs weren’t good yet! “THEN…”, was the time reference of the restoration. This was not the people’s behavior at present. At a much later time (after 70 years of Tribulation), God said: “THEN shall ye call upon Me”, “ye shall go and pray unto Me”, “ye shall seek Me” and “search for Me with all your heart”, and God said He would be with them (Jer. 29:12-14)! This is the destined goodness providentially provided by God through the Tribulation, and not without it! The trajectory was set. The Divine Furnace was built. The Divine Fires were lit. To embrace God’s goodness one must embrace Tribulation. Lo, and behold, the people were Captive in God’s Refining Furnace located in the Land of Babylon (Isa. 48:9-12, 14, 20), and they couldn’t get out! If they knew what was good for them, they wouldn’t want out! Omnibenevolence spoke prophetically, saying, “Behold, I have refined thee, but with silver; I have chosen thee in the Furnace of Affliction” (Isa. 48:10). They were privileged to be the recipients of this means of redemption, and they didn’t deserve it! The reality of the Tribulation Period was simply that Tribulation was unavoidable. Evil was coming upon everyone everywhere, but God determined to use this evil for good unto all those who were willing to receive it with thanksgiving and praise, but only in Babylon (Isa. 24:13-16, 48:10, Ezek. 20:38 [Ezek. 3:17-21, 18:1-32, 33:1-20], Zech. 3:2, Mal. 3:2-3).