Today we begin to go forward in time, covering a message given to Jeremiah at the start of both Jehoiakim’s and Zedekiah’s reign.
Jeremiah Chapter 27
Lessons from the text
Obey Your Rulers
One accusation against Christianity is that our God teaches us to obey Him rather than man and therefore we are a rebellious people. This belief is derived from Acts when Peter and John on two occasions state they they must obey God over the commandments of the Pharisees (Acts. 4:19, 5:29). The apostles were commanded by the authorities to stop preaching in the name of Jesus. Peter and John replied that they could not help but preach because God had called them to do so, and therefore they rebelled against the Pharisees and continued to preach.
In this chapter, however, God says that He appoints whoever He desires as rulers on the earth. If this is true, then rebelling against those who God has ordained to be your rulers is to rebel against God’s authority, which is a sin.
Nonetheless, the same conclusion can be drawn from the incident with Jeremiah and the Apostles: we are to obey God. In the first instance Peter and John, that means to continue to exhibit freedom of speech and teach the people the way of salvation. In the latter instance, it means to acknowledge God’s plans over humanity and act accordingly.
If the Apostles had obeyed the Pharisees, they would have been directly disobeying God for Jesus had commanded them to preach the Gospel to every creature (Mk. 16:15). Along the same lines, those who rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar likewise directly disobeyed God’s command for He had commanded them through Jeremiah to submit to his rule (Jer. 21:9-10, 27:6-8).
The accusation against Christianity is correct in that Christians are to obey God instead of man whenever satisfying man’s law would transgress against a commandment from God. However, the accusation is false because, more times than not, God is backing those in authority.
How, then, do Christians know when to submit to an authority and when to rebel?
God will always disclose His will to His people. If you are obeying God’s will in your life, such as following His leadership to accept a certain job, then you know that God has appointed your boss over you. Rebelling against your boss by being frustration, calling that person unfair, and wishing you had a different boss would be the same as when the Jews rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar. In fact, Scripture teaches us to submit to our earthly masters because our meekness and willingness to serve distinguishes us from other people (II Pet. 2:13-14). The only time we are not to obey man’s law is when obedience would cause a direct violation of God’s commands. If we refuse to submit to man’s rule for any other reason, then we are guilty in God’s eyes of rebelling against His authority.
Verse by Verse Commentary
1 This verse says that Jehoiakim is king, yet verses 3 and 12 state that Zedekiah rules. This tension is easily alleviated using verse 12: God gave Jeremiah the sermon of verses 4-11 during the beginning of Jehoiakim’s reign and a second time at the beginning of Zedekiah’s reign when ambassadors from the neighboring nations came to discuss their occupation by Babylonian. The physical props of the yokes and bonds are added for the second preaching of the message.
This interpretation makes particular sense considering that during Jehoiakim’s reign Nebuchadnezzar first came into the region to conquer the nations and, if Jehoiakim had surrendered instead of resisted, the first deportation would have been avoided. Equally so, if Zedekiah had submitted to Babylonian rule, then he would have avoided the second deportation and destruction of the city.
2 The yokes represent labor or burden, and the bonds represent captivity.
3-4 The message is addressed to all the rulers of the region.
5 Part of God’s divine authority is the ability to give power to whoever He pleases. God is the one who establishes and destroys kings (Dan. 2:20-21). As such, all rulers on the earth reign by God’s appointment and not by man’s devices. The lesson drawn from this is that man is to submit to earthly rulers because their power is a direct result of God granting them authority.
6-7 Nebuchadnezzar, although a heaven, is called God’s servant. See Isaiah 10:5-6 for a similar instance; God calls Assyria to pass judgment on the Northern Kingdom. See also Daniel 2:36-38. God chose this man to rule over a vast kingdom because He saw that Nebuchadnezzar will fulfill His plans for humanity.
8 Since Nebuchadnezzar is God’s instrument on the earth, to rebel against him is to rebel against God. Therefore, those who do not submit to Babylon will be destroyed or deported. For King Jehoiakim, this meant surrendering to Nebuchadnezzar as he entered the region for the first time. For King Zedekiah, this means being content under and faithful to Babylonian rule.
9-10 Jeremiah’s words are in direct contradiction to the words of the other prophets and diviners. Satan tells one to do the exact opposite of what God has commanded with an intent to bring one under God’s wrath. The enemy of both God and man delights in destroying whatever he can by whatever means possible. If he can confuse people into taking unsound advice, he will gladly do so. He knows that if humanity is given two choices, man will likely pick the choice that appeals to his flesh and worldly desires, such as rebelling against Babylon because the flesh would rather rule over itself instead of submitting to another authority. The suggestion to eat of the forbidden fruit in the garden of Eden is the first recorded instance of this ploy of Satan (Gen. 3:1-5).
11 If the people will harken to God’s advice, then they will avoid much hardship. Regardless of whatever suggestions are present, one is to seek out and obey God’s words because only following His will leads one into safety.
12-13 Jeremiah expands on the original message when he presents it to King Zedekiah. The message has been fulfilled once already under Jehoiakim’s reign, so Jeremiah is pleading with the current king to not repeat the same mistake that his predecessor made.
14-15 Jeremiah now attempts to expose the false prophets. Since Jeremiah’s prophecies have begun to be fulfilled, the law of the prophets makes it clear the he, and not the others, is the true prophet. Those who spoke of Israel’s victory over Babylon were lying since Nebuchadnezzar successfully deported the Jews once already. Under the Mosaic law, they should be killed for speaking falsely in the Lord’s name (Deut. 18:20-22).
16-18 After speaking to the king, Jeremiah tries to reason with the priests and people. The false prophets are proclaiming the same message that caused the first deportation: rebel against Babylon. Jeremiah says that if they truly cared about the people and the city, they would be praying for the sins of the people and inquiring of God what can be done to avoid further destruction. Instead of focusing on spiritual matters like a true prophet, they are only concerned with instigating rebellion and tickling the ears of the people.
19-22 The true word of the Lord warns that even what is left from the first deportation will soon be taken away. This should cause the people to diligently seek God, asking for forgiveness and pardon. The priests and people refuse to listen to Jeremiah and believe instead the false prophets. This fact is revealed by the fulfillment of God’s words though the second deportation (II Ki. 25:13-21).
Thank you for your faithfulness in studying God’s word.
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