“I also spoke to Zedekiah king of Judah according to all these words, saying, ‘Bring your necks under the yoke of the king of Babylon, and serve him and his people, and live! Why will you die, you and your people, by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence, as the Lord has spoken against the nation that will not serve the king of Babylon?’” (Jeremiah 27:12-13).
What do you think in regard to Hell? Do you believe it is a place where God will send the wicked for eternity (cf. Matthew 25:41; Revelation 21:8) or is the thought of Hell so terrible that you have difficulty accepting that a loving God (cf. John 3:16) could render such harsh judgment for evil men?
These questions challenge our thinking and demonstrate that it is not always easy to accept God’s judgments. As the opening verses above describe, through the prophet Jeremiah, God was trying to get His people to accept His upcoming judgment regarding their sin and rebellion against Him. The Lord was bringing Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon, to conquer God’s people because of their sin. The people of Jeremiah’s day had great difficulty in accepting this harsh judgment from God.
Though His people had sinned and would have to endure God’s judgment of them by serving the king of Babylon, God wanted to them to see that by their willingness to embrace this judgment of God and by their submitting to serve the King of Babylon for a while, they would actually make their sentence easier. To illustrate His point, God even has Jeremiah tell the surrounding nations to “Make for yourselves bonds and yokes, and put them on your neck” and thus submit themselves to the rule of the King of Babylon, who is going to be God’s instrument of judgment (Jeremiah 27:1-11). Then to His own people, God encourages them to by saying, “Bring you necks under the yoke of the king of Babylon, and serve him and his people and live!” (Jeremiah 27:12). If they refused to do this, they would not live, but would die by sword, famine, and pestilence (Jeremiah 27:13).
This was not a message God’s people wanted to hear. They did not want to accept God’s judgment of them. Instead, false prophets arose who lied and told God’s people this would not happen. For example, the false prophet Hananiah went so far as to take the yoke of Jeremiah’s neck, break it and falsely say, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Even so I will break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon from the neck of all nations within the space of two full years’” (Jeremiah 28:10-11). God warned His people not to listen to such false prophets: “‘Therefore do not listen to the words of the prophets who speak to you, saying, “You shall not serve the king of Babylon,” for they prophesy a lie to you; for I have not sent them,’ says the Lord, ‘yet they prophesy a lie in My name, that I may drive you out, and that you may perish, you and the prophets who prophesy to you’” (Jeremiah 27:14-15).
Sadly, God’s people refused to listen to Jeremiah’s warnings and encouragement to submit themselves to God’s judgment in the form of being ruled by the King of Babylon. They rebelled and thus suffered horrible destruction at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar (cf. 2 Chronicles 36:13-19). It broke Jeremiah’s heart to see this happen to his people: “My eyes fail with tears, my heart is troubled; my bile is poured on the ground because of the destruction of the daughter of my people, because the children and the infants faint in the streets of the city” (Lamentations 2:11).
As God’s love is something we should celebrate (cf. Romans 5:6-11), even so His judgments for sin are terrible and should be feared, respected, and accepted by those who call themselves His people (2 Corinthians 5:10-11). Today, I celebrate God’s love, but I will fear and accept His judgments!
“It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31).