Jeremiah 25: Captivity Foretold
The final captivity of Judah is rapidly approaching. The people are losing all sense of dependence upon God and all their respect for His laws, and giving themselves up to excessive evil. For twenty-three years, Jeremiah has been at his post in the early morning prophesying, calling on the people for repentance. He is only following in the footsteps of his predecessors whom the Lord sent to warn the people from day to day. But the headstrong, stiff-necked people will pay no attention. "Ye have not hearkened, nor inclined your ear to hear." With terrible obstinacy they provoke the Lord with the works of their hands to their own hurt. Therefore judgment is inevitable. Their enemies from the north will come and will "utterly destroy them, and make them an astonishment, and an hissing, and perpetual desolation," and they "shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years."
This is a definite prediction. Was it fulfilled? This prophecy was uttered "in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, that was the first year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon." (Jer. 25:1) Jehoiakim became king in 609 B.C. And in the third year of his reign "Nebuchadnezzar came unto Jerusalem and besieged it." (Dan. 1:1; 2 Kings 24:1) It seems from the prophecy of Daniel that only a few choice personages were taken into captivity at that time. (Dan. 1:3-4) It was the beginning, however, of the captivity. And it is evident that Jeremiah took advantage of the occasion to strengthen his appeal to his people. Their hearts must surely be affected by this sad event! Will they not be forced into repentance by the prospect of being all taken into captivity! Seventy years captivity! They will never behold their home again, and all manner of curses shall come upon them in captivity! In vain are all the prophet's exhortations.
The captivity then began in the third year of Jehoiakim, 606 B.C. The first year of Nebuchadnezzar was 605 or 604. Nominally, Nebuchadnezzar effected this deportation of the princes and noblemen. Nabopolassar, his father, however, was king of Babylon at the time, and Nebuchadnezzar apparently acted as his colleague, and for spiritual reasons is spoken of as "the king of Babylon." The second deportation took place in the seventh year of Nebuchadnezzar, 597 B.C.; the third in his eighteenth year, 586 B.C., when Jerusalem was destroyed, and the fourth in his twenty-third year, 581 B.C. (Jer. 52; 2 Kings 24:25)
But Jeremiah declared that "at the end of the seventy years the king of Babylon would be punished and the land of the Chaldeans made perpetual desolations." (Jer. 23:12) And so it came to pass. In 538 B.C., Cyrus destroyed Babylon. And in 537 B.C., the captivity was brought to an end through the release of the exiles. Thus, the prophecy uttered in 605 B.C. found a literal fulfillment in 537 B.C.
This chapter describes the beginning of the last and most grievous trials of the regenerating soul. The fourth year of Jehoiakim and first of Nebuchadnezzar indicates the state in brief. It is the opening consciousness of the spirit of dominion—the lust of ruling present in a person’s actions. The Lord's Word comes to enlighten and to warn the person regarding the nature of this evil. But all in vain. (Verses 2-4) The Lord’s messengers persist in their efforts to receive a hearing. Yet those who are confirmed in evil pay no attention. They who are more or less governed by it will not admit how pernicious it is and cannot therefore be saved from the sad experience before them. (Verses 5-7) On this account (verse 8), falsities springing from the love of having one's own way assail the person and reduce the soul to a state of desperation. Happiness is gone, the voice of the Lord silent, the teaching of the church absent, the power of reasoning soundly lost, and the light of faith removed. Then the soul is held in bondage by the lust of being served. (Verses 9-11) When, however, this state of profanity has come to an end, the oppressors - the evil spirits who produce these states of desperation - shall be punished. (Verse 12) Evil cannot triumph over good. It is only permitted for the sake of the end - the salvation of the good. When it has effected this purpose, then it is controlled by the Lord. (Verses 13-14; P. 234) The effect of the spirit of falsifying the truth upon the "knowledges of truth and good, and also truths of every kind" is described in verses 15-27. It is the heart - the will - that falsifies. That being evil in its disposition it is impossible to avoid the falsification, and the consequent suffering. (Verse 28) Since it exists at the center, in falsifying the knowledges from the Word, it must needs proceed outward to the circumference. (Verse 29; S. 104) From the center outward the distress will be great (verse 30), because the truth is profaned when used to excuse wrong feelings. (Verses 31-33) The consciousness of this in a regenerating person produces great lamentation. (Verses 34-38)
Every person is subject to persecution by evil spirits. In the most trivial actions, or words good or evil, the greatest depths of evil may be present within. The consciousness of the degree of evil in any act is regulated by the Lord - little is seen if the person can bear little, much if the person is ready to face and overcome it. "I have many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now." For example, the words "I cannot get over it" in one form or other frequently pass from the lips of people who have been offended by their friends, or in some way ill-treated by them. The degree of resentment and animosity in the speech may be an unconscious quantity to the sufferer. But as the meaning of the Lord's words "Love your enemies, etc." sinks into the heart, the presence of the persecutors becomes more evident. And when the point is reached where it is clearly seen that to utter words in resentment, or even permit them to have an abiding place in the heart, amounts to profanation, then the tormentors present are of the worst type and most difficult to get rid of. The sufferer then goes through the period of seventy years' captivity. Seven is predicated of that which is holy, and in an opposite sense of that which is profane. Truth at first only exists in the memory. It is known only in theory. But as it is applied to the states of life, the consciousness of evil increases. Finally, the fear of profaning the truth by permitting feelings contrary thereto to hold a place in the heart, brings the gravest anguish to the soul, from which the Lord alone can save in due time, when the trial is complete. (See A. 2694, 7166.)