LISTENING to and OBEYING the WORD of GOD: Jeremiah the prophet spoke to all the people of Judah and to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying: "From the thirteenth year of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah, even to this day, this is the twenty-third year in which the word of the Lord has come to me; and I have spoken to you, rising early and speaking, but you have not listened. And the Lord has sent to you all His servants the prophets, rising early and sending them, but you have not listened nor inclined your ear to hear. They said, 'Repent now everyone of his evil way and his evil doings, and dwell in the land that the Lord has given to you and your fathers forever and ever. Do not go after other gods to serve them and worship them, and do not provoke Me to anger with the works of your hands; and I will not harm you.' Yet you have not listened to Me," says the Lord, "that you might provoke Me to anger with the works of your hands to your own hurt.” (Jer 25:2-7)
Imagine preaching for 23 years and seeing no visible results! Jeremiah was faithful to his calling even though the people opposed him and would not hear God’s Word. Jeremiah’s final message in chapter 25 concerned “all the people of Judah”. Even though he had spoken to the people repeatedly through these many years, they had not listened to his warnings.
God also has been consistent in reaching out to Judah by sending other prophets to speak to His people. These prophets include Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Urijah (26:20), and those of previous centuries who had persistently proclaimed the message of repentance so that the people might remain in the land. Their repeated message to Judah was to “repent” (v. 5) or “return” since their security and stability in the land was directly related to their covenant faithfulness to God (see Deut. 28; 29). Yet the people would not obey. Instead, they resorted to the pagan worship of idols. This was a breach of the covenant that God had with Israel (see Ex. 20:3–5), which provoked God to anger and judgment.
The Babylonian captivity was God’s way of punishing the rebels and purifying the godly remnant of the nation. The nation was deaf to God’s Word (vv. 4, 7, 8), but that Word would be fulfilled in due course of time. The people of Judah were eventually taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon and remain in exile for 70 years (v. 11). According to 2 Chronicles 36:20–21, the Lord punished Judah for 70 years because that was the number of sabbatical years they had not observed (Lev. 25:1–7). The people did not rest on the weekly Sabbath (Jer. 17:19–27), and they did not give the land its rest every 7 years (Lev. 26:27–35). When we keep to ourselves what belongs to God, we eventually lose it and suffer in the process!
We need to really listen and obey every word that God speaks to us directly through His Word and through His servants. Let us obey what God is speaking to us today: "If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land." (2 Chron 7:14)