Jeremiah 28 Devotional
by Pastor Lawrence
If it hasn’t been said already, the book of Jeremiah is not in chronological order chapter by chapter. Although we were told in the beginning of the book, in chapter one, that Jeremiah prophesied from the thirteenth year of Josiah’s reign until the eleventh year of Zedekiah’s reign, every succeeding chapter has jumped from one time period to another. However, in this particular case, chapter twenty-eight follows immediately after the events in chapter twenty-seven with the prophet still wearing a wooden yoke around his neck. But then later on, the events taking place in chapter fifty-one occur around the same time as the events in these two chapters (see Jer. 51:59). The reason for this seems to be that the book of Jeremiah is laid out thematically rather than chronologically, similar to some of the accounts in the gospels, each of which are written with a particular purpose in mind.
In this case, one ongoing theme that is touched on again and again in this book is the just curse that is placed upon the Jews for breaking their covenant with the Lord in serving the gods of the nations all around them. Because they had yoked themselves to other gods such as Baal, they would suffer under the yoke of an oppressive regime. In the long chapter on blessings and curses in Deuteronomy 28:48, Moses tells Israel that because they had served other gods, they will also serve their enemies whom the Lord will send against them and put a yoke of iron on their necks until they are finally destroyed.
This is the message that Jeremiah was called to act out before the Jews, literally wearing a wooden yoke around his neck in order to exhort the Jews to willingly submit to the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar so that they wouldn’t have to be destroyed. But we see in this chapter that a false prophet named Hananiah arises who opposes the message of Jeremiah and of the Lord and contradicts Jeremiah’s prophecy that said the Jews would suffer in Babylon for seventy years. Hananiah promises that their exile will be for only two years instead and that all of God’s people will return with all of their stuff in that short period of time.
But why would a man say such a thing was from God if it wasn’t? It appears that Hananiah is the anti-Jeremiah. Like Jeremiah, he has a claim to be both a priest (hailing from Gibeon a priest town) and a prophet. Similar to an antichrist, he is telling the people what they want to hear rather than what God requires. Notice that he only promises good things but never actually calls on the people to turn to God or to repent of their sins. Hananiah is not hearing a word from God but is putting his trust in men. What we are not told in this passage is that Egypt now has a new Pharaoh, Hophra, who seems to be gaining power, and Hananiah is trying to convince Zedekiah and the leaders of Judah to switch their allegiance back to Egypt rather than trusting in the Lord and his hard words for their time.
Of course, it is not always easy to trust the Lord, for His way is not often the way that we would choose to take. Nevertheless even His hard way, the way of suffering is still better than turning back to Egypt and turning back to a yoke of slavery. In Matthew 11:29-30 Jesus uses the same imagery as that of the prophet Jeremiah saying to the Jews, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” What we must understand is that we were all created by God to serve Him. If we cast off his yoke, we will quickly find that we will suffer much harm in yoking ourselves to idols. But, sadly, we often must suffer under the yoke of tyrants before we finally cry out to God for relief and begin to see and believe that Christ’s yoke is indeed much easier and full of life and peace.