Harness Yourselves Up to the Yoke
Early in the reign of Zedekiah son of Josiah king of Judah, Jeremiah received this Message from God: “Make a harness and a yoke and then harness yourself up. Send a message to the kings of Edom, Moab, Ammon, Tyre, and Sidon. Send it through their ambassadors who have come to Jerusalem to see Zedekiah king of Judah. Give them this charge to take back to their masters: ‘This is a Message from God-of-the-Angel-Armies, the God of Israel. Tell your masters:
“‘I’m the one who made the earth, man and woman, and all the animals in the world. I did it on my own without asking anyone’s help and I hand it out to whomever I will. Here and now I give all these lands over to my servant Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. I have made even the wild animals subject to him. All nations will be under him, then his son, and then his grandson. Then his country’s time will be up and the tables will be turned: Babylon will be the underdog servant. But until then, any nation or kingdom that won’t submit to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon must take the yoke of the king of Babylon and harness up. I’ll punish that nation with war and starvation and disease until I’ve got them where I want them.
“‘So don’t for a minute listen to all your prophets and spiritualists and fortunetellers, who claim to know the future and who tell you not to give in to the king of Babylon. They’re handing you a line of lies, barefaced lies, that will end up putting you in exile far from home. I myself will drive you out of your lands, and that’ll be the end of you. But the nation that accepts the yoke of the king of Babylon and does what he says, I’ll let that nation stay right where it is, minding its own business.’”
Then I gave this same message to Zedekiah king of Judah: “Harness yourself up to the yoke of the king of Babylon. Serve him and his people. Live a long life! Why choose to get killed or starve to death or get sick and die, which is what God has threatened to any nation that won’t throw its lot in with Babylon? Don’t listen to the prophets who are telling you not to submit to the king of Babylon. They’re telling you lies, preaching lies. God’s Word on this is, ‘I didn’t send those prophets, but they keep preaching lies, claiming I sent them. If you listen to them, I’ll end up driving you out of here and that will be the end of you, both you and the lying prophets.’”
And finally I spoke to the priests and the people at large: “This is God’s Message: Don’t listen to the preaching of the prophets who keep telling you, ‘Trust us: The furnishings, plundered from God’s Temple, are going to be returned from Babylon any day now.’ That’s a lie. Don’t listen to them. Submit to the king of Babylon and live a long life. Why do something that will destroy this city and leave it a heap of rubble? If they are real prophets and have a Message from God, let them come to God-of-the-Angel-Armies in prayer so that the furnishings that are still left in God’s Temple, the king’s palace, and Jerusalem aren’t also lost to Babylon. That’s because God-of-the-Angel-Armies has already spoken about the Temple furnishings that remain—the pillars, the great bronze basin, the stands, and all the other bowls and chalices that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon didn’t take when he took Jehoiachin son of Jehoiakim off to Babylonian exile along with all the leaders of Judah and Jerusalem. He said that the furnishings left behind in the Temple of God and in the royal palace and in Jerusalem will be taken off to Babylon and stay there until, in God’s words, ‘I take the matter up again and bring them back where they belong.’”
From a Wooden to an Iron Yoke
Later that same year (it was in the fifth month of King Zedekiah’s fourth year) Hananiah son of Azzur, a prophet from Gibeon, confronted Jeremiah in the Temple of God in front of the priests and all the people who were there. Hananiah said:
“This Message is straight from God-of-the-Angel-Armies, the God of Israel: ‘I will most certainly break the yoke of the king of Babylon. Before two years are out I’ll have all the furnishings of God’s Temple back here, all the things that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon plundered and hauled off to Babylon. I’ll also bring back Jehoiachin son of Jehoiakim king of Judah and all the exiles who were taken off to Babylon.’ God’s Decree. ‘Yes, I will break the king of Babylon’s yoke. You’ll no longer be in harness to him.’”
Prophet Jeremiah stood up to prophet Hananiah in front of the priests and all the people who were in God’s Temple that day. Prophet Jeremiah said, “Wonderful! Would that it were true—that God would validate your preaching by bringing the Temple furnishings and all the exiles back from Babylon. But listen to me, listen closely. Listen to what I tell both you and all the people here today: The old prophets, the ones before our time, preached judgment against many countries and kingdoms, warning of war and disaster and plague. So any prophet who preaches that everything is just fine and there’s nothing to worry about stands out like a sore thumb. We’ll wait and see. If it happens, it happens—and then we’ll know that God sent him.”
At that, Hananiah grabbed the yoke from Jeremiah’s shoulders and smashed it. And then he addressed the people: “This is God’s Message: In just this way I will smash the yoke of the king of Babylon and get him off the neck of all the nations—and within two years.” Jeremiah walked out.
Later, sometime after Hananiah had smashed the yoke from off his shoulders, Jeremiah received this Message from God: “Go back to Hananiah and tell him, ‘This is God’s Message: You smashed the wooden yoke-bars; now you’ve got iron yoke-bars. This is a Message from God-of-the-Angel-Armies, Israel’s own God: I’ve put an iron yoke on all these nations. They’re harnessed to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. They’ll do just what he tells them. Why, I’m even putting him in charge of the wild animals.’”
So prophet Jeremiah told prophet Hananiah, “Hold it, Hananiah! God never sent you. You’ve talked the whole country into believing a pack of lies! And so God says, ‘You claim to be sent? I’ll send you all right—right off the face of the earth! Before the year is out, you’ll be dead because you fomented sedition against God.’”
Prophet Hananiah died that very year, in the seventh month.
Plans to Give You the Future You Hope For
This is the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to what was left of the elders among the exiles, to the priests and prophets and all the exiles whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken to Babylon from Jerusalem, including King Jehoiachin, the queen mother, the government leaders, and all the skilled laborers and craftsmen.
The letter was carried by Elasah son of Shaphan and Gemariah son of Hilkiah, whom Zedekiah king of Judah had sent to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. The letter said:
This is the Message from God-of-the-Angel-Armies, Israel’s God, to all the exiles I’ve taken from Jerusalem to Babylon:
“Build houses and make yourselves at home.
“Put in gardens and eat what grows in that country.
“Marry and have children. Encourage your children to marry and have children so that you’ll thrive in that country and not waste away.
“Make yourselves at home there and work for the country’s welfare.
“Pray for Babylon’s well-being. If things go well for Babylon, things will go well for you.”
Yes. Believe it or not, this is the Message from God-of-the-Angel-Armies, Israel’s God: “Don’t let all those so-called preachers and know-it-alls who are all over the place there take you in with their lies. Don’t pay any attention to the fantasies they keep coming up with to please you. They’re a bunch of liars preaching lies—and claiming I sent them! I never sent them, believe me.” God’s Decree!
This is God’s Word on the subject: “As soon as Babylon’s seventy years are up and not a day before, I’ll show up and take care of you as I promised and bring you back home. I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.
“When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen.
“When you come looking for me, you’ll find me.
“Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed.” God’s Decree.
“I’ll turn things around for you. I’ll bring you back from all the countries into which I drove you”—God’s Decree—“bring you home to the place from which I sent you off into exile. You can count on it.
“But for right now, because you’ve taken up with these newfangled prophets who set themselves up as ‘Babylonian specialists,’ spreading the word ‘God sent them just for us!’ God is setting the record straight: As for the king still sitting on David’s throne and all the people left in Jerusalem who didn’t go into exile with you, they’re facing bad times. God-of-the-Angel-Armies says, ‘Watch this! Catastrophe is on the way: war, hunger, disease! They’re a barrel of rotten apples. I’ll rid the country of them through war and hunger and disease. The whole world is going to hold its nose at the smell, shut its eyes at the horrible sight. They’ll end up in slum ghettos because they wouldn’t listen to a thing I said when I sent my servant-prophets preaching tirelessly and urgently. No, they wouldn’t listen to a word I said.’” God’s Decree.
“And you—you exiles whom I sent out of Jerusalem to Babylon—listen to God’s Message to you. As far as Ahab son of Kolaiah and Zedekiah son of Maaseiah are concerned, the ‘Babylonian specialists’ who are preaching lies in my name, I will turn them over to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, who will kill them while you watch. The exiles from Judah will take what they see at the execution and use it as a curse: ‘God fry you to a crisp like the king of Babylon fried Zedekiah and Ahab in the fire!’ Those two men, sex predators and prophet-impostors, got what they deserved. They pulled every woman they got their hands on into bed—their neighbors’ wives, no less—and preached lies claiming it was my Message. I never sent those men. I’ve never had anything to do with them.” God’s Decree.
“They won’t get away with a thing. I’ve witnessed it all.”