Jeremiah is a depressing book. The prophet had preached to the Israelites in the southern kingdom of Judah for 40 years, warning of the coming discipline of God because of their sin. Unfortunately, they did not listen.
The consequences were devastating. The Babylonians were used by God to destroy the cities of Judah. Jerusalem was burned to the ground. The temple of God was destroyed as well. The surviving Jews had gone through a long period of deprivation as the enemy placed Jerusalem under siege. They had seen many of their friends and family members die. The last few kings they had were humiliated and taken away in chains. At the close of Jeremiah’s ministry as a prophet, the last king the Jews had chosen for themselves was in a prison in Babylon.
The initial impression one gets from reading the last few verses of Jeremiah is that the picture was indeed bleak. These verses record three deportations in which a total of 4,600 Jews were carried away to Babylon as captives. We know from 2 Kings 24 that many more were taken, so the number reported by Jeremiah may reflect only the adult males who were taken in these three deportations.
In any event, it was a sad sight. Here were God’s chosen people, represented by 4,600 hungry, sick, poor, and defeated men. They were beginning the long trek to Babylon, an idolatrous nation, where they would now live.
Then we are told that the king of Judah, Jehoiachin, was released after spending 37 years as a prisoner. It is still a humiliating portrait. This king of Judah is at the mercy of the king of Babylon. Jehoiachin is fed and clothed by his enemy. While I am sure that Jehoiachin was grateful that he was no longer in a dungeon, his situation was a far cry from ruling over God’s chosen people in Jerusalem.
But Jehoiachin’s situation was even worse. Earlier in the book, Jeremiah prophesied that none of Jehoiachin’s children would rule on his throne (Jer 22:30). This, too, was degrading for a king. Jehoiachin had seven sons, but all of them were taken away to Babylon. None of them would replace him as ruler.
That is how the book of Jeremiah closes. God’s people are defeated. They are no longer in the Promised Land. Their king is humiliated, depending on the good will of a pagan ruler to even survive. This king was a descendant of David, and God had promised, years before, that one of David’s descendants would rule from Jerusalem forever (2 Sam 7:14-16). Looking at Jehoiachin in Babylon, as well as at the situation with his sons, it was hard to see how that would ever happen.
The same was true with the nation of Israel as a whole. God had promised, through many of His prophets, that He would establish an eternal kingdom with Israel as the center of that kingdom. With only these 4,600 dejected men to go by, it would surely be difficult to picture that promise ever becoming a reality.
But as bleak as the picture is at the end of Jeremiah, these verses include a ray of light. Jeremiah himself had spoken of a glorious future for the people of Israel (Jer 31:31-34; 32:37-40). He also spoke of a coming descendant of David who would rule over the whole world (Jer 33:15). The verses that close Jeremiah remind the reader that God has not forgotten His promises to His people. The Christ would indeed come one day. Even the kindness shown to Jehoiachin in Babylon is a sign that God remembers what He promised to David.
We know from God’s Word what will happen with the descendants of these Jews. One day the nation of Israel will become a believing nation. It will look for the return of the Christ, and He will establish His promised kingdom.
The main point is this: Though things look bleak in Jeremiah, remember what God has promised. From this pathetic-looking group of people, God is going to bring in an eternal kingdom. From these people will come the Son of David. The Lord can do marvelous things even when there’s very little to work with.
This was true concerning His promises to the nation of Israel. But it is also true concerning the church. Throughout history the church has been persecuted and despised by the world. How many small groups of believers meeting today appear insignificant by any standard of measure? But look at the promises the Lord has made to them. They will be the bride of His Son forever. From the church, those who are faithful to Him will also reign with Him when He establishes His kingdom.
Who could imagine such things? When the defeated Israelites watched 4,600 men walk to Babylon and when they saw their king imprisoned in Babylon, who could have imagined that the things God had promised to Israel would actually occur?
Do you ever feel that your service to the Lord is insignificant? Don’t. Remain faithful to Him. Remember, He can do a lot with a little.