Sunday, March 26, 2023

“So Judah Went Into Captivity, Away from Her Land” [Matt's Messages]

“So Judah Went Into Captivity, Away from Her Land”
Uprooted - The Words of Jeremiah
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
March 26, 2023 :: Jeremiah 52:1-34

The Book of Jeremiah does not have a happy ending.

It doesn’t get all sweetly tied up nicely with a bow on top and everybody living “happily ever after.” Feel-good boppy music playing in the background as the credits roll.

No. The Book of Jeremiah does not have a happy ending. But it does have a holy ending.

It shouldn’t be surprising to us by now. This has not been a happy book. For forty years, the Weeping Prophet Jeremiah has been a broken record about a broken covenant and the broken nation and the burnt city that would come of it. And we should not be surprised that the very last chapter is about that sad prophecy coming to pass.

The previous chapters (50 and 51) looked further ahead, down the road, when the wicked city of Babylon must fall.  But first the wicked city of Jerusalem must fall. And fall, it did.

We’ve already read about the fall of Jerusalem in chapter 39. And we read about it 2 Kings 24 and 25, with many of the very same details (see also 2 Chronicles 36). You might get deja vu from reading Jeremiah 52 (insight from John Goldingay).

But we know that whenever the scripture repeats itself, what it’s saying a second time or a third time must be very important so we ought to pause and pay close attention.

What may be surprising about Jeremiah 52 is that it wasn’t written by Jeremiah. In fact, Jeremiah is never even mentioned. I said earlier that these were “The Words of Jeremiah Son of Hilkiah,” but that isn’t quite right. The Lord has included these words in Jeremiah’s book, but these are not his words. The last verse of the previous chapter said that the words of Jeremiah had ended there (51:64).

So the LORD has raised up another author to put this appendix(?), epilogue(?), post-script(?) historical addendum(?) onto the end of Jeremiah’s book to make sure that we get the point–Jeremiah’s prophecies have and will all come true.

Perhaps it was Baruch. Or maybe Baruch’s son because it really extends several years into the future. We don’t know who wrote it, but we do know that He was inspired by the LORD to include it with the Words of Jeremiah to be for us the Word of God.

Let’s look at it together. And as we do, I want to point out three things about the LORD that we can confidently say because we’ve read all of Jeremiah, but especially this chapter. And then apply those three things to our lives today.


Jeremiah chapter 52, verse 1. The story backs up to 597 BC and the beginning of the reign of the last king of Judah. Verse 1.

“Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eleven years. His mother's name was Hamutal daughter of Jeremiah; she was from Libnah. He did evil in the eyes of the LORD, just as Jehoiakim had done. It was because of the LORD's anger that all this happened to Jerusalem and Judah, and in the end he thrust them from his presence” (vv.1-3).

We’ve learned a lot about Zedekiah in the last few months. He was a thumbs-down king, just like every king was ever since his father Josiah died. His brother Jehoiakim had been a terrible thumb-down king. He was the one who burned the scroll of Jeremiah. 

And Zedekiah wasn’t like that, but he never was holy. He would ask for advice. He would seek counsel from the prophet, but he would never do what the prophet said God wanted him to do. And eventually it caught up with him. And the whole nation went down. And they went into exile. The LORD “thrust them from his presence” (v.3). What scary words are those?!


We see in verse 3 that the LORD was angry, and that is scary, because the LORD is God! He is omnipotent and sovereign, so when He gets angry, terrible things may happen. But His anger is not capricious or moody or impulsive. He never gets up on the wrong side of the bed. When He is angry, it’s about something worth being angry about. The LORD’S anger is holy. Look at verse 2 again.

“[Zedekiah] did evil in the eyes of the LORD, just as Jehoiakim had done. It was because of the LORD's anger that all this happened to Jerusalem and Judah, and in the end he thrust them from his presence” (vv.2-3).

Everything terrible thing we’re going to read about that God does here is perfectly just and right and righteous and holy. The kings and the people broke the covenant. They worshiped other gods. They did evil in the eyes of the LORD, the holy eyes of the LORD. No wonder the judgment fell.

We live in a day when holiness seems silly and unimportant. Holiness seems trite and trivial and foreign to our ears. Nobody cares about being holy. Everybody cares about being happy, but few care about being holy. God cares about being holy. He is holy, holy, holy. And He wants us to be holy, too.

We live in a time when people think, “I’m not so bad, and God’s not so mad.” But the fact is that we are bad, and God is mad, and God’s anger is holy.

That’s why the Cross, right? The Cross is about God’s love for us, yes, but it’s also about God’s holiness, right? We have been unholy, and so we needed Jesus to do what He did on the Cross to make us holy once more. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21 NIVO). That’s what was going on at the Cross. What we are heading into celebrating the next few weeks. 

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness (holiness); by his wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going astray (unholy), but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls (holy once more)” (1 Pet. 2:24-25 NIVO).

His anger is holy, and that’s why Jesus died like He did. And that allows us now to live a holy life ourselves.

I hope that studying the prophecy of Jeremiah has helped us to cultivate a hatred of our sin and love for God’s holiness. When we see how seriously God feels about idolatry and pride and wickedness, and the lengths He went to save us from those things, I hope that we have been led into repentance from our hearts. We can learn from the errors of Judah. What sins are you repenting of, what idols are you smashing, what areas of holiness are you growing in?

The LORD says, “Be holy as I am holy.” And we see here just how holy He is. He was so holy that He demolished His favorite city on Earth. V.3 once more.

“Now Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon. So in the ninth year of Zedekiah's reign, on the tenth day of the tenth month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon marched against Jerusalem with his whole army. They camped outside the city and built siege works all around it. The city was kept under siege until the eleventh year of King Zedekiah. [About 18 months.] By the ninth day of the fourth month [Janaury 15, 588BC] the famine in the city had become so severe that there was no food for the people to eat.

Then the city wall was broken through, and the whole army fled. They left the city at night through the gate between the two walls near the king's garden, though the Babylonians were surrounding the city. They fled toward the Arabah, but the Babylonian army pursued King Zedekiah and overtook him in the plains of Jericho. All his soldiers were separated from him and scattered, and he was captured. He was taken to the king of Babylon at Riblah in the land of Hamath, where he pronounced sentence on him. 

There at Riblah the king of Babylon slaughtered the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes; he also killed all the officials of Judah. Then he put out Zedekiah's eyes, bound him with bronze shackles and took him to Babylon, where he put him in prison till the day of his death” (vv.3-11).

Like I said, the Book of Jeremiah does not have a happy ending, but it does have a holy ending. And it also has an honest ending. This is what truly happened, and what Jeremiah had said would happen, came true.

Listen to Jeremiah 32, verse 4. “Zedekiah king of Judah will not escape out of the hands of the Babylonians but will certainly be handed over to the king of Babylon, and will speak with him face to face and see him with his own eyes” (Jer. 32:4).

And that’s exactly what happened. Nebuchadnezzar was, in fact, the last thing Zedekiah saw. Nebuchadnezzar killing his sons. The end of the line, both figuratively and literally.

In Jeremiah 34:3-4, the LORD says to Jeremiah, “Go to Zedekiah king of Judah and tell him, 'This is what the LORD says: I am about to hand this city over to the king of Babylon, and he will burn it down. You will not escape from his grasp but will surely be captured and handed over to him. You will see the king of Babylon with your own eyes, and he will speak with you face to face. And you will go to Babylon” (Jer. 34:2-3).

Everything Jeremiah said would happen is exactly what happened. The LORD’s word was true. All of those other prophets were false. They were full of lies. But Jeremiah’s mouth was full of truth.

The lies sounded so good. We want to believe the lies, but we must believe the truth. And the truth was that the city was going to fall. Verse 12.

“On the tenth day of the fifth month, in the nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, Nebuzaradan commander of the imperial guard, who served the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem. He set fire to the temple of the LORD, the royal palace and all the houses of Jerusalem. Every important building he burned down. The whole Babylonian army under the commander of the imperial guard broke down all the walls around Jerusalem” (vv.12-14).

If you want to know how this felt, read the next book of the Bible, the Book of Lamentations. It felt to them like the end of the world. And was the fulfillment of the word of the LORD.

You see those words “broke down” in verse 14? That’s the same Hebrew word that was used in chapter 1 to describe what Jeremiah’s words would do. Remember that? The six things?

The LORD said to Jeremiah, “Now, I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and...TEAR DOWN [same words in Hebrew as v.14], to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant” (Jer. 1:9-10).

The Babylonians systematically tore down the walls around Jerusalem until the walls were completely dismantled and the city demolished. And, just as promised, the people were taken into exile. V.15

“Nebuzaradan the commander of the guard carried into exile some of the poorest people and those who remained in the city, along with the rest of the craftsmen and those who had gone over to the king of Babylon. [Apparently they needed some workers.] But Nebuzaradan left behind the rest of the poorest people of the land to work the vineyards and fields” (vv.15-16).

And then they went after the temple of the LORD. Verse 17.

“The Babylonians broke up the bronze pillars, the movable stands and the bronze Sea that were at the temple of the LORD and they carried all the bronze to Babylon. [Let the looting begin!] They also took away the pots, shovels, wick trimmers, sprinkling bowls, dishes and all the bronze articles used in the temple service.

The commander of the imperial guard took away the basins, censers, sprinkling bowls, pots, lampstands, dishes and bowls used for drink offerings–all that were made of pure gold or silver. The bronze from the two pillars, the Sea and the twelve bronze bulls under it, and the movable stands, which King Solomon had made for the temple of the LORD, was more than could be weighed[!]. Each of the pillars was eighteen cubits high and twelve cubits in circumference; each was four fingers thick, and hollow. The bronze capital on top of the one pillar was five cubits high and was decorated with a network and pomegranates of bronze all around. The other pillar, with its pomegranates, was similar. There were ninety-six pomegranates on the sides; the total number of pomegranates above the surrounding network was a hundred” (vv.17-23).

Do you remember the beauty of the temple of the LORD?

Solomon’s glorious temple with all of its gold, and silver, and bronze?

All of these things were described as they were put up in 1 Kings 6, 7, and 8, and now they are inventoried as they are stolen away in Jeremiah 52. And the entire time that the exiles are in Babylon, they are stored away in the treasury of the Babylonians. 

Just like Jeremiah (and Micah before him) had said. “Zion will be plowed like a field, Jerusalem will become a heap of rubble, the temple hill a mound overgrown with thickets” (Jeremiah 26:18).

But, keep this in mind, these items were inventoried and kept. The ones that weren’t smashed up were stored away, and there will actually be a future for them! There’s a glimmer here of hope. Even as, in His holiness, the LORD is bringing judgment on His temple. But how depressing it must have been to see those precious items stolen away and the temple of the LORD, the temple of LORD, the temple of the LORD torn down.

And the leaders of Judah killed. Verse 24. “The commander of the guard took as prisoners Seraiah the chief priest, Zephaniah the priest next in rank and the three doorkeepers. Of those still in the city, he took the officer in charge of the fighting men, and seven royal advisers. He also took the secretary who was chief officer in charge of conscripting the people of the land and sixty of his men who were found in the city. Nebuzaradan the commander took them all and brought them to the king of Babylon at Riblah. There at Riblah, in the land of Hamath [modern day Syria], the king had them executed. So Judah went into captivity, away from her land” (vv.24-28).

That’s our sermon title for today. And it reminds us that this is all going according to plan. These terrible things are all God’s holy threats come true. Including the exile. This is not a mistake. This does not take God by surprise. It is, in fact, the judgment of God. For forty years, Jeremiah has been saying that Judah will go into captivity. 

Judah will go into captivity. 
Judah will go into captivity. 

“So [v.28] Judah went into captivity, away from her land.”

The LORD is faithful to keep His promises, including His threats. And He’s been threatening this for more forty years. He’s been saying that this would come since the book of Deuteronomy. If they did not repent, they would be thrust out of the land.

Verses 28 through 30 give some stats on that. “This is the number of the people Nebuchadnezzar carried into exile: in the seventh year, 3,023 Jews; in Nebuchadnezzar's eighteenth year, 832 people from Jerusalem; in his twenty-third year, 745 Jews taken into exile by Nebuzaradan the commander of the imperial guard. There were 4,600 people in all” (vv.28-30). In those three particular deportations. There was one before it and probably others. And those numbers are probably just the men or even just the leaders. The full count was probably much higher and doesn’t include all of those died in the process.
Babylon has won. Judah has lost. Just as the LORD has said.

You know what this chapter is kind of like? It’s like the post-credit scenes in a modern movie. These days if you go to a movie in the theatre, you don’t get up until after the credits are all over. I’ve made the mistake of leaving before they’re all done. Because a lot of movies, especially the super-hero ones I like, have these extra scenes that take place in the middle of or after the credits that kind of tell the rest of the story or set things up for the next movie.

“Jeremiah the movie” is over, but here’s these scenes that show us that everything that Jeremiah predicted came true. Jeremiah is vindicated as a true prophet. In these scenes, we watch Jerusalem be besieged. We see the walls be breached. We see Zedekiah have to watch his sons die. We see his eyes come out. We watch the walls of Jerusalem be torn down. We watch the temple things be stolen before our very eyes. We see the city burn. We watch the leaders be executed at Riblah. We watch the waves of thousands of Jewish people go into captivity in Babylon. Just like Jeremiah said. Do you see it?

The Word of the LORD is true. Every single word. Do you trust what you read in here? Do you know what it says? Do you believe it? The LORD will keep every one of His promises, including His threats.

I hope that studying the Book of Jeremiah this last year has put some steel in backbones to stand with the word of God no matter what. 

On Friday, Joel Michaels and I went up near Rochester for an ordination council of a new pastor in our district. Pastor Jake Buss. And it was so encouraging to hear Jake explain the Word of God and what he believes about it and how he stakes his life on it.

This book doesn’t always say what I want it to say! But it says what I need it to say. And it says what is true. And for those who belong to Jesus, it also always says a word of hope.

The book of Jeremiah does not have a happy ending, but it does have a hopeful ending.

There’s a hint of hope, at least. For one, we know that Babylon does not win forever. They may be the winners at end of chapter 52, but we just read chapters 50 and 51 last week, and we know that Babylon must fall. And when it does, God’s people will rejoice. 

And we know that those golden things from the temple are going to show up again, and the temple is going to return. This afternoon, you might want to read the book of Ezra, chapter 1. All those things from verses 17 through 23 make the trip back from Babylon to Jerusalem! And get used again!

But the hope is bigger than that. It’s not just in a temple that will be destroyed yet again in the first century AD. The hope that we really look forward to is that a son of David will be king forever. And there is a little hint of that in the last four verses of the chapter 52. Look at verse 31.

“In the thirty-seventh year of the exile of Jehoiachin king of Judah, in the year Evil-Merodach became king of Babylon [Nebuchadnezzar’s son, 561BC], he released Jehoiachin king of Judah and freed him from prison on the twenty-fifth day of the twelfth month. 

He spoke kindly to him and gave him a seat of honor higher than those of the other kings who were with him in Babylon. So Jehoiachin put aside his prison clothes and for the rest of his life ate regularly at the king's table. Day by day the king of Babylon gave Jehoiachin a regular allowance as long as he lived, till the day of his death” (vv.31-34).

Now, that’s not a happy ending.

Jehoiachin was only king in Judah for 3 short months. And then he spent 37 years[!] in prison in exile. He never made it back to Judah. And none of his seven sons became king either. He lived to see thousands of his kinsmen captive with him and having to live year after year in Babylon. He probably saw his eyeless uncle Zedekiah hauled into the prison with him to live out his days.

This was not a happy ending.

But it was a hopeful one. This last post-credit scene has the new king of Babylon come in and invite Jehoiachin to sit at his table as a fellow king. To change his clothes and act like a king again, till the day of his death. We don’t know when that was.

There are no words in this last post-credit scene. There’s no quotation marks. We just see the old man change clothes, put on royal robes and eat royal food.

And we think, “Oh, oh, I know what’s going to happen in the next movie!”

Not only will Babylon fall because God said it would.
Not only will the temple return because God makes a way for it.
But God has promised that a son of David will arise.

Wicked Zedekiah was NOT the end of the line!

God said it in this book. Jeremiah chapter 23, “‘The days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The LORD Our Righteousness’” (Jer. 23:5-6 NIVO).

And we know another name for Him.

We find it in the Gospel of Matthew chapter 1 where it says, “After the exile to Babylon: Jeconiah [which was another name for Jehoiachin] was the father of Shealtiel, Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, Abiud the father of Eliakim, Eliakim the father of Azor, Azor the father of Zadok, Zadok the father of Akim, Akim the father of Eliud,  Eliud the father of Eleazar, Eleazar the father of Matthan, Matthan the father of Jacob,  and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ” (Matt. 1:12-16 NIVO).

This scene is setting us up for that story still to come!


After all of this righteous judgment and just condemnation, after all of this holy anger poured out, God still has a plan to bless His people with His grace! God will send His Son from the line of this king in exile[!] to make every good promise He has ever made come true.

Promises of a New Covenant enacted by His blood.
Promises of a hope and future.
Promises of good plans for us.
Plans to prosper us and not to harm us.
Plans for our shalom.

Plans for a hope and a future. Because of His amazing grace.
The Book of Jeremiah does not have a happy ending, but all who belong to Jesus definitely will.


Previous Messages in This Series:

01. "The Word of the LORD Came to Me" - Jeremiah 1:1-19
02. "I Bring Charges Against You" - Jeremiah 2:1-3:5
03. "Return to Me" - Jeremiah 3:6-4:4
04. “Oh My Anguish, My Anguish!” - Jeremiah 4:6-5:31
05. "Ask for the Ancient Paths" - Jeremiah 6:1-30
06. “This Is the Temple of the LORD, the Temple of the LORD, the Temple of the LORD!” - Jeremiah 7:1-8:3
07. "Is There No Balm in Gilead?" - Jeremiah 8:4-9:22
08. "Boast About This" - Jeremiah 9:23-24
09. "Like a Scarecrow in a Melon Patch" - Jeremiah 9:25-10:25
10. "Conspiracy" - Jeremiah 11:1-12:17
11. “My People For My Renown” - Jeremiah 13:1-27
12. "I Can No Longer Show Compassion" - Jeremiah 14:1-15:21
13. "I Have Withdrawn My Blessing, My Love and My Pity" - Jeremiah 16:1-21
14. "I the LORD Search the Heart" - Jeremiah 17:1-27
15. "Go Down to the Potter's House" - Jeremiah 18:1-19:15
16. “Insult and Reproach All Day Long” - Jeremiah 20:1-18
17. "Woe to the Shepherds" - Jeremiah 21:1-23:8
18. "I Did Not Send These Prophets" - Jeremiah 23:9-40
19. "“My Eyes Will Watch Over Them For Their Good” - Jeremiah 24:1-25:38
20. "This Man Should Be Sentenced to Death" - Jeremiah 26:1-24
21. “Under the Yoke” - Jeremiah 27:1-28:17
22. “I Know the Plans I Have for You” - Jeremiah 29:1-32
23. "I Will Surely Save You Out of a Distant Land" - Jeremiah 30:1-24
24. “I Have Loved You With An Everlasting Love” - Jeremiah 31:1-26
25. "A New Covenant" - Jeremiah 31:27-40
26. "Buy the Field" - Jeremiah 32:1-44
27. "Great and Unsearchable Things" - Jeremiah 33:1-26
28. "Go To the Recabite Family" - Jeremiah 34:1-35:19
29. "The Scroll" - Jeremiah 36:1-32
30. "Sunk In the Mud" - Jeremiah 37:1-38:28
31. "He Has Done Just As He Said He Would" - Jeremiah 39:1-41:18
32. "Do Not Go to Egypt" - Jeremiah 42:1-44:30
33. "What Jeremiah the Prophet Told Baruch" - Jeremiah 45:1-7
34. "Concerning the Nations" - Jeremiah 46:1-49:39