The state of the Jewish nation is portrayed in Jeremiah 24. by the two baskets of figs to which I have already referred. I need not say much about them, except to note one remark about the good figs (verse 5). "Thus saith Jehovah, the God of Israel, Like these good figs, so will I acknowledge them that are carried away captive of Judah, whom I have sent out of this place into the land of the Chaldeans for their good."
Jehovah meant their exile to be for their eventual good. This is a very important point. In a day of ruin faith always recognises the chastening of God and bows to it. Unbelief always resists, and accounts it patriotism or perhaps religion to oppose. Jeremiah seemed to be in the eyes of the men of Judah a very false Jew for this reason. He always counselled them to submit to the king of Babylon. They accounted themselves much better Jews, because they were willing to fight against the king of Babylon.
But the question was, What had God said? God told His prophet Jeremiah that the only path of safety and the only path of honouring Him was to submit to the king of Babylon. The king of Babylon might be very wicked, but God's people were also wicked, and it was as a judgment of their evil that God gave them into the hands of the king of Babylon.
Now faith always bows to God's will. If faith tells me to resist, I resist. If faith tells me to yield, I am bound to do it. Jeremiah did not resist, but yielded. The naughty figs resisted, and rather than yield, they fell back upon Egypt to try and balance by political power and military aid the strength of the king of Babylon. The Lord tells them that the good figs were those that had submitted, and in the days of Jeconiah had been carried away captive to Babylon.
"And as the evil figs, which cannot be eaten, they are so evil; surely thus saith Jehovah, So will I give Zedekiah the king of Judah, and his princes, and the residue of Jerusalem, that remain in this land, and them that dwell in the land of Egypt: and I will deliver them to be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth for their hurt, to be a reproach and a proverb, a taunt and a curse, in all places whither I shall drive them. And I will send the sword, the famine, and the pestilence, among them, till they be consumed from off the land that I gave unto them and to their fathers" (Jer. 24:8-10). This was the different fate that awaited those who remained until the days of Zedekiah.
Jeremiah 25 is the proper centre of the prophecies of Jeremiah, and therefore the natural place for a break in this very cursory sketch of this prophecy. "The word that came to Jeremiah concerning all the people of Judah in the fourth year of Jehoiakim, the son of Josiah, the king of Judah, that was the first year of the king of Babylon" (Jer. 25:1).
Here Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, is brought in, the great oppressor of the Jews of whom the Lord had warned. He had told His people what was coming if they did not repent, and they had not repented. Now He announces, "I will send and take all the families of the north, saith Jehovah, and Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, My servant" (verse 9).
The last is a remarkable word. It was no longer Zedekiah, My servant, but it was Nebuchadnezzar, My servant. The children of Israel and of Judah were about to lose their special place as His nation, too. It was now a question, not of being His servant, as a special honour, but merely in providence. Nebuchadnezzar, the idolatrous Gentile, could be His servant in this way as much as any other.
Jehovah recites in detail His sentence upon Jerusalem and other nations also. So He says, "Moreover, I will take from them the voice of mirth, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride, the sound of the millstones, and the light of the candle. And this whole land shall be a desolation and an astonishment; and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. And it shall come to pass, when seventy years are accomplished, that I will punish the king of Babylon, and that nation, saith Jehovah, for their iniquity, and the land of the Chaldeans, and will make it perpetual desolations. And I will bring upon that land all My words which I have pronounced against it, even all that is written in this book, which Jeremiah hath prophesied against all the nations. For many nations and great kings shall serve themselves of them also: and I will recompense them according to their deeds, and according to the works of their own hands. For thus saith the Lord God of Israel unto me; Take the wine cup of this fury at My hand, and cause all the nations to whom I send thee to drink it." Jeremiah is still regarded as Jehovah's prophet to the nations. "And they shall drink, and be moved, and be mad, because of the sword that I will send among them. Then took I the cup at Jehovah's hand, and made all the nations to drink, unto whom Jehovah had sent me." But who must receive the cup first? "To wit, Jerusalem, and the cities of Judah, and the kings thereof, and the princes thereof, to make them a desolation, an astonishment, an hissing and a curse" (verses 10-18).
It is only now that the sons of Israel are included with the nations. They had, as a people, forfeited their separate place unto God. They had lost it morally, and now they lost it judicially. God never judges persons until their own consciences have first judged them. The Lord did not drive the first man out of Paradise until the man fled from His presence. Adam fled to hide himself from God, and God only sentenced him afterwards to what his own conscience had already sentenced him. The same thing is always true of every soul.
Now when divine judgment is coming upon the nations around Palestine, among the very first of the nations to be judged come Jerusalem and Judah. They all are corrupt, thoroughly corrupt. It is idle to seek for differences of guilt among them. In fact, the special privileges of Judah only result in Judah coming first into the judgment. Jerusalem is judged at the beginning of the seventy years and Babylon is judged at the end of the period. The difference is only one of time; all are judged eventually.
The chapter speaks in such wide and general terms that although these prophecies were in a measure accomplished when Nebuchadnezzar was judged, God has in full view the end of the age - the great time when all prophecy shall be accomplished.