In Jeremiah 29, the prophet sent a letter unto the residue of the elders which were carried away captive to Babylon in the time of Jeconiah the king of Judah (2 Kings 24:12-16). And the word of Jehovah of hosts commanded them to submit implicitly to Nebuchadnezzar. They were not only not to rebel, but they were to obey. They were no longer Jews under the direct government of God in their own land, but they were to recognise the authority of the Gentile king whom God had now set over them because of their sins.
The captives were in a new political relationship. They required special direction from God, for undoubtedly the Jewish spirit would have strongly resented the notion of a Gentile ruling over them. They would have been always plotting in Babylon how to put an end to this miserable captivity unless God had expressed His mind. But the part of faith, when God sends a chastening, is to bow to it, not to fight against it. If the Lord does anything because of a wrong on our part, faith in Him does not consist in making light of the thing or in making light of the chastening, but in accepting with meekness the chastening and in confessing the wrong.
This subjection to their exile was what Jeremiah impressed upon the Jews in Babylon. "Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, unto all that are carried away captives, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem unto Babylon: build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them; take ye wives, and beget sons and daughters" (verses 4-6). There was to be nothing morbid in their habits. They were to take from God all the circumstances. They were happily to trust in the Lord, but to do so as captives to Nebuchadnezzar. Nay, they were even to seek the good and peace of Babylon. "Take wives for your sons, and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; that ye may be increased there, and not diminished. And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto Jehovah for it."
Now souls not really bowing to God are always morbid, murmuring in their affliction, and avoiding the common duties of life. The pious do not shut the* eyes to what is painful, nor are they insensible in their adversity. There would be no piety in ignoring the truth of things, but feeling the affliction, they seek grace from God to take the hardship from His hand with all patience.
"For thus saith Jehovah of hosts, the God of Israel; Let not your prophets and your diviners, that be in the midst of you, deceive you, neither hearken to your dreams which ye cause to be dreamed. For they prophesy falsely unto you in My name: I have not sent them, saith Jehovah. For thus saith Jehovah," instead of Hananiah's two years, "that after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform My good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith Jehovah, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon Me, and ye shall go and pray unto Me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek Me, and find Me, when ye shall search for Me with all your heart. And I will be found of you, saith Jehovah: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith Jehovah; and I will bring you again into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive" (verses 8-14).
This predicted return from captivity was, no doubt, accomplished in a measure when the return took place under Cyrus, the king of Persia, although the terms of the prophecy go beyond that, but still there was an accomplishment at that time. Then Jehovah speaks concerning those Jews still remaining in Jerusalem under Zedekiah: "Know that thus saith Jehovah of the king that sitteth upon the throne of David, and of all the people that dwelleth in this city and of your brethren that are not gone forth with you into captivity; Thus saith Jehovah of hosts; Behold, I will send upon them the sword, and the famine, and the pestilence." This is not a promise of the return from Babylon under a son of David. The son of David was to suffer chastisement still more. There had been already a son of David carried into captivity. There was another son of David still reigning in Jerusalem, and the pestilence and the sword were doomed to fall upon him.