These chapters fit together perfectly (of course there were no chapters in the original Hebrew). Babylon is beginning their attack, just as Jeremiah predicted, and the King through emissaries pleads with Jeremiah to inquire of the Lord if he might work some kind of miracle and save them. This captures sinful human nature perfectly. Ignore God when things are going well, run after other idols because we think we can find our ultimate meaning there, and when trouble hits, “Please God, help!” No such luck for King Zedekiah and the city; Nebuchadnezzar is coming.
Yet the Lord declares his mercy on the people even though they don’t deserve it. He tells them they can save their lives if they don’t resist the Babylonians and go with them. If they refuse to listen, they will die. He then says something interesting about what he’s planning to do:
10 I have determined to do this city harm and not good, declares the Lord. It will be given into the hands of the king of Babylon, and he will destroy it with fire.’
A few verses later he says he is “against Jerusalem.” Yes, judgment is coming because of the people and what they have or haven’t done, but it’s about more than personal or corporate sin. It’s about the land, the place where God dwells, and they have defiled it.
The theme is expanded in the first verse of chapter 22 when the Lord addresses the King of Judah, “who sits on David’s throne.” Because the OT is all about Christ, what we’re seeing here is a failure of God’s people to be worthily led in the place where God has chosen to dwell. The reason the people rebel is because their leaders, both civic and religious, lead them astray. It all points to one who from the line of David will rule God’s kingdom in perfect righteousness.
Then the Lord reiterates his covenant of works, that is if they will only obey his commandments, then kings will sit on David’s throne. Unfortunately for the people, God predicts that just isn’t going to happen. They will be cast out to “a land they do not know.” Then the Lord seems to speak to the land itself to convey what almost seems like anguish:
29 O land, land, land,
hear the word of the Lord!
This all points back to the Garden, God’s temple in Eden where he dwelled with man. He appointed a man to watch over and tend it, to protect it from the enemy, and he failed. God builds a people where he intends to dwell, to remake a place where he can be with his people, but he needs to show them that the remaking process will be all his doing. And I guess it takes a lot of failure to show us we can’t do it without him. We learn at the end of the story, early in the Book of Revelation, how this will all end:
Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed.
And in the very last chapter of that book of God’s revelation to us:
“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.”
The people of Judah could not see that this destruction had an eternal purpose, what we’ve now been privileged to see in the face of our risen Savior.