Jeremiah cared about the people of Judah and was distressed because God was going to destroy them. Just as others thought it was against God’s nature to harm his chosen people, so Jeremiah thought he might be able to intercede and change God’s mind about what he planned to do. In response to Jeremiah’s plea for mercy, God said, “Thus saith the LORD unto this people, Thus have they loved to wander, they have not refrained their feet, therefore the LORD doth not accept them; he will now remember their iniquity, and visit their sin. Then said the LORD unto me, Pray not for this people for their good” (Jeremiah 14:10-11).
Jeremiah’s concern for God’s people prompted the LORD to give him an answer to the question, What’s going to happen to us? The LORD told Jeremiah, “And it shall come to pass, if they say unto thee, Whither shall we go forth? then thou shalt tell them, Thus saith the LORD; Such as are for death, to death; and such as are for the sword, to the sword; and such as are for famine, to the famine; and such as are for captivity, to the captivity” (Jeremiah 15:2). God did not intend for everyone to die. He would intervene on behalf of a segment of the population referred to as the remnant (Jeremiah 15:11). God would save these people from death, “so as to demonstrate the divine intervention in the normal course of events to bring about or fulfil a divine intent (6485), specifically, the birth of Christ.
The people that would escape death would still be punished for their sins by having to go into captivity. These people would lose everything with regards to their possessions and would likely lose many family members and friends. The only consolation would be they would be treated well by their enemies. God explained, “Verily it shall be well with thy remnant; verily I will cause the enemy to entreat thee well in the time of evil, and in the time of affliction…And I will make thee to pass with thine enemies unto a land which thou knowest not: for a fire is kindled in mine anger, which shall burn upon you” (Jeremiah 15:11,14).
The only clue as to who would be appointed to go into captivity rather than to die when Jerusalem was destroyed may be found in Jeremiah 15:16, “Thy words were found, and I did eat them: and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O LORD God of hosts.” It is likely when the book of the law was found in the temple in 621 B.C., during king Josiah’s reign (2 Kings 22:8), that some of the people actually took the word of God to heart and made an attempt to follow its instructions. Although these people probably did not repent and confess their sins to God, they may have believed the word of God was true and wanted to receive salvation.