Jeremiah continues on with what we have seen many times in the Old Testament already. God’s people said all the right things, but they did so having no intentions whatsoever of getting rid of their idols. They were much more important than the Lord. Jeremiah used the word truth in verse 2 and here it means that the inner attitudes and thoughts of the person praying should match the words they utter. But they didn’t. The prayers they were praying were those that required a radical transformation of people’s inner lives and outer lifestyle. If the people would actually do as they have said they would know blessings beyond compare. And they would bless other nations. All of this would end up in a chorus of praise to God’s name. Verses 3-18 speak of a courtroom scene. This is the coming judgement against Judah, and i’s capital, Jerusalem. They are center stage in God’s courtroom and there the Lord decreed that He would judge Jerusalem at the hands of the Babylonians. What God’s people failed to understand was that sinners must be intentional in facing their rebellion and change their ways through confession and repentance. To make these needed changes the people would need to give up their pride and power that were so precious to them. The call for circumcision in verse 4 was a covenant sign of submission to God. There was no way the people would change that much.
The warning came to flee, as far and as fast as they could to cities that were fortified and safe. God was pouring out the pot of boiling water, the Babylonian army, upon His people. They were cruel and behaved like vicious lions. With power and savagery, they would take what they wanted and leave everything else in ruins, the houses empty. The Israelites were in trouble with the Lord, and they needed to make things right. They didn’t have the manpower to fight a huge army like Babylon, but Jeremiah called the people to repent by mourning and by weeping with broken hearts. Jeremiah even includes himself in this need for repentance. Foreign leaders invading would show Israel’s leaders that they were not as invincible as they thought they were. We see that Jeremiah was confused and offended because he and the people thought God had promised peace for Jerusalem. But these were false prophecies. The people had listened to the wrong people yet again. Even Jeremiah was overwhelmed at what God was about to bring in Jerusalem. Burning winds still plague the desert in the Middle East. Sirocco winds come from the deserts south and east of Israel, and they bring scorching heat and whirling dust. The divine winds of judgement would bring destruction to Jerusalem, the daughter of God.
Judah had become the true foe of the Lord and He would use the nation’s international foes to discipline them. The imagery of clouds and chariots like a whirlwind portray the thoroughness and swiftness of God’s judgement. For better or worse, Jeremiah still held out hope that the people would confess their sins, repent, get rid of their evil thoughts, and make a clean break with idolatry. If not, they would face God’s judgement. What was even worse is that they brought all of this on themselves with their sins and their disobedience. Foreign armies had already begun to surround Jerusalem, the attackers were at hand. And Jeremiah wept. When he heard the trumpets blast, and the battle cries Jeremiah knew the invaders were upon them and his own family and other people he knew were being killed or left homeless. Even he could not escape the effects of God’s judgement though he was faithfully serving the Lord. Jeremiah’s vision was of coming disaster. In this vision, the Lord’s fierce anger took precedence over His creative love. The earth will mourn. At funerals in Hebrew society, it was customary for mourners to be draped in black. The Lord had determined the people’s guilt and He promised to be true to His Word. When the people heard the noise of the attackers coming their way they fled. Panic gripped the people of Judah in reaction to the horrors of war. Their arrogance and smug confidence disappeared. But there were some who acted as though nothing serious was happening. They tried to ignore the enemy, but their future was very bleak. The enemy would kill them. The people of Jerusalem felt such anguish that Jeremiah likened their pain to that of a woman in labor giving birth to her first child. Judah’s one-time lovers had now become her murderers.
Jeremiah was just getting warmed up. Chapter 5 brings prophecy about the sins of Judah. He is saying something very close to what the apostle Paul said, no one is upright, not one. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. The chapter begins much like Abraham’s discussion with the Lord about Sodom, looking for even one righteous person. God was willing to save the city if only one righteous person could be found. So, a just person lives according to God’s laws, and they deal with other people accordingly. An honest person is dependable, truthful, and faithful to God. Jeremiah could find neither. People claimed innocence but their words and actions did not match…at all. Even when crushed by the disaster of war, the people ignored God and refused to repent of their sins. Jeremiah even searched for an economic reason behind Jerusalem’s rebellion, but he discovered that the leaders, despite their advantages, were as rebellious as the uneducated poor. The term poor here is paralleled by the word foolish. It referred to the nation as deluded and deceived. The word poor refers to those who lack knowledge of God, and they are insensitive to His instruction and inattentive to His will. The Babylonians would attack like a lion, a wolf, and a leopard. These animals were quite capable of destroying human life. The people’s rebellion and sins were serious business to the Lord.
Verses 7-8 list the evidence of the sins the people committed, including rejection of the Lord, submission to pagan deities, and sexual misconduct. Idolatry and adultery were closely connected in Israel because both represented the breach of an exclusive covenant. The Lord regarded the people’s sins as worthy of punishment. Destroying the vineyards was equal to destroying Judah itself. The people were ignoring the Lord in their love for idols. And even with the enemy looming on the horizon, the people did not change. They disregarded the prophets the Lord sent. The approaching army was that of the Babylonians. They attacked Jerusalem in 605 B.C., carrying out the punishment the Lord had promised. The Babylonians were vicious and cruel. They were well-trained and they left destruction and carnage in their wake. Despite the Lord’s fierce anger, He would not totally destroy His people, and He took time to comfort Jeremiah with the knowledge that the destruction would not be total. God gives Jeremiah words to speak to the people. The people are foolish and senseless. To be foolish is to engage in rash and immoral behavior. Being senseless literally means having no heart. These people have no desire to do moral acts or honor the Lord, and while their ears and eyes worked, they stubbornly shut out the true meaning of what they heard and saw. Jeremiah believed that the people should at least respect the Lord for His power and they should tremble at the thought of God unleashing that power against them. Gods had created the mighty sea to stay within the boundaries He had given it, but the people of Judah would fail in their rebellion. These people falsely thought they could do just fine without the Lord. God saw His people being wicked and they grew fat and sleek by oppressing the people who had precious little already, the orphans and the poor.
Chapter six is Jerusalem’s last warning. They are under siege and face impending destruction from the north. The first nine verses speak of the invasion from the north. As the Lord’s messenger, Jeremiah had the duty of arousing the people so they could find shelter. Jeremiah’s parents lived in the tribal area of Benjamin. Amos lived in Tekoa. All of them were in danger from the Babylonians. Jerusalem is portrayed as a beautiful daughter and Jeremiah portrayed the commanding officers of the invading army as shepherds who led their flocks of soldiers to camp around the city. The initial plan was to strike the city walls at noon, so the attackers could see their work. It would also be an element of a surprise since the usual time of a military strike was early morning. As it turned out, the people of the city were so weak it didn’t matter what time the invading army attacked. The Lord was orchestrating the attack by the Babylonians. He instructed the invading army to construct battering rams for breaking through walls and to build dirt ramps against the walls for easy access into the city. Even at this late hour, the purpose of the Lord’s accusations was to make the people listen and turn back to Him. But there was little time left for the people to do this. The survivors of the invasion would be like leftover grapes on vines. God the harvester would track down the survivors to ensure that everyone in Israel experienced this punishment. From verses 10-15 we witness the love Jeremiah had for His people. He asks rhetorical questions in dealing with them. But the people responded with scorn, leaving Jeremiah in disbelief. He presented the people with evidence of sins committed, from the greatest of the people to the least, and then Jeremiah transmitted a divine decree. It appears that his indictment was given before the enemy invasion. The people could hear the message, but they responded with scorn again. Jeremiah could not hide his fury at the people. They were ruled by greed, going so far as to use violent methods to get what they wanted. The religious leaders were frauds, and they didn’t even come close to doing the jobs they had been appointed to do. All of these sins made for a mortal wound for the people, a wound that carried God’s judgement with it.
The religious leaders gave false assurances of peace and once more the Lord appealed to the people to repent, warning them of the terrible consequences that awaited them if they refused. All the people would know that this disaster had come from the hand of the Lord. The people brought offerings to the Lord, frankincense and fragrant perfumes, but these offerings were repulsive to the Lord because the givers were not sincere in their worship. The people were rebellious. Verses 22-30 constitute a dialogue between Jeremiah and the Lord, probably taking place at the beginning of the Babylonian invasion in 605 B.C. The dialogue is comprised of three poems. Jeremiah declared the Lord’s message, he identifies with the people’s fear, and he urges them to repent quickly. This is followed by a heart-to-heart message from the Lord. The Lord reminded the people that the impending invasion was real. The attackers had real weapons and there were so many of them they sounded like the roaring sea. Jeremiah advised the people to put on sackcloth, a sign of mourning and grief. They were to sit among the ashes to show their remorse for their sins and to beg God for His mercy. Then the Lord interrupted Jeremiah’s lament and brought him back to his commissioned task. God depicted his prophet as a silversmith working with raw ore. The refining process was going to reveal that the silver content of the ore was so small it was worthless. Jeremiah’s challenge was that his prophetic task was at odds with the empathy he felt for his people. Like a metal worker Jeremiah was to direct the fire of criticism on the people to determine their quality in light of God’s standards. The people’s dross was spiritual, including rebellion against God, slander of other people, a hard and stubborn attitude, and a disposition to lead others into corruption. To expose their wickedness God was fanning the flames with the bellows of His judgement. No valuable silver appeared, only the dross of wickedness remained and the people, the rejected silver, must be thrown away.
In His Grip,
Pastor Matt W.