The Word Made Fresh
1You will be in the right, LORD, when I bring charges before you,
but listen to my case. Why does the way of the guilty prosper?
Why do those who are unfaithful thrive?
2You plant them and they take root
and grow strong and produce fruit.
You are near in the way they speak,
but far away from their hearts.
3But you know me, LORD.
You examine me and know that in my heart I am on your side.
Separate them like sheep to be slaughtered.
Put them aside for the day of punishment.
4How long will the land suffer and the grass wither?
Because of the evil of those who live there
the birds and animals suffer,
and they say the LORD doesn’t pay attention to the way they live.
5If you are exhausted from racing with those on foot,
how will you race with horses?
And if you fail in a land that is safe,
how will you succeed in the thick undergrowth by the Jordan?
6Even your kin and those in your own household
have cheated you and are loudly blaming you.
Don’t believe a word they say,
even if their words seem to be friendly enough.
7I have turned away from my people
and have abandoned my heritage.
I have given the one my heart loves
into the hands of her enemies.
8That which I inherited has become like a lion in the forest.
Her voice is raised against me, and that is why I hate her.
9Is my inheritance, my people, like a bird of prey
surrounded and attacked by other birds of prey?
Are birds of prey gathered all around her?
Call together the wild animals
and bring them, too, to devour her!
10My vineyard has been destroyed by disloyal shepherds
who have turned the land of my beloved people
into a desolate wasteland,
11and being made desolate, it calls to me in mourning.
The whole land is made desolate
and nobody seems to care.
12The barren hilltops in the wilderness
are being overwhelmed by destruction
because the sword of the LORD conquers
from one end of the land to the other,
and no one will escape.
13They have sown wheat but have harvested only briars.
They have worn themselves out accomplishing nothing.
And they will be ashamed of the harvest
because of the LORD’s terrible anger.
14This is what the LORD has to say about the wicked neighbors
who smudge the inheritance given to God’s people:
“I am about to pluck them up out of the land,
and I’ll pluck the house of Judah from their midst.
15And then I will again have compassion on them,
and will bring them to the land they have inherited.
16Then, if those people will learn from my people to swear by my name,
‘As the LORD lives,’ in the same way they taught
my people to swear by Baal,
then they shall be given a place among my people.
17But any nation that refuses to listen
will be completely uprooted from the land and destroyed.”
Thus says the LORD.
1-4: Jeremiah dares to question God’s actions. It is the age-old conundrum of theodicy: an attempt to defend God’s goodness and justice in the face of the injustice of innocent people suffering. Jeremiah, like Job, sees wicked people prospering. They give lip service to God, but not their hearts. Jeremiah insists that his heart is with God and begs God to punish the wicked.
5-6: God replies, and essentially tells Jeremiah that if he can’t see the treachery of his own family, he’ll never understand God’s justice. In other words, Jeremiah isn’t the one to judge who is wicked and who is not.
7-13: God has forsaken Israel because Israel has forsaken God.
14-17: God’s basic plan is outlined: the people will be uprooted and punished, but the day will come when they are re-established and when that occurs, any other nation that does not honor them will suffer God’s wrath.
God invites us also to be God’s people. How we respond determines God’s response to us.