The Word Made Fresh
1Run back and forth through the streets of Jerusalem.
Look around and pay careful attention.
Search it thoroughly and see if you can find one person
who behaves fairly and seeks truth.
Then I would be able to pardon the city.
2Even as they say, “As the LORD lives,” they are hiding their lies.
3LORD, do you not search for truth?
You struck out at them, but they felt no hurt.
You punished them but they made no corrections.
They have set their faces like rocks and have refused to turn back.
4Then I said, “These are just the poorest people who have no wisdom;
they don’t know the way of the LORD, or the laws of their God.
5Let me confront those who are great among them and speak to them.
They must certainly know the LORD’s ways.”
But they had all broken away from the LORD’s yoke
and had burst their bonds.
6So, a lion will come from the forest and kill them.
A leopard is watching their cities,
and everyone who attempts to leave will be torn to pieces
because their sins are many and their mistakes are huge.
7How can I forgive you? Your children have turned away from me
and have made pledges to no-gods.
I fed them until they were full,
and they still became adulterers
and hurried to the homes of prostitutes.
8They were like well-fed stallions full of lust,
each one neighing for its neighbor’s wife.
9Shall I not punish them? asks the LORD.
Shall I not see that this nation gets what it deserves?
10Go up and down their vine rows and destroy them,
but not complete destruction.
Tear their branches away – they don’t belong to the LORD.
11The families of Israel and Judah
have been completely false to me, says the LORD.
12They have told lies about me saying, “The LORD won’t do anything.
Nothing bad will befall us
and we are not in danger of sword or starvation.”
13The prophets are full of hot air.
The truth is not in them.
So, they will receive what they deserve.
14The LORD God Almighty says,
“Since they have said such things,
I am placing my words in your mouth as a fire,
and these people will be the wood the fire devours.
15I am going to bring against you a nation from far away,
O house of Israel.” That is the word from the LORD.
It will be an ancient, enduring nation
whose language you don’t know,
and you won’t understand what they say.
16Their quiver is like an open grave.
All of them are strong warriors.
17They will consume your harvest and all your food,
and devour your sons and daughters;
they will dine on your flocks and herds,
and eat up the fruit of your vines and your fig trees.
They will destroy your fortified cities with the sword,
the cities in which you have placed your trust.
18But even with all that I will not make a complete end of you, says the LORD. 19And when your people ask, “Why did the LORD our God do all these things to us,” you must tell them, “As you have forsaken the LORD and served foreign gods in your land, so shall you serve strangers in a land that does not belong to you.”
20Announce this in the family of Jacob and proclaim it in Judah:
21Listen to this, foolish people who have no sense,
and eyes but no sight, and ears but no hearing:
22Aren’t you afraid of me? the LORD asks.
Don’t you tremble in my presence?
I made the sandy beach the sea’s boundary which it cannot pass –
a permanent barrier it cannot cross.
The waves may swell, but cannot prevail over it;
they might roar but cannot pass beyond it.
23But these people are stubborn and prone to be rebellious.
They have left the path and gone their own way.
24Their hearts do not tell them, “Let us respect the LORD our God,
who gives us rain when it is due –
the autumn rain and the spring rain.
The LORD who keeps for our sake
the times set apart for the harvest to be gathered.”
25But your sins have turned the seasons away
and have taken away your good harvests.
26It is because there are rascals among my people;
they take the belongings of others.
They are like fowlers who set traps,
but theirs are for trapping people.
27Like a cage full of noisy birds their gatherings are filled with dishonesty.
That is why they are wealthy and thought to be important.
28They are fat and sleek, and their wickedness has no limits.
They don’t judge fairly the cause of the orphan
so that even he can prosper,
and they don’t defend the rights of the poor.
29Should I punish them for these things, says the LORD,
and bring retaliation on such people as this?
30A terrible and disturbing thing has happened in the land:
31prophets prophesy lies and priests do whatever the prophets tell them.
And my people don’t care – it’s alright with them,
but when the end comes, what will you do?
1-3: The people are entirely corrupt. Jeremiah and God argue whether there are any good people in the city (surely Jeremiah is considered to be in that number!). God speaks in verses 1 and 2, Jeremiah in the first sentence of verse three, then God the last words in verse 3. The argument reminds me of Abraham’s dickering with God over the fate of Sodom (Genesis 18:22-33).
4-6: Jeremiah speaks: He examines poor and rich but finds none who have kept the covenant with God. His defense failed, he knows that the judgment is permanent, and the destruction will happen.
7-13: God seems to be looking for a way to reconsider but concludes that the judgment that has been rendered is just.
14-17: He repeats the decree: a foreign nation (surely a reference to Assyria) will invade and conquer Israel and Judah.
18-19: But not all will be destroyed. A remnant will remain to give witness to why God allowed the devastation of Jerusalem. God tells Jeremiah that when people ask why God did this, he is to tell them that God is treating them the way they treated God. They worshiped foreign gods in the land God gave them; God will send them to serve foreigners in a foreign land.
20-29: God tells Jeremiah to proclaim this judgment to Judah: they have overstepped their spiritual bounds and have no fear of the LORD. The religious and political leaders have fattened themselves on the backs of the poor and needy. Again, God asks the rhetorical question: doesn’t the punishment I have decreed fit the crime?
30-31: But most appalling of all, says God, the prophets and priests follow their own inclinations and pay no attention to God, and what’s worse, the people put up with this behavior. The statement at the end of the chapter is not rhetorical.
We are not accustomed to think of God as an angry God. God is love, we are told, and the death and resurrection of God’s only son is proof. But God is also our judge, and God will not hesitate to allow us to suffer the consequences of our sins when we refuse to repent and continue to live lives against God’s wish and will for us.