Sunday, May 27, 2012

What Went Wrong - A Study of Jeremiah 5

After a two week vacation I spent taking care of children and grandchildren in different cities, I am back.  Here is today's Bible study.



Jeremiah delivered God’s word that an enemy from the North would invade Jerusalem. This was God’s punishment for idolatry. It was the ultimate curse of the covenant, the loss of the land.

The verses from 4:5 through 6:26 are sometimes called “The Invasion Oracles”. They are a series of statements from the Lord giving setting out the sin of the Israelites and the coming judgment of them.

Chapter 5 is a sort of insert. It deals more with what Israel did wrong to incur God’s wrath than the outpouring of that wrath through the invasion. Chapter 6 will return to the invasion theme.

Each of these oracles paints a picture of the invasion and defeat. They are vivid and terrible. Yet, the Israel refused to believe and repent.

There Are No Godly People Left

The Lord told the people to go through Jerusalem and try to find one righteous person. If Jeremiah found even one, the Lord would spare the city. The implication is that they could not find one.

This passage alludes to the bargaining of Abraham for Sodom after the Lord told him he would destroy it. Abraham bargained down to 10, but the Lord did not find 10 righteous men in Sodom. He destroyed it, but saved Lot. The implication is that the Lord finds Jerusalem as wicked as Sodom and will destroy it.

God Warned Them

God sent adversity to them to warn them to repent of their sin. Verse 3 says He “crushed them” (NIV) or “struck them down” (ESV). How did he do this? Israel, the northern kingdom, was defeated and taken into captivity by Assyria. Judah became a vassal of Assyria, Egypt and Babylonia. The kingdom was greatly reduced from the time of David and Solomon. Yet they did not repent.

The Old Covenant was very physical. God promised Israel a land and prosperity when they obeyed the covenant. Disobedience to the covenant brought deprivation and defeat. Ultimately it resulted in loss of the land.

Our covenant is not primarily physical but spiritual. But, God may still use adversity to get our attention. Sometimes it may be just to grow us, but it also may be to correct the path of our life. It is worth examining yourself and your life when you encounter hard times.

Unfaithfulness was not limited to one class of people

Jeremiah first thought only the poor were unfaithful. This may be because he had seen King Josiah bring reforms. But he found all the people were disobedient. .In verse 5, he says they all “broke off the yoke” or “tore off the bonds”. A yoke is a wooden piece used to control oxen or horses while they pull a wagon or a plow. Bonds are leather strips used to tie something up. These are metaphors for the covenant. All of Jerusalem abandoned the covenant.

God brought the curses of the covenant to make them repent and obey. As they continued to refuse, the curses became greater. This is just as God said in Deuteronomy 28 and Leviticus 26. The ultimate curse is defeat and losing the land. Verse 6 says this in animal metaphors. A lion, a wolf and a leopard are used to portray a fierce enemy who will devour them.

We see also that God is coming to the end of any period of forgiveness. He will tell Jeremiah not to even pray for the people. Here in verse 7, he says “why should I forgive you?” (NIV) or “How can I pardon you?” . Although he took care of them, they abandoned him. The time for judgment will come for them and it will be too late to repent. The same is true for every man and woman that lives. There is a time to repent. But when the end comes, it is over and the penalty for sin must be paid.

Yet God Has Mercy

Even when the country is destroyed and the people carried off to Babylon, God would not destroy them completely. He would have mercy. He would leave a remnant. Verse 10 also carried this idea.

This idea of a saved remnant is an important Biblical concept.

When God destroyed humanity in the flood, he preserved Noah and his family. (Genesis 6-9)

Remember that Elijah thought he was the only one who did not worship Baal and rejected the covenant. (1 Kings 19:14) But God told him he had kept seven thousand people for himself. (1 Kings 19:18).

Isaiah 1:9 says “unless the Lord Almighty had left us some survivors, we would have become like Sodom, we would have been like Gomorrah”. He meant that they would have been totally destroyed if the Lord had not preserved a remnant.

Romans 11 picks up the theme. Paul referred to the remnant of Israel saying there was still a remnant chosen by grace. (Romans 11:5). He compared it to the seven thousand of Elijah’s time. This proved that god had not completely rejected his people.

Punished by Getting What They Wanted

The Lord said “since you wanted to serve foreign gods in my land, you will serve foreigners in their land”. The land and the worship of God are tied together. If the Israelites wanted to act foreign by worshipping other gods, they would have to do it somewhere else. Israel was sacred space. It was God’s land and could not be profaned by the worship of other gods.

Fear God or Be Foolish

The Lord points out that he should be feared. (22) Israel should fear him because he is sovereign. He controls the sea. He restrained it to its place though it is forceful and terrible. (23)

This is certainly a note for us. The educated elite in our country no longer credit God with the creation of the world or the sustaining of it. Evolution has replaced God in both respects. There is, therefore, no fear of God. Even if they believe he exists, he is powerless and removed from us. We should not be surprised that such belief has lead to the rise of the current crop of angry and vocal atheists.

Here, for fun, is part of a poem by C. S. Lewis:

Lead us, Evolution, lead us
Up the future’s endless stair:
Chop us, change us, prod us, weed us,
For stagnation is despair:
Groping, guessing, yet progressing,
Lead us nobody knows where.

They should fear God because he provides food for them. (24) He is in control of all of the elements necessary for food to grow and be harvested.  The same is true today.

But they did not fear him. He called them foolish and senseless. Psalm 14:1 says the fool says in his hear there is no God. Proverbs 1:7 says “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline”.

And when the nation turns from the fear of the Lord, it also turns to injustice. Psalm 14:1 continues to say “they are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good.” Verse 26 says they are wicked men. Verse 27 says they are full of deceit. Verse 28 says they do not take care of orphans or the poor.

Remember that the covenant dealt not only with the relationship between the people and God, but also the relationships among themselves. There were ordinances for the conduct of the family, for business, for treatment of aliens and property. The Lord specifically told them not to cheat or oppress the poor. (Exodus 23:6).

And finally, even the prophets and priests lie and abandon the Lord. (30-31). He called it a horrible and shocking, or appalling thing.

When we fail to worship God for who he is and to obey him, our culture falls apart.  It happened to them.  It happens to us.

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