JEREMIAH 6 (Part 1)
Chapter 6 ends the section that began in Chapter 2 calling for repentance. There will be other calls to repent, but the emphasis of the other sections will change.
Jerusalem would no longer be a refuge, but a trap. (6:1) The Lord says he will bring people from the north to attack Jerusalem. We know these were the Babylonians. But, verse 2 makes clear that Babylon was only the instrument. The Lord brought the destruction. He says this plainly in verse 2 “I will destroy the Daughter of Zion”.
The sins the Lord described in this chapter do not involve idolatry, but mistreatment of their brothers and sisters. In verse 6, he said the city was filled with oppression. He describes wickedness, violence and destruction.
Still, at this point, the Lord allowed for repentance. In verse 8, he tells them to take the warning and repent. If they do not repent, he will make the land desolate so no one can live it in.
“Desolate” seems to mean the land is too wild and unforgiving to be habitable. In Exodus 23:29, the Lord told the Israelites he would not drive out the Canaanites all in one year, for the land would become desolate and wild animals would overwhelm them.
In Joshua 8:28, the city of Ai was called desolate after Joshua burned it to the ground.
In contrast, the Lord promised the Israelites a land of milk and honey and cities already built, with fields and vineyards already planted. It was the opposite of desolate.
The most startling description of this is in Jeremiah 4:23, where he said it would be formless and empty. In Hebrew, these are the same words translated “without form and void” used to describe the earth before God made in habitable for humanity.
No One Listens
Despite the dire warnings, no one listened. God says who could I give warning to now? They will not listen to me.
In fact, verse 10 tells us the word of the Lord became an object of scorn. They took no pleasure in it. Therefore, the Lord was tired of holding in his wrath. He was ready to pour it out.
When I think of the disrespect for God’s word in our time, I realize how it must anger God. People within and without the church assail the Bible as untrue or not literally true. They criticize it from every angle. Or, the just find it irrelevant to them. Will God pour out his wrath on us for that?
When you read the Bible, do not look for a way to explain it away. Do not decide it is not relevant for our time. Instead, read it to know the God who says he never changes. Read it to see the sinful heart of mankind. Read it to see how to be saved to eternal life. Read it to know how to please God. Submit to it.
A small phrase in verse 10 is worthy of consideration. God said “their ears are uncircumcised”. (ESV) (the NIV & NASB say “closed”, but with footnotes to “uncircumcised” as the literal translation.) What does he mean by that? Wasn’t circumcision a ritual for the males of Israel? It was, but it was a symbol of something greater.
We often take a symbol, forget its meaning and make it into a meaningless ritual. For example, a person will not at all live a Christian life, but go take communion on Sunday because it is a ritual to which he is accustomed. The Jews took great pride in circumcision, for it separated them from the Gentiles. But, it was supposed to mean something about their relationship toward God.
Genesis 17 records God’s command to Abraham to circumcise himself and his people. But, God had already made a covenant with Abraham in Genesis 15. In chapter 17, God gave more details of that covenant. The covenant required Abraham and his descendants to obey the Lord and maintain right relationships with other people. This was spelled out in detail in the books of Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy. In Genesis 17:19, God said “For I have chosen him that he may command his children and the household after him t o keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice.”
From the beginning, the prosperity of Israel was contingent on obedience to God. This was the covenant on the part of Israel: submit to and obey God. Circumcision was the sign of this covenant. In Genesis 17:11, God said circumcision was the sign of the covenant. Paul said in Romans 4:11: He (Abraham) received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well.
So, when God says someone has uncircumcised ears or heart, he means they do not listen to God’s command or obey it. This statement appears several times in the Old Testament. For example, in Leviticus 26:41 (Leviticus 26 being the chapter containing the curses for disobedience to the covenant), God said that, after he sent a disobedient Israel into captivity, he would restore them if they humbled their uncircumcised heart, meaning hearts that did not submit to God. Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel all use this language.
So, here in Jeremiah, they cannot hear because they are in rebellion against God. That is why their ears are closed.
Jesus said the same thing about those who truly follow him. "My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow me." (John 10:27) The implication to the Pharisees was, you can not hear my message for you are not my sheep. It is the New Testament version of uncircumcised ears.