Jeremiah 5 - "Consuming & Fiery Words"
To bring us up to speed and give us context, let me read some representative passages leading up to our chapter.
—Chapter 2—Finding Joy in Paltry Places
“Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem, Thus says the LORD,
“I remember the devotion of your youth,
your love as a bride,
how you followed me in the wilderness,
in a land not sown.
…my people have committed two evils:
they have forsaken me,
the fountain of living waters,
and hewed out cisterns for themselves,
broken cisterns that can hold no water.
—Chapter 3—God’s Mercy in Spite of Wickedness
“‘Return, faithless Israel,
declares the LORD.
I will not look on you in anger,
for I am merciful,
declares the LORD;
I will not be angry forever.
13 Only acknowledge your guilt,
that you rebelled against the LORD your God
22 “Return, O faithless sons;
I will heal your faithlessness.”
—Chapter 4—Idolatry is Adultery
4 Circumcise yourselves to the LORD;
remove the foreskin of your hearts,
O men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem;
lest my wrath go forth like fire,
and burn with none to quench it,
because of the evil of your deeds.”
18 Your ways and your deeds
have brought this upon you.
This is your doom, and it is bitter;
it has reached your very heart.”
Jer. 4:23 I looked on the earth, and behold, it was without form and void;
and to the heavens, and they had no light.
So Israel has forsaken God. As a result, he is sending the Babylonians to mete out judgment. How could the unrighteous be used to be the hammer of righteousness? And before we get into our passage, I would just say this as it relates to trying to discern whether God is judging someone or a people we must be very careful to make such pronouncements.
We want to find correlations when bad things happen to people. Unless God speaks audibly to interpret the event, we should keep our mouths shut. We ought to take our cues from Jesus in Luke 13 when asked about a travesty where Pilate had several Galileans killed. Or again in John 9 when the disciples asked, ““Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” What was Jesus’ response? “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
God owns each one of us as our Creator. He gives us every breath and every heartbeat. He does whatever he sees fit. And this ultimately is about his glory. But when he is glorified, then our hearts find their ultimate meaning and purpose and joy. Our hopes and dreams are directly tethered to the heart of God. So that when he is exalted in his rightful place, our longings are fulfilled.
Let’s read first 13 verses and make some brief comments as I go to get at the meaning of the text and then I’ll visit the question as to why Israel had forsaken God. And in understanding why they fell from the Lord, we will also hear words of caution for us.
Run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem,
look and take note!
Search her squares to see
if you can find a man,
one who does justice
and seeks truth,
that I may pardon her.
2 Though they say, “As the LORD lives,”
yet they swear falsely.
3 O LORD, do not your eyes look for truth?
You have struck them down,
but they felt no anguish;
you have consumed them,
but they refused to take correction.
They have made their faces harder than rock;
they have refused to repent.
Jer. 5:4 Then I said, “These are only the poor;
they have no sense;
for they do not know the way of the LORD,
the justice of their God.
5 I will go to the great
and will speak to them,
for they know the way of the LORD,
the justice of their God.”
But they all alike had broken the yoke;
they had burst the bonds.
Jer. 5:6 Therefore a lion from the forest shall strike them down;
a wolf from the desert shall devastate them.
A leopard is watching their cities;
everyone who goes out of them shall be torn in pieces,
because their transgressions are many,
their apostasies are great.
Jer. 5:7 “How can I pardon you?
Your children have forsaken me
and have sworn by those who are no gods.
When I fed them to the full,
they committed adultery
and trooped to the houses of whores.
8 They were well-fed, lusty stallions,
each neighing for his neighbor’s wife.
9 Shall I not punish them for these things?
declares the LORD;
and shall I not avenge myself
on a nation such as this?
Jer. 5:10 “Go up through her vine rows and destroy,
but make not a full end;
strip away her branches,
for they are not the LORD’s.
11 For the house of Israel and the house of Judah
have been utterly treacherous to me,
declares the LORD.
12 They have spoken falsely of the LORD
and have said, ‘He will do nothing;
no disaster will come upon us,
nor shall we see sword or famine.
13 The prophets will become wind;
the word is not in them.
Thus shall it be done to them!’”
So how did Israel get to a place where they would forsake God? We ought to heed their story and realize that they saw amazing things and yet eventually, slowly forgot God.
Imagine that your soul is this coin. And over time, each one of these steps wraps your soul. Over time you can feel or see the things of God.
Taking God for granted.
They had been recipients of God’s mercy day after day. Week after week. Year after year. Generation after generation. They had taken God’s mercy for granted.
Thinking God doesn’t care
You think you’ve got to look out for yourself. That you are all alone.
Not pursuing God.
And because they began to assume that God would not do anything. They stopped pursuing him. They saw how the other gods promised wealth, health, and prosperity and they slowly started to merge that worship with the kind of worship that God had told them would bring them life.
Believing God is absent.
This is something that we subtly let slip in. We make decisions without reference to how God has told us to live. We look at things that will satisfy an urge because we don’t believe that God is sitting there with us. We allow our lips to gossip because we don’t believe that God hears us. We live much of our days without reference to God.
God became a Lord and not a Husband
Hear me out on this one. God most definitely must be your Lord. You will be a slave to something. You will break the yoke of God off your neck, but you will find that you have put another yoke on. Maybe it’s wanting to be accepted by others. Maybe security that comes from money. You will always have a Lord of your life. But he must not merely be your Lord.
I venture to say that the majority of us in this room don’t struggle with God being Lord. But I believe that many of us struggle with cultivating true and deep intimacy with God. Letting him into the inner recesses of our hearts. Welcoming him to speak to our inmost being. Longing for him to care for us as a husband cares for his wife. O
If you doubt this, let me ask a few diagnostic questions:
When was the last time you spent unhurried time in prayer?
When was the last time you spent unhurried time reading God’s Word?
Note, the operative word here is “unhurried”. We must learn to sit and marinate in God’s Word. In prayer and seeking God’s face.
And when we spend time hearing God’s Word. When we listen to him. When we spend time as our closest confidant. His Words burn away the chaff. They burn away the fluff that we surround ourselves with.
You make time for what is important to you. We can say that loving God and loving our neighbor is important to us. But are we making room for God or for our neighbor? Or are we crowding our days and our souls with busy-ness.
This is what God was doing by sending Jeremiah. By speaking his consuming and fiery words. He was burning up all the assumptions. All the presumption. All the pride. Through judgment, he was burning away all that would keep them from being what he created them to be.
Jer. 5:14 Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of hosts:
“Because you have spoken this word,
behold, I am making my words in your mouth a fire,
and this people wood, and the fire shall consume them.
15 Behold, I am bringing against you
a nation from afar, O house of Israel,
declares the LORD.
It is an enduring nation;
it is an ancient nation,
a nation whose language you do not know,
nor can you understand what they say.
16 Their quiver is like an open tomb;
they are all mighty warriors.
17 They shall eat up your harvest and your food;
they shall eat up your sons and your daughters;
they shall eat up your flocks and your herds;
they shall eat up your vines and your fig trees;
your fortified cities in which you trust
they shall beat down with the sword.”
Jer. 5:18 “But even in those days, declares the LORD, I will not make a full end of you. 19 And when your people say, ‘Why has the LORD our God done all these things to us?’ you shall say to them, ‘As you have forsaken me and served foreign gods in your land, so you shall serve foreigners in a land that is not yours.’”
And what is beautiful in all this. Is that even in the heart of judgment. In the hottest part of the fire. It is not to utterly consume us. It is to burn away all that keeping us from enjoying deep communion with God. Do you hear it in V.18? Although Israel was sent into Exile Judgment, they were not utterly destroyed. He preserved a remnant of his people. Though the fire be hot and burn and hurt. He will not make a full end of you.