June 25, 2021
" 'Though our guilt testifies against us, Lord, act for Your name’s sake. Indeed, our rebellions are many; we have sinned against You.' "
“‘Though our guilt testifies against us, Lord, act for Your name’s sake. Indeed, our rebellions are many; we have sinned against You. Hope of Israel, its Savior in time of distress, why are You like an alien in the land, like a traveler stopping by for the night? Why are You like a helpless man, like a warrior unable to save? Yet You are among us, Lord, and we are called by Your name. Don’t leave us!’ This is what the Lord says concerning these people: Truly they love to wander; they never rest their feet. So the Lord does not accept them. Now He will remember their guilt and punish their sins.’” Jeremiah 14:7-10
In today’s chapter, the picture of a devastating drought introduces the prediction of another series of judgments upon Judah, and it is a masterpiece of word painting. The prophet uses vivid colors to depict a scene of universal disaster. The whole country is desolate. The city gates are dark with the black robes of mourners. The water cisterns are found empty. The barren fields are seared and dusty. Men and animals together are desperate and dying with thirst.
Jeremiah is appalled by his own vision. He utters a prayer of penitence, admitting that God’s punishment is just, and pleading that the Lord, for His name’s sake, will act as in times past and show Himself to be the hope of Israel.
To this, the Lord replies that the penalty has been in proportion to the guilt of the people. Unless they repent…not just with words, but with their whole hearts…He will not accept their worship nor bring them relief. Truly, worse suffering is yet to come.
Jeremiah offers an excuse for the people: False prophets have given assurance of prosperity and peace. To that, God answers that false prophets and common people alike are to perish by famine, the sword, or be led as captives into a land they do not know.
In today’s passage, Jeremiah offers up a false assumption/argument that many Christians today also hold true. That is, the assumption that God would allow His children to go unpunished, just to protect His reputation, as if He needed to impress anyone. God is not in the habit of making Himself attractive to lure people into worshiping Him through a popularity contest. This is a lesson many church leaders would do well to learn! The error of such an assumption is rooted in ignorance of God’s priorities, clearly articulated priorities in His Word. God is Holy, and in Him is nothing impure. He is only and always concerned with what is perfect and true: He hates impurity.
If His children claim to be called by His name yet are living compromised lives, He will allow their reputations, as well as His own, to suffer. This is so that the truth will be known. Unless the child repents and falls back in line with God’s character, He must distinguish the child from Himself. This is so His glory can be ultimately known to be pure. God’s reputation will only temporarily be tarnished by such punishment because, eventually, people will learn the difference between God and His rebellious children. Once sin is punished, God’s holiness is revealed to have remained intact.