SOMETIMES GOD DOESN’T COME TO THE RESCUE
The Israelites were a people that were accustomed to God bailing them out of every disastrous situation. Abraham got himself into multiple pickles because of his lies about Sarah being his sister; but God came through and protected his seed and his family dynasty. The Jews were subjected to 400 years of captivity in Egypt but God provided Moses and Joshua to lead them to the Promised Land. In the times of the Judges we saw the same cycle repeated of stubborn sin and rebellion followed by subjugation until God raised up a Savior to deliver His people. The Jews came to believe that they were invincible because of their covenant relationship with Yahweh.
But God shows here that one cannot presume against His goodness and forbearance. There comes a time when he will no longer listen to insincere pleas for help that are not coupled to genuine repentance. There comes a time when the rope has been played out and judgment is inevitable. We must be careful in our own lives to turn back to God while there is still time to seek mercy and forgiveness. We cannot persist on a course of stubborn rebellion and expect that there will always be a path back to God.
SOMETIMES GOD DOESN’T COME TO THE RESCUE
Illustration: Old TV series: Rin Tin Tin – where in the moment of crisis you hear the encouraging bugle sounds and the cavalry rides in to perform the needed rescue.
I. (:1-6) JUDGMENT BRINGS SHAME AND HUMILIATION
A. (:1) Severe Drought = Context of Judgment
“That which came as the word of the LORD to Jeremiah in regard to the drought:”
This adversity is a nationwide scourge of divine judgment that has produced widespread death and destruction – targeting not only the apostate people but the environment as well.
Parunak: “Dearth” (famine) has potentially a wider meaning. In its other two occurrences (Ps. 9:10; 10:1) it seems to mean more generally, “trouble, destitution.” The chapter is not just about famine, though it starts on that note. In fact, our study of Lev. 26 and 2 Chr. 6 suggests that the people’s prayer is hopeless partially because they are well beyond the “famine” stage. The word is plural, not singular. Probably emphasizes the set of judgments that the Lord is bringing on them.
Constable: Droughts were a punishment for covenant violation in Israel (cf. Leviticus 26:18-19; Deuteronomy 28:23-24). This pericope begins with an unusual introductory statement, which occurs again in Jeremiah 46:1; Jeremiah 47:1; and Jeremiah 49:34.
B. (:2-3) Shame and Humiliation of the Leaders = Nobility
“Judah mourns, And her gates languish; They sit on the ground in mourning, And the cry of Jerusalem has ascended. And their nobles have sent their servants for water; They have come to the cisterns and found no water. They have returned with their vessels empty; They have been put to shame and humiliated, And they cover their heads.”
Bible.org – “her gates” — This is the place where the life of the city was centralized. It was a place of social and civic justice (i.e., Deut. 16:18; Ruth 4).
Matthew Henry: perhaps their own children, having been forced to part with their servants because they had not wherewithal to keep them, and being willing to train up their children, when they were little, to labour, especially in a case of necessity, as this was.
Mackay: Her gates languish also involves a wordplay because the verb can denote both a physical effect on crops (“fails” Joel 1:10; “is withered” Joel 1:12) and also human sorrow that is so severe as to lead to physical exhaustion and weakness (“grow faint”, 15:9; “pine away, 1 Sam. 2:5; Isa. 19:8).
C. (:4-6) Shame and Humiliation of the Farmers = Working Class
“Because the ground is cracked, For there has been no rain on the land; The farmers have been put to shame, They have covered their heads. For even the doe in the field has given birth only to abandon her young, Because there is no grass. And the wild donkeys stand on the bare heights; They pant for air like jackals, Their eyes fail For there is no vegetation.”
Constable: There was so little grass available that even the does, that normally took good care of their newborn fawns, deserted them to find grass to keep themselves alive. Even the wild donkeys, known for their hardiness, could only stand and sniff the wind on the hills, since they could find nothing to eat. They panted and their eyes grew dim from lack of sustenance as they started to die.
Thompson: The total picture is a graphic one touching on the most pathetic aspects of nature in a time of drought: empty pools, dried up pasture lands, and wild animals at the point of starvation and death.
II. (:7-9) JEHOVAH GOD UPHOLDS THE HONOR OF HIS NAME
A. (:7-8a) Confession of Sin that Has Profaned the Name of God
1. (:7a) Honor of God = Basis for Deliverance from Consequences of Sin
“Although our iniquities testify against us, O LORD,
act for Thy name’s sake!”
Parunak: vv.7-9, People to YHWH: Save us for your name’s sake, in spite of our sin. Their plea is chiastic, with requests for salvation for the sake of the Lord’s name sandwiched around a description of that name.
Mackay: “For the sake of your name” points to all that God has revealed himself to be (cf. v. 21). At times it refers to the Lord’s power and sovereignty, and so the action looked for would be such as would keep his name from being maligned among the heathen – but that does not seem to be the force of it here. Equally, divine action for his own name’s sake may involve punishing wrongdoers, so that the Lord’s justice be openly vindicated – but again that does not fit this context. Rather it seems to be a plea focused on the graciousness of God who has revealed himself as the one characterised by lovingkindness. Jeremiah is teaching the people to plead God’s mercy and his covenant commitment as the ground for his action. It is only on the basis of grace that they can hope for relief from suffering the penalty that is justly their due.
2. (:7b) Honest Confession — Apostasies Have Been Many – Judgment is Deserved
“Truly our apostasies have been many,
We have sinned against Thee.”
Mackay: realization of the magnitude ot guilt is presented as a reason for divine intervention and initiative: there is simply no other way in which the matter can be successfully dealt with.
3. (:8a) Hope for Deliverance Based on Covenant Relationship
“Thou Hope of Israel,
Its Savior in time of distress,”
two important names of God that have manifested themselves in God’s covenant relationship with His chosen people
Bible.org: YHWH (specified in the LXX of v. 8) is described by two covenant titles.
1. O Hope of Israel – this refers to YHWH as the God of the Patriarchs (cf. 17:13; 50:7)
2. Savior – this is a common characterization or title in Isaiah (cf. 19:20; 43:3,11; 45:15,21; 49:26; 60:16; 63:8)
B. (:8b-9a) Questions of Dismay – Where God Seems to be Acting our of Character
1. (:8b) Question #1 – Where is Your Covenant Connection?
“Why art Thou like a stranger in the land
Or like a traveler who has pitched his tent for the night?”
Parunak: Why should you seem unwilling to save, like a stranger who has no commitment to the land, but only spends the night there on the way to somewhere else? (NB: this language draws heavily on 9:2, where the Lord said he would be just this way.)
2. (:9a) Question #2 – Where is the Display of Your Saving Power
“Why art Thou like a man dismayed,
Like a mighty man who cannot save?”
Matthew Henry: Why does the almighty God seem as if he were no more than a mighty man, who, when he is astonished, though he would, yet cannot save?
T. Miles Bennett: In this “communal lament” the people confess sins and cry out to God for help ‘in a time of severe need. There is some difficulty, however, in assessing the sincerity of their confession. On the surface at least there is much that is positive about their prayer: confession of sins (v. 7), recognition of God’s lordship, and acknowledging him as their hope and deliverer (v. 8a). But there are negative aspects as well, e.g., the why of vss. 8 and 9 which seem to point an accusing finger at God. One writer capsules the negatives of the confession by commenting that it is interesting to observe the people do not inquire, ‘Why are we letting God down?” but, “Why is he letting us down?”
C. (:9b) Affirmation of Covenant Commitment to Uphold God’s Reputation
1. Appeal to Presence of God
“Yet Thou art in our midst, O LORD,”
Adam Clarke: Thy ark, temple, and sacred rites, are all here; and thou thyself, who art every where present, art here also: but alas! thou dost not reveal thyself as the Father of mercies, who forgivest iniquity, transgression, and sin.
2. Appeal to Covenant Connection and Honor of God’s Name
“And we are called by Thy name;”
3. Appeal to Mercy of God
“Do not forsake us!”
Gino Geraci: The people of Judah and Jerusalem cried out to God when they got into trouble. But their prayers were insincere. The people wanted the circumstance to change but were unwilling to allow their hearts to be broken and changed!
Bible.org: This is an unusual meaning for this verb. It is found only here and Ps. 119:121, in the sense of “abandon.”
III. (:10-18) JUDGMENT WILL NOT BE AVERTED
A. (:10-12) Rejection of Futile, Last Ditch Cries for Help
1. (:10) Time for Judgment has Arrived
“Thus says the LORD to this people, ‘Even so they have loved to wander; they have not kept their feet in check. Therefore the LORD does not accept them; now He will remember their iniquity and call their sins to account.’”
Mackay: They do not want to have fixed allegiance to the Lord, but much prefer moving restlessly about between one idol shrine and another, or if understood in political terms, between one foreign alliance and another. They would do anything at all so long as it did not involve recognition of the Lord.
2. (:11-12) Time for Intercessory Prayer and Religious Rites Are Past
“So the LORD said to me, ‘Do not pray for the welfare of this people. When they fast, I am not going to listen to their cry; and when they offer burnt offering and grain offering, I am not going to accept them. Rather I am going to make an end of them by the sword, famine and pestilence.’”
Bible.org: “sword, famine and pestilence” These three form the triad of the terrible results of invasion (cf. 5:12; 14:15; 27:8; 29:18).
Thompson: The futility of religious exercises is again stressed. Fasting, burnt offerings, and cereal offerings are not acceptable to Yahweh in the absence of obedience (cf. 6:20; 7:21-28; 11:15). For such people intercession would be in vain.
B. (:13-16) Repudiation of False Prophets and Their Promise of Peace
1. (:13) False Prophets Preach a False Gospel
“But, ‘Ah, Lord God!’ I said, ‘Look, the prophets are telling them, ‘You will not see the sword nor will you have famine, but I will give you lasting peace in this place.’”
In step with those who preach the Prosperity Gospel – a message that tickles the ears and is pleasing with the majority of people
Constable: Jeremiah suggested that the people were not totally responsible for their behavior. The false prophets had misled them by promising them lasting peace and prosperity. He hinted that perhaps the Lord Himself was partially responsible since His prophets were misleading the people. Jeremiah penned more about the false prophets than any other writing prophet.
2. (:14) False Prophets Claim False Authority
“Then the LORD said to me, ‘The prophets are prophesying falsehood in My name. I have neither sent them nor commanded them nor spoken to them; they are prophesying to you a false vision, divination, futility and the deception of their own minds.’”
– Falsely claim divine initiation and authentication for their message
– Speak falsehood – a false vision, a false divination
– Words lead to futility rather than edification
3. (:15-16) False Prophets Bring Down God’s Wrath – On Themselves and On All Who Follow Them
“Therefore thus says the LORD concerning the prophets who are prophesying in My name, although it was not I who sent them– yet they keep saying, ‘There shall be no sword or famine in this land ‘– by sword and famine those prophets shall meet their end! The people also to whom they are prophesying will be thrown out into the streets of Jerusalem because of the famine and the sword; and there will be no one to bury them– neither them, nor their wives, nor their sons, nor their daughters– for I shall pour out their own wickedness on them.”
Parunak: Application: Beware the danger of false teaching. You can never plead, “It’s not my fault, I was mislead.” Those who are mistaught are still liable for their error. You can never hide behind your preacher.
Feinberg: The people should have known that the Lord punishes sin, and they should not have believed the false prophets. The judgment of the nation is spoken of here because the people were willing to be deceived
C. (:17-18) Reflection on the Sad State of God’s Chosen People, Leaders and City
“And you will say this word to them, ‘Let my eyes flow down with tears night and day, And let them not cease; For the virgin daughter of my people has been crushed with a mighty blow, With a sorely infected wound. If I go out to the country, Behold, those slain with the sword! Or if I enter the city, Behold, diseases of famine! For both prophet and priest Have gone roving about in the land that they do not know.’”
Gino Geraci: How does God feel? Jeremiah is told to weep for the people (Jeremiah 9:8; 13:17). How does Jeremiah feel? He feels like a father whose virgin daughter (bethulah) has been violated, beaten, humiliated and left to die! There seems to be a double meaning. The city has been protected– but is now ravished. A deep sense of sorrow surges through Jeremiah! Jeremiah is not exempted from the pain. Let my eyes run down with tears (9:18; 13:17; Lam.2:18; 3:48, 49). Jeremiah cries a lot.
Parunak: God commands him to exhibit an attitude of pity and mourning, not one of proud condemnation.
Adam Clarke: Every place presents frightful spectacles; the wounded, the dying, the starving, and the slain; none to bury the dead, none to commiserate the dying, none to bring either relief or consolation. Even the prophets and the priests are obliged to leave the cities, and wander about in unfrequented and unknown places, seeking for the necessaries of life.
IV. (:19-22) JEHOVAH GOD WILL REMEMBER HIS COVENANT – AND NOT COMPLETELY REJECT HIS PEOPLE
A. (:19) Perplexity of Rejection
1. How Complete?
“Hast Thou completely rejected Judah?
Or hast Thou loathed Zion?”
2. Why No Relief?
“Why hast Thou stricken us so that we are beyond healing?”
Bible.org: This third question is the central issue – Has the conditional covenant with Abraham been totally abrogated by Israel and Judah’s continual disobedience? Well, yes and no!
1. Yes – and this sets the stage for the “new covenant” of 31:31-34 (cf. Rom. 3:21-31; Galatians 3)
2. No – see Lev. 26:43, YHWH still has a purpose for His OT people (cf. Romans 9-11)
3. Where is Our Hope?
“We waited for peace, but nothing good came;
And for a time of healing, but behold, terror!”
T. Miles Bennett: vv. 19-22 — It is instructive to compare this confession and appeal with the first one (vv. 7-9). Here as in the first sins are con¬fessed. In both God is acknowledged as the “hope” of Israel (Judah). But the most significant similarity between the two is the strong stress placed on the Lord’s obligations to Judah and the tendency to overlook their own obligations to their covenant God.
Mackay: The major problem in understanding these closing four verses is to decide the tone in which they were uttered. Is this the people pleading on their own behalf using sound religious vocabulary but without heart commitment, or is this the prophet uttering on their behalf what they should have been saying for themselves? On the one reading, the words are false; on the other, the sentiments are true but unable to lead to reconciliation in that they were not endorsed by the people. It seems best to adopt the same interpretation as in vv. 7-9 that here Jeremiah again utters words that the people should, but do not, adopt for themselves.
B. (:20) Perspective of Rebellion
“We know our wickedness, O LORD, The iniquity of our fathers,
for we have sinned against Thee.”
C. (:21) Plea for Remembrance
1. Based on Name of God
“Do not despise us, for Thine own name’s sake;”
2. Based on Glory of God
“Do not disgrace the throne of Thy glory;”
Bible.org: the throne of Your glory (i.e., the Ark of the Covenant in the holy of holies, cf. 3:17; 17:12)
3. Based on Covenant of God
“Remember and do not annul Thy covenant with us.”
D. (:22) Promise of Reigning
“Are there any among the idols of the nations who give rain?
Or can the heavens grant showers? Is it not Thou, O LORD our God?
Therefore we hope in Thee, For Thou art the one who hast done all these things.”
Who ultimately is in charge? Not the idols of the nations; they have proven powerless; it is Jehovah God who controls all things and reigns on high over all;
We will put our faith and trust in Him for our future hope. His kingdom is coming and it is an eternal kingdom where He will have dominion over all.
Guzik: The chapter began with concern over the droughts. Now Jeremiah hopefully speaks for a repentant people who recognize that Baal or any of the other idols are powerless to cause rain. Not even nature separated from God can do it (can the heavens give showers?). The judgment of God, severe as it was, separated them from the idolatry and reliance upon the gods of the nations or nature to cause rain.