REPENT FROM SIN BEFORE GOD’S JUDGMENT DEVASTATES YOU
It is so easy for people to have a false sense of security. If you don’t really understand the character of God and you don’t really understand your own depravity, you fail to see the danger of God’s imminent judgment. You can confuse external religious rites with the type of inward righteousness that God demands. You can brush aside God’s warnings about accountability and coming judgment by mocking the promise of Christ’s return.
The people of Israel with their long history of idolatry and rebellion needed to be shocked out of their complacency and challenged to repent before it will be too late. We cannot trifle with sin. We cannot presume against God’s goodness and His patience and His forbearance. Judgment is coming. We need cleansing while there is still time to turn to God.
REPENT FROM SIN BEFORE GOD’S JUDGMENT DEVASTATES YOU
I. (:5-13) LOOK OUT — TWO DECLARATIONS OF COMING JUDGMENT
God Speaks to Jeremiah and Jeremiah Responds
A. (:5-10) First Declaration of Judgment – Take Cover – Judgment is Coming
1. (:5-9) God Speaks to Jeremiah: Devastating Judgment Announced
a. (:5-6) Lookout’s Declaration: Seek Refuge from Coming Destruction
“Declare in Judah and proclaim in Jerusalem, and say, ‘Blow the trumpet in the land; Cry aloud and say, ‘Assemble yourselves, and let us go into the fortified cities.’ Lift up a standard toward Zion! Seek refuge, do not stand still, For I am bringing evil from the north, And great destruction.’”
Similar to air raid siren coupled with the raising of a visual signal (the flag)
Mackay: The trumpet was an instrument made of horn, which was not intended for musical performance (it emitted a raucous blare) but to give a signal. It was used in time of invasion or emergency to alert the populace throughout the land to imminent problem (Amos 36; Joel 2:1). There follows a series of imperatives, reflecting the breathless urgency of the situation.
Evil from the north = Babylon
b. (:7) Lion Destroying
“A lion has gone up from his thicket, And a destroyer of nations has set out; He has gone out from his place To make your land a waste. Your cities will be ruins without inhabitant.”
Mackay: The conventional policy of seeking refuge in the cities will prove ineffective in this case, because rather than providing protection, the cities themselves will fall before the enemy and no one will be left alive in them.
c. (:8) Lamenting Divine Anger
“For this, put on sackcloth, Lament and wail; For the fierce anger of the LORD has not turned back from us.”
d. (:9) Leadership Dismayed
“’And it shall come about in that day,’ declares the LORD, ‘that the heart of the king and the heart of the princes will fail; and the priests will be appalled, and the prophets will be astounded.’”
Longman: The leaders … have been smug in their self-confidence. As Jeremiah will repeatedly point out, these leaders of the people above all others resist Jeremiah’s message that judgment is coming because of the people’s guilt. Therefore when destruction does arrive they will be the first to lose heart, be horrified, and be appalled. It will take them by utter surprise.
2. (:10) Jeremiah Responds: False Security Mocked – Lack of Discernment
“Then I said, ‘Ah, Lord God! Surely Thou hast utterly deceived this people and Jerusalem, saying, ‘You will have peace’; whereas a sword touches the throat.’”
Complete lack of spiritual discernment; unaware of their perilous condition
Mackay: quoting Calvin – who supposed that the speech was ironic, bitterly taunting and deriding those who had falsely prophesied in the Lord’s name … The message the false prophets propagated with the approval of the religious and state authorities was a distortion of this because it defined peace as the continuation of the political status quo without any acknowledgment of the covenantal dimensions of peace.
Utley: This false message of hope and deliverance from invasion was what the false prophets were preaching in God’s name (cf. Jer. 6:14; 8:11; 14:13; 23:16-17; 28:1ff). God let this occur but the speaker and hearer are responsible!
B. (:11-13) Second Declaration of Judgment – Overwhelming Devastation
1. (:11-13a) God Speaks to Jeremiah: Powerful Forces Unleashed
“In that time it will be said to this people and to Jerusalem, ‘A scorching wind from the bare heights in the wilderness in the direction of the daughter of My people– not to winnow, and not to cleanse, a wind too strong for this– will come at My command; now I will also pronounce judgments against them. Behold, he goes up like clouds, and his chariots like the whirlwind; His horses are swifter than eagles.’”
Calvin: “pronounce judgments” — God briefly intimates, that he had hitherto exercised great forbearance towards the Jews; but that as he found that his indulgence availed nothing, except that they became more and more ferocious, he declares, that he would now become their judge to punish their wickedness. . .
As to the clouds, the whirlwind, and the eagles, (for the import of the three similitudes is the same,) the Prophet no doubt intended thus to set forth the quickness of God’s vengeance; but yet there is some difference. We see how clouds suddenly arise and spread over the whole heaven; and thus it happens when a whirlwind is in the air. Hence when he compares God’s chariots to clouds and the whirlwind, it is the same as if he had said, that the beginning of the calamity would be sudden, because God would unexpectedly arise, after having been apparently asleep for a long time. But when he says, that God’s horses would be swifter than eagles, he means, that it would be easy for God, when once he had begun, to destroy the whole of Judea, as it were in a moment, or at least in a very short time; for we know how swift is the flying of the eagle; but he says, that the horses of God would be swifter than the eagles.
Constable: They were all too familiar with such devastating winds, or siroccos, that blew almost unbearable heat and dust into Judah from the Arabian Desert (cf. Genesis 41:6; Jonah 4:8).
2. (:13b) Jeremiah Responds (identifying with Judah): No Hope of Deliverance
“Woe to us, for we are ruined!”
Mackay: Though Jeremiah is prepared to identify with the people, he can also stand over against them and perceive their failings.
II. (:14-18) LOOK WITHIN – YOUR SINS NEED CLEANSING
A. (:14-15) Repent – Nation Needs Cleansing
“Wash your heart from evil, O Jerusalem, that you may be saved. How long will your wicked thoughts lodge within you? For a voice declares from Dan, and proclaims wickedness from Mount Ephraim.”
It is never too late to deal with sin – as long as you have life and breath, turn to God and seek cleansing
Utley: an allusion to washing a soiled garment, which is a metaphor for repentance and cleansing (cf. Ps. 51:2,7; Isa. 1:16). It is a call, like Ezekiel 18, for an individual to turn back to YHWH and change his ways (cf. Jer. 4:3-4).
Spurgeon: Spurgeon preached a wonderful sermon on this text, titled Bad Lodgers, and How to Treat Them. He explained how evil thoughts were like bad renters or lodgers in a property. “Now, the Lord says, ‘How long shall thy vain thoughts lodge within thee?’ for they are all vain-these delays, these false promises, these self- deceptions. How long shall it be that they shall throng the avenues of your soul and curse your spirit?”
– Why evil thoughts are like bad lodgers:
o Vain thoughts are bad lodgers because they are deceitful.
o Vain thoughts are bad lodgers because they pay no rent; they bring in nothing good.
o Vain thoughts are bad lodgers because they waste your goods and destroy your property.
o Vain thoughts are bad lodgers because worse than damaging your house, they damage you.
o Vain thoughts are bad lodgers because they bring you under condemnation.
– What one should do with these bad lodgers:
o Give them the eviction notice at once.
o If they refuse to leave, then starve them out.
o Sell the house out from under them; put the house under new ownership.
B. (:16-17) Report – Judgment is a Result of Rebellion
“’Report it to the nations, now! Proclaim over Jerusalem, ‘Besiegers come from a far country, and lift their voices against the cities of Judah. Like watchmen of a field they are against her round about, because she has rebelled against Me,’ declares the LORD.”
Byron Chesney: The Hebrews constructed tents around their fields and keepers would stay in them to guard the field and to be there in case anything went wrong. Jeremiah is comparing the invaders from the north to these keepers. They will surround Jerusalem like the keepers surround the fields.
C. (:18) Reconsider – You are to Blame
“Your ways and your deeds have brought these things to you. This is your evil. How bitter! How it has touched your heart!”
Calvin: For hypocrites are wont in their lamentations to cast the blame on God, or at least to complain of fortune. The Prophet anticipates these evasions, by shewing that however bitter might be what the Jews had to endure, and that though God should pierce them through and penetrate to their very bowels and hearts, yet they themselves were the authors of all their calamities.
III. (:19-26) LOOK AROUND – IMAGES OF DEVASTATION AND DISSOLUTION ABOUND
A. (:19-21) Despair / Panic – The Whole Land is Devastated
“My soul, my soul! I am in anguish! Oh, my heart! My heart is pounding in me; I cannot be silent, because you have heard, O my soul, The sound of the trumpet, The alarm of war. Disaster on disaster is proclaimed, for the whole land is devastated; Suddenly my tents are devastated, My curtains in an instant. How long must I see the standard, and hear the sound of the trumpet?”
Tents and curtains are images used to convey how vulnerable Judah was – as opposed to fortified cities that could withstand any attack
B. (:22) Depravity – What Does God Say About Us?
“For My people are foolish, they know Me not;”
Mackay: After the emotional intensity and confused upheaval of the previous verses, Jeremiah inserts an oracle in which the lord speaks in measured and cool tones reminiscent of the language of the wisdom teachers as found in Proverbs or Ecclesiastes. The switch may well have been designed to shock the people into an appropriate response.
“They are stupid children, and they have no understanding.”
Mackay: They lack discernment to appreciate what information is relevant and to understand its implications so as to form appropriate decisions as the basis for their action.
“They are shrewd to do evil, but to do good they do not know.”
Constable: The Lord complained that His people were foolish, like stupid children. They did not really understand Him, but felt they could deceive Him, and that He would not bring them to account for their sins. They were clever when it came to sinning, but not clever at all when it came to understanding that He would punish their sins
C. (:23-26) Dissolution — Status of World Reverts to Pre-Creation Emptiness
When I looked around, what did I see?
Four separate pictures (“I looked”) of the resulting desolation”
1. (:23) Unformed
“I looked on the earth, and behold, it was formless and void; and to the heavens, and they had no light.”
2. (:24) Unstable
“I looked on the mountains, and behold, they were quaking, and all the hills moved to and fro.”
3. (:25) Uninhabited
“I looked, and behold, there was no man, and all the birds of the heavens had fled.”
4. (:26) Undeveloped
“I looked, and behold, the fruitful land was a wilderness, and all its cities were pulled down Before the LORD, before His fierce anger.”
Mackay: What has been revealed to him is a picture of the dissolution of the cosmos as a sign of how dire the impending desolation of Judah was to be and also as a sign of how structurally significant the divine action was. There was no incongruity or exaggeration involved: dissolving, however temporari8ly, the covenant bond between the Lord and Israel was a step of the same magnitude as undoing the divine creative purpose for the earth and reverting to pre-creation chaos.
Ryken: If these verses sound familiar, it is because Jeremiah deliberately repeats the vocabulary of Genesis 1. The destruction of Judah will be so catastrophic that it will be like the un-creation of creation. When God created the world he brought order out of chaos, light out of darkness, and fullness out of emptiness. Now the judgment of God is bringing chaos out of order, darkness out of light, and emptiness out of fullness.
Feinberg: Commentators have been unstinting in praise of this beautiful vignette, and rightly so. It has been acclaimed one of the most forceful passages in all prophetic literature. For vividness, simplicity, directness, breadth of reference, and gravity of subject matter, the verses are unique in Scripture.
IV. (:27-31) LOOK HONESTLY – DON’T KID YOURSELF
A. (:27-28) Sovereign Purpose
1. (:27) Remnant – Sovereign Purpose demonstrated in not utterly destroying
“For thus says the LORD, ‘The whole land shall be a desolation, Yet I will not execute a complete destruction.’”
Parunak: The persistent promise of a remnant throughout the judgments announced by the prophets. He can make this promise because the judgment is under his control.
2. (:28) Resolute – Sovereign Purpose demonstrated in not relenting
“For this the earth shall mourn, And the heavens above be dark, Because I have spoken, I have purposed, And I will not change My mind, nor will I turn from it.”
B. (:29-31) Ultimate Despair
1. (:29) No Refuge
“At the sound of the horseman and bowman every city flees; They go into the thickets and climb among the rocks; Every city is forsaken, And no man dwells in them.”
Mackay: (:29-31) – The closing verses of the chapter describe what will happen when the enemy army arrives. The inhabitants of the towns of Judah will flee in panic, and Jerusalem will not be exempt either. None of the political wiles that had worked before will be able to deflect the enemy from wreaking the havoc he has planned, and the city is depicted in her death throes.
Longman: reaction of the inhabitants of the attacked towns. They flee the inhabited areas and, as was typical in such situations, seek hiding places in the rough terrain in the nearby countryside. Rocks likely refers to nearby cliffs and wadi walls, which had crevices and caves that provided suitable hiding places.
2. (:30) No Rescuer
“And you, O desolate one, what will you do?
o Although you dress in scarlet,
o Although you decorate yourself with ornaments of gold,
o Although you enlarge your eyes with paint,
In vain you make yourself beautiful; Your lovers despise you; They seek your life.”
Mackay: Are there overtones of Jezebel here (2 Kgs. 9:30-33)? The people will do anything rather than turn to the Lord.
Constable: The Lord asked Judah what she would do then. Presently she pursued selfish interests and tried to make herself as attractive as possible, like a harlot, but the nations that pretended to love her would turn against her and attack her (cf. 2 Kings 9:30; Revelation 17). No last-minute compromise with the invaders would placate them. The unfaithful wife of Yahweh would reap judgment for the profligacy she had sown (cf. Jeremiah 3:1; Jeremiah 2:35-36).
Ryken: Even after all her primping, Judah will be destroyed. . . To put it another way, Judah had a fatal attraction. Jeremiah warned God’s people again and again that false gods abuse their worshipers. This northern army has not come for love, but for violence. Judah’s fancy dress and shiny beads cannot saver her. She will die, it seems, in childbirth.
3. (:31) No Relief
“For I heard a cry as of a woman in labor, The anguish as of one giving birth to her first child, The cry of the daughter of Zion gasping for breath, Stretching out her hands, saying, “Ah, woe is me, for I faint before murderers.”
Illustration: I like the honesty of my five year old grandson – when discussing salvation and what it means to own Jesus as the Lord of one’s life … he honestly professes: “I will believe in Jesus the day that He comes back.” When his Dad patiently explains that it will be too late to repent at that time; he quickly reconsiders his options and comes up with a true reflection of the natural rebellious heart of man: “Then I will turn to Jesus the day before.” Sorry, it doesn’t work that way.
Now is the time to repent. Today is the day of salvation and the cleansing of your heart. You must deal with sin before it is too late and God’s judgment sweeps over with devastating effects.