STUBBORN REBELLION YIELDS DEVASTATING DESTRUCTION
The Lord will not hold back His judgment forever. There comes a time when it is too late to try to flee for safety. Those immersed in wickedness will no longer be able to hide behind the empty platitudes of “I’m OK, you’re OK.” There will be no partiality shown by the Lord in His anger – no granting of exemptions based on family pedigree or social or economic status. Stubborn rebellion will be exposed and condemned for what it is.
Note structural marker of repetition of phrase “Thus says the Lord of hosts.”
Feinberg: The striking feature of this chapter is its rapidity of movement leading to the gathering storm of invasion soon to engulf the capital and the land. It has been called a chapter of alarms; it begins on a note of impending doom and concludes with the utter rejection of the people.
STUBBORN REBELLION YIELDS DEVASTATING DESTRUCTION
I. (:1-8) DIVINE JUDGMENT IS COMING
It is a mistake to think that God’s judgment will not fall.
A. (:1-3) Alert – Divine Judgment on the Horizon — Enemy Coming from the North to Destroy
“Flee for safety, O sons of Benjamin, From the midst of Jerusalem! Now blow a trumpet in Tekoa, And raise a signal over Beth-haccerem; For evil looks down from the north, And a great destruction. The comely and dainty one, the daughter of Zion, I will cut off. Shepherds and their flocks will come to her, They will pitch their tents around her, They will pasture each in his place.”
Constable: Tekoa, of all the northern Judean cities, may have been selected for literary reasons. In Hebrew its name, teqoa, is very similar to the word translated “blow the trumpet,” tiq’u. Beth-haccerem may have been chosen for the meaning of its name, since Jeremiah often referred to Judah as “Yahweh’s vineyard.”
Jerusalem’s beauty and attractiveness would not save her; area will become so desolated that it will be pastureland for flocks of shepherds
The United States should not imagine that her central role in God’s evangelical program will excuse her from coming judgment. Look at the warning signs. Look at the alerts. Look at the signal flags.
B. (:4-5) Attack – Divine Judgment Will Be Relentless — Enemy Called to Attack Jerusalem – at Noon and at Night
“Prepare war against her; Arise, and let us attack at noon. Woe to us, for the day declines, For the shadows of the evening lengthen! Arise, and let us attack by night And destroy her palaces!”
Appetite for attacking Jerusalem cannot be satiated – attack continues day and night
Mackay: So well has their campaign gone that they see no obstacle as capable of impeding their progress. Why not have a night attack? Their mood is one of self-assurance and they are eager to bring matters to a conclusion.
C. (:6-8) Argument – Divine Judgment Matches the Crime
“For thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘Cut down her trees, And cast up a siege against Jerusalem. This is the city to be punished, In whose midst there is only oppression. As a well keeps its waters fresh, So she keeps fresh her wickedness. Violence and destruction are heard in her; Sickness and wounds are ever before Me. Be warned, O Jerusalem, Lest I be alienated from you; Lest I make you a desolation, A land not inhabited.’”
Utley: “Cut down her trees” — In Deut. 20:19-20, trees were used to build siege instruments, ramps, firewood, etc., for invading armies. Also the destruction of all of the fruit trees is an idiom of total, complete desolation!
Mackay: Oppression was an abuse of power to deprive others of their property or rights, perhaps with a semblance of legality but in fact without thought for the morality of the situation, and oppression had been prohibited from earliest times (Lev. 19:13) and was vehemently criticized by the prophets (Isa. 30:12; 59:13; Ezek. 22:7, 12, 29).
Application: Take heed to Divine warnings.
II. (:9-15) DIVINE JUDGMENT IS UNAVOIDABLE
It is a mistake to think that God’s judgment can be avoided.
(:9) No Passover This Time
“Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘They will thoroughly glean as the vine the remnant of Israel; Pass your hand again like a grape gatherer Over the branches.’”
The gleaning of judgment will be complete and thorough – no grapes remaining
A. (:10-11a) No Holding Back God’s Wrath
1. (:10) Warning Because of Rejection of Word of God
“To whom shall I speak and give warning, That they may hear? Behold, their ears are closed, And they cannot listen. Behold, the word of the LORD has become a reproach to them; They have no delight in it.”
Longman: The NIV rather banally translates the third colon of v. 10 as their ears are closed. The Hebrew has the rich metaphor: “their ear has foreskin.” In other words, they have uncircumcised ears. Circumcision is the ritual of cutting away the foreskin of the penis and was a sign of the Abrahamic covenant (Gen. 17:9-14). To be circumcised indicated one who was in covenant with God, and to have a foreskin meant to be outside of the covenant. Thus, we can see that the image of ears with foreskin means more than simply that they do not pay attention to God, it means that they are unclean, outside of the covenant.
2. (:11a) Wrath About to be Poured Out
“But I am full of the wrath of the LORD: I am weary with holding it in. Pour it out on the children in the street, And on the gathering of young men together;”
B. (:11b-15) No Exemptions
1. (:11b-12) Universal Judgment — No Partiality
“’For both husband and wife shall be taken, The aged and the very old. And their houses shall be turned over to others, Their fields and their wives together; For I will stretch out My hand Against the inhabitants of the land,’ declares the LORD.”
2. (:13) Universal Culpability – No Godly Value System
“For from the least of them even to the greatest of them, Everyone is greedy for gain, And from the prophet even to the priest.”
3. (:14) Universal Promotion of False Security – No Facing Reality
“Everyone deals falsely. And they have healed the brokenness of My people superficially, Saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ But there is no peace.’”
Mackay: The repetition of “peace” here suggests it is a quote of a slogan used to effect ideological inculcation and to stifle any glimmering perception of the reality of the situation in the city. The establishment theology preached in Jerusalem assured the people that all would be well, that is, that through the existing regime the blessing of God would rest upon their living and their actions. This was based on an inadequate appreciation of the covenant because they divorced the blessings of the Overlord from the obedience of his subjects and assumed there was an absolute divine commitment which automatically extended salom to Jerusalem and its inhabitants. But if the people of the covenant live in rebellion against God, they can expect not the blessings of the covenant but its curses. Those who should have been summoning the people to repentance were totally failing in their duty. As a result the community were unwilling assess the totality of their lifestyle in the light of God’s covenant demands, and did not appreciate the searching and inward dimensions of what he required from his people.
4. (:15) Universal Arrogance – No Embarrassment
“’Were they ashamed because of the abomination they have done? They were not even ashamed at all; They did not even know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; At the time that I punish them, They shall be cast down,’ says the LORD.”
– Obey God’s Word – Listen to it; Delight in it; Don’t be Ashamed of it
– Walk in God’s Ways
– Don’t presume against God’s goodness and patience and longsuffering
– Embrace a godly value system
– Face up to reality – don’t hide behind false securities
III. (:16-21) DIVINE JUDGMENT IS DESERVED
It is a mistake to think that God’s judgment is not fair. (vv.6-8 introduced this theme)
A. (:16-17) Stubborn Rebellion
1. (:16) Refuse to Walk in God’s Ways
“Thus says the LORD, ‘Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, Where the good way is, and walk in it; And you shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk in it.’”
2 possible tracks to take in life – God’s way and the wrong way
Jesus offered rest to those who would choose the path of discipleship and take His yoke upon themselves (Matt. 11:29)
Mackay: Scripture frequently uses the metaphor of a path or road for he general conduct of one’s life (18:15; 21:8-9; 23:12; Deut. 30:15-20; Ps. 1:6; Prov. 4:10-14). . . Their refusal does not focus on being unable to ascertain if a good way existed, or, if it did, where it was to be found. It is not a matter of knowledge, but of stubborn disinclination to acknowledge the Lord.
Feinberg: God always gives ample warning of coming judgment. The people’s disobedience was threefold:
(1) They were unfaithful to the covenant bond with God (v. 16 – “We will not”);
(2) They were unheeding of the warnings of the true prophets (v. 17 – “We will not”);
(3) And they rejected the law (v. 19)
2. (:17) Refuse to Listen to God’s Warnings
“And I set watchmen over you, saying, ‘Listen to the sound of the trumpet!’ But they said, ‘We will not listen.’”
B. (:18-19) Sorrowful Reaping = Harvest Law
“Therefore hear, O nations, And know, O congregation, what is among them. Hear, O earth: behold, I am bringing disaster on this people, The fruit of their plans, Because they have not listened to My words, And as for My law, they have rejected it also.”
Thompson: God called for witnesses to hear the sentence of judgment he was about to pronounce against a people who had rejected his covenant.
C. (:20) Substituting Rituals in Vain
“For what purpose does frankincense come to Me from Sheba, And the sweet cane from a distant land? Your burnt offerings are not acceptable, And your sacrifices are not pleasing to Me.”
Ryken: The people of Jerusalem were very religious. They were becoming sophisticated, fashionable, up-to-date, and contemporary in their worship. Their services were lavish and ornate. No expense was spared. They imported exotic perfumes by camel – frankincense from Saudi Arabia and calamus from India – in order to spice up their worship. They were on an insatiable quest for the “latest thing.” But their hearts had wandered far from God. . . “Ritual performance perfumed with imported incense will never hide the stench of moral disobedience.” (John Guest)
D. (:21) Stumbling Blocks
“Therefore, thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, I am laying stumbling blocks before this people. And they will stumble against them, Fathers and sons together; Neighbor and friend will perish.’”
God excels at creating obstacle courses
Mackay: Obstacles = Circumstances that the Lord puts before his people to test their loyalty. In themselves the obstacles do not induce the people to sin. Those who are living true to God’s commands will detect the problem ahead of them and deal with it appropriately.
Application: “We will not . . .” is never a good response to God’s commands.
IV. (:22-30) DIVINE JUDGMENT IS A BIG DEAL
It is a mistake to think that God’s judgment is no big deal.
A. (:22-26) A Big Deal Because of Its Destruction
1. (:22-23) Marked by Cruelty
“Thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, a people is coming from the north land, And a great nation will be aroused from the remote parts of the earth. They seize bow and spear; They are cruel and have no mercy; Their voice roars like the sea, And they ride on horses, Arrayed as a man for the battle Against you, O daughter of Zion!’”
Thompson: This cruel, ruthless foe comes on relentlessly, mounted on chargers, drawn up in battle array, making a din like the roaring of the sea. It is a terrifying picture. One almost senses Yahweh’s own anguish that this relentless foe is arrayed against his daughter Zion. The one objective of that ruthless army is the destruction of the nation.
2. (:24-25) Marked by Terror
“We have heard the report of it; Our hands are limp. Anguish has seized us, Pain as of a woman in childbirth. Do not go out into the field, And do not walk on the road, For the enemy has a sword, Terror is on every side.”
3. (:26) Marked by Mourning
“O daughter of my people, put on sackcloth And roll in ashes; Mourn as for an only son, A lamentation most bitter. For suddenly the destroyer Will come upon us.”
B. (:27-30) A Big Deal Because of its Destiny = Ultimate Divine Rejection
“I have made you an assayer and a tester among My people, That you may know and assay their way. All of them are stubbornly rebellious, Going about as a talebearer. They are bronze and iron; They, all of them, are corrupt. The bellows blow fiercely, The lead is consumed by the fire; In vain the refining goes on, But the wicked are not separated. They call them rejected silver, Because the LORD has rejected them.”
Feinberg: The last verses of the chapter focus on the nation’s incorrigibility. So that no one may think God has not given the people every chance, he is willing to have them tested for any merit or worth that may be in them (v. 27).
Constable: quoting Craigie — the imagery is employed not to indicate that judgment would be a refining process but rather to convey its terminal nature; since no purity could be found, no solid silver, the mixture would be cast away as dross
Ryken: But even after they passed through the crucible of divine testing and felt the heat of divine judgment in the prophetic message, they proved to be nothing but dross, the slag of metallic waste.
Derek Kidner: It emerges that the people of Judah are not, so to speak, precious metal marred by some impurities, but base metal from which nothing of worth can be extracted.
Application: Choose obedience and joy rather than rebellion and mourning.