I have found, at times, that people can use pious language but live far from God. This was so in Jeremiah’s day (2). Some hypocritical people freely use religious language, but they can’t hide from God. He sees through the cloak of their verbal ‘fig leaves’. These opening verses depict a desperate scenario. God’s city was full of injustice. Here was behaviour to befit pagans. That’s what the people had become at heart (8, 9). Virtually the entire population was corrupt.
God is longsuffering. He sends preliminary warnings, prior to the main event of judgment (2 Peter 3:8, 9). The people to whom Jeremiah was preaching had not responded to God’s chastisements, other than by hardening their hearts. We should not be surprised if some set themselves against the gospel, the good news of Jesus. It will sadden us, but it ought not to surprise us. Although God is patient and merciful and gives repeated calls for repentance, not everyone will turn from sin and trust in His dear Son.
The leaders had greater knowledge and therefore greater responsibility (4-6). But there was not a flicker of an appropriate response from them either. ‘’Then I said to myself, ‘’Well, these are just poor people. They don’t know any better. They were never taught anything about GOD. They never went to prayer meetings. I’ll find some people from the best families. I’ll talk to them. They’ll know what’s going on, the way GOD works. They’ll know the score.’’ But they were no better! Rebels all! Off doing their own thing.’’ The Message. So Babylon would become the agent of God’s judgment (6). The Babylonians are pictured here as wild animals.
Idolatry lay at the centre of all that was wrong in the land (7-9). The sexual imagery speaks of the fact that the people had abandoned the Lord, their true ‘Husband’ and deserted Him for other ‘lovers’ (gods). They were spiritual adulterers. It also underlines the point that promiscuous sex was part of the religion itself. Their corrupt worship erupted in this terrible lava of immoral behaviour, flowing down to cover and destroy society. Their sin against God was a sin against Love. ‘’I satisfied their deepest needs, and then they went off with the ‘sacred’ whores, left me for orgies in sex shrines! A bunch of well-groomed, lusty stallions, each one pawing and snorting for his neighbour’s wife.’’ The Message.
Throughout this passage you get a feeling of the heart-broken, yearning love of God. The Lord is longing for His people to turn to Him and live right. He doesn’t want them to experience the punishment that is now available. But there does come a point where it is too late to change. ‘’…the people’s sins are piled sky-high; their betrayals are past counting.’’ The Message. If you keep pushing away the good news about Jesus who has come to save us; if you keep rejecting Him rather than receiving Him, there will come a point of no return.
‘’Should I not avenge myself on such a nation as this?’’ (9b). Probably the people of every nation should examine themselves in the light of this question.
Prayer: Thank you Lord for your patient love. Enable me to not take you for granted.