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The Lord continues teaching Jeremiah what he is to present to the people of Israel (verse 1). There is a pattern to Israel’s behavior, one we can often liken to our own: early devotion, apostasy, and the consequences of apostasy. Without heeding the prophets and likening scriptures to ourselves and responding to the council of priesthood leaders, we are literally lost in this cycle. However, with sincere repentance, a contrite spirit, and true returning to the Lord – day after day – there is always restoration.
The Lord brags on Israel, praising their early devotion (verse 2). He declares how kind they were in worship to Him and care for each other. He reminds them of the depth and sincerity of the very real covenants they made, and how they diligently and faithfully kept those covenants while following Him through the wilderness.
Anytime we read “wilderness” in the scriptures, we can liken it to ourselves by replacing it with “mortality”. Here the Lord reminds us of the peace we have when we are at-one with Him and those around us. He reminds us of how He leads us through mortality when we live the way He has said will bring us safely home, and the joy and comfort we find in the promises and fulfillment of covenant blessings. This is when we become holy, His holy people, both obtaining righteousness by Him and offering it (by obedience) back to Him. This is how we are “adopted” by Him, becoming His family, becoming like Him, becoming His “house”, even an established kingdom.
Holiness to the Lord,
the House of the Lord.
The Savior has made atonement for us, according to the plan of our Heavenly Father, who loved us so much that by His grace the atonement was provided from the beginning. We demonstrate our acceptance of this free gift, and give evidence of the change it has wrought in us, by living obediently and acting in faith in response to what He teaches us. He blesses our efforts in doing so, far more than what we could do on our own, and judges against those who try to interfere with this great plan He has to transform us and bring us home (verse 3).
After teaching these things to Jeremiah, the Lord gives him words to directly confront Israel (verse 4). There is nothing, He says, that He promised that has not come true. There is no promise not kept. There is no blessing not granted. The question is, then, why have the people abandoned Him? He grieves their absence, misses them, and mourns the hardships they are enduring because they will not let Him help (verse 5).
The Lord reminds them that He can help, no matter how hard life gets. He recounts the story of leading the people out of bondage in Egypt, and reminds them how He protected them and provided for them in the wilderness. He acknowledges times of challenge, “drought”, and even death, but also declares that He has been faithful to Heavenly Father’s purpose of teaching and growing them up to mature their faith (verse 6). Again likening to mortality, these are the natural and necessary cycles of mortal life. We hunger, we grow tired, we are weak, and we even grieve. Yet all of these experiences remind us that He is there to help us, provide for us, mature us. It is not that we experience hard things because He has abandoned us, but rather that He is faithful enough for us to rely on Him even when life is hardest. He trusts us with these experiences so that we can become something more than we were before.
When we do rely on Him, demonstrating our faith through obedience and doing for others what He has done for us, He blesses us with what we need – far more than we could “ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20). He protects and provides, and for this we ought to be grateful. It is our very gratitude that acknowledges what He has done, strengthening our testimony in who He is as both God and Father, as well as opening us up to further blessings.
But too often, we are not grateful. We defile the blessings He has promised by disqualifying ourselves, rejecting His ways, and selfishly acting like spoiled children taking advantage of what is given without saying thank you or sharing. “Ye defiled my land, and made mine heritage an abomination” (verse 7), He says, confronting Israel for mocking God rather than becoming His people. Rather than their great and noble heritage of being the chosen people of the Lord, they have become a joke – or worse, fools. They have become an abomination, and are about to be destroyed – desolated – because of the consequences they have chosen. It will be an abomination of desolation, rather than a heritage inherited and fulfilled.
The Lord says that rather than be true to Him and His laws, the priests are false and do not even know the proper ordinances. The do false sacrifices, worshiping Gods that can do nothing for them (verse 8). Knowing what is coming, understanding what is about to happen to His beloved people, the Lord pleads with them to return to Him. He is the only One who can really help them. Even though He is hurt and insulted and wounded and betrayed by them, He will continue to plead with them and their descendants (verse 9).
He waits for them, for us, always. He waits for us to turn to Him, ready to protect and provide and bless.
The Lord then tells the people to “look around”. He says “pass over the isles of Chittim, and see; and send unto Kedar, and consider diligently” (verse 10). Chittim would be the western boundary of Jeremiah’s known world, and Kedar are the Arabs (children of Ishmael) who live in those lands. The Lord says that even these people, without the fulness of the gospel but knowing so much, even these people are true to that which they do know thus far. They have not changed what the believe, and they do not worship false gods. Only Israel has given up a fullness of truth to worship nothingness via idols and false gods that can do nothing to help them (verse 11).
The heavens are astonished, He says, and even afraid, that the chosen people of the Lord have traded their heritage (culture) and inheritance (blessings) for nothing (verse 12). Back in verse 4, He called them “Jacob”, but now reminds them that they have become the one who traded all their inheritance for a pot of porridge (as Esau did). They are not living up to what they have agreed to become, and are not doing what is required of the, and are not even repenting or asking for help. They are merely surrendering.
This is the evil they have done by forsaking the Lord and making false idols (verse 13). The Lord asks why Israel is ruined, rhetorically asking if it is because they were born into bad circumstances – when they know the answer is no, because they are a chosen people with all blessings He has to offer (verse 14). Yet the new princes, the children of the first kings now grown and become kings themselves (“the young lions roared”), now stray from the Lord’s ways instead of following in the footsteps of their goodly parents (verse 15). Ironically, He says, after being delivered from bondage in Egypt (“Noph and Tahapanes”) and being cleansed from the sins of their oppressors (verse 17), the people have now regressed and fallen into those same sins until losing their spiritual inheritance (verse 16). Rather than drinking the “living water” (Jehovah), the people are drinking the water of the “Sihor” (the Nile) and “the river” (the Euphrates), meaning that instead of keeping their covenants with God they have fallen into idol worship (verse 18).
Then the Lord teaches an often missed principle: not only are we punished for our transgressions, but we are punished by our transgressions (see also the Old Testament Institute Manual). The Lord says (verse 19):
Thine own wickedness shall correct thee,
and they backslidings shall reprove thee:
know therefore and see that it is an evil thing and bitter,
that thou has forsaken the Lord thy God.
The Lord says that because of their wickedness and idolatry, He has no respect (“fear”) left for these people. If they had worshiped only Him, and done as He commanded, they would have learned as He taught them rather than learning through their own consequences. He has always helped them in the past, and would never betray them (verse 20), yet they have now betrayed Him until He can hardly recognize them, like a strange weed in a garden (verse 21). They are so filthy with their own sin, that even baking soda (“nitre”) could not wash out the filth (verse 22), so how can they deny their guilt (verse 23)?
It is not only that they have worshiped false gods, but they have done so through false ordinances that pervert the laws of God. Rather than chastity and fidelity, they have committed sexual sin and indulge their lust like wild animals during mating season (verse 24). They refuse to be tamed, and think they can escape the consequences of disrupting family by having multiple partners but committing to know one (verse 25). The Lord says that He knows all this, even though Israel thinks their sin is secret, and that they will be as ashamed as a thief caught in the act – and that their leadership will be held responsible (verse 26).
The people give credit to wood (“stock”) and stone idols for creating them, and even call on these false gods for help when their consequences catch up to them (verse 27). Because that is who they ask for help, the Lord says He will let them rely on wood and stone to save them (verse 28). Yet these false gods are nothing, and cannot save them.
The Lord pleads again with the people to call out to Him, who truly can help them (verse 29). He tells them that He has sent afflictions to get their attention, and tried to correct their bad behavior without response. Worse, they have killed the prophets He sent to help rescue the people, and so have destroyed themselves (verse 30).
The Lord begs the people to understand that He has not abandoned them (verse 31), but they have turned away from Him and so do not see Him waiting to help. The people are His greatest treasure, His choice love, and He grieves that they have forgotten Him (verse 32). He mourns their behavior, knowing that He is offering them real love that can help them while they are craving a fake love that harms (verse 33).
Their sins are obvious, He says (verse 34). These are not things He knows only because He is God, but sins they have committed against each other out in the open. They declare their innocence and expect Him not to be angry, but this is not true repentance (verse 35). True repentance will only come when they are truly ashamed of their behavior and acknowledge how they have broken their covenants (verse 36), and until then the Lord is unable to help them and cannot bless them (verse 37).