Judah Has Broken
1-3The Lord God told me to say to the people of Judah and Jerusalem:
I, the Lord, am warning you that I will put a curse on anyone who doesn't keep the agreement I made with Israel. So pay attention to what it says. 4My commands haven't changed since I brought your ancestors out of Egypt, a nation that seemed like a blazing furnace where iron ore is melted. I told your ancestors that if they obeyed my commands, I would be their God, and they would be my people. 5Then I did what I had promised and gave them this wonderful land, where you now live.
“Yes, Lord,” I replied, “that's true.”
6Then the Lord told me to say to everyone on the streets of Jerusalem and in the towns of Judah:
Pay attention to the commands in my agreement with you. 7Ever since I brought your ancestors out of Egypt, I have been telling your people to obey me. But you and your ancestors 8have always been stubborn. You have refused to listen, and instead you have done whatever your sinful hearts have desired.
You have not kept the agreement we made, so I will make you suffer every curse that goes with it.
9The Lord said to me:
Jeremiah, the people of Judah and Jerusalem are plotting against me. 10They have sinned in the same way their ancestors did, by turning from me and worshiping other gods. The northern kingdom of Israel broke the agreement I made with your ancestors, and now the southern kingdom of Judah has done the same.
11Here is what I've decided to do. I will bring suffering on the people of Judah and Jerusalem, and no one will escape. They will beg me to help, but I won't listen to their prayers. 12-13Then they will offer sacrifices to their other gods and ask them for help. After all, the people of Judah have more gods than towns, and more shameful altars for Baal than there are streets in Jerusalem. But those gods won't be able to rescue the people of Judah from disaster.
14Jeremiah, don't pray for these people or beg me to rescue them. If you do, I won't listen, and I certainly won't listen if they pray!
15Then the Lord told me to say to the people of Judah:
You are my chosen people,
but you have no right
to be here in my temple,
doing such evil things.
The sacrifices you offer me
won't protect you from disaster,
so stop celebrating.
16Once you were like an olive tree
covered with fruit.
But soon I will send a noisy mob
to break off your branches
and set you on fire.
17I am the Lord All-Powerful. You people of Judah were like a tree that I had planted, but you have made me angry by offering sacrifices to Baal, just as the northern kingdom did. And now I'm going to pull you up by the roots.
The Plot To Kill Jeremiah
* 18Some people plotted to kill me.
And like a lamb
being led to the butcher,
I knew nothing
about their plans.
19But then the Lord told me
that they had planned
to chop me down like a tree—
fruit and all—
so that no one would ever
remember me again.
20 I prayed, “Lord All-Powerful,
you always do what is right,
and you know every thought.
So I trust you to help me
and to take revenge.”
21Then the Lord said:
Jeremiah, some men from Anathoth say they will kill you, if you keep on speaking for me. 22But I will punish them. Their young men will die in battle, and their children will starve to death. 23And when I am finished, no one from their families will be left alive.
It is never easy to face the consequences of a bad choice, particularly when we have been warned ahead of time. Such is the case with the people of Judah to whom Jeremiah gives God’s message here. Jeremiah reminds them of God’s warning in the Sinai covenant/agreement made shortly after the exodus of their ancestors from Egypt. At that time God had told them that if they obeyed him he would bless them, but if they did not obey him he would curse them. (Deuteronomy 28:1-6 and 15-20)
The disobedience of the people in Jeremiah’s day is clear and is marked by a failure to listen (v 8). But it isn’t an auditory problem; they heard but did not obey. Then they went a step further by “turning away from [God] and worshipping other gods” (v 10). The command seems pretty straightforward to us and we might quickly denounce their foolishness until we see that they are still worshipping in the temple and offering sacrifices to God. So what is the problem?
The problem is that their temple worship is a sham; their hearts have turned away from God and their actions have become self-serving and contrary to God’s commands to be just and fair. Furthermore, they have now included the worship of many other gods in their rituals and therefore God says “the sacrifices you offer me won’t protect you from disaster…” (v 15).
The only consolation for Judah is that they are still God’s chosen people. The only consolation for Jeremiah is that God will protect him. Our consolation is the same: God chose us and has sent his Holy Spirit to come alongside us. Thanks be to God!
Lord God, thank you for your faithfulness. Like Judah, we too have chosen, at times, to go against your commands and forgotten what or who we really worship. Forgive us we pray and rescue us through the compassionate love you revealed in sending Jesus. Amen.