Hear now this, O foolish people, and without understanding; which have eyes, and see not; which have ears, and hear not. — Jeremiah 5:21
As the photocopier demonstration became more and more technical, I could feel my eyes glazing over. “Oh, I see,” I said as one particular function was explained. That was followed by, “Mmm-hmm. That’s a nice feature . . .” While my ears were hearing precisely how our new piece of office equipment worked, my mind, of its own volition, wandered off to upcoming schedules, the details of dinner, and whether I could get to the laundry before bedtime. When a pause occurred and the demonstrator asked those assembled around the machine if we had questions, I re-focused and discovered that for several minutes I had been hearing, but not really absorbing what I heard!
My inattention was perhaps a bit impolite and would cause me inconvenience later, but eventually I would pick up what I needed to know about our copier. However, in today’s focus verse, Jeremiah spoke of gross inattention that would have eternal consequences. In his address to Judah, the prophet cited how the people heard God’s words yet would not let them sink into their hearts nor obey them. In verse 22 we read, “Fear ye not me? saith the Lord: will ye not tremble at my presence?” Jeremiah reminded them that God was the One who put boundaries on the seas, gave rain at appropriate times, and blessed their harvest. Every aspect of their lives was in His Hands, but they were not grateful for what God favored them with, they ignored the warnings of His prophets, and they did not believe that God would mete punishment upon them for their wrongdoing.
God yearns for a people who listen, understand, and then respond to His Word. He has blessed us time and again, and He certainly is worthy of our respect. Our spiritual welfare is at stake, so we should pay careful attention to what He has to say to us.
In His infinite long-suffering and patience with us — the same long suffering and patience that was extended to Judah — God employs a number of methods to get our attention and then to help us understand and respond to His words. His methods are intimately tailored to our personal circumstances, our ability to understand, and our level of receptivity. He may use personal circumstances — financial pressures, illness, or stress on the job. He may send a divine message through human instruments — a call to action from a minister, a tug on our hearts through a song sung in a church service, or a ring of truth in a bit of careful admonition from a Christian friend. Often He speaks to us through His Word, helping a particular instruction or promise to come alive in a new way.
Today, let’s learn a lesson from the failure of Judah. We want to have hearts attuned to God, however His message may come. We want to listen attentively and absorb the lessons He sends our way. If we look to Him for help, He will gently help us to be attentive as we hear, understand, and follow His way.
Today’s text continues Jeremiah’s second sermon. While chapter 4 focuses on the external enemy that would eventually destroy Judah, chapter 5 highlights the foe from within, which was Judah’s hypocritical and idolatrous conduct. God instructed Jeremiah to search for one righteous man in Jerusalem. He promised that if one righteous man could be found, He would spare Judah from judgment, but Jeremiah found none. Even though the men of Jerusalem pretended to be righteous, their actions belied what they claimed. Jeremiah lamented that God’s previous judgments on Judah had gone unheeded and had only made them more resistant. He felt that the poor people had rejected God because of their ignorance, but thought surely the upper-class, more educated people who knew the way of the Lord would be willing to submit to God’s truth. However, he discovered that they, too, willfully rejected God and His righteousness. Because the people of Judah had “broken the yoke” and “burst the bonds” of God’s protection, they would find themselves in the clutches of wild animals (typifying the future enemy) that would utterly destroy them.
Even though God had blessed Judah with abundance, the people had ungratefully responded to God’s provision with immoral behavior. Consequently, Judah had given God no choice but to execute judgment. However, God promised that although the nation would suffer destruction, it would not be entirely destroyed (verses 10, 18). Both Israel and Judah had claimed that what the true prophets had said was not inspired by God, and their words of judgment would not come to pass. Therefore, God said that He would make His words as fire in Jeremiah’s mouth, and the people of Judah would become as wood for the fire to destroy. A powerful enemy would come and devour their crops and livestock, leaving them completely impoverished.
When the people questioned why God had sent such harsh judgment, Jeremiah was to remind them that it was because they had forsaken God and turned to false gods. They ignored the One who had the power to create the world and keep the sea within its boundaries. Their rebellion and sin had deprived them of the natural blessings of the former and latter rains. Evil men in Judah had grown wealthy through deceit, and they refused to consider the cause of the fatherless and needy.
The word wonderful in verse 30 meant “something to be wondered at; astounding,” and referred to the horrendous sin that had permeated the land. With the exception of Jeremiah, most of the prophets spoke falsely, without divine revelation, and the priests governed by their own authority rather than God’s commandments. Sadly, the people loved it that way, and God’s question, “What will ye do in the end thereof?” (verse 31) fell on deaf ears.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II. The pronouncement of judgment against Judah
A. The condemnation of the prophet
2. The second sermon: Repentance or retribution
d. The corruption of Jerusalem (5:1-31)
(1) The apostasy of Jerusalem (5:1-9)
(2) The announcement of judgment (5:10-19)
(3) The sinfulness of the people (5:20-31)
Persistent inattention to God is spiritually disastrous. We want to be attentive and obedient to Him.