For mine eyes are upon all their ways: they are not hid from my face, neither is their iniquity hid from mine eyes. — Jeremiah 16:17
After church one Sunday when I was about thirteen years old, I went to a friend’s house for dinner. There was a box factory nearby, and in the afternoon we went there and climbed up about thirty feet to the top of a stack of wood that was stored outside. We were watchful and made sure no one saw us, and when we got to the top, we carefully positioned ourselves in the middle of the stack. Sure that we were securely hidden, we spent the next couple of hours smoking. When we got back to my friend’s house, his mother asked us where we had been, and we made up an excuse. She said, “I want to show you boys something.” She took us up to the stair landing and quietly directed our eyes out the window. Just imagine our shock and dismay when we realized that the top of the woodpile was easily seen from that window! We understood that our activities had been observed, and we knew full well that we were in trouble.
In Jeremiah’s time, the people of Judah were comfortable in their sins, and they may have hoped that their iniquities were hidden from God. They seemed to have a false assurance that God would never abandon them, no matter what they did. But God had seen and noted their sinful attitudes and all the evil actions they had committed. God’s mercy had run out for Judah, and serious punishment was soon to come.
Nothing escapes God’s attention, and He cannot be deceived. Human nature has not changed since the time of Jeremiah; many people would still like to think they can hide their sins from God. It will not work. God already knows about each action, just as He knew about Judah’s great sins of idolatry and unbelief, and my friend and me smoking on the woodpile. Someday, unforgiven sin will be punished.
The good news is that sin can be forgiven and judgment mitigated. When a person confesses and repents of his sin, God chooses to forget it. How much better than trying to hide it! As God’s followers, this is what we want to share with those who have not yet given their lives to Him, for this is a true hope.
This chapter begins Jeremiah’s seventh sermon to the people of Judah. Jewish men were expected to marry by the age of twenty. God’s commandment for Jeremiah not to marry was a symbol to Judah that it was preferable to remain single than to endure the suffering that the parents and children would experience during the Babylonian invasion. God also prohibited Jeremiah from participating in funerals or mourning rituals. Though this was contradictory to the custom of that day, it was symbolic of the people’s looming inability to properly mourn or bury their dead during the Babylonian destruction, and of God’s unwillingness to provide comfort or peace during their time of need. Furthermore, God forbade Jeremiah from partaking of any feasts, such as weddings or other celebrations, as a sign that times of merriment would soon cease from the land of Judah.
The Hebrew word translated imagination in verse 12 meant “stubbornness of heart,” inferring that the people of Judah had stubbornly refused to turn from the idolatry of their forefathers, and had become increasingly evil in their deeds. Because of their wickedness, God said He would violently remove them from their land and send them to a strange land where idolatry was customary and where they would no longer experience God’s favor.
Offering a ray of hope, God stated that the time would come when He would not only deliver Judah from Babylonian captivity, but He would deliver all Israelites from the lands where they had been taken captive and restore them to the land He had given to their forefathers. This restoration would be so monumental that it would surpass Israel’s exodus from Egypt to Canaan, and would become the benchmark by which Israel was known. This prophecy was fulfilled to some degree at their return from exile in Babylon, but more completely in the twentieth century when Israel again became a nation.
However, in Jeremiah’s day, Judah still faced judgement for its iniquity and God said He would send many invaders to “fish” and “hunt” the people of Judah in every possible hiding place. Judah would be required to recompense “double” for its sins, because the people had polluted the land with their appalling sacrifices to idols, including human sacrifices. Some commentators believe that the word double alluded to two separate judgments, while others feel it referenced the severity of the judgment.
Jeremiah envisioned that through God’s dealings with Judah, the Gentile nations would one day come to realize that the idolatry of their fathers was futile and unprofitable. God further declared that His actions concerning Judah would cause the whole world to know that God is Lord of all.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II. The pronouncement of judgment against Judah
A. The condemnation of the prophet
7. The seventh sermon: The sign of the unmarried prophet
a. The symbolic separations of the prophet (16:1-9)
b. The fate of Judah (16:10-13)
c. The ultimate restoration of Judah (16:14-21)
No sin is hidden from God, but His mercy is extended to those who will seek Him.