An Impassioned Plea to a Doomed Nation (Jeremiah 4)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 4

In our study of the Book of Jeremiah, we have so far considered Jeremiah’s calling as God’s prophet to Judah (Jeremiah 1). Though the LORD loved Israel with an affection He likened to a groom’s love for his bride (Jeremiah 2:1-12), Israel and Judah rebelled breaking covenant with Him (2:13-37). In Jeremiah 3, the prophet called upon Judah to repent before it was too late (3:1-5). He reminded the people how her sister, the northern ten tribes of Israel, had played a spiritual harlot, and the LORD had divorced them as His people (3:6-11).

Yet, with the love of a compassionate father longing for a prodigal to come home, the LORD appealed to His people: “Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings” (3:22). In spite of their idolatry and wicked ways, the LORD longed to restore His people, if they would repent of their sins.

Jeremiah 4

An Appeal to Israel (4:1-2)

So we come to Jeremiah 4, and Jeremiah’s appeal to all Israel: “If thou wilt return [turn back; i.e. repent], O Israel, saith the LORD, return unto me: and if thou wilt put away [detest; depart from] thine abominations [idols] out of my sight, then shalt thou not remove [no longer wander; i.e. the LORD would have compassion on]” (4:1).

What a comfort that verse is to all believers. The depth of sin and wickedness of Israel was nearly incomprehensible (immorality, worship of idols, child sacrifices). Still, the LORD pleaded for His people to repent, promising He would have compassion on them.

An Appeal to Judah (4:3-4)

Jeremiah 4 began with an invitation to all Israel (4:1-2), and then the prophet appealed to Judah (the southern tribes). Jeremiah employed two metaphors and illustrated how sin hardens the hearts of a people and nation (4:3-4). He admonished Judah as a nation to acknowledge the hardness of their hearts. Employing a picture of a farmer breaking up unplowed ground, Jeremiah exhorted the people, “Break up your fallow ground [with a plow], and sow not among thorns [which would choke out new growth]” (4:3).

Jeremiah then urged,Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your heart, ye men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem” (4:4a). The hearts of the people had become spiritually calloused, and insensitive to the offence of their sins. He warned the people, should they not turn to the LORD, His “fury [would] come forth like fire, and burn that none [could] quench it, because of the evil of [their] doings” (4:4).

A Vivid Portrait of the LORD’s Judgment (4:5-14)

The LORD then reminded Jeremiah he was to be a spiritual watchman, for the day of God’s judgment was imminent. The LORD commanded His prophet, “Declare ye in Judah, and publish in Jerusalem; and say, Blow ye the trumpet in the land: cry, gather together, and say, Assemble yourselves, and let us go into the defenced cities [fortified; walled]” (4:5).

Jeremiah called the people to flee to their walled cities (4:5). He identified the enemy as coming from the north (4:6), and warned the adversary would, like a lion, come as “the destroyer of the Gentiles” (4:7). We know from the Scriptures and history, the enemy from the north was Babylon, and the lion Nebuchadnezzar its king (4:7).

The sight of Nebuchadnezzar’s army would move “the heart of the king” of Judah to perish (4:9), and all Judah too (4:8-10). Jeremiah identified the judgment of God as coming upon the land like a “dry wind” and a “full wind” (4:11-12). The chariots of Babylon would pass through the land like a whirlwind, and their horses run swifter than eagles could fly (4:13). Then the people would cry, “Woe unto us! for we are spoiled” (4:13).

Even as the dark clouds of God’s judgment approached from the north, the prophet appealed to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying, “14O Jerusalem, wash thine heart from wickedness, that thou mayest be saved. How long shall thy vain thoughts lodge within thee?” (4:14)

The Cry of a Compassionate Prophet (4:19-20)

Realizing the dreadful judgment of the LORD, and the imminent destruction of Jerusalem, Jeremiah wept over the people and cried, “My bowels, my bowels! I am pained at my very heart; my heart maketh a noise in me; I cannot hold my peace, because thou hast heard, O my soul, the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war. 20 Destruction upon destruction [lit. disaster upon disaster] is cried; for the whole land is spoiled…” (Jeremiah 4:19-20).

A Horrifying Portrait of God’s Judgment (4:23-31)

Remember, prophesy often has an immediate application, and far-reaching implication. Some of Jeremiah’s depiction of judgment in the closing verses of Jeremiah 4 can be interpreted to describe in the immediate, the terror and chaos Jerusalem would experience when the army of Nebuchadnezzar approached the city (4:23). Also, the description of the earth being “without form,” and the heavens having “no light” (4:23), reminds us of the Battle of Armageddon when the LORD returns and His vengeance on the nations descending upon Jerusalem (2 Peter 3:5-11).

The army of Babylon would be so great that the earth would tremble at the movement of the men and their chariots (4:24). Men would flee, and birds would be scattered (4:25), and “the whole land [would become] desolate” (4:27), but the LORD would spare a remnant (4:27). The LORD had purposed Judah would be punished for the wickedness of the people, and Jerusalem, “the daughter of Zion” would cry, saying, “Woe is me now! for my soul is wearied because of murderers” (4:31).

Closing thoughts – Before I close today’s devotional commentary, I invite you to consider the catalyst of God’s judgment, for it is the same today. Israel and Judah had rejected the LORD, despised His Law and Commandments, and became spiritually oblivious, unable to discern good and evil (4:22). So, it is for every nation that rejects the LORD; the wickedness of man demands the judgment of God.

Romans 1:21-22 – “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.”

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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