Scripture reading – Jeremiah 3; Jeremiah 4

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In our study of the Book of Jeremiah, we have considered the prophet’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 and broke their covenant with Him (Jeremiah 2:13-37).

 

Jeremiah 3

 

In Jeremiah 3, the prophet called upon Judah to repent before it was too late (Jeremiah 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 (Jeremiah 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” (Jeremiah 3:22). Despite 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 (Jeremiah 4:1-2)

In Jeremiah 4, the prophet appealed to all Israel and said: “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]” (Jeremiah 4:1).

What a comfort that verse is to believers. Israel’s depth of sin and wickedness was nearly incomprehensible (immorality, worship of idols, child sacrifices). Still, the LORD pleaded for His people to repent and promised He would be compassionate.

An Appeal to Judah

An Appeal to Judah (Jeremiah 4:3-4) 

Jeremiah then appealed to Judah (the southern tribes). He admonished them to recognize the hardness of their hearts. Employing two metaphors, the Lord illustrated how sin hardens us individually and as a nation (Jeremiah 4:3-4). Engaging a picture of a farmer breaking up the ground with a plow, Jeremiah exhorted the people, “Break up your fallow ground [with a plow], and sow not among thorns [which would choke out new growth](Jeremiah 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” (Jeremiah 4:4a). Because of sin, the hearts of the people had become spiritually calloused and insensitive to the offense of their sins. The prophet 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” (Jeremiah 4:4).

 

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

The LORD then reminded Jeremiah he was to be a spiritual watchman, for the day of God’s judgment was imminent. He 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]” (Jeremiah 4:5).

Obeying the LORD, Jeremiah called the people to flee to their walled cities (Jeremiah 4:5). He identified the enemy of Judah as coming from the north (Jeremiah 4:6) and warned the adversary would, like a lion, come as “the destroyer of the Gentiles” (Jeremiah 4:7). From Scripture and history we know that the enemy from the north was Babylon. The lion that destroyed Gentile nations was Nebuchadnezzar (Jeremiah 4:7). 

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

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

 

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

Understanding 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. 20Destruction 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

A Horrifying Portrait of God’s Judgment (Jeremiah 4:21-31)

Jeremiah’s depiction of judgment in the closing verses of chapter 4 can be interpreted as imminent and future. The prophet described the terror and chaos Jerusalem would experience when the army of Nebuchadnezzar approached the city (Jeremiah 4:23). Also, the portrayal of the earth being “without form” and the heavens having “no light” (Jeremiah 4:23) is reminiscent of Peter’s description of the Battle of Armageddon when Christ returns and exercises vengeance on the nations that will be descending upon Jerusalem (2 Peter 3:5-11).

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

 

Closing thoughts

As I conclude today’s Bible study, I invite you to consider the catalyst of God’s judgment against Judah, for it is the same today. Israel and Judah rejected the LORD and despised His Law and Commandments. They became spiritually oblivious and unable to discern good and evil (Jeremiah 4:22). So, it is for every nation that rejects the LORD. Let us not forget that man’s wickedness is the catalyst of God’s judgment. 

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 © 2024 – Travis D. Smith 

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