Scripture reading – Jeremiah 5

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From a human, temporal perspective, the prophet Jeremiah was a failure. Scorned by Judah’s leaders and reviled by the people, the prophet was rejected, persecuted, and eventually imprisoned. Yet, Jeremiah searched Jerusalem in vain, seeking a righteous man who might stand in the gap between God’s judgment and destruction.


Jeremiah 5


Jeremiah Appealed to the Common People of Jerusalem (Jeremiah 5:1-4)

Understanding that the LORD would spare Jerusalem if He could find one righteous man, Jeremiah searched the city in vain (Jeremiah 5:1). Imagine, one righteous man could have been the salvation of a city! One judicious, truth-seeking man and God promised, “I will pardon it [Jerusalem]” (Jeremiah 5:1).

Many said, “The Lord liveth,” but their lives revealed they were deceivers (Jeremiah 5:2). All the people were guilty of wickedness. None were righteous (Jeremiah 5:2). Though the LORD chastened them, none repented and turned to Him (Jeremiah 5:3). They were stubborn, and their faces, like their hearts, were hard as stone (Jeremiah 5:3). They were a poor, spiritually ignorant people. They did not know the way of the LORD or His judgment (Jeremiah 5:4).

Jeremiah Appealed to the Leaders, the “Great Men” of the City

Jeremiah Appealed to the Leaders, the “Great Men” of the City (Jeremiah 5:5-9)

Having failed to find a righteous man among the “poor” (for they were foolish, Jeremiah 5:4), Jeremiah determined to seek such a man among the “great men” of Jerusalem.

The prophet reasoned, “They have known the way of the Lord, and the judgment of their God” (Jeremiah 5:5a). Tragically, Jeremiah found the leaders of Judah were rebellious and had “altogether broken the yoke, and burst the bonds” [the yoke being the Covenant, and the bonds the Law and Commandments]. (Jeremiah 5:5b)

When he failed to find a righteous man among the “great men,” Jeremiah warned, they would be ravaged by their enemies and become prey (note that “a lion…a wolf…and a leopard” were images of Nebuchadnezzar and his army, Jeremiah 5:6). Declaring his vengeance, the LORD asked, “Shall I not visit [to judge] for these things? saith the Lord: and shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this?” (Jeremiah 5:9).


The Summoning of Babylon to Punish Unfaithful Jerusalem and Judah (Jeremiah 5:10-18)

Throughout history, heathen nations and wicked men have been the tools God employed to chastise His disobedient people. So, we find the LORD summoning Babylon to lay siege to Jerusalem and declaring of that city, “they are not the LORD’s” (Jeremiah 5:10). Leaving no doubt of the inevitable fate of the city, the LORD declared, “the house of Israel and the house of Judah have dealt very treacherously against me” (5:11), for the people lied, denied the LORD, and scorned His prophets (Jeremiah 5:12-13).

Affirming Jeremiah, the LORD challenged the prophet that if he spoke the word of the LORD, his words would proceed out of his mouth like a fire, convicting and “devouring” the people (Jeremiah 5:14). Describing Babylon, the LORD declared He would bring upon Judah “a mighty nation…an ancient nation, a nation whose language thou knowest not, neither understandest what they say” (Jeremiah 5:15). Jeremiah foretold how the arrows of Babylon would fly true to their mark (Jeremiah 5:16), and the “mighty men” would ravage their lands, spoil their gardens, and leave Judah impoverished (Jeremiah 5:17). Yet, in His mercy and faithful to His promises, the LORD would leave a remnant (Jeremiah 5:18).

A Day of Judgment, and the Character of the Spiritually Foolish

A Day of Judgment, and the Character of the Spiritually Foolish (Jeremiah 5:19-31)

The LORD foreknew that some would assert that He was unjust when He allowed Babylon to overrun Judah and Jerusalem (5:19a). Thus, Jeremiah was commanded to answer their protests and declare on behalf of the LORD: “Ye have forsaken me, and served strange gods in your land, so shall ye serve strangers [Babylon] in a land that is not yours” (5:19b).

Imagine hearing Jeremiah raise his voice (5:20) when he rebuked the people’s pretentious nature and declared them “foolish people, and without understanding” (5:21a). They were spiritually blind and deaf. They did not fear or revere the LORD, though He was their Creator, and had set the boundaries of the sea, and held the waters in place by the sandy shore (5:22).

The people of Judah were backslidden, spiritually indifferent (5:23), and unthankful (5:24). They lacked discernment (5:25). Their leaders preyed upon the poor and weak and deceived them in the manner a fowler entraps his prey (5:26-27). They exploited the people and enriched themselves (5:28). They were unjust, blind to wrongdoing, and failed to defend the poor and needy (5:28b).

Therefore, the LORD promised vengeance on Jerusalem and Judah. He reasoned that He had no choice but to avenge the wrongs of His people. There was no hope, for the liars had corrupted the nation, the false prophets prophesied lies, and the “people [loved] to have it so” (5:31). In other words, the people were a reflection of the failed, immoral character of their leaders, 


Closing thoughts –

Had Jeremiah found one righteous man who spoke the truth, demanded justice, and was faithful to God’s Word, Jerusalem would have been spared the LORD’s judgment. Yet, no such man was found among the poor and illiterate or among the wealthy and powerful.

Think about it…understanding that the world we live in reflects the days of Jeremiah before God’s judgment; I wonder if you are willing to be that man or woman who will stand faithful to the LORD and true to His Word. Will you be the one righteous soul who might make the difference in the lives of others between the LORD’s blessings and His judgment?

I conclude with the words of Ezekiel, who confessed: “I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none” (Ezekiel 22:30).

By God’s grace, I will be that man. Will you join me?

Copyright © 2024 – Travis D. Smith 

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