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There Is No One Who Does Justice
The LORD tells Jeremiah to roam through the whole city to look if anyone is found who is honest and trustworthy or seeking the truth (Jer 5:1). He is to keep his eyes peeled. This is about a thorough search. He must “look”, “take note”, “seek” to see if he could find just “one who does justice, who seeks truth”. Doing justice means acknowledging and upholding the LORD’s law in intercourse and in the judiciary. To seek truth means to be sincere and true.
If there was even just one, He would not execute judgment on the rest and Jerusalem would be spared (cf. Eze 22:30). He would then “pardon”. This word occurs here for the first time in this book. It is an act of God that He does on the condition of man’s repentance or for the sake of someone to spare others.
Here we clearly see the grace of God. He is, as it were, looking for a way to be able to forgive. What we read here is reminiscent of His promise to Abraham that He will spare Sodom if He finds only ten who are righteous (Gen 18:23-32). He does not find them (cf. Mic 7:1-2; Psa 12:1b).
In Jerusalem it is even worse: there is not one to be found. This should convince Jeremiah that the LORD is just in His decision to judge His people. It also confirms him in the commission that the LORD has given him to announce that judgment.
They dare to pronounce the Name of the LORD and swear a false oath in that Name (Jer 5:2; cf. Mt 5:33-37). This is done to deceive others. They brazenly break promises they have made in the Name of the LORD. Both Elisha and Gehazi use the phrase, “As the LORD lives” (2Kgs 5:16; 20), one in truth, the other in falsehood. This untruthful use of the LORD’s Name is a vain use of His Name and forbidden by the law (Exo 20:7).
Jeremiah knows that the LORD looks out for someone who is trustworthy (Jer 5:3). In Jer 5:1 the LORD speaks of such a person, here Jeremiah does. He knows what the LORD is looking for. He knows how the LORD has done everything possible to make His people a trustworthy people again. He has disciplined them in every way possible, but no one has taken it to heart. Instead of bowing under the chastisement they harden their faces and show their absolute refusal to repent.
Then Jeremiah again goes among the people to see if there really is no one to be found who fears the LORD. In doing so, he testifies of a great love for his people. Earlier he had been with the poor people, the simple people, but who behave like fools (Jer 5:4). Their behavior stems from their ignorance of the way of the LORD. They do not know the law of their God. Therefore, there he does not find the one trustworthy.
Now let him go to the great ones, people of standing (Jer 5:5). Surely he will be more successful there. They must know the way of the LORD and His law. But there is no one there either who seeks reliability, because these people have thrown off the yoke of the LORD. They do not want to submit to Him in any way.
The conclusion is that there is no one who does good, not among the poor and the needy and not among the people of standing and the rich, not among the common people and not among the leaders. There is no one who seeks God, there is not even one (cf. Rom 3:10-12). We now know that there is One after all, One Who is absolutely trustworthy, the Lord Jesus.
Because they are so persistent in their deviation from the LORD, and their transgressions have become “many” and their apostasies are “numerous” He will punish them (Jer 5:6). His instruments are the wild beasts, who kill and tear in pieces without any compassion. Apart from thinking of literal wild animals, we can see in the “lion”, the “wolf”, and the “leopard” successively the power, the rapacity, and the speed of the Babylonians. They are the disciplinary rod of God for His people because of their many transgressions and numerous apostacies.
How can the LORD pardon them when they sin like that (Jer 5:7)? He cannot pardon if they do not confess their guilt and there is no repentance. They have forsaken Him and have also taught their children to forsake Him. Now those children swear by what are not gods, to expect their salvation from it.
Even the favors He has abundantly given them, they misuse. They interpret them as an acknowledgment of their sinful way. They have answered them with the utmost unfaithfulness, with abominable and frequent adultery. The house of Israel has become a house of harlots, a house of idols, where adultery is committed en masse, that is, where idols are served en masse.
Israel has also degenerated to a harlot’s house in a literal sense. Idolatry always opens the door to immoral behavior. Idolatry always involves sexual evil (1Cor 10:7-8; Rev 2:20). Idolatry and harlotry form a wicked partnership. The people are like horses in the satisfaction of their lusts, following their urge to mate without restraint (Jer 5:8). Thus every man whinnies and craves the wife of his neighbor without restraint. The sin of adultery is common; everyone seems to participate in it.
Can the LORD do anything but punish them and avenge Himself on such a people whom He has so blessed (Jer 5:9; cf. 1Thes 4:3-6)? In this His indignation and justice resounds.
Denial of the Work of the LORD
Judgment must come, but the LORD will not destroy the whole land (Jer 5:10). He calls upon the enemies to go up to Israel’s vineyards and destroy them, but sets a limit to that destructive work (cf. Job 1:12; Job 2:6). A remnant must be left. The destruction concerns the branches that bear no fruit, which is the ungodly multitude. They are branches that have no connection to the true vine (Jn 15:1-6). Instead of good fruit they have produced bad fruit (Isa 5:1-7).
They “have dealt very treacherously” with the LORD (Jer 5:11). They are not faithless just once or in one aspect, but continuously and in all aspects of their lives. It is also not just a few who do so, but the whole people, both “the house of Israel and the house of Judah”.
The people are blind to it. They are blind to the warnings of discipline from the LORD. They do not expect Him to discipline them and deny the calamity that is being spoken to them (Jer 5:12; cf. Zep 1:12). They judge that Jeremiah’s words are words of himself and not of the LORD. To them Jeremiah is one who claims to speak by the Spirit, but whose words are nothing more than wind (Jer 5:13). [In Hebrew, the word ruah means both “spirit” and “wind”.]
In doing so, the people deny that Jeremiah is speaking God’s words. Also, it shows that they cannot distinguish between wind and the true spirit of prophecy. They are even so audacious as to say that the word, which is the word of the LORD, is not with prophets like Jeremiah. They add that the judgments that prophets like Jeremiah proclaim will fall on those prophets themselves. Their wish is that doomsday preachers will perish as they preach, which means that calamity, sword and famine, will strike the prophet of the LORD.
Description of Judgment
The LORD stands up for His servant. The words of Jeremiah which they deny as words of the LORD and which they say is only wind (Jer 5:13), will become a fire in Jeremiah’s mouth (Jer 5:14). Also, He will make the people wood and they will be consumed by the fire from Jeremiah’s mouth. What they consider nothing more than wind will be given the power of fire by God. The LORD will fulfill His words spoken by His prophets. He speaks this as “the God of hosts”. Here we see Him in His exaltedness at the head of all the hosts of heaven and earth.
He will bring “against you”, that is the whole people, an enemy (Jer 5:15). That enemy is a “nation … from afar” (Deu 28:49a), it is “an enduring nation”, “an ancient nation” that exists from ancient times. The four times recurring word “nation” indicates its irresistibility. This refers to the Babylonian people, who were founded by Nimrod (Gen 10:10; Gen 11:31). That people speak a language they do not understand. They cannot communicate with that people (Deu 28:49b; Isa 28:11).
That people will bring death and destruction upon them (Jer 5:16; Deu 28:50). Against their arrows nothing will stand. Every arrow that leaves the quiver will hit and return to the quiver as a corpse. The quiver will be filled with corpses like an open grave. “All of them” who shoot the arrows are “mighty men”, thoroughly trained soldiers and not recruited civilians.
After this description of the enemy’s power, Jeremiah paints the devastation it will wreak in the land (Jer 5:17). Four times he uses the word “devour”. It emphasizes the inevitable, terrible fate that awaits Judah. Successively, their “harvest” and their “food”, their children, “sons” and “daughters”, their “flocks” and “herds”, and their fruit, “vines” and “fig trees”, are taken from them (cf. Jer 3:24). Their “fortified cities” on which they rely will be demolished with the sword. The judgment is total; it comes upon everything and everyone.
Yet the destruction will not be complete (Jer 5:18; Jer 5:10; Jer 4:27). The LORD will leave a remnant. That remnant will wonder why the LORD has done this (Jer 5:19). They will also receive an answer to that question through Jeremiah. They will be told that all this has been brought upon them by the LORD because they have forsaken Him and have gone to serve foreign gods in their land, which He has given them. By doing this they have desecrated the land and dispossessed it, that is, taken it from the LORD.
It is a double sin. The punishment is also double. The LORD will see to it that they are also dispossessed and that they will serve strangers. The word “serve” implies utter submission. They will be taken out of their land into exile. In the land of their exile they will have to obey strangers as slaves.
Deliberate Rebellion of Israel
Jeremiah is to make known “in the house of Jacob” and “in Judah” how the LORD sees them (Jer 5:20). The LORD calls them, whom He calls “foolish and senseless people”, to hear (Jer 5:21). They are “a foolish people” because they do not reckon with Him. As a result, they are also “senseless”. They have lost all sense of reason and cannot orient themselves to discover what is right.
The LORD has given them “in the Law the embodiment of knowledge and of the truth” (Rom 2:20b). But they act contrary to the law in every way (Rom 2:17-23). They do not bother with what the LORD requires of them. This is not because of Him. He has given them eyes and ears. Because they have not used them to look at Him and listen to Him, they have become blind and deaf (cf. Eze 12:2). He does call them to return to Him, but they do not listen (cf. Isa 6:9-10; Mt 13:13-15). In doing so, they have become like their idols which they serve instead of Him, idols which give no sign of life (Psa 115:5-8).
The LORD wonders in amazement if they are not then afraid of Him, if they would not tremble in His presence (Jer 5:22). Where is the reverence for Him (cf. Mal 1:6a)? After all, He is that awesomely great God, isn’t He? Opposite to Him they are utterly helpless.
However, the people have lost all sense of the greatness of the LORD. He restrains the sea and it obeys Him (Mk 4:37-41; Job 38:8-11; Psa 104:9). He sets a boundary for the sea. No matter how the sea churns and roars, His mighty hand keeps it in check, so that it can do nothing and will not cross the boundary set by Him. The people, however, will not be restrained and will not care about the boundaries that the LORD has set in His covenant with them.
The cause is “a stubborn and rebellious heart” (Jer 5:23). As a result, they blatantly transgress God’s moral boundaries. They have departed from the right way and gone their own depraved way of idolatry. The faithful remnant will confess this as their sin in the future, and at the same time may note that the Lord Jesus bore the punishment of God for it (Isa 53:6).
It does not enter into their heart to fear the LORD their God (Jer 5:24). The heart is the center of the inner life and includes feeling, will, and reason. Therefore, we must protect our heart by giving it to Him (Pro 4:23; Pro 23:26a). The LORD resents them for not remembering to fear Him, although, in addition to the aforementioned proofs of His omnipotence, there are so many proofs of His goodness.
Every time they celebrate the harvest festivals, they see that goodness. He has given the rain, “both the autumn rain and the spring rain”, so that the harvest can be there. In fact, He has kept “the appointed weeks of the harvest” (cf. Exo 34:22; Lev 23:10; 15) for them. Thus He has been constantly working for them (cf. Acts 14:17). However, they do not acknowledge Him as the source of blessing, but attribute it to the idols. What a blatant insult to Him!
Therefore, He cannot continue to bless them. Their iniquities and sins block Him from giving them all these good things any longer (Jer 5:25). It is because of them and not because of Him. Always man’s iniquities and sins are blocking God from blessing them. Iniquity is leaving the way God wants man to go and sin is missing the purpose God has for man.
He therefore does everything in His power to remove that blockage so that He can bless. In Christ, God offers man the opportunity to be delivered from his iniquities and sins and receive the blessing He wants to give. The condition is that they repent of their sins and turn to Him.
All of the LORD’s efforts to get His people back on the path of blessing have been met with even greater faithlessness by the people. Among His people, He sees how wicked people are out to rob others (Jer 5:26). Then, if they do not receive a blessing from God, they will provide themselves with food and income. For this they lie in wait and set destructive traps. Their purpose is to catch men in order to rob from them everything they own.
With the spoils they filled their houses, as a bird catcher fills his cage with birds (Jer 5:27). But with what they have filled their houses, the LORD calls “deceit” because they have obtained their possessions in an unlawful, mendacious manner. They seem to have succeeded in their evil intent to enrich themselves at the expense of others. Through their vicious dealings they have “become great and rich”. The injustice has also made them “fat” and “sleek” (Jer 5:28). They revel in their stolen goods and indulge in them without restraint. They have no self-control.
They are making it worse than the biggest criminals and live their own luxurious lives without caring in the least about others. They are overflowing with evil practices. They are blind to the socially weak, unless it is to rob them as well. They care nothing for justice. The fact that they are prosperous in spite of all this is an observation that is astonishing. Does sin pay after all?
To that question comes the immediate answer (Jer 5:29). The LORD says He will punish them. He says this as a question. This makes it all the more clear that He has no choice but to avenge Himself “on a nation such as this”. We hear here His great abhorrence of their sins. It is a people who profess with their mouths to be His people, while at the same time committing so many reprehensible acts.
It is appalling and horrible what is happening in the land (Jer 5:30; cf. Hos 6:10). The LORD is horrified. Prophets, priests and all the people have turned their back on Him (Jer 5:31). Those who are supposed to provide for the spiritual well-being of the people think only of themselves. The prophets prophesy lies to stay in favor with the people and to pocket money for their fancy talk. The priests join in and also pocket their share of the money.
The people are no less guilty, for they are only too happy to have such leaders who only present them with pretty talk, while their conscience remains out of harm's way (cf. 2Tim 4:3-4). They do not like prophets who appeal to their conscience. They love their false security. All stand guilty before God. The question is what they will do when the end comes. Then it will be seen what the talk of the false leaders was worth and what the false assurance of the people has brought.
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Jeremiah 5". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26