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The Complaint of the Prophet
Jeremiah’s soul struggle continues here. He is deeply concerned with the condition of his people and the disasters that are coming upon them. He suffers greatly that they have not listened (Jer 9:1). He has an intense love for God’s people to whom he belongs with heart and soul. He wishes he had more tears to express his sorrow for all those who have perished and will perish as a result of God’s discipline (Jer 13:17; Jer 14:17).
What is written here has earned him the nickname “the weeping prophet’. He resembles the Lord Jesus here, Who also wept over the city (Lk 19:41). It is also reminiscent of Paul’s sorrow for his brothers after the flesh (Rom 9:1-5; Rom 10:1). Do we also weep for the condition of God’s people, both generally and in the local church where we are? Or do we avoid these feelings and prefer to indulge in the ‘fun’ aspects of being a Christian? Do we prefer to be entertained rather than exhorted?
Jeremiah would prefer not to have anything more to do with this people at all by now (Jer 9:2; cf. Psa 55:6-8). They are all, each and every one, “adulterers”. The whole is “an assembly of treacherous men”. There will have been exceptions, but this is the characteristic of the whole that is observed by all who see it. Jeremiah does not only observe it. What he sees torments his soul and he expresses it.
In this he also aligns his feelings with those of God, Who’s eyes also “are too pure to approve evil” (Hab 1:13a). This is opposite Jer 9:1, but does not contradict it. There he carries the people on his heart. Here he sees their sins. He loves the people, but he hates their sins. He wants to get away from such an adulterous and treacherous troop, that he may not have to see their sins any longer. The fact that his preaching does not seem to have any effect may also play a role in this desire. What is the point of continuing to preach? Such a wish can arise in anyone who does a work for the Lord, where the result only seems to be even more unfaithfulness.
Going to live in “a wayfarers’ lodging place”, by the way, will not give the coveted peace. We can compare it to retiring to a monastery. It is not an option anyway for a believer, one of whose tasks is to witness to his Savior in his daily life. We must also remember that in a monastery we take ourselves with us. Learning how to live to the glory of the Lord in accordance with the truth in a wicked world and an apostate Christianity, we can only do in the practice of daily life in dealing with Him.
The Deceitfulness of the Tongue
The people believe that they have become strong through their tongue, through the use of falsehood (Jer 9:3). The tongue here is the bow and the lie is the arrow (Psa 64:3-4). The sin of the tongue is a great and widespread evil (Psa 12:2-4; Jam 3:1-12). The LORD contrasts the power of their lie with “trustworthiness”. The contrast is great.
They go their way of wickedness because they do not know the LORD. Their way is so full of wickedness that He says of them: “They proceed from evil to evil.” That is diametrically opposed to those who seek their strength from the LORD. Of them He says: “They go from strength to strength, [every one of them] appears before God in Zion” (Psa 84:7).
Sin not only brings separation between God and man, but also between people (Jer 9:4). Here we hear the warning not to trust the neighbor and not even the friend (Mic 7:5-6). When society is dominated by distrust, cohesion is gone. It destroys the unity of the people from within. If friendship and blood relations, both of which are such sacred things in the East, are no longer a guarantee of loyalty, then all cohesion is gone from society.
Lying is the sin that caused the fall into sin. The tongue that is supposed to confess God lies about God. The tongue is used to spread lies and not the truth (Jer 9:5). In fact, the teaching is designed to teach the tongue to speak lies, so that lying has become their second nature, so to speak. They can no longer do anything but lie. Subsequently, they tire themselves out with doing injustice, with putting into practice the wrong that has been taught. With the new man it is different (Eph 4:25; 28).
Jeremiah is told that he dwells in the midst of deceit (Jer 9:6). The same is true of us (cf. Rev 2:13). Everything that is said is meant to prevent people from knowing the LORD. This is also true today. In Jer 9:3 it still says that they do not know the LORD, but in Jer 9:6 it says that they refuse to know Him. This is because of their deceit. They don’t want to stop lying and cheating because there is no love for the truth.
The LORD is still out to refine them, not to destroy them (Jer 9:7; cf. Mal 3:3a; Eze 22:18-22). He is left with no choice but to judge, He cannot act otherwise, but His goal is their restoration. He speaks of them as “the daughter of My people”. This shows His love for them.
He is going to punish the use of the tongue, which is a wonderful gift from Him, because they use it as a deadly arrow (Jer 9:8). What is professed with the tongue may sound beautiful, but the thoughts behind it can be compared to an ambush. Behind or beneath their beautiful words, in their inner being, are greed and murderousness. They want to charm the other with their pretty talk to such an extent that they become easy prey. They are out to kill others because they see advantage in it.
Such things the LORD cannot leave unpunished (Jer 9:9), He must repay them. The conduct of His people touches Him in His soul and affects Him deeply. He cannot ignore it and must avenge this sinful behavior of them, of those who are named after His Name, to whom He has committed Himself with heart and soul.
The Impending Judgment
Jeremiah sees the results of God’s judgments. He weeps over it and raises a lament over it (Jer 9:10). All around him the ground is blackened. The road is impassable to people, and for the cattle there is nothing on the pastures, because everything laid waste, i.e. has been burned. All the birds and beasts have disappeared, fled. As a result, no sound of beasts will be heard. In Jerusalem there will be no more inhabitants (Jer 9:11). Those who live there will be the jackals. The cities of Judah will also be judged, so that no one lives there anymore.
The wise one is he who draws the lesson from everything that only the fear of the LORD gives rest and peace (Jer 9:12). Such a person understands God’s purpose in His actions and will come to know God’s heart and be able to make that known to others. But there are no such wise men. Therefore, the LORD Himself gives the answer and says that the cause of all misery is that they have forsaken His law (Jer 9:13). Instead of listening to the LORD they have gone after the stubbornness of their heart and after the Baals (Jer 9:14). They learned this not from the LORD, but from their fathers.
For this they cannot blame their fathers, but it is their own fault, for they have “walked after the stubbornness of their heart”. A thief will not get a reduction of punishment from the judge if he tells him that his father taught him the “thieves’ trade” and that he became a thief as a result. The origin of their sinful ways and actions lies in their stubborn heart. Here also lies the difference between the wise and the fool.
The LORD will therefore make them bear the consequences of their own actions. He will feed them, “this people”, who are now there, “with wormwood and give them poisoned water to drink” (Jer 9:15). This recalls Moses’ warning (Deu 29:18; Jer 8:14; Rev 8:11). Wormwood is a plant with a very bitter juice; gall water comes from a poisonous, bitter herb. They represent the bitter suffering of the fall of the kingdom. If they should have been obedient, they would have had honey to eat and milk to drink in abundance.
But this does not end the suffering. The LORD says He will also scatter them among the nations (Jer 9:16). They will be carried away from their land. This judgment has already been announced by Moses (Lev 26:33; Deu 28:64). In the land of their exile, they are not yet at the end of their suffering either. The LORD will send the sword after them and only then will the end come for them. This extermination concerns the wicked members of the people.
The General Dirge
The LORD calls for mourning (Jer 9:17). Mourning women are called to come and wail. Judah is thereby likened to a death house. Death has also entered there in all its horrors, causing tremendous grief. More people need to come and help express their sorrow so that tears flow (Jer 9:18). They want to unite with the mourning of Zion that mourns because she has been destroyed (Jer 9:19). The occasion of the mourning is not the sin, but the consequences it must bear, such as the abandonment of the land and the overturning of their dwellings. When we mourn, we must not deceive ourselves and know the real reason for our sorrow.
The women, along with the children, suffer the most from the effects of sin (Jer 9:20). To them comes the word of the LORD and the call to listen to it. The suffering is so great – and therefore the need for mourning women – that they must tell the cause of the suffering to their daughters and girlfriends, so that they will also mourn. They must tell what has happened in their palaces, their well-timbered dwellings, and to their little children and their young men (Jer 9:21).
The LORD tells them to paint the results of sin in all their horror (Jer 9:22). They are not to paint it more beautifully than it is. Nor is it so much the judgment of God as it is the results of their own actions. Death is presented here as a grim reaper who reaps ears from the field, binds them into sheaves and lays them on the ground. The corpses lie in the field like sheaves, and then not to be buried later, but as dung.
All the horrors that have befallen humanity in world wars have left many millions dead and countless physically and mentally crippled. There have also been economic losses of astronomical proportions. What is the result? Does man learn from it? We see that the love of wealth and pleasure has only increased and that God has been pushed further than ever from society.
Boasting of Evil or of Good
Man boasts more than ever of “his wisdom”, “his might”, and “his riches” (Jer 9:23). The LORD warns against doing that. What is said here sums up the whole world:
1. Wisdom, science without God, fills the world. Everything is reasoned by the so-called wise. This wisdom pervades our whole society, a wisdom that boasts.
2. Might, power, violence, is the second of which the world is full. The “mighty” determine with a game of power and politics what should be done.
3. The third, riches, money, possession, is also what the whole world pursues. Whoever has money has power and influence.
Of these three things man boasts, while the believer is also inclined to attach value to them. But none of these things can avert judgment and displeasure from the LORD. The wisdom of men is not like the wisdom of God (Psa 111:10; Pro 1:7; Pro 9:10). Their might is not the spiritual strength of righteousness. Their wealth is not the spiritual wealth that is immune from thief or destruction. Then as now, the student, the athlete, the warrior, and the financier are highly valued. Such persons tend to rely on their own resources.
Man has learned nothing from the past, how these things have worked. He is blind to the fact that they have brought nothing good, but only misery. The LORD in His grace holds out to man what true boasting is and that is boasting in understanding and knowing Him (Jer 9:24). That is the key to all true wisdom, might and riches. Then the heart is turned to Him Who “exercises lovingkindness” and proves it, and Who does “justice and righteousness on earth”. In these things the LORD finds His delight (cf. Mic 6:8). We see that lovingkindness comes first, but it will not be proven at the expense of justice and righteousness.
Our highest good is to know God, not merely intellectually or philosophically, but in spirit and in His true features. To know means to have fellowship of life with Him, to have an intimate, personal relationship with Him. This is true and abiding wisdom. The source of the highest Christian blessing is the knowledge of the Father and of Jesus Christ, Who was sent by the Father. To know the Father and the Son is eternal life (Jn 17:3; 1Jn 5:20).
Paul quotes these verses from Jeremiah to make it clear that nothing of man, but only the cross of Christ can save people (1Cor 1:30-31; 2Cor 10:17). Man’s wisdom is utterly reprehensible and cannot provide a solution in a person’s deepest need: his sins. The wisdom of God is evidenced by the redemption brought about by Christ for everyone who believes. In this may be boasted, not in anything of man.
Israel Is Uncircumcised of Heart
Jer 9:23-24 are a warning against trusting in human abilities. Jer 9:25-26 condemn reliance on religious prerogatives. Just as the knowledge of the LORD is more important than wisdom, might and wealth, so faith in the heart is more important than any outward form of religion. Judgment comes both on all who bear only the outward sign that they belong to God’s people and on those who do not have that sign, the nations (Jer 9:25). They are all equal before God because they all do not reckon with Him (Rom 2:12).
Judah is mentioned in the same breath as the nations (Jer 9:26) because they behave like the nations. Shaving away the hair at the temples is a heathen custom and forbidden by the LORD for His people (Lev 19:27). Judah is far more guilty than the nations, for they have the outward sign that they are God’s people, but they behave like the nations. They are ‘uncircumcised circumcised’ people, circumcised in the body, but uncircumcised in heart. What is true of Judah is true of all the house of Israel: they are all physically circumcised, but uncircumcised of heart. The true circumcision before God is that of the heart (Rom 2:29).
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 9". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 22 / Ordinary 27