Jeremiah 12


It seems as if Jeremiah and God mediate on the whole matter of what is happening. Why do the wicked prosper? Jeremiah knows that God’s way is right. So, he wants to know why haven’t you punished the people already? Why have you waited so long? The lesson is that God is long-suffering. He appeals even for the ground and the animals.

How long must they wait before something happens? God had tried to discipline them with drought and other kinds of pestilence. So, even the plant life is in a bad way because of the people. They expected the ground to give them what they wanted, but they didn’t want to work for it. So, God has been disciplining them. But now He is going to get tough.

We’re going to look at some verses in more detail, but let’s note the lesson of this chapter, which is, to heed God’s discipline while you can. In Hebrews 12:5-11 we see that God disciplines those that He loves. If we are not disciplined, then we are illegitimate children and not true sons of God.

There are three divisions in this chapter.

1. Jeremiah’s complaint. Jeremiah 12:1-4.

2. God’s answer. Jeremiah 12:5-13 and

3. God promises the return of His people from captivity, and the conversion of the Gentiles, both events being conditional. Jeremiah 12:14-17

‘You are always righteous, LORD, when I bring a case before you. Yet I would speak with you about your justice: Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all the faithless live at ease? You have planted them, and they have taken root; they grow and bear fruit. You are always on their lips but far from their hearts. Yet you know me, LORD; you see me and test my thoughts about you. Drag them off like sheep to be butchered! Set them apart for the day of slaughter! How long will the land lie parched and the grass in every field be withered? Because those who live in it are wicked, the animals and birds have perished. Moreover, the people are saying, ‘He will not see what happens to us.’ Jeremiah 12:1-4

Jeremiah got to the point straight away. Habakkuk struggled with the same problem, and asked God ‘why’. Job was perplexed by it, Job 21:7. And the book of Psalms devotes at least two chapters to it, Psalm 37 and Psalm 73.

Men of every generation, even those who are devoted and faithful Christians, have found this to be a difficult problem. The Christian religion does, however, give complete and satisfactory answers to this question. The reason that many have a problem with it is because they fail to study the Scriptures properly.

‘If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan? Your relatives, members of your own family— even they have betrayed you; they have raised a loud cry against you. Do not trust them, though they speak well of you. ‘I will forsake my house, abandon my inheritance; I will give the one I love into the hands of her enemies. My inheritance has become to me like a lion in the forest. She roars at me; therefore, I hate her. Has not my inheritance become to me like a speckled bird of prey that other birds of prey surround and attack? Go and gather all the wild beasts; bring them to devour.’ Jeremiah 12:5-9

I suppose you could say that God’s answer to Jeremiah is somewhat shocking. God rebukes him. God is saying, in effect, look, Jeremiah, why should you be bothered because the wicked are prospering? If. in your race for me, you have been worn out by men, what are you going to do when you have to run against horses? If you have trouble feeling secure when you are on level ground, how are you going to manage ‘in the thickets by the Jordan’? You ain’t seen anything yet buckle your seat belt because there is worse to come.

These two verses stress the fact that, after all, wickedness is a problem that shouldn’t discourage anyone. Today, lions are almost never seen west of the Euphrates river, they have disappeared from the ‘thickets by the Jordan’. But the bones of lions have been found in the bed of the Jordan.

Jeremiah’s own family were against him. God seems to be saying, your family will try to win you over, but don’t listen to them. He is telling Jeremiah to shun his family. The prophet loved his family and his people in general. Imagine then how he feels. If Jeremiah feels bad God says, how do you think I feel? I have to let go of my house too, you know.

I planted these people here. I made her what she is today. She has been my heritage, my pride, my joy. But now ‘I hate her’. He goes on to explain why. The shepherds hadn’t been leading the people. The people themselves had gone astray. All were responsible, personally, to know the truth.

It is true that God did forsake the temple. He gives an account of this in Ezekiel 10:17. More than that, He never returned to any earthly temple. He did, however, come with a rushing sound like a mighty wind, on the day of Pentecost, to dwell in His true temple, the church of Jesus Christ. So, the two teachings in this verse are:

1. God removed His presence, His Spirit, from the temple in Jerusalem, and

2. He turned His back on the nation, with the exception of the ‘righteous remnant.’

‘Many shepherds will ruin my vineyard and trample down my field; they will turn my pleasant field into a desolate wasteland. It will be made a wasteland, parched and desolate before me; the whole land will be laid waste because there is no one who cares. Over all the barren heights in the desert destroyers will swarm, for the sword of the LORD will devour from one end of the land to the other; no one will be safe. They will sow wheat but reap thorns; they will wear themselves out but gain nothing. They will bear the shame of their harvest because of the LORD’s fierce anger.’ Jeremiah 12:10-13

Desolate, desolate, desolate. This is the picture painted by Jeremiah as a result of God’s punishment upon His people. The destruction is so thorough that we have a picture of the very land mourning over it.

‘This is what the LORD says: ‘As for all my wicked neighbours who seize the inheritance I gave my people Israel, I will uproot them from their lands and I will uproot the people of Judah from among them. But after I uproot them, I will again have compassion and will bring each of them back to their own inheritance and their own country. And if they learn well the ways of my people and swear by my name, saying, ‘As surely as the LORD lives’—even as they once taught my people to swear by Baal—then they will be established among my people. But if any nation does not listen, I will completely uproot and destroy it,’ declares the LORD.’ Jeremiah 12:14-17

This seems to be another message of hope. God will punish their wicked neighbour. We will see God’s punishment to various nations later on when Jeremiah prophesies against them. But God is going to have compassion on Judah. And, if they will diligently seek Him, He will even look kindly on all of the other nations. The promise in this section is Messianic. But there is an important message here.

All of the promised blessings of God, whether to the ‘righteous remnant’ who are destined to return to Jerusalem from Babylon, or whether to the Gentiles who in the future, will be ‘the people of God’ is conditional. As God says in Jeremiah 12:17 ‘If any nation does not listen, I will completely uproot and destroy it.’

There is no such thing as a blessing of God which does not meet the condition set out here. There never is, there never has been, and there will never be, a blessing of God on those who do not listen to Him, and obey Him.

Go To Jeremiah 13



"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."