Jeremiah 5


‘Go up and down the streets of Jerusalem, look around and consider, search through her squares. If you can find but one person who deals honestly and seeks the truth, I will forgive this city. Although they say, ‘As surely as the LORD lives,’ still they are swearing falsely.’ LORD, do not your eyes look for truth? You struck them, but they felt no pain; you crushed them, but they refused correction. They made their faces harder than stone and refused to repent.’ Jeremiah 5:1-3

Just to show how bad things are God says, presumably to Jeremiah, to go up and down the streets of Jerusalem. Search to see if you can find just one upright man. If you find just one honest, truthful man then I will forgive this city. Though these people used God’s name, they didn’t follow. They are not grieved at anything. We may feel the horror that Jeremiah was not able to find an honest man in Jerusalem.

Today we could probably have the same difficulty in Liverpool, or perhaps in our own town. But we know that there were good men such as Josiah, Baruch and Zephaniah. Some people believe that

1. Either the search was confined to certain classes of people, for example, magistrates, or

2. That the devout religious had gone into hiding, or perhaps into retirement. I don’t believe such an explanation is necessary. This is probably ‘hyperbole’, i.e., a figure of speech in which there is a deliberate exaggeration, for the purpose of emphasis.

There are plenty of instances of this in the Bible. In the New Testament for instance, in Matthew 3:5 ‘People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan.’

Matthew 3:6 says that they were baptised by John the Baptist. This is hyperbole because Luke 7:30 says that the Pharisees and the experts of the law rejected God and weren’t baptised by John.

The latter part of Jeremiah 5:1 says, ‘I will forgive this city.’

God promised Abraham He would spare Sodom and Gomorrah if 10 righteous persons could be found. But here in Jeremiah, He went further than that, showing His great love and affection for His chosen people. God has tried to chastise them, but it didn’t seem to bother them. God has brought famine, and drought, but it hasn’t affected them for the good. They are harder than stone.

‘I thought, ‘These are only the poor; they are foolish, for they do not know the way of the LORD, the requirements of their God. So, I will go to the leaders and speak to them; surely, they know the way of the LORD, the requirements of their God.’ But with one accord they too had broken off the yoke and torn off the bonds. Therefore, a lion from the forest will attack them, a wolf from the desert will ravage them, a leopard will lie in wait near their towns to tear to pieces any who venture out, for their rebellion is great and their backslidings many.’ Jeremiah 5:4-6

Among other things, these verses suggest that the initial search for the honest man hadn’t included a search of the whole population. It suggests that it was partial. So now there is a decision to search among the higher echelon of society. But the results were no better.

‘They too had broken off the yoke.’ These were the fastenings that secured the yoke around the animal’s neck. The simple meaning here is that the well-educated were just as sinful as the remainder of the population.

These dangerous animals, the lion, the wolf and the leopard, signify the Babylonians, whom the Lord would use against Judah. After the fall of the Northern kingdom, Israel, such wild animals became a great threat to the safety of the people living in certain areas, 2 Kings 17:25ff. Although it’s not been stressed here, the message is clear.

The ox throws off Its yoke and flees from its master and is devoured by the wild beasts. The lion is known for its strength. The wolf is most ravenous. And the leopard is the swiftest of the wild animals. So, what does this tell us? The wolf is ravenous, the lion will attack, and the leopard lies in wait, referring to the army that is coming.

‘Why should I forgive you? Your children have forsaken me and sworn by gods that are not gods. I supplied all their needs, yet they committed adultery and thronged to the houses of prostitutes. They are well-fed, lusty stallions, each neighing for another man’s wife. Should I not punish them for this?’ declares the LORD. ‘Should I not avenge myself on such a nation as this? ‘Go through her vineyards and ravage them, but do not destroy them completely. Strip off her branches, for these people do not belong to the LORD. The people of Israel and the people of Judah have been utterly unfaithful to me,’ declares the LORD. They have lied about the LORD; they said, ‘He will do nothing! No harm will come to us; we will never see sword or famine. The prophets are but wind and the word is not in them; so let what they say be done to them.’ Therefore, this is what the LORD God Almighty says: ‘Because the people have spoken these words, I will make my words in your mouth a fire and these people the wood it consumes. People of Israel,’ declares the LORD, ‘I am bringing a distant nation against you—an ancient and enduring nation, a people whose language you do not know, whose speech you do not understand. Their quivers are like an open grave; all of them are mighty warriors. They will devour your harvests and food, devour your sons and daughters; they will devour your flocks and herds, devour your vines and fig trees. With the sword they will destroy the fortified cities in which you trust. ‘Yet even in those days,’ declares the LORD, ‘I will not destroy you completely.’ Jeremiah 5:7-18

God’s reasoning over the rebellion. God had been pleading with them because of the rebellion. Now He is reasoning over them because of the rebellion. God cannot pardon them. They have gone too far. The domestic situation was demoralising. Everyone was corrupt, tricked by their own lies. It isn’t God who is lying. They are consuming one another. God says, if that is the way that you want it, I will let others devour you as well.

‘Go through her vineyards and ravage them.’ Let’s look at this verse carefully, because of its importance. Note the phrase ‘strip off her branches’.

This refers to pruning the grapevine. This is not to destroy the vine completely. But it does mean to prune it severely. This shows the importance of God’s promise, that He would not destroy Judah completely. Not only here, but in Jeremiah 5:18 God says, ‘I will not destroy you completely,’ and in Jeremiah 4:27 God says, ‘I will not destroy it completely.’

This pledge is given no less than three times in these two chapters. It is one of the most important themes throughout the book of Jeremiah. It means that all of the glorious promises, to the patriarchs, would be fulfilled. It’s that ‘righteous remnant’ that we referred to earlier from Isaiah. They would, indeed, return from Babylon and form the nucleus of the New Israel in Jesus Christ.

‘And when the people ask, ‘Why has the LORD our God done all this to us?’ you will tell them, ‘As you have forsaken me and served foreign gods in your own land, so now you will serve foreigners in a land not your own.’ ‘Announce this to the descendants of Jacob and proclaim it in Judah: Hear this, you foolish and senseless people, who have eyes but do not see, who have ears but do not hear: Should you not fear me?’ declares the LORD. ‘Should you not tremble in my presence? I made the sand a boundary for the sea, an everlasting barrier it cannot cross. The waves may roll, but they cannot prevail; they may roar, but they cannot cross it. But these people have stubborn and rebellious hearts; they have turned aside and gone away. They do not say to themselves, ‘Let us fear the LORD our God, who gives autumn and spring rains in season, who assures us of the regular weeks of harvest.’ Your wrongdoings have kept these away; your sins have deprived you of good. ‘Among my people are the wicked who lie in wait like men who snare birds and like those who set traps to catch people. Like cages full of birds, their houses are full of deceit; they have become rich and powerful and have grown fat and sleek. Their evil deeds have no limit; they do not seek justice. They do not promote the case of the fatherless; they do not defend the just cause of the poor. Should I not punish them for this?’ declares the LORD. ‘Should I not avenge myself on such a nation as this? ‘A horrible and shocking thing has happened in the land: The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way. But what will you do in the end?’ Jeremiah 5:19-31

This is repetition. Social disobedience

Men trapping men like birds. Failure and fear. They are deceiving men to line their own pockets. Civil disobedience, not exercising justice. Then there were the priests, the scribes, the prophets committing perjury. God’s message to man is lost and man’s plea to God is lost.

Jeremiah 5:30-31 is a summary of the conditions of Judah in the days of Jeremiah, preceding the fall of Jerusalem and the captivity of God’s people. The cause of the problem is the failure of Judah to honour their religious duty, of praising and worshipping God. This made way for the false prophets and the deceiving priests who deceived and encouraged the people to sin.

With no true religious believers to follow, the people fell into all sorts of selfish and lustful sins. With no adequate guidance, they quickly degenerated into a nation of idolaters, oppressors, into debauchery. And the people loved it. There was no genuine hope. There was no hope whatsoever of the condition ever healing itself.

As it was in the days of the flood, every thought and imagination of men’s hearts were evil, evil continually. The mission of Abraham and his followers to keep alive the knowledge and love of the true God had, at last, totally failed, except for the righteous remnant.

The last sentence of this chapter says, ‘what will you do in the end?’ This was not only a question that concerned God’s people but God Himself. What would God do? What would God do now that His people had failed, once again?

One thing is certain nothing ever takes God by surprise. And this disaster didn’t take Him by surprise. When we read the first two chapters of Paul’s letter to the Romans we can get a glimpse of the disastrous situation that comes to the surface as a result of sin.

So, what do we conclude from this chapter? Not one honest man was found in the streets of Jerusalem.

Go To Jeremiah 6



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