A voice, a rumor! Behold it comes! – A great commotion out of the north country to make the cities of Judah a lair of jackals. - Jeremiah 10:22
The prophet dropped this in yesterday, almost midsentence, as though someone ran into the room and cried “We’re under attack!” Chapter 13 finds us on the other side of this invasion, as a few clues in today’s reading reveal that the LORD’s promise to “pluck up” His “evil neighbors” has been fulfilled.
First, in the object lesson at the beginning of chapter 13, Jeremiah is told to “Go to the Euphrates” and hide his loincloth there in a cleft of the rock. The Euphrates does not flow through Israel. It’s unknown whether Jeremiah was forcibly exiled, or whether he voluntarily followed his countrymen east, but we’ve gotten our first clue that the situation has changed.
A second clue is found in the LORD’s words to the king and the queen mother: ‘Take a lowly seat, for your beautiful crown has come down from your head.’ The cities of the Negeb are shut up, with none to open them; all Judah is taken into exile, wholly taken into exile. The crown’s removal is past tense; exile is in the present. Judah is experiencing the first taste of the LORD’s rejection.
There is so much more to observe today, but I’ll guide you to attend to two details. In chapter 14, the author records a prayer where Judah calls on the LORD, ‘O you hope of Israel, its savior in time of trouble, why should you be like a stranger in the land, like a traveler who turns aside to tarry for the night? Why should you be like a man confused, like a mighty warrior who cannot save?” What are they saying about the LORD here?
Later, we find Jeremiah back in Judah where he laments his treatment as “a man of strife and contention to the whole land! I have not lent, nor have I borrowed, yet all of them curse me.” When the LORD promises “If you return, I will restore you…” He infers that Jeremiah has even decided to hang up his mantle. As He did yesterday, the LORD responds with gentle rebuke, and a promise that “I will make you to this people a fortified wall of bronze; they will fight against you, but they will not prevail over you.”
We’ve seen this before, haven’t we? Just as in chapter 1, Judah, in distress, needs a savior. And the LORD promises deliverance – not for them, but for his mouthpiece. “For I am with you,” He promises Jeremiah, “to save you and deliver you.”
Our verse for this week is Lamentations 3:22-23: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
Jeremiah 13 through 15. Now let’s read it!
Jeremiah 13 - 15
13:1 Thus says the LORD to me, “Go and buy a linen loincloth and put it around your waist, and do not dip it in water.” So I bought a loincloth according to the word of the LORD, and put it around my waist. And the word of the LORD came to me a second time, “Take the loincloth that you have bought, which is around your waist, and arise, go to the Euphrates and hide it there in a cleft of the rock.” So I went and hid it by the Euphrates, as the LORD commanded me. And after many days the LORD said to me, “Arise, go to the Euphrates, and take from there the loincloth that I commanded you to hide there.” Then I went to the Euphrates, and dug, and I took the loincloth from the place where I had hidden it. And behold, the loincloth was spoiled; it was good for nothing.
Then the word of the LORD came to me: “Thus says the LORD: Even so will I spoil the pride of Judah and the great pride of Jerusalem. This evil people, who refuse to hear my words, who stubbornly follow their own heart and have gone after other gods to serve them and worship them, shall be like this loincloth, which is good for nothing. For as the loincloth clings to the waist of a man, so I made the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah cling to me, declares the LORD, that they might be for me a people, a name, a praise, and a glory, but they would not listen.
“You shall speak to them this word: ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, “Every jar shall be filled with wine.”’ And they will say to you, ‘Do we not indeed know that every jar will be filled with wine?’ Then you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the LORD: Behold, I will fill with drunkenness all the inhabitants of this land: the kings who sit on David's throne, the priests, the prophets, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And I will dash them one against another, fathers and sons together, declares the LORD. I will not pity or spare or have compassion, that I should not destroy them.’”
Hear and give ear; be not proud,
for the LORD has spoken.
Give glory to the LORD your God
before he brings darkness,
before your feet stumble
on the twilight mountains,
and while you look for light
he turns it into gloom
and makes it deep darkness.
But if you will not listen,
my soul will weep in secret for your pride;
my eyes will weep bitterly and run down with tears,
because the LORD's flock has been taken captive.
Say to the king and the queen mother:
“Take a lowly seat,
for your beautiful crown
has come down from your head.”
The cities of the Negeb are shut up,
with none to open them;
all Judah is taken into exile,
wholly taken into exile.
“Lift up your eyes and see
those who come from the north.
Where is the flock that was given you,
your beautiful flock?
What will you say when they set as head over you
those whom you yourself have taught to be friends to you?
Will not pangs take hold of you
like those of a woman in labor?
And if you say in your heart,
‘Why have these things come upon me?’
it is for the greatness of your iniquity
that your skirts are lifted up
and you suffer violence.
Can the Ethiopian change his skin
or the leopard his spots?
Then also you can do good
who are accustomed to do evil.
I will scatter you like chaff
driven by the wind from the desert.
This is your lot,
the portion I have measured out to you, declares the LORD,
because you have forgotten me
and trusted in lies.
I myself will lift up your skirts over your face,
and your shame will be seen.
I have seen your abominations,
your adulteries and neighings, your lewd whorings,
on the hills in the field.
Woe to you, O Jerusalem!
How long will it be before you are made clean?”
14:1 The word of the LORD that came to Jeremiah concerning the drought:
and her gates languish;
her people lament on the ground,
and the cry of Jerusalem goes up.
Her nobles send their servants for water;
they come to the cisterns;
they find no water;
they return with their vessels empty;
they are ashamed and confounded
and cover their heads.
Because of the ground that is dismayed,
since there is no rain on the land,
the farmers are ashamed;
they cover their heads.
Even the doe in the field forsakes her newborn fawn
because there is no grass.
The wild donkeys stand on the bare heights;
they pant for air like jackals;
their eyes fail
because there is no vegetation.
“Though our iniquities testify against us,
act, O LORD, for your name's sake;
for our backslidings are many;
we have sinned against you.
O you hope of Israel,
its savior in time of trouble,
why should you be like a stranger in the land,
like a traveler who turns aside to tarry for a night?
Why should you be like a man confused,
like a mighty warrior who cannot save?
Yet you, O LORD, are in the midst of us,
and we are called by your name;
do not leave us.”
Thus says the LORD concerning this people:
“They have loved to wander thus;
they have not restrained their feet;
therefore the LORD does not accept them;
now he will remember their iniquity
and punish their sins.”
The LORD said to me: “Do not pray for the welfare of this people. Though they fast, I will not hear their cry, and though they offer burnt offering and grain offering, I will not accept them. But I will consume them by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence.”
Then I said: “Ah, Lord GOD, behold, the prophets say to them, ‘You shall not see the sword, nor shall you have famine, but I will give you assured peace in this place.’” And the LORD said to me: “The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I did not send them, nor did I command them or speak to them. They are prophesying to you a lying vision, worthless divination, and the deceit of their own minds. Therefore thus says the LORD concerning the prophets who prophesy in my name although I did not send them, and who say, ‘Sword and famine shall not come upon this land’: By sword and famine those prophets shall be consumed. And the people to whom they prophesy shall be cast out in the streets of Jerusalem, victims of famine and sword, with none to bury them—them, their wives, their sons, and their daughters. For I will pour out their evil upon them.
“You shall say to them this word:
‘Let my eyes run down with tears night and day,
and let them not cease,
for the virgin daughter of my people is shattered with a great wound,
with a very grievous blow.
If I go out into the field,
behold, those pierced by the sword!
And if I enter the city,
behold, the diseases of famine!
For both prophet and priest ply their trade through the land
and have no knowledge.’”
Have you utterly rejected Judah?
Does your soul loathe Zion?
Why have you struck us down
so that there is no healing for us?
We looked for peace, but no good came;
for a time of healing, but behold, terror.
We acknowledge our wickedness, O LORD,
and the iniquity of our fathers,
for we have sinned against you.
Do not spurn us, for your name's sake;
do not dishonor your glorious throne;
remember and do not break your covenant with us.
Are there any among the false gods of the nations that can bring rain?
Or can the heavens give showers?
Are you not he, O LORD our God?
We set our hope on you,
for you do all these things.
15:1 Then the LORD said to me, “Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my heart would not turn toward this people. Send them out of my sight, and let them go! And when they ask you, ‘Where shall we go?’ you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the LORD:
“‘Those who are for pestilence, to pestilence,
and those who are for the sword, to the sword;
those who are for famine, to famine,
and those who are for captivity, to captivity.’
I will appoint over them four kinds of destroyers, declares the LORD: the sword to kill, the dogs to tear, and the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth to devour and destroy. And I will make them a horror to all the kingdoms of the earth because of what Manasseh the son of Hezekiah, king of Judah, did in Jerusalem.
“Who will have pity on you, O Jerusalem,
or who will grieve for you?
Who will turn aside
to ask about your welfare?
You have rejected me, declares the LORD;
you keep going backward,
so I have stretched out my hand against you and destroyed you—
I am weary of relenting.
I have winnowed them with a winnowing fork
in the gates of the land;
I have bereaved them; I have destroyed my people;
they did not turn from their ways.
I have made their widows more in number
than the sand of the seas;
I have brought against the mothers of young men
a destroyer at noonday;
I have made anguish and terror
fall upon them suddenly.
She who bore seven has grown feeble;
she has fainted away;
her sun went down while it was yet day;
she has been shamed and disgraced.
And the rest of them I will give to the sword
before their enemies,
declares the LORD.”
Woe is me, my mother, that you bore me, a man of strife and contention to the whole land! I have not lent, nor have I borrowed, yet all of them curse me. The LORD said, “Have I not set you free for their good? Have I not pleaded for you before the enemy in the time of trouble and in the time of distress? Can one break iron, iron from the north, and bronze?
“Your wealth and your treasures I will give as spoil, without price, for all your sins, throughout all your territory. I will make you serve your enemies in a land that you do not know, for in my anger a fire is kindled that shall burn forever.”
O LORD, you know;
remember me and visit me,
and take vengeance for me on my persecutors.
In your forbearance take me not away;
know that for your sake I bear reproach.
Your words were found, and I ate them,
and your words became to me a joy
and the delight of my heart,
for I am called by your name,
O LORD, God of hosts.
I did not sit in the company of revelers,
nor did I rejoice;
I sat alone, because your hand was upon me,
for you had filled me with indignation.
Why is my pain unceasing,
my wound incurable,
refusing to be healed?
Will you be to me like a deceitful brook,
like waters that fail?
Therefore thus says the LORD:
“If you return, I will restore you,
and you shall stand before me.
If you utter what is precious, and not what is worthless,
you shall be as my mouth.
They shall turn to you,
but you shall not turn to them.
And I will make you to this people
a fortified wall of bronze;
they will fight against you,
but they shall not prevail over you,
for I am with you
to save you and deliver you,
declares the LORD.
I will deliver you out of the hand of the wicked,
and redeem you from the grasp of the ruthless.”