5 “Announce in Judah and proclaim in Jerusalem and say:
‘Sound the trumpet throughout the land!’
Cry aloud and say:
Let us flee to the fortified cities!’
6 Raise the signal to go to Zion!
Flee for safety without delay!
For I am bringing disaster from the north,
even terrible destruction.”
7 A lion has come out of his lair;
a destroyer of nations has set out.
He has left his place
to lay waste your land.
Your towns will lie in ruins
8 So put on sackcloth,
lament and wail,
for the fierce anger of the Lord
has not turned away from us.
9 “In that day,” declares the Lord,
“the king and the officials will lose heart,
the priests will be horrified,
and the prophets will be appalled.”
10 Then I said, “Alas, Sovereign Lord! How completely you have deceived this people and Jerusalem by saying, ‘You will have peace,’ when the sword is at our throats!”
(Jeremiah 4:5-10 NIV)
As we begin today’s passage, let’s take a moment and understand the larger context of where Jeremiah finds himself as we walk this journey with him.
The courtroom trial of the Bridegroom and His bride has ended. The bride has confessed her sins and asked for reconciliation with her Bridegroom. The Bridegroom (the Lord) wants to know if this is real repentance or just a show of tears with no intention of changing her lifestyle and being faithful to her Husband. Her actions moving forward will demonstrate her heart.
The implied understanding at the end of verse 4 and the beginning of verse 5 is that the bride did not fulfill her promise to her Husband. Consequently, faithful to the Lord’s pledges at the end of verse 4, discipline was about to come upon the bride. She brought this on herself – she has no one to blame.
Verses 5 – 6 are a call to sound the general alarm that doom is approaching. In our day and age, this is akin to the tornado sirens in communities sounding off when a storm approaches, or a tsunami warning for those near the ocean. There would be no sneak attacks or sleeper terrorist cells that suddenly awaken, no quiet infiltration of troops. This attack would be a head-on frontal assault. The attack will come from the north again – this time, ultimately from the Babylonians.
Verse 7 is the announcement that the destructive forces are on their way. Verse 8 is a corporate call to repentance, not to a national hardening the of country’s heart.
The Lord indicates that the national and spiritual leadership of the country (the king, government leaders, and the priests) will collapse because they chose to move away from the foundation and principles of God and His Word (verse 9).
At first glance, it appears that verse 10 is that of Jeremiah complaining against the Lord for deceiving him and the children of Israel. Upon closer examination, we see that Jeremiah is merely expressing the thoughts of the people around him, echoing their sentiments.
The people of Judah thought they were immune to the Lord’s discipline, as Israel had been taken captive by the Assyrians but Jerusalem and Judah were spared such destruction. After all, had God not promised to save Jerusalem from destruction just a hundred years earlier (Isaiah 31:5)? And God, in fact, did keep His promise, correct? (2 Kings 19). So the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem are asking Jeremiah why all the pending doom and gloom? Life is good, and peace is at hand.
Remember that these prophesies are over a period of forty years, not just hours, days, or weeks. Likely the people would initially be fearful of Jeremiah’s prophecies from the Lord, but over time would tend to dismiss both him and his message. The response would more likely be, “Jeremiah, look up at the sky. There is not a cloud in the sky, not an enemy in sight, and yet you tell us to take cover because a storm of epic proportions is coming. Take a break and enjoy life. Quit being such a pessimist.”
Jeremiah’s ministry was not against individuals, but against the entire country of Judah and its capital city Jerusalem. His message was at the national level, not the individual level, and Jeremiah included himself as one who lived in the land.
May we pray for the leaders of the countries in which we live.
And more importantly, may we not grow weary and lose heart (Hebrews 12:3) over the circumstances we find ourselves in whatever country in which we live.
May we remember that while Jeremiah’s message was not written to us, it was written for us, that we may learn from that generation’s successes and failures. With that understanding in mind, Peter reminds us that “judgment begins with the household of God” (1 Peter 4:17) so that we may be used by God for His glory to bring others to Him. No generation or nation is immune to God’s discipline if they flagrantly violate His principles, obedience to His word, and defiance of His calling.
May we pray for revival in our respective lands, for such a time as this.