11 At that time this people and Jerusalem will be told, “A scorching wind from the barren heights in the desert blows toward my people, but not to winnow or cleanse; 12 a wind too strong for that comes from me. Now I pronounce my judgments against them.”
13 Look! He advances like the clouds,
his chariots come like a whirlwind,
his horses are swifter than eagles.
Woe to us! We are ruined!
14 Jerusalem, wash the evil from your heart and be saved.
How long will you harbor wicked thoughts?
15 A voice is announcing from Dan,
proclaiming disaster from the hills of Ephraim.
16 “Tell this to the nations,
proclaim concerning Jerusalem:
‘A besieging army is coming from a distant land,
raising a war cry against the cities of Judah.
17 They surround her like men guarding a field,
because she has rebelled against me,’”
declares the Lord.
18 “Your own conduct and actions
have brought this on you.
This is your punishment.
How bitter it is!
How it pierces to the heart!”
(Jeremiah 4:11-18 NIV)
Verses 11 – 18 are a follow-up to yesterday’s passage, where the Lord gives further details to the discipline that will be forthcoming.
Verse 11 describes the Scirocco, that hot, dry wind that blows in from the eastern desert. This Scirocco sucks the moisture out of every living thing and raises the temperature everywhere. The wind is too harmful to be used to separate the grain from the chaff in the winnowing process. The wind will carry both grain and chaff away. And so it is with God’s analogy of discipline – He will send out judgment against the entire nation – both good and bad are not immune to His discipline.
The phrase “my people” in verse 11 might be better translated “my daughter, my people”, showing the Lord’s fatherly relationship with His people as if they were His daughter (a wayward daughter at that). The Lord loves His own so dearly that He will stop at nothing to bring her back to Himself.
While the destruction has not happened yet, verse 13 foretells the terrifying response the people will have when the event finally takes place. The destructive force is not named – it is an unspecific country from the north.
Verse 14 is a “last call” for Jerusalem to repent. With more details about the inevitable destruction, the Lord hopes that the city would cry out to God and at least lessen the discipline slated to come against her.
Verses 15 – 17 depict the path of destruction to be a route from the northern region of Dan (near the headwaters of the Jordan River) to the southern destination of Jerusalem. There is no escape – Jerusalem will be surrounded by her enemies.
Verse 18 is the reminder that this wayward daughter brought this discipline on herself. There is no one else to blame. And what is her judgment for her rebellious attitude and actions? Her misery.
Putting yourself in Jeremiah’s shoes for a moment, this message would be very hard to deliver to your fellow countrymen. Jeremiah must have possessed immense courage and carry forward God’s Word to His people.
Today’s passage is reminiscent of Hosea’s statement that they “sow the wind and reap the whirlwind” (Hosea 8:7). Whatever seeds a nation sows will take root and produce the fruit of its kind in multitudes.
We often tend to think about life in individual terms. The Lord sees us as individuals, as families, as communities, and nations. As John Donne artfully said, “No one is an island.” We live in community, per God’s design and command.
May we stop to look beyond ourselves and pray for our families, our communities, and our nations. The Lord loves the world, from the least significant person to societies as a whole.
May we have the courage, objectivity, and discipline to live according to God’s Word, even if that means living counterculturally in an upside-down world.