Jeremiah 5:1-9

“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.
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.

“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?
(Jeremiah 5:1-9 NIV)

As we begin chapter 5, the subject shifts from Judah in general to Jerusalem in particular, and from the impending destruction to God’s desired redemption.

Today’s passage is a dialogue between the Lord and Jeremiah.  In verses 1 – 2, God asks Jeremiah to find just one righteous man, one person who deals honestly and seeks the truth, then God is willing to forgive the city and spare it from destruction (v. 1).  God hears many who use holy words and phrases, but none who practice what they say (v. 2).

It is interesting that the Lord was looking for just one righteous person in Jerusalem, and He was willing to spare the city for just one.  In Genesis 18:23-32, Abraham pleaded with God to spare Sodom if only ten righteous people could be found, and God agreed.  While neither God nor Jeremiah compared Jerusalem to Sodom, it appears that Jerusalem’s sin far exceeded that of Sodom, as not even one righteous person could be found.

And what was God looking for in a righteous person?  One who deals honestly with others and seeks after truth (God).  Faithfulness and justice are the two defining character qualities of God, and what God asks of us.  Jesus said the same thing when asked what the greatest command was in Matthew 22:34-40.  Loving God and loving our neighbors is the standard that spans both time and culture.

In verses 3 – 6, Jeremiah takes up God’s challenge, searching throughout Jerusalem for one faithful person.  He looks among the everyday people (the “poor”, not economically, but spiritually) and finds none.  He then turns to the city’s leadership, hoping to find someone there that is still living out faithfulness and justice.  Not only does Jeremiah not find anyone, but he also finds the city’s leadership in defiant, open rebellion against God.  Jeremiah must concede defeat and agree with God that none righteous can be found.

In verses 7 – 9, God asks the city’s leadership why He should forgive them, and why He should not discipline them for their unfaithfulness and open rebellion against Him.  The Lord speaks tenderly to the city leaders, reminding them that He cared for them and met all their needs, yet they ran away and lived in open defiance to His love.  There is no reply.

While living in our culture today, sometimes it seems that one life, our life, doesn’t make a difference in the sea in iniquity around us.  But yet, God calls us to live faithfully and justly, loving Him and loving others.

May we be humbled, encouraged, and emboldened to live as God calls us to live.  Never underestimate what just one life lived for the Lord can do.  In Jeremiah’s day, just one life could have saved an entire city.

As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. (Joshua 24:15)

What’s your choice?