10 “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.
11 The people of Israel and the people of Judah
have been utterly unfaithful to me,”
declares the Lord.
12 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.
13 The prophets are but wind
and the word is not in them;
so let what they say be done to them.”
14 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.
15 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.
16 Their quivers are like an open grave;
all of them are mighty warriors.
17 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.
18 “Yet even in those days,” declares the Lord, “I will not destroy you completely. 19 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.’
(Jeremiah 5:10-19 NIV)
From yesterday’s passage, the Lord searched throughout Jerusalem for one righteous person to cover the city with His mercy and forego its discipline. The Lord even asked Jeremiah to conduct a similar search. The Lord knew there were no righteous persons, but He wanted Jeremiah to see for himself and be convinced that He (God) was judging righteously and justly.
Since neither the Lord nor Jeremiah could find such a person, the Lord invokes His agent to begin the discipline. (v. 10). The Lord recalls His preceding description of His people as a choice vine planted by Himself (chapter 2, verse 21). While the root stock of the vine was still good, all the new growth was a wild, tangled mess that bore no fruit and required drastic pruning.
While the pruning was dramatic, the Lord promised at both the beginning and end of this passage that His people would survive the judgment. Mercy would prevail, and the Lord would not annihilate His people. A remnant would survive (v. 10, v. 18).
Jesus uses a similar vine-and-branches metaphor as He spoke to His disciples before His arrest, trial, and death (John 15:1-17). Jesus is the Vine, the choice root stock planted by the Father; we are the branches. Our purpose is to stay connected to the Vine for our life and growth. From that growth that the Lord provides, we are to bear fruit.
In verses 11 – 13, the Lord calls out the charges against His people. Note that the Lord has expanded the scope again, from Jerusalem in verses 1 – 9, to all the land (both kingdoms of Judah and Israel). The people believed that they had a divine “get-out-of-jail-free” card that allowed them to do whatever they wanted with no consequences. Zephaniah, a contemporary prophet to Jeremiah, also captured this prevailing attitude among God’s people:
‘The Lord will do nothing,
either good or bad.’
(Zephaniah 1:12c NIV)
They also believed that the Lord’s prophets (including Jeremiah) were full of hot air, and were to be summarily dismissed.
With these two gross misrepresentations of the Lord among His people, the Lord tells Jeremiah that He was about to prove His people wrong. In verse 14, the Lord tells Jeremiah that the prophetic words He gave Jeremiah were about to become real. God’s words were not just hot air. God’s prophesies via Jeremiah were in fact like fire, an all-consuming fire that would burn them up like wood.
Verses 15 – 17 outline the degree of pruning that the Israelite would have to endure. There would be a massive loss of life, property, family, food, housing, and a means of living. But yet, in His mercy, verse 18 promises that a remnant, the choice vine stock that God planted, would survive.
Verse 19 concludes by addressing the inevitable question that will come up among God’s people – “Why?” Because of God’s faithfulness to them, and their unfaithfulness to Him.
May we stay connected to the True Vine and endure the Father’s pruning. He prunes us because He loves us, and wants us to bear even more fruit for His glory and our good.