20 “Announce this to the descendants of Jacob
and proclaim it in Judah:
21 Hear this, you foolish and senseless people,
who have eyes but do not see,
who have ears but do not hear:
22 Should you not fear me?” declares the Lord.
“Should you not tremble in my presence?
I made the sand a boundary for the sea,
an everlasting barrier it cannot cross.
The waves may roll, but they cannot prevail;
they may roar, but they cannot cross it.
23 But these people have stubborn and rebellious hearts;
they have turned aside and gone away.
24 They do not say to themselves,
‘Let us fear the Lord our God,
who gives autumn and spring rains in season,
who assures us of the regular weeks of harvest.’
25 Your wrongdoings have kept these away;
your sins have deprived you of good.
26 “Among my people are the wicked
who lie in wait like men who snare birds
and like those who set traps to catch people.
27 Like cages full of birds,
their houses are full of deceit;
they have become rich and powerful
28 and have grown fat and sleek.
Their evil deeds have no limit;
they do not seek justice.
They do not promote the case of the fatherless;
they do not defend the just cause of the poor.
29 Should I not punish them for this?”
declares the Lord.
“Should I not avenge myself
on such a nation as this?
30 “A horrible and shocking thing
has happened in the land:
31 The prophets prophesy lies,
the priests rule by their own authority,
and my people love it this way.
But what will you do in the end?
(Jeremiah 5:20-31 NIV)
Today’s passage further elaborates on the answer to the question the Israelites asked in verse 19: ‘Why has the Lord our God done all this to us?’ The Lord had given the short answer before: ‘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.’ Now comes the longer reply.
In verse 20, the Lord instructs Jeremiah what to say, and to whom he is to proclaim the message. Verse 21 is a summarization of what the Lord had said through the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 6:9-10) and Jesus quoted and personified (Matthew 13:14-15). The evidence was everywhere, yet His people failed to recognize the Lord as their one and only True God.
Verse 22 is the Lord’s object lesson to show His people His control over nature. The Lord refers to Creation (Genesis 1:6-10) where God brought the chaos of water everywhere under control. God separated the water in the sky above from the water on the earth below. He also created a boundary that the water could not cross, and thus formed dry land. The chaos of the sea may stand up and threaten with its force and their roar, but it is powerless against the Lord’s control and rule.
In verse 23, the Lord contrasts His people with the sea mentioned in verse 22. The sea obeyed the Lord and stayed in its boundaries, but the people did not. They chose to leave the Lord and go their own way. The Hebrews’ proud and rebellious hearts kept them from even acknowledging the Lord’s gracious provision of spring and fall rains that provide water and crops.
In verse 25, the Lord tells them that droughts are their own fault. Not honoring God and worshipping Him has been to their detriment. The Lord has blessings for them that go unrequested and undelivered because they have turned their backs on Him.
Verses 26 – 28 show the degree to which the people had strayed from the Lord. The wickedness of the Lord’s children had progressed to the point where the people were turning on each other. Fraud, deceit, and treachery were the governing standards of the day. The Israelites’ cold-heartedness and actions were in direct violation to the Lord’s command to care for one another, particularly for the disenfranchised such as orphans and widows (Exodus 22:22-24).
In verse 29, the Lord comes to the same conclusion as He did in verse 9. All these wrongs demanded discipline. His children were out of control – they were from good vine stock, but had grown into a wild mess that needed pruning so they could once again produce the fruit of righteousness to honor their Maker and Keeper.
The Lord ends up Chapter 5 with the shocking fact that the prophets and priests have formed an unholy alliance and are misleading the people. Sadly, the people are quite happy with this arrangement and follow along without question. This shocking revelation leads to the same conclusion that Jeremiah came to in verses 3 – 6: when Jeremiah looked among the people and the leaders, not a single righteous person could be found. The Lord only has one question: ‘But what will you do in the end?’ The day of accountability is coming. What will their answer be to the people, and to the Lord?
May we pause to take stock of what we count as treasure. May we count our blessings in the Lord first and foremost, with everything and everyone else taking a back seat (Matthew 6:19-21).
May we live our lives in honor to the Lord so that we hear the Master say, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21).