17 “Speak this word to them:
“‘Let my eyes overflow with tears
night and day without ceasing;
for the Virgin Daughter, my people,
has suffered a grievous wound,
a crushing blow.
18 If I go into the country,
I see those slain by the sword;
if I go into the city,
I see the ravages of famine.
Both prophet and priest
have gone to a land they know not.’”
19 Have you rejected Judah completely?
Do you despise Zion?
Why have you afflicted us
so that we cannot be healed?
We hoped for peace
but no good has come,
for a time of healing
but there is only terror.
20 We acknowledge our wickedness, Lord,
and the guilt of our ancestors;
we have indeed sinned against you.
21 For the sake of your name do not despise us;
do not dishonor your glorious throne.
Remember your covenant with us
and do not break it.
22 Do any of the worthless idols of the nations bring rain?
Do the skies themselves send down showers?
No, it is you, Lord our God.
Therefore our hope is in you,
for you are the one who does all this.
(Jeremiah 14:17-22 NIV)
In yesterday’s passage, we see the Lord address the hearts of the people of Judah, calling out their feigned response of brokenness and confessions. As soon as the drought were to go away, the Lord knew that the people would go right back to their idolatrous practices and turn their backs on Him. The Lord also addressed the false prophets and the lies they were telling the people of Judah.
In today’s passage, we see God’s response to their calamity and the people’s response to the Lord.
Verses 17 – 18 show the Lord and Jeremiah expressed as one heart toward the people of Judah. The Lord gives Jeremiah the words to express His heart toward His daughter Judah. While He must discipline her for her wrongdoings, it breaks His heart that she will not respond and return to Him. The prophecies of war, drought, and famine are now realities, and many are unaccounted for (probably either dead or carried off into exile due to the war).
Verses 19 – 22 are the cries of the people of Judah to the Lord. The people start out with a seemingly simple question: “Have you rejected Judah completely?” At first, this seems like a genuine inquiry of repentance and desire for the restoration of their relationship with the Lord.
However, as we look at the larger context of verses 19 – 22, we see that the voice of the people is accusative rather than repentant. Their cries are more like “Don’t You love us anymore, Lord? Of all the nations on the earth, we thought we were Your favorite.”
The problem with their argument is that Judah was the one who turned their back on the Lord and walked away from Him, not vice versa. For the people of Judah to claim innocence was to ignore God’s covenant and commands with His people and declare their standard as superior to the Lord’s.
In verse 19, the people referred to the false prophecies of peace and healing rather than the Lord’s words through Jeremiah of war, drought, and famine. This reference to the false prophets’ words was further evidence that their hearts were not focused on the Lord, but on themselves.
Verse 20 is a recognition of their sins against the Lord; verse 22 is the admission that all good things come from the Lord. Verse 21 is a reminder that the Lord promised in His covenant to care for His own, and that God’s reputation is at stake.
At first reading, this sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? The people of Judah are confessing their sins, admitting their dependence on God, and calling out to Him. But with verse 21 thrown into the mix, we see their feigned repentance come out. The people of Judah were admitting wrongdoing enough to “check the box”, but then immediately jumped to God’s promises in His covenant with His people, ignoring their responsibilities in their covenant relationship with Him.
Their connection with God had digressed from a vital, loving relationship with the God of the Universe to trying to hold the Lord accountable for His part of a contract which the Lord had kept but they had broken. They were saying, “Yes, Lord, we may have stepped out of line, and yes, Lord, You provide all useful things like rain. But You promised peace and prosperity, and we’re here to hold You to Your promise and collect what You owe us.”
May we learn a lesson from today’s passage. When we sin, may we come before the Lord with broken, contrite hearts, confess our wrongdoing and ask only for His mercy, transformation, and restoration.of our relationship to Him.
May we know in the deepest part of our souls that the Lord loves us unconditionally, and He invites us to the dance of the Trinity, to connection with Him, invited into His family through His Son Jesus.