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Jeremiah 9:2-9

Oh, that I had in the desert
    a lodging place for travelers,
so that I might leave my people
    and go away from them;
for they are all adulterers,
    a crowd of unfaithful people.

“They make ready their tongue
    like a bow, to shoot lies;
it is not by truth
    that they triumph in the land.
They go from one sin to another;
    they do not acknowledge me,”
declares the Lord.
“Beware of your friends;
    do not trust anyone in your clan.
For every one of them is a deceiver,
    and every friend a slanderer.
Friend deceives friend,
    and no one speaks the truth.
They have taught their tongues to lie;
    they weary themselves with sinning.
You live in the midst of deception;
    in their deceit they refuse to acknowledge me,”
declares the Lord.

Therefore this is what the Lord Almighty says:

“See, I will refine and test them,
    for what else can I do
    because of the sin of my people?
Their tongue is a deadly arrow;
    it speaks deceitfully.
With their mouths they all speak cordially to their neighbors,
    but in their hearts they set traps for them.
Should I not punish them for this?”
    declares the Lord.
“Should I not avenge myself
    on such a nation as this?”
(Jeremiah 9:2-9 NIV)

Yesterday’s passage dealt with the heart and passion of the Lord, of Jeremiah, and of the people of Judah during those dark days of impending discipline.  Today we continue in a similar fashion, with Jeremiah and the Lord having a conversation.

Jeremiah begins verse 2 by lamenting over the sins of the people of Judah.  He wishes that he could run away and hide in a wilderness storm shelter rather than stay in Jerusalem and Judah with all its sin and waywardness.

In verse 3, the Lord agrees with Jeremiah and adds to the lament.  The Lord says the people are liars.  They go from one sin to another and do not acknowledge God in any way, shape, or form.

In verses 5 – 6, the Lord then speaks directly to Jeremiah, warning him of the dangers of his people.  Jeremiah’s role of a prophet does not guarantee that people will be truthful with him any more than they will be truthful with each other.  The phrase “For every one of them is a deceiver” is more accurately translated “For every brother will utterly supplant”.  This wording is the same thought recorded in Genesis 27:36, where Esau complains bitterly over the treachery of his brother Jacob who cheated him out of his birthright and blessing.  By using this very familiar phrase, the Lord is telling Jeremiah that the people of Judah are acting in the same way as their forefather Jacob.  The Lord ends his warning by telling Jeremiah that the people of Judah refuse even to acknowledge Him, thus implying that if they don’t honor Him as God, they surely won’t respect Jeremiah as a prophet.

Verses 7 – 9 is the Lord speaking again.  In familiar sequence, the Lord tests the heart of the people (v. 7), declares the results (v. 8), and takes action based on the results of the analysis (v. 9).

In verse 7, the Lord uses the same metallurgical test described in chapter 6, verses 27-30.  There is no visible evidence that the people of Judah have any microscopic traces of good in them.  The Lord will resort to refining His people, putting them in the crucible of pain and suffering to redeem them, to remove their impurities and restore them.

Verse 8 is the result of the test – nothing good remains.  The outside looks good, but the contents are deceiving.  The Lord finds iron pyrite, fool’s gold, in the hearts and minds of the people of Judah.

In verse 9, the Lord asks questions, not of despair, nor of indecision, but out of heartbreak.  The Lord is saying, “What else can I do?  This sinful nation has left me no choice.  They have broken the covenant with Me, the relationship their forefathers swore to uphold and cherish for generations to come.”

The word “nation” in verse 9 (Hebrew, “gowy“, pronounced “gō’·ē”) typically refers to a Gentile nation, a non-Jewish nation that does not honor or recognize the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all their descendants.  By applying this word to the people of Judah, the Lord is saying that the people of Judah are no different than any of the other nations in the world around them.  Their distinctiveness as His people is no longer visible or measurable.

As followers of Christ, may we remember that our difference is Christ with us and in us.  As we remain connected to Him in relationship, He reveals Himself to others around us.

May we, like Moses, always remember the Lord is our distinction:

“How will anyone know that You [God] are pleased with me and with Your people unless You go with us? What else will distinguish me and Your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”
(Exodus 33:16 NIV, bracketed text mine)

Blessings,
~kevin

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