17 Gather up your belongings to leave the land,
you who live under siege.
18 For this is what the Lord says:
“At this time I will hurl out
those who live in this land;
I will bring distress on them
so that they may be captured.”
19 Woe to me because of my injury!
My wound is incurable!
Yet I said to myself,
“This is my sickness, and I must endure it.”
20 My tent is destroyed;
all its ropes are snapped.
My children are gone from me and are no more;
no one is left now to pitch my tent
or to set up my shelter.
21 The shepherds are senseless
and do not inquire of the Lord;
so they do not prosper
and all their flock is scattered.
22 Listen! The report is coming—
a great commotion from the land of the north!
It will make the towns of Judah desolate,
a haunt of jackals.
23 Lord, I know that people’s lives are not their own;
it is not for them to direct their steps.
24 Discipline me, Lord, but only in due measure—
not in your anger,
or you will reduce me to nothing.
25 Pour out your wrath on the nations
that do not acknowledge you,
on the peoples who do not call on your name.
For they have devoured Jacob;
they have devoured him completely
and destroyed his homeland.
(Jeremiah 10:17-25 NIV)
In yesterday’s passage, the Lord compared and contrasted Himself with the false gods of the nations around them. In today’s text, we have a variety of speakers again, dealing with the inevitability of the coming judgment and its associated pain.
Verse 17 begins by the Lord instructing the people to gather up their belongings and preparing to leave. The word for “belongings” refers to a bundle; in other words, what each person could carry in their arms. There would be no moving vans or cars, no ox carts or donkeys, no horses or beasts of burden. Everything other than a coat or blanket and maybe a thin, rolled-up sleeping mat would be left behind.
Verse 18 describes the Lord’s eviction notice – everyone will move out of Judah. The image here is that of a wet washcloth or sponge being wrung out – there will be only a trace of life left, and the enemy will quickly capture them.
Verses 19 – 20 are the voice of the people of Judah lamenting her situation. She realizes her calamity and knows that she has brought this upon herself. She feels the pain of her sin and knows she must endure it alone.
Verses 21 – 22 address the leadership of Judah – the kings and priests that the Lord appointed to lead and shepherd the people. They have not done what the Lord commanded them to do, and both the leadership and the people as a nation have suffered. Ultimately, the entire country will be a desolate wasteland. Historians have verified that God kept His Word – not a single town in all Judah remained occupied after the armies of the north routed everyone. Some towns were resettled sooner than others, but all were abandoned by their inhabitants and destroyed by the armies from the north.
Verses 23 – 25 are Jeremiah’s prayer, offered on behalf of himself and the people of Judah. As we have seen in previous passages, Jeremiah identified deeply with his people. He did not sit back and judge them for their sin – he lived among them and felt the pain of their choices and the consequences of their sin. Jeremiah confesses the sins of the nation (v. 23) as they act as if they control their destiny and fail to acknowledge their dependence on the Lord. Jeremiah then asks for God’s mercy as the Almighty disciplines His children (v.24), knowing that without God’s mercy, the nation’s sins would destroy them. Jeremiah then asks for the Lord’s wrath upon the nations from the north that have destroyed and overtaken Judah, knowing that they are not immune from God’s hand of judgment for also not fearing the One True God.
May we see the deep love of God toward His people (and toward us), as He stopped at nothing to bring His people back to Himself.
May we feel the pain of the world without Christ and know that God cares for them even more intensely than we do. May we share His hope and light in the darkness around us.