7 “I will forsake my house,
abandon my inheritance;
I will give the one I love
into the hands of her enemies.
8 My inheritance has become to me
like a lion in the forest.
She roars at me;
therefore I hate her.
9 Has not my inheritance become to me
like a speckled bird of prey
that other birds of prey surround and attack?
Go and gather all the wild beasts;
bring them to devour.
10 Many shepherds will ruin my vineyard
and trample down my field;
they will turn my pleasant field
into a desolate wasteland.
11 It will be made a wasteland,
parched and desolate before me;
the whole land will be laid waste
because there is no one who cares.
12 Over all the barren heights in the desert
destroyers will swarm,
for the sword of the Lord will devour
from one end of the land to the other;
no one will be safe.
13 They will sow wheat but reap thorns;
they will wear themselves out but gain nothing.
They will bear the shame of their harvest
because of the Lord’s fierce anger.”
(Jeremiah 12:7-13 NIV)
In the previous two passages, Jeremiah:
- uncovers a conspiracy to kill him, and the Lord reiterating His promise to protect Jeremiah and punish those involved in the plot (11:18-23)
- asks the Lord the bigger question of “why does evil flourish?” and God provides an unexpected answer of “take heart; it’s going to get worse” (12:1-6)
On first reading of today’s passage, it appears the Lord has moved on to a new topic. Upon further investigation, however, we discover that today’s passage links to the previous two passages. In essence, the Lord is saying to Jeremiah, “your personal experience of betrayal, heartbreak, and rebellion is just a small taste of what I am experiencing right now.”
In particular, Jeremiah’s family speaking kindly to his face but plotting his demise (v. 6) provides the context for verse 7, where Judah speaks the Lord’s name but worships the foreign gods. The Lord uses verbal imagery of a father talking about his daughter (“my inheritance”, speaking of Judah in general and Jerusalem in particular) in verses 7 – 9.
God loves His whole household (Judah) and this daughter (Jerusalem) more than words can express. The pain the Lord feels over the self-destruction of the home and the daughter’s shameful behavior break the Father’s heart. The consequences are inevitable.
When the Lord says, “therefore I hate her” (his daughter Jerusalem) in verse 8, he is expressing the heart-breaking effects of betrayal and defiance. We often associate love as the opposite of hate. In fact, the opposite of love is indifference. The Lord is saying, “I love you more than you could ever know. I hate what you have become and the choices you have made when I have loved you faithfully your entire life. It breaks my heart.”
In verse 9, the Lord further expresses His heartbreak as He sees His beautiful daughter go from an honored princess and example of good to the world to being ridiculed and robbed by those whom she chose to associate.
Verses 10 – 13 depict the destruction that will take place at the hands of the invaders from the north. Th destruction will include the towns and villages all over Judah, as well as the fields and crops that provided their food and living.
May we remember that whatever profound emotions we feel when we are hurt, lied to, and betrayed by those whom we love, the Lord has experienced those same realities at the city, national, and world level. Indeed, He has walked in our shoes before we have, and still chooses to love His children despite their waywardness.
May we choose to love others unconditionally as He loves us, as we were once His enemies when we walked our selfish path in defiance, rejection, and betrayal of Him.