14 This is what the Lord says: “As for all my wicked neighbors who seize the inheritance I gave my people Israel, I will uproot them from their lands and I will uproot the people of Judah from among them. 15 But after I uproot them, I will again have compassion and will bring each of them back to their own inheritance and their own country. 16 And if they learn well the ways of my people and swear by my name, saying, ‘As surely as the Lord lives’—even as they once taught my people to swear by Baal—then they will be established among my people. 17 But if any nation does not listen, I will completely uproot and destroy it,” declares the Lord.
(Jeremiah 12:14-17 NIV)
As we discussed in recent posts, Jeremiah asked the Lord the age-old question – why evil was allowed to prosper (12:1). Jeremiah wanted the Lord to put an end to the evil right away (12:3). The Lord had already promised to watch over Jeremiah. The Lord also told Jeremiah, “take heart; it’s going to get worse.”
As we read in today’s text, the Lord is not done with His answer.
In verse 14, the Lord calls out the sin of those countries that have invaded or will invade the land He gave His people. So who were these “wicked neighbors”? It might be easier to list which countries did not invade God’s people! But just for the record, let’s make a list: the Arameans, Ammonites, Moabites, Edomites, Egyptians, Assyrians, and of course, let’s not forget the Babylonians.
And what will happen to these nations that invaded God’s people? They will also be uprooted from their home countries. Just as the Lord used these neighboring countries to discipline His people, He will then punish these nations for their part in invading His land and inhabitants. In the disciplining process, the Lord will restore the exiles from Judah by plucking them out of these foreign nations.
In an unanticipated move, the Lord shows His character and love toward all humanity by restoring each of these neighbors to their respective home country after their discipline (v. 15). The Lord even offers to make these neighbors part of His family if they will change their allegiance and serve Him (v. 16). If they refuse, the Lord will uproot them permanently (v. 17). There was no middle ground, no compromise, no negotiated settlement. The choice was the Lord or nothing.
Commentator and scholar Derek Kidner says of today’s passage:
“It was a reassuring answer to the doubts that troubled Jeremiah, but a more generous one, perhaps, than he expected. It spoke in comparatively local and historical terms, but beyond these we can see from our vantage-point the breaking down of the party-wall between Jew and Gentile which the gospel was to bring, and the prospect of “a great multitude… from every nation… standing before the throne and before the Lamb…’ (Revelation 7:9)”
“At the same time, there is no concession to the old ways or the old gods, in our modern terms, to religious pluralism. As for their ways, the heathen must ‘diligently learn the ways of My people’, and as for their allegiance, they must swear by My name… even as they taught My people to swear by Baal. (v. 16)”
(Derek Kidner, Jeremiah Commentary, InterVarsity Press, 1987, p. 62)
May we, in our trials and tribulations in this life, remember that the Lord still desires all humanity to come to Himself. Yes, He will judge sin in its time, and will also offer a redemption path back to Himself.
May we remember that we were once alienated from God, “while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!” (Romans 5:10).
And may we show compassion to others as Christ showed compassion to us, pointing them to the Savior, who loves all and desires eternal life for all.