It is hard for us to hear about the wrath of God against His enemies and then to give a wholehearted “Amen.” As those who are so completely dependent on the Lord’s mercy, we have come to love the grace of God. We ourselves have violated God’s commandments. How can we rejoice in the justice of the Almighty against other sinners?
Nonetheless, we do love the righteousness of God as well. We know that the Lord is just and that He must punish sin. Jeremiah found himself under assault from His own neighbors for bringing them this true message. God told him that things were not going to get easier any time soon.
The message of God’s judgment against His people was a hard one to deliver to the Lord’s people—His “heritage.” God said, “My heritage has become to me like a lion in the forest; she has lifted up her voice against me; therefore I hate her.” Those who were given the sacred task of leading the Lord’s chosen ones and of guarding the doctrine and life of the Jewish nation had destroyed the community that they should have been protecting. Now Jehovah’s fierce anger would come upon them all, and the land would be left “desolate.”
When the Messiah came, the opposition against Him would be determined to destroy Him, just as Jeremiah’s enemies once hoped to kill Jeremiah in his own day. The religious rulers hated Jesus when He healed on the Sabbath. They resented Him when He asked them whether John’s baptism was from God or from men. They despised Him when He was dying on the cross for sinners. They could not receive His message of God’s judgment against Israel.
Jesus’ warnings were especially against those who thought of themselves as the most righteous in the land. They were highly offended when they understood that He was speaking against them. They were sure that their interpretation of the Law was the right way to live. Jesus told them plainly that their hypocrisy was more offensive to God than the sins of prostitutes and tax-gathering thieves who had gladly listened to John the Baptist and had taken steps of repentance.
Both Jeremiah and Jesus had a final message of hope for those who would receive it. God would have compassion not only upon Jews, but even on those Gentiles who would be receive the covenant protection of the Almighty in faith. But what about those who rejected the Word of the Lord? “If any nation will not listen, then I will utterly pluck it up and destroy it, declares the Lord.”
The preaching of the prophets prepared the way for the Lord. When we hear the Word of the Messiah and follow Him, we join all those throughout the ages who have discovered Jehovah’s abundant mercy. Let us listen to Him and receive His grace, for we cannot survive the wrath that will one day come against the wicked.
Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Righteous God, the way of the wicked seems to prosper all around us. Stop their progress in sin and rebellion, lest we die. Even within Your church, though men speak friendly words, there is danger everywhere. Have You rejected Your heritage forever? Many shepherds have brought great harm upon Your people. Destroyers have come from within and without. Surely we deserve Your fierce anger. Purify Your Kingdom in mercy, O Lord. We commit ourselves to You again. Do not forsake us forever, O God.