The prophets of God were sounding an alarm when they brought the truth of God to Jerusalem. What was the danger that they were warning against? They were soon to have unfriendly visitors from the north. A “lion,” a “destroyer of nations,” would decimate their cities, leaving them in ruins and slaughtering many people. This distressing providence was from the “fierce anger of the Lord.”
It is not God’s highest and best will to destroy His people and to reduce their property to rubble. He would have preferred that they listen to His entreaties, responded to His correction, and returned to His love. But they would not.
How is it that such sad news was decreed by God against Jerusalem? He tells us plainly that their ways and their deeds brought the day of disaster to them. Trouble will soon strike all of their leaders. King and officials, priest and prophets—they will all lose their courage when God speaks and acts in judgment upon them. When that day comes, they will know that they are ruined.
With God, there is always hope for His people. Even when the day of destruction will surely come, kings have learned that God may choose to delay His discipline. But as a father announces his intention to discipline his sons, any possibility of a different outcome will depend on the ears of those who hear his clear warning. What if God’s children are foolish? What if His children have no understanding? Even in the most severe acts of fatherly discipline, God always has a plan for grace. Here He says, “The whole land shall be a desolation, yet I will not make a full end.”
The answer for the people of God must come in some real change of heart. They cannot seek false hopes that come from idols or foreign powers. They must return to God. This is the Lord’s plea to them in the opening verses of the chapter. They must actually return to Him. If they use His name, it must be in a real promise that is consistent with truth, justice, and righteousness. They cannot merely trust in some outward sacrament. They need the circumcision of the heart.
When Christ came as our only hope for true righteousness, He was despised and rejected by men. Yet after He gave His life for us on the cross and the Spirit was poured upon the church, the word of God was boldly preached by Peter. It was then that the people who once shouted for the death of Jesus were cut to the heart. They repented and were baptized for the forgiveness of sins. Many truly turned to God who once had trusted only in their physical circumcision.
The call to repentance is still a part of God’s plan for our reclamation. We who were dead in our transgressions are summoned through the preaching of the Word to turn from disobedience and to rest upon the One who knew no sin.
A genuine work of grace in our hearts will yield changes in our lives. The Lord was not pleased with mere outward ceremonies in the day of Jeremiah, and He is not fooled with such things today. Christ has offered up the perfect sacrifice of His own holy life to the Father. The nations have heard of His love and have embraced His great mercy. Let us hear His Word and live a life of grateful repentance.
Prayer from A Book of Prayers
O God of Jacob, we return to You. We remove our detestable things from Your presence. We look to You alone with hearts that are able to mourn for our sin by Your grace. We will take up the tasks that You have for us today with confidence in You. When You call us to lament for our sin and fruitlessness, we take up that true cry and turn our hearts to You. Do not speak in judgment against us, for Your Son has saved us. There is trouble among us, O God, and we need You. Our ways and our deeds have brought this upon us. We come to You in anguish as those who love You and love Your people. Much of Your church seems to be a wasteland. Where is that wisdom that is from above? We need One Man to come and rescue us. Come Lord Jesus! We mourn for our sin. Will You utterly forsake us, O Lord? We turn away from our prostitution and murderous hate. We trust in You again.