How do we know the soul of a city? How do we discern the heart, mind, and will of a nation? We are so limited in our ability. We can only make educated generalizations as we interpret the evidence within our reach. To do much more than this would take a lifetime, and no city stands still for our analysis. God has His hand on the pulse of any place that we can think of. His knowledge of any one man or woman is complete, and His awareness is never limited to a random sample. He has full awareness of all His creatures. Furthermore, His interpretation of the facts is always flawless.
If God had sent out an army of observers to run throughout the streets of ancient Jerusalem to take note of what could have been seen by the eyes of men, they would never have been able to rightly contradict His own perfect understanding of what was really going on there. The Lord invited Jeremiah’s readers to examine the details of the city. He was confident that they would not be able to find even one man who did justice.
We may think that our assessment of matters would have been better than God’s. We too quickly believe the word of men. We often ignore the contradictions that can be seen in their deeds, and we know so little about their hearts. God knows all of these things. He is not impressed by those who say, “As the Lord lives,” but who then tell lies and try to back them up with the name of the God that they do not fear.
Even Jeremiah wondered if all of Jerusalem was truly that bad. The prophet said, “These are only the poor; they have no sense; for they do not know the way of the Lord.” He imagined that “the great” would not be so universally mired in sin. What did Jeremiah find? “They all alike had broken the yoke” of God’s Law.
What would they do when enemies came upon them like “a lion from the forest” or “a wolf from the desert?” Their show of obedience was only pretense. They were full of spiritual unfaithfulness and immoral adultery. How could the Lord pardon hardhearted unrepentant Jerusalem? He knew their hearts, and they were committed to evil.
A nation was coming from afar. Jerusalem would be destroyed. Yet despite the seemingly universal wickedness of the Lord’s people, God stated here that He would not make “a full end” of them. The enemy would overwhelm them, the rain would be withheld, the hand of God would be against His people, and the fault will be entirely theirs. They had abused the fatherless and the needy, and had forsaken the Almighty. Yet still God would not bring upon them all that they deserved.
What would complete justice have looked like? Consider what our great Redeemer faced for us on the cross. There we see the fullness of God’s just wrath. The sinless substitute was given the pains of hell and a torment that you and I will never know. Because He took our punishment, our outlook now is one of the greatest blessing rather than the endless curse of our holy God.
When even “the prophets prophesy falsely,” God’s people must yet resist the devil. If we love the Son of God and the way of the cross we cannot love the way of corrupt men. We must choose God’s way today, though many others may choose corruption.
Look all around the kingdom of God. See if you can find one man who does justice and seeks truth. Thanks be to God, there is one such Man now in the Jerusalem above. The power of His death, and the greatness of His justice and truth are more than enough to make the whole of His redeemed city full of people who are counted as righteous because of Jesus Christ. The new Jerusalem that the Son of God has saved from destruction will one day be perfectly holy.
Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Righteous Lord, we have filled Your church with sin. Even when we have been disciplined by You, we have refused to repent. This is not merely the record of the uninformed, but leaders in Your house have forsaken You. We are full of unfaithfulness. Where is the church that remains clean? Like the house of Israel and Judah, we have been treacherous against You. Is there a way of mercy for us? Please do not utterly consume us and destroy us. For the glory of Your Name, purify Your church, but leave a remnant through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. As we have served foreign gods and strange religious ideas, we have brought trouble upon Your people. We have turned away from You over and over again. Wicked men are easily found among Your people, even among those in important positions of trust and authority. Preachers preach falsely, and those who lead move us along in sinful directions. What will we do when the end comes? Please forgive us and help us.