But first, judgment…
Jeremiah 23: 1 Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the Lord.
We have seen plenty of that lately….
Jeremiah was active as a prophet for almost forty years, spanning the reign of five kings of Judah and up to and after the fall of Jerusalem.
[Jeremiah’s] prophecies, among the most stark and pessimistic in all of biblical literature, were aimed as a rebuke to Jews who had surrendered to idolatry and depravity. … Much of the Book of Jeremiah is a lengthy tirade against the people for their faithlessness and ominous warnings of the destruction to come if they do not mend their ways.
I read Biblical prophecies, especially those regarding rebuke and judgement, as equally valid for all generations as it was for the generation to which or for whom it was delivered. If God, speaking through His prophet, was against something in the sixth century before Christ, it seems reasonable to conclude He is against the same things today.
Jeremiah 22: 3 Thus saith the Lord; Execute ye judgment and righteousness, and deliver the spoiled out of the hand of the oppressor: and do no wrong, do no violence to the stranger, the fatherless, nor the widow, neither shed innocent blood in this place.
God isn’t really asking much here – it certainly isn’t the Golden Rule. It can be summarized as the bare minimum of morality – enforce the non-aggression principle.
4 For if ye do this thing indeed, then shall there enter in by the gates of this house kings sitting upon the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, he, and his servants, and his people.
Loving one’s enemy is hard, but all God is asking of Judah is to not violate even one’s neighbor.
5 But if ye will not hear these words, I swear by myself, saith the Lord, that this house shall become a desolation.
It is clear that Judah did not hear these words. It has been true for some time, that we in the West have not heard these either.
Jeremiah 22: 21 I spake unto thee in thy prosperity; but thou saidst, I will not hear. This hath been thy manner from thy youth, that thou obeyedst not my voice.
Has there been any civilization more blessed with prosperity than the West – and especially the United States? But the West has turned its back on the source of that prosperity. God is dead, as Nietzsche’s madman famously proclaimed, and not in triumph:
The madman jumped into their midst and pierced them with his eyes. "Whither is God?" he cried; "I will tell you. We have killed him -- you and I. All of us are his murderers.
The murderer of all murderers, the madman would go on to say.
Returning to Jeremiah, and his prophecy against Judah:
Jeremiah 23: 10 For the land is full of adulterers; for because of swearing the land mourneth; the pleasant places of the wilderness are dried up, and their course is evil, and their force is not right.
11 For both prophet and priest are profane; yea, in my house have I found their wickedness, saith the Lord.
They also killed God, even to bring their wickedness into His house. The rot can be seen from the prophets and the priests; thereafter, what can be expected of the flock in their care?
There comes a point – as it came for Judah and as appears to be the case for the West – where God basically no longer cares:
Jeremiah 23: 33 And when this people, or the prophet, or a priest, shall ask thee, saying, What is the burden of the Lord? thou shalt then say unto them, What burden? I will even forsake you, saith the Lord.
36 And the burden of the Lord shall ye mention no more: for every man's word shall be his burden; for ye have perverted the words of the living God, of the Lord of hosts our God.
The burden of the Lord – other translations clarify this as the spoken word of the Lord. What is the spoken word of the Lord? The Lord answers – you will have nothing more of a spoken word from the Lord. You have perverted these words.
You know this feeling, when you have given up trying to work with or talk with someone. There is no point, they are going down the path that you know will lead to destruction, but there is nothing you can do about it.
When God decides to no longer speak to you, let’s just say that what follows is not something good:
Jeremiah 19: 15 Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will bring upon this city and upon all her towns all the evil that I have pronounced against it, because they have hardened their necks, that they might not hear my words.
It is the evil of the people, led by the priests and pastors, that causes such judgment to be brought down upon them. This should give no true prophet any comfort, however: Pashur, the son of Immer the priest, had Jeremiah beaten and put in the stocks for this prophecy.
We should expect no less for speaking the truth in the face of those who do not listen to God.
Jeremiah 23: 3 And I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all countries whither I have driven them, and will bring them again to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase.
There was hope. However, this hope would come after the judgment. The remnant will be gathered out of all countries. Hence, first there would have to be a remnant scattered in all countries. The fall of Jerusalem would come before the gathering of the remnant.
We have this scattering to look forward to….
NB: I have borrowed the title from this post on Jeremiah.