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: