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A People, a Name, a Praise, and a Glory vs Pestilence, Sword, Famine, and Captivity Jeremiah 13-15

God vows to destroy Judah in His terrible wrath

Jeremiah 13-15; Job 40:1-3; Amos 5:18-21

Nov 25, 2012 12:00 PM

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Jeremiah 13 -15 Introduction
1 And the LORD said to Job: 2 "Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty? He who argues with God, let him answer it. 3 Then Job answered the LORD and said: 4 "Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth. 5 I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice, but I will proceed no further." (Job 40:1-3 ESV)


Jeremiah 13 is the continuation of a four-chapter conversation between the LORD and Jeremiah. In chapter 12, the prophet speaks to the LORD of his own lack of understanding of God's ways when wicked men (specifically the men who are conspiring for his death which includes his own relatives!) are allowed to prosper and succeed.
God's response here in chapter 13 to Jeremiah's questions in chapter 12 is not an answer so much as a rebuke.  Jeremiah is told things are going to get more difficult for him and he needs to be ready for that.
As I was thinking about all of this I wondered, “If God were to really speak to me, for real, would I actually want to have a conversation with Him?  Would I want God to listen to the things I have to say?  What would I say?  Would I be more concerned with hearing what the LORD wanted to say to me . . . or would I be more concerned that He listen to what I have to say to Him?  What does one say to God when God initiates a conversation?  It is probably best to simply respond like the boy Samuel: ”Here am I, Lord!”  And then enter into Job mode and be quiet.


In this chapter God does all the talking.  God tells Jeremiah what to do and what to say, and Jeremiah complies.  But in chapter 14, Jeremiah shares his heart with the LORD.  This actually does become a conversation between the LORD and Jeremiah.


In verses 1-7, God gives commands to Jeremiah and he obeys, no questions asked.  As strange as this is, Jeremiah asks for no clarification or explanation.  He simply does as he is told, and as he obeys, God's purpose in the illustration of the loincloth is revealed by God in verses 8-11.

Jeremiah 13:1-11
Thus says the LORD to me . . . God is speaking directly to Jeremiah.  It seems this loincloth illustration is primarily directed toward the prophet rather than an illustration for the sake of Judah. This is the answer which Jeremiah sought for his questions in chapter 12, a picture of the latter end of the prosperous wicked.


The proud and evil people who conspire against Jeremiah and who have stubbornly followed their own hearts (v10) will suffer the inevitable consequences of living far from the God who sought to keep them near to Himself as a people, a name, a praise, and a glory, but they would not listen. (v11).

God would have made of them everything they tried to gain in their own strength apart from Him.  Now, they have become good for nothing (vs 7 & 10)

Jeremiah 13:12-16
Now God tells Jeremiah to speak to Judah.  The audience now changes from Jeremiah and a "private" conversation, to the people of Judah and Jerusalem and a prophetic message.

One of the marks of a depraved society is its lack of control regarding alcohol. It seems this was a popular saying among the Jews, that "Every jar shall be filled with wine!" Every glass should be a beer glass! What good is a mug if it isn't filled with ale? That was the mindset of a debauched people.

But God uses this colloquialism to communicate His intentions: "You people of Judah will be the jars which I fill with drunkenness to your own self-destruction." All of this is a play on their own familiar words for the sake of warning.

Jeremiah 13:17-27
What is happening to them constitutes national rape by the Babylonians at the command of God (v26) because of the greatness of your iniquity, because you are accustomed to do evil (v23), because you have forgotten Me (v25). Woe to you, Jerusalem! (v27).

"It is always a perilous thing to forget God. To forget any friend who has been good to us--is a base sin. But to forget God, to whom we owe every blessing--is heinous ingratitude!"  (From Grace Gems, J.R. Miller, "Morning Thoughts" 1906)

Jeremiah 13:18
Now the audience is narrowed further, from Judah and Jerusalem, to the king and queen mother in particular (i.e. mother of the king - See Jeremiah 22:26, 2 Kings 24:12). Verse 20 is particularly confrontational: "The Chaldeans are coming.  Where are the people, the beautiful flock whom the LORD gave you to care for?"

Jeremiah 13:21
This is the treachery of political maneuvering. "Those foreigners whom you befriended by every means possible are now your rulers." Would that America's leadership understood this and realized the very same thing is happening here in our nation. Our "friends and allies" are becoming our dictators at our invitation.


This is already happening in Afghanistan where the Afghan soldiers we have trained are now turning against us and killing those who trained them.


The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the political entity we helped gain power, is now becoming the outspoken enemy of our presumed ally in the region, Israel, and is an avowed enemy of all who are not Muslim.


Iraq, the country we "liberated" from a ruthless dictator, is now counseling Iran to use oil as a weapon against us.


There is treachery on every side in the political world.  And in the Muslim world in particular. Interesting that the treachery that existed in Jeremiah's day between Babylon and Judah is still in full force as I write.

Jeremiah 13:23
This should dissuade every person whose hope is in a last minute, deathbed conversion. Those whose lives have been consistently characterized by habitual evil should not be so deceived as to think they can change their own hearts and minds and lives at any moment they choose. Fallen man has no such power.  He does not have the ability to effect self-conversion from lifelong evil to consistent good, at will.  It is as likely as a black man changing his own color, or a leopard his own spots.


Free will is indeed a myth, as Walter Chantry states: "What most people mean by free will is the idea that man is by nature neutral and therefore able to choose either good or evil. This is simply not true. The human will and the whole of human nature is bent to only evil continually. Jeremiah asked, 'Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil.' It is impossible. It is contrary to nature. Thus do men desperately need the supernatural transformation of their natures, else their wills are enslaved to choosing evil."


So the question arises (yet again), "Why does God hold these people responsible for their sinfulness and their lack of repentance when they do not have the ability or any interest in turning to God?"


And the inspired answer given to us from God by His own Holy Spirit through the pen of the apostle Paul is, "But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” (Romans 9:20 ESV).


You say, "That is an unsatisfactory answer." And we say, "That is all the answer you get. For now." Man's will is wholly disposed toward evil, incapable of changing it himself, and God does indeed hold men accountable for their sinfulness and rebellion in spite of their inability to repent. We know this because the Word of God says so.


Both things are undeniably true: Man's will is inherently powerless when it comes to repentance from sin.  AND God "will by no means clear the guilty" (Exodus 34:7 ESV). He holds men responsible for their sin. These two truths are clearly taught throughout Scripture. However, the truthfulness of both doctrines is not subject to our ability to reconcile their apparent contradiction. They are true, not because we can comprehend them fully but because it is God who has said it.

Jeremiah 13:27

"How long will you remain unclean?" (NASB).  In light of verse 23, the answer is forever.  What hope does one have for change of heart and soul?  But the ESV translates verse 27, “How long will it be before you are made clean?” In that translation, there is some hope.  There is one who can make us clean.  The only hope for cleansing from sin is in the mercy of God.  And it is this God who has nearly begged Judah to turn to Him.  His willingness to cleanse her is obvious.  Her total insensitivity toward her own condition, and her total disinterest in the God she has forgotten is also obvious.

If God does not choose to work in the hearts of these people based solely upon His own loving kindness, they will be unclean forever.  And for this particular generation of Jews, He has chosen not to act on their behalf.  His judgment will fall upon them and is already doing so as we see in the following chapter.

Chapter 14

Jeremiah 14:1-6
The LORD speaks once again to Jeremiah informing him of what is taking place around him, the extent of the damage being done by the drought/famine which God Himself has brought upon the people.
There is no water. This is a direct judgment upon the idols and the false gods of fertility, the Baals. All of Judah has engaged in this idolatry.


Everyone from the royalty of the land to the farmers, and even the wild animals suffer because of the sin of Judah. These are the eventual consequences of sin: death.


Jeremiah 14:7-9
This is a most humble cry for help from the LORD: "Do not leave us!"  "Yes, we have sinned. Yes, the condition of the land is testimony to our rebellion against you.  We look around us and there is no water. There are no crops. There is no vegetation. We know it is because of our sins that You have withheld the rain from our land. Please do not leave us here to die."

Jeremiah 14:10
God's response to Jeremiah's humble plea is, "No. Even in the midst of famine, they still love their sin. Now I will punish them."

Jeremiah 14:11-12
"Stop asking me to spare these people. I am finished with them. They are good for nothing. They are like that rotten loincloth. They will be consumed."


God has reached the point of no return. This is a most frightening experience for Jeremiah. We often believe and teach that God is love, that His mercies are limitless, that His grace is always available, and that God will do whatever it takes to save all people from their sins.
That is not the case here. In fact, God states His displeasure with them by stating emphatically how He will consume them: "by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence."

If it didn't sound so trite, we would call this a "triple whammy" from God. It sounds like what Amos said to the people of Israel: 18 Woe to you who desire the day of the LORD! Why would you have the day of the LORD? It is darkness, and not light, 19 as if a man fled from a lion, and a bear met him, or went into the house and leaned his hand against the wall, and a serpent bit him. 20 Is not the day of the LORD darkness, and not light, and gloom with no brightness in it? 21 "I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. (Amos 5:18-21)


"There is no escape.  I am against you.  There is nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, no one to deliver you, no place to escape to, nothing you can do to avoid the wrath to come."


That is indeed the most fearful state a human being can experience. Nothing could be worse than to be subject to the unrepentant anger of a righteous God who hates sin and loves justice and has determined not to forgive, but to punish.

Jeremiah 14:13-16
The conversation continues with Jeremiah speaking directly to the LORD about the false prophets in the land who speak in direct contradiction to what God is telling Jeremiah. They will be the special targets of God's judgments, suffering the very terrors they prophesy against: "victims of famine and sword" (v16a). For I will pour out their evil upon them (v16b).

Jeremiah 14:17-18
Here is a specific word from the Lord which Jeremiah is to speak to the false prophets as if he were saying these words himself. He speaks of his sorrow over the future victims of the sword and famine. And he speaks of the ignorance of prophets and priests. And he is speaking this to those false prophets.

Jeremiah 14:18-22
Jeremiah breaks down before the LORD. He cannot contain himself any longer and pours his heart out to God for mercy toward Judah, in spite of God's command that he not pray to Him for them in verse 11. That is how fearful Jeremiah is of what he sees coming.


Particular mention is made of rain (v22). Baal was the god of rain and therefore fertility. He wasn't doing the job, obviously, because he is no God. "Are you not He, O LORD our God? Aren't You the God of rain? Please spare us!"

Chapter 15
A people, a name, a praise, and a glory (13:11) vs Pestilence, sword, famine, and captivity (15:2)

Jeremiah 15:1-2
And the response to Jeremiah's pitiful plea in the last verse of chapter 14 is a resounding, "No! I am going to annihilate Judah."


It would be a disservice to the purpose of God in this text to spend time defining in great scientific detail the precise meaning of the words pestilence, sword, famine, and captivity.  We cannot lose the impact of these realities by microscopically analyzing the terms used.  It should suffice to say that God is going to bring about the utter devastation of His people by all means available.  

Pestilence generally refers to “any sudden fatal epidemic” (ISBE).  Think bubonic plague of the 14th century that killed approximately 100 million people in Europe.  The Spanish conquistador Cortez captured the capitol of the Aztecs with the help of smallpox, a disease to which the Aztecs had no immunity.  The Flu of 1918 killed as many as 20 million people in a few months.  Think AIDS.  That is what the Bible means when it speaks of pestilence.  Not necessarily a worldwide pandemic, but a quickly spreading, killing disease.  God told Jeremiah to tell the people of Judah pestilence was coming.

Combine that with the sword, indicating hand to hand armed combat.  It’s hard to fight when you’re also fighting malaria.  Combine pestilence and warfare with famine - the starvation of both people and animals.  Then top it all off with total conquest by one’s merciless enemies and a life of endless slavery in a foreign land (if you survive disease, war, and starvation).  And it is God Himself who has brought this upon you because you forgot Him and chased after sex gods and worshiped pieces of wood.

This is precisely why God uses the picture of the rotten loincloth to show Jeremiah the stuff Judah is made of.  She is good for nothing.  She has become worthless.  She is absolutely loathsome in the sight of the One who loved her.  And she is fit only for destruction.


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