In this passage, I will examine certain questions posed in the book of Jeremiah and their respective answers in context.
As you know, Jeremiah the prophet was living in Judah prior to the plague, famine and then ultimately the “sword” brought on by the Babylonian invasion. Jeremiah was hearing directly from God, and was repeatedly trying to warn the kings and their men of upcoming judgment at the hands of the Babylonians.
The book of Jeremiah has numerous prophetic scriptures pertaining to our current last days time period. Overall, the same general story in Jeremiah is a picture of what is soon to come- i.e. God’s judgment on modern day Judah-Israel while employing world powers due to Judah’s: corrupt, oppressive leaders; rebellion against God; worship of other gods; and rampant sin/wickedness.
When looking through the many questions along with the answers they elicit in the book of Jeremiah, I identified five categories that I will address in this passage:
- False security/pride
- “Why us?”/“What have we done?”
- Laments of Jeremiah
- Questions from God invoking his people’s guilt
- Questions from God signaling coming judgment/punishment
Each of these areas has strong prophetic implications for our current last days time period, at the least, and many times has direct prophecies for these last days.
Judah and its leaders in Jeremiah’s day maintained false beliefs that they were virtually invincible.
God’s people’s lack of wisdom
Questions below, asked directly by God, implicate Judah’s false sense of security and lack of wisdom.
Question: “‘Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, burn incense to Baal and follow other gods you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which bears my Name, and say, “We are safe”—safe to do all these detestable things? (Jer. 7:9-10, God)
Question: “Am I only a God nearby,” declares the Lord, “and not a God far away? Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them?” (Jer. 23:23-24, God)
One pillar of a society’s sense of pride and false security is a denial of the one true God’s sovereign power. God repeatedly has to remind his people who he is, such as, “Do I not fill heaven and earth?” (Jer.23:24), and as we read above, “Am I only a God nearby?”
As both of the primary questions in italics above imply, God’s people believe they can get away with sinful acts they do in private or within the confines and constructs of their false gods, and worse yet, even those they do in the temple of the Lord itself- an obvious abomination. Jeremiah observes that his enemies say, “He (God) will not see what happens to us” (Jer. 12:54). God asks, “Can anyone hide?”, and referring to acts being done in his own house (temple), but that has been turned into a den of robbers, he says, “But I have been watching!” (Jer. 7:11)
Prideful, arrogant leaders
A couple of questions asked by God below further show Judah’s leaders’ (false) feelings of invincibility while God looks on and witnesses:
Question: “‘How can you say, “We are wise, for we have the law of the Lord,” when actually the lying pen of the scribes has handled it falsely? (Jer. 8:8, God)
Question: I am against you, Jerusalem, you who live above this valley on the rocky plateau, declares the Lord—you who say, “Who can come against us? Who can enter our refuge?” (Jer. 21:13, God)
God asks the questions above as part of making a point about prideful leaders (kings, prophets, priests) who are misled and have a sense of invincibility. These are the ones Jeremiah repeatedly ran up against when trying to get across God’s message. Due to their arrogance, they could not imagine trouble or defeat coming to them.
These lying, “greedy for gain,” prophets and priests were essentially paid off to give only good news to the kings and to misapply or disregard teaching God’s true law. God says, they “dress the wound of my people as if it were not serious, ‘Peace,’ ‘Peace,’ they say when there is no peace” (Jer. 8:11). These prophets were helping to cover up serious sins, lies and coming judgment as a result.
The latter question above God addresses to those in the royal house of Judah, the house of David, at the time God is warning Zedekiah about a coming all-consuming fire. God is emphasizing that he desires rulers who “rescue from the hands of the oppressor,” defend the cause of the poor, and do what is right for the fatherless, widow, and alien. God had already mocked king Jehoiakim for building a “great palace” with “more and more cedar” while at the same time being set on dishonest gain, oppression and extortion.
Meanwhile, king Zedekiah, out of disbelief, as did his predecessor, asked Jeremiah why he prophesied about pending Babylonian capture, saying, “Why do you prophesy as you do?” (Jer. 32:3). This is relevant today. It can safely be assumed that virtually no current Israeli leaders or prophets have an understanding of what is certainly going to come on them and their country. (See my passages on this site entitled God’s Coming Punishment on the Country of Israel).
Consistent with Judah’s pride and false sense of security (discussed above), when trouble hits as part of God’s punishment on Judah, then they cry out; “Why us?”, “Why has this happened?”
God’s people’s many sins
Questions below and a few quick answers by God show how God’s disobedient people are out of touch.
Question: “Will you always be angry? Will your wrath continue forever?’ This is how you talk, but you do all the evil you can.” (Jer. 3:5, God)
Question: And if you ask yourself, “Why has this happened to me?”—it is because of your many sins that your skirts have been torn off and your body mistreated. (Jer. 13:22, God)
While in their lifestyle of idolatry and sin, and worship of “detestable idols” and “vile images,” they still cry out to God and wonder, “Why?” So they are hypocrites.
The questions above are posed by a people who have a sense of entitlement, perhaps just because they realize they happen to live in the holy land, and virtually in the shadows of the temple. God himself refers to the “pride of Judah” and the “great pride of Jerusalem.” (Jer. 13:8). Along with his responses above, God calls the house of Jacob-Judah a “foolish” and “senseless” people, and says they have eyes but “do not see” and ears but they “do not hear” (Jer. 5:20).
His people serving other gods
God finally decrees to forsake his inheritance and give them over to the Babylonians to be invaded and taken captive.
Question: And when the people ask, ‘Why has the Lord our God done all this to us?’ you will tell them, ‘As you have forsaken me and served foreign gods in your own land, so now you will serve foreigners in a land not your own.’ (Jer. 5:19, God)
Question: “People from many nations will pass by this city and will ask one another, ‘Why has the Lord done such a thing to this great city?’” (Jer 22:8, God)
First and foremost, God does turns his people over because of his jealous anger. His people have forsaken him. God often likens his people’s idolatry to prostitution and having many lovers other than him alone. He says they have “stubbornness of evil hearts” (Jer 16:10), which also means they do not listen to him. So, God is jealous for his people’s faith and attention but his patience has reached its limit.
The first question above also speaks to God’s general policy of returning on his people the deeds that they have done to others.
Upon decreeing destruction God calls to the king and queen mother to step down from their thrones and remove their “glorious” crowns. An army from the north will invade, representing those who Judah-Israel thought were their allies and will be set over them while their flock is taken captive and into exile.
Note: This general scenario just described will soon repeat in our current last days period. Recall I have mentioned in prior passages that current day Judah (country of Israel) will be forced to flee when those they thought were their allies invade.
Some questions asked by/through Jeremiah are laments for Judah, including for Judah’s “wounded,” Godless society as a whole, and are somewhat inspired by how they treat Jeremiah himself.
Judah full of lies and deceit
Question: “Lord, do not your eyes look for truth? You struck them, but they felt no pain; you crushed them, but they refused correction. They made their faces harder than stone and refused to repent.” (Jer. 5:3, Jeremiah)
Question: “Listen to me, O Lord; hear what my accusers are saying! Should good be repaid with evil?” (Jer. 18:19-20, Jeremiah)
The first question above highlights how the prophet Jeremiah laments a society that is full of lies. God agrees and says, “Go up and down the streets of Jerusalem, look around and consider…If you can find but one person who deals honestly and seeks the truth, I will forgive this city” (Jer. 5:1). As a result of worshiping other gods, and practicing wickedness, deceit naturally follows. God’s people “swear falsely.”
This is a time when God warns Jeremiah, who realizes himself that he is being plotted and schemed against. Jeremiah recognizes that they say, “Let’s attack him with our tongue” (Jer. 18:18). God warns him: “You live in the midst of deception”; “beware of your friends”; and, “do not trust your brothers.” The Judah-Israel society were two-faced, being friendly to their neighbors while at the same time setting traps for them. This is an age-old anti-Christ Chaldean tactic that comes through to our current day. Recall that end times ‘Jacob’ and the ‘Daughter of Zion’ are figures who are schemed against.
A people away from God
Jeremiah assumed his society’s sad situation was only among the common people at large in Judah and that he would be able to talk to its leaders. Then, he found that leaders had “broken off the yoke and torn off the bonds” (Jer. 5:5). They had broken God’s covenant and turned to worship other gods. (And of course, I have also already discussed the false prophets who lie just to tickle the ears of kings and the people at-large).
Jeremiah greatly lamented about the wickedness he saw in his day. So he asked God:
Question: How long will the land lie parched and the grass in every field be withered? Because those who live in it are wicked, the animals and birds have perished. Moreover, the people are saying, “He will not see what happens to us.” (Jer. 12:4, Jeremiah)
When looking at the sinful state of Judah, and considering his own challenges, Jeremiah stated his complaint above. He observed the sheer wickedness among his people. In particular, he observed:
- They feel no pain, they refuse correction (Jer. 5:3)
- Their faces are “harder than stone” (Jer. 5:3)
- They do not know the way of the Lord (Jer. 5:4)
- You (God) are always on their lips but far from their hearts (Jer. 12:2)
Jeremiah goes from a state of lamenting for his people to asking God to bring punishment. He laments the injustice in his society and how the ways of the wicked prosper.
We are in this time period again currently. Recall that Jeremiah is a “type” of end times ‘Jacob’ who contends with his wicked land of ‘Babylon’ with a righteous cause.
A few other lamenting questions in the book of Jeremiah are those on behalf of the people asking God if he has forgotten and rejected Judah completely. In a prophetic observation, his people recognize that, “the harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved” (Jer. 13:20). This will be the case again in our last days when God hides his face prior to his return.
God’s response in Jeremiah’s time is that he had indeed forsaken his inheritance (Judah). His reasoning is more fully addressed in the next section below.
Questions from God invoking his people’s guilt
Many rhetorical questions (and answers) in the book of Jeremiah, asked by God, serve to address and answer his people’s laments and distress about their punishment.
God’s people serving other gods
God is trying to show his people their sin and the nature of their disobedience. That is, they serve other gods.
Question: “How can you say, ‘I am not defiled I have not run after the Baals’? See how you behaved in the valley; consider what you have done. (Jer. 2:23, God)
Question: “Look up to the barren heights and see. Is there any place where you have not been ravished? By the roadside you sat waiting for lovers, sat like a nomad in the desert. You have defiled the land with your prostitution and wickedness.” (Jer. 3:2, God)
Recall these are people who cannot “see” or “hear.” They are proud and unremorseful. God says, “No one repents of his wickedness or asks, ‘What have I done?’”. I discussed earlier how God’s own people even defile his temple when serving other gods and their practices. These people are deceived and enslaved to the practice of the anti-Christ Chaldean dialectic. They are “double minded.” While they still do their religious, ritual sacrifices, etc. they also adhere to the detestable practices of foreign gods. This is why God says:
- “Although you wash yourself with soap and use an abundance of cleansing powder, the stain of your guilt is still before me,” declares the Sovereign Lord.” (Jer. 2:22)
In fact, these are people who serve many gods. They swear to gods that, in fact, “are no gods” at all. They engage in romance with numerous pagan gods. Scripture says they call wood their “father,” and call a stone the one that “gave me birth.” This is why God calls them like a prostitute with many lovers, and like a “woman unfaithful to her husband.” And he asks them, “Why do you go about changing your ways so much” (Jer. 3:20).
God’s people’s sinful behavior
Other, foreign gods always open paths to sinful, wicked behavior. Chief among these are sexual sins and adultery. In speaking of his people’s idol worship, God says:
Question: “Why should I forgive you? Your children have forsaken me and sworn by gods that are not gods. I supplied all their needs, yet they committed adultery and thronged to the houses of prostitutes.” (Jer. 5:7, God)
Question: Therefore, this is what the Lord Almighty says: “See, I will refine and test them, for what else can I do because of the sin of my people?” (Jer.9:7, God)
God’s people destroy themselves because of their own ways in going astray. They say, “we are free to roam (after other gods),” but then when they come back to God when all of their gods do not work for them in times of trouble, is it any wonder the one true God replies, “let your gods come save you.” God makes the point about his very unwise people whose own gods will also expose and disclose their sins:
- “But am I the one they are provoking? declares the Lord. Are they not rather harming themselves, to their own shame?” (Jer 7:19)
The last days will be a time when God either purges or refines his people by fire and hides his face for a time. He will use his people’s own false gods to teach them a lesson. They will realize the anti-Christ Chaldean gods hold them captive in their sins.
Questions from God signaling coming judgment/punishment
There is a group of questions from God in the book of Jeremiah that clearly signal God’s upcoming judgment and punishment. This judgment is coming soon to current day country of Israel for the same reasons it came upon Judah in pre-Babylonian captivity days. It is due to the rebellion of God’s people.
An anti-Christ Chaldean-ruled society
In Jeremiah, Chapter 5, as God describes his upcoming punishment on Judah, he says, “for their rebellion is great and their backslidings many” (Jer 5:6). Their society has been taken over by the oppressive, corrupt anti-Christ Chaldeans.
Question: “Should I not punish them for this?” declares the Lord. “Should I not avenge myself on such a nation as this?” (Jer. 5:29, 9:9, God)
In a clear picture of a society, such as current day Israel, which is ruined by anti-Christ Chaldean idol-worshipers, Judah is ravaged by a web of lies and deceitful practices. God calls the lies of the ruling prophets and priests “horrible and shocking,” and worse yet, says that his people, “love it this way.”
Recall this is the same society that God says:
- “They make ready their tongue like a bow, to shoot lies; it is not by truth that they triumph in the land. They go from one sin to another…” (Jer. 9:3)
- “Their tongue is a deadly arrow; it speaks deceitfully. With their mouths they all speak cordially to their neighbors, but in their hearts they set traps for them.” (Jer. 9:8)
The other clear sign of an anti-Christ Chaldean society doomed to destruction is the oppression and resulting disparities among its people. Scripture says Judah here has forgotten the fatherless and the poor, yet their houses that are “full of deceit” have become rich and powerful (Jer. 5:23). They gain slaves and servants by wicked men who lie in wait to “set traps” to catch men.
God’s people don’t listen
Another sign of a rebellious Judah is that they will not listen to their only God.
Question: “To whom can I speak and give warning? Who will listen to me? Their ears are closed so they cannot hear. The word of the Lord is offensive to them; they find no pleasure in it.” (Jer. 6:10, God)
It is sad when God says about his own people, “The word of the Lord is offensive to them” (Jer. 6:10). God has repeatedly tried to get this nation’s attention. We are given the following examples:
This is what the Lord says:
- “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.”
- But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’ (Jer. 6:16)
- “I appointed watchmen over you and said, ‘Listen to the sound of the trumpet!’”
- But you said, ‘We will not listen.’ (Jer. 6:17)
God’s people have willfully and knowingly turned away, not listened, and have rejected his law. Once again, this ancient scenario is directly applicable to what is happening in our current last days time period.
God’s temple defiled
So I will conclude this passage with one of the points that I began with; which is God’s people defiling his own temple with wickedness- just one more rebellious act by God’s people.
Question: “What is my beloved doing in my temple as she, with many others, works out her evil schemes? Can consecrated meat avert your punishment? When you engage in your wickedness, then you rejoice.” (Jer.11:15, God)
God again makes the point here how cleansing rituals and sacrifices cannot cover his people’s sinful ways. They burn incense to Baal on as many altars in Jerusalem as there are streets (ref. Jer. 11:13). Their Baal worship is referred to in scripture as a “conspiracy” among the people of Judah-Jerusalem, which likely means it is coordinated among many, but kept secret from the citizens at-large. Again, God refers to this as being “double-minded.”
God has “decreed disaster” for the house of Israel and the house of Judah for their evil acts. It happened then, and it will happen again in the near future.
The most important takeaway from this passage is its prophetic implications for current-day Israel, and judgments that will come upon it.
Grace & Peace,
Lion’s Lair (LL)