Wisconsin Lutheran Chapel logo

God’s Word for You

Jeremiah 23:37-40

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, March 6, 2015

37 Say to the prophet, “What has the LORD answered you?” or “What has the LORD said?”

In verse 35, we heard each man asking his neighbor what God had said. Now the Lord tells them to ask their questions of the prophet. Don’t ask each other, ask the one who has the word of God.

38 But if you claim, “The message of the LORD,” then the LORD says: Since you say, “The message of the LORD” when I have sent word to you telling not to say “the message of the LORD,” 39 then, behold, I will utterly forget you and I will abandon you and this city I gave to your fathers from my presence. 40 I will bring everlasting shame and everlasting scorn that will not be forgotten.

God is saying: You false prophets know you’re lying when you claim to have a message from me, or else you’re so completely deluded that you think that whatever you say must be from me. So I’ll show you what it means to rely on yourself instead of me. I will let go of you. I will abandon you.

There is a fairly common Hebrew construction in verse 39, so common that those of us who read Hebrew forget to talk about it when we’re talking about the Old Testament text. It’s the combination of two forms of the same word to intensify the meaning. Here, the word nashti (וְנָשִׁיתִי) “I will forget” is supplemented with the infinitive nasho (נָשֹׁא) “to forget.” Together, these are translated “I will utterly forget you.” That’s a frightening thought when it comes from God.

What would it be like to be completely forgotten by God? This is not really a description of hell. Hell is a place of eternal punishment, where God’s absolute holiness prevents any reprieve from the agony of those who have rejected him. But to be forgotten—utterly forgotten—by God is to be set aside in this lifetime, left to one’s own ruined human nature. It is to be outside of God’s grace and love. Remember what Cain said: “My punishment is more than I can bear” (Genesis 4:13). But while life endures, the sinner might realize his hopeless state, and turn back to God. When we turn back, God’s hand is there. The Psalm writer pleaded with God: “Do not hand over the life of your dove to wild beasts; do not forget the lives of your afflicted people forever” (Psalm 74:19).

God hears our pleas. He knows our troubles. He holds out his hand in love, and his mercy endures forever.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.