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God’s Word for You

Jeremiah 16:16-18

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, November 20, 2014

16 I am sending for many fishermen, declares the LORD, and they will catch them. After that I will send for many hunters, and they will hunt for them on every mountain, on every high hill, and in the crevices of the rocks. 17 My eyes are on everything they do. They are not hidden from me, and their guilt is not hidden from my eyes. 18 But first I will pay them double for their guilt and their sin, because they have defiled my land with the carcasses of their detestable idols and they have filled my inheritance and with their abominations.

Does the mention of fishermen make your heart skip a little bit? In most places in the Bible, the mention of fishermen is a reference to Jesus’ Apostles, out to catch men for God. Jesus called them: “Come follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19; Mark 1:17). In other places, fishermen benefit from God’s rich blessings (Ezekiel 47:10).

Not this time. These fishermen and their hunting companions are fishing and hunting for the Jews. Fishermen did their work by throwing nets to catch as many as they could, hauling all of their catch into the boat. But a stubborn hearted Jew might think, Aha! Just as some fish escape the net, so I might escape the Lord’s judgment. So through the prophet the Lord said: No, after the fisherman’s net will come the hunter. If you escape one, the other will relentlessly track you down on every mountain (where you think you have “the temple, the temple, the magic temple,” Jeremiah 7:4), on every high hill (where they committed idolatry, Jeremiah 3:6) and in the crevices of the rocks (where they would run to hide as they did in the days when the Lord sent the Assyrians, Isaiah 7:19).

In verse 18, the Lord says: “But first I will pay them double for their guilt and their sin.” “First” (Hebrew rishon) is not an easy word to understand in this context. John Calvin misread the word entirely as rashuneh and thought it referred to all of the people’s former sin. Theologically that agrees with other passages of Scripture, but it isn’t the correct word here. Some modern translations don’t even include this term here. I agree with Dr. Laetsch of Concordia College in Australia, who said that this “first” is “forestalling any plea on the part of Jeremiah to spare the horrors of the ruin of the land to his people,” and also: “ The Lord states very emphatically that first, before there is any hope of the land’s being repopulated by the Jews, he will recompense them twofold… Now, in addition to the horrors of war, a second judgment would come, exile” (Bible Commentary: Jeremiah p. 159).

Jeremiah depicts idols as “the carcasses of their detestable idols.” It seemed to him that the idols everyone had were like unburied corpses lying around—the scene he recently described in 16:4. If corpses defile the land, why don’t false idols? Of course they do! They are an abomination to God, whether they’re little statues on a special shelf in the living room or little opinions that we haul out on special occasions when we don’t like the way God wants us to live.

There is love behind these frightening words. The Lord uses every possible means to turn people from their sins. He permits the terrorist on the one hand and the storm on the other hand to remind us that we live in an uncertain world, that we are not safe and secure, and that we need to be right with him first and foremost. Destruction is real. It comes without warning, and death comes to us all. Each of us must ask: Is my soul right with God? If my answer is only “I think so,” then I need to listen more carefully to what God’s word says about Christ: “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him (Christ) the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). The burden of our sin is lifted away by Jesus. Confess that sin, and know that Jesus has healed you. Put your trust in Jesus. He is the one, the only one, who saves. And his salvation is yours through faith.

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.