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God’s Word for You

Jeremiah 13:24-27

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, October 29, 2014

24 I will scatter you like chaff
      blown by the desert wind.
25 This is your lot,
      this is what I have planned for you, declares the LORD.
This is because you have forgotten me
  and trusted in falsehood.

The Bible has a lot of references to chaff—18 in all, from five different words in the Bible’s three languages. Isaiah likes to call it mots, “dust in the wind” (Isaiah 17:13, 29:5, 41:15), but he also says hashash, “husks” (Isaiah 33:11). Daniel’s Aramaic term is ‘ur, which is their word for chaff (Daniel 2:35), and the Greek (from the New Testament) is always achyron (ἄχυρον, Matthew 3:12; Luke 3:17). Here Jeremiah uses the Hebrew word cash, “stubble” (Job 13:25; Psalm 83:13).

An Old Testament Jew thought of his place in God’s kingdom in terms of the Promised Land. That’s not God’s only description, but it’s what most of the people in the Old Testament who speak or write seem to be thinking about. So imagine this: What, O Farmer, do you do with the husks and hulls of the wheat God gives you? You don’t look at that chaff as a blessing. You toss it into the air when you thresh your grain and you don’t shed a single tear for those hulls as they are blown away as dust in the wind. Do you want that chaff to be part of your land? No—you toss it away or you burn it up. That’s what God will do with you, O Unbelieving Farmer. The picture of chaff blowing away is a brilliant illustration used by the prophets and by John the Baptist as a way of describing the coming judgment. John said: “After me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry…He will clear his threshing floor, gathering wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Matthew 3:11,12).

26 I will tear off your clothes
      so that your shame can be seen—
27 your adulteries and your lustful neighing,
      your shameless prostitution
I have seen your detestable acts
     on the hills and in the fields.
Woe to you, Jerusalem!
  You are unclean.
  After this, will you ever be clean again?

The Lord turns now from the judgment to the accusation. Yet again God compares idolatry with the sin of adultery. The Lord allows several different illustrations to be mixed together for a better—and more bitter—impact. “Your adulteries” (verse 27) is, specifically, a married man lusting for another man’s wife. “Your lustful neighing” is a stallion’s whinny as he sniffs for a mare in heat. “You shameless prostitution” is a woman trying to lure men—unmarried or married—into bed with her for a profit. “Your detestable acts on the hills and in the fields” are the sexual acts carried out by the superstitious people of Judah as they tried to coax the Canaanites gods into providing a better rainfall, a bigger harvest, or a more productive cow. “After this,” the Lord asks, “will you ever be clean again”?

The answer is, not if they keep pushing God away. To look to Baal is to look away from Christ. But Christ cleans everything. Jesus said, “You are clean” (John 13:10). That’s what we have through faith in Jesus. Our sins—however detestable they are—are cleaned, removed, paid for and disposed of, all by the blood of Jesus on the cross.

How can we ever get tired of hearing that message? It’s one of the things that makes reading prophets like Jeremiah such a joy. The message comes jumping out at us all over the place. Our sins make God pronounce: “You are unclean” (verse 27). But along comes Jesus with the cure of the cross, saying, “You are clean!” And more than that, the Holy Spirit adds: “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean” (Acts 10:15). Remember that about your sinful brothers and sisters as they repent and ask you for forgiveness, too. They are clean in Christ. Do not call them impure or unclean. Not after what Jesus has done for them—and for you, too.

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.