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God’s Word for You

Jeremiah 15:1-4

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, November 6, 2014

15 The LORD said to me: Even if Moses and Samuel were standing in front of me, my heart would not go out to this people. Send them away from me. Let them go!

Both Moses and Samuel had pleaded for the Lord to spare Israel when he threatened to destroy the nation. Moses prayed during the golden calf incident (Exodus 32:11-14) and again when the Israelites considered voting for a new leader to take them back to Egypt (Numbers 14:13-19). Later, after Israel lost the Ark of the Covenant to the Philistines and only got it back through a miracle from the Lord, Samuel prayed that God would spare them (1 Samuel 7:8-9). Samuel intervened once again when the people sinned by rejecting his leadership. They begged for a king to rule over them, and the Lord answered his prayer to spare them (but he gave them wicked King Saul as well, 1 Samuel 12:19-25).

Now God tells Jeremiah not to pray for the people (a fourth time) by saying that even if Moses or Samuel were to pray, he would not turn away. Israel’s sin at this time was worse than their rebellions against Moses and Samuel, worse even than Aaron’s Golden Calf. This time, they would be driven out of the Promised Land.

God’s word, “Send them away…let them go” are some of the same words he used when he commanded Pharaoh to let Israel leave Egypt (Exodus 5:1, 10:3), but now he was driving Israel into captivity, not out of it.

2 When they ask you, “Where should we go?” tell them this is what the LORD says:

“Those destined for death, to death.
   Those destined for the sword, to the sword.
   Those destined for famine, to famine.
   Those destined for captivity, to captivity.”

Earlier, the Lord hinted about the captivity when he said, “the LORD’s flock will be taken captive” (Jeremiah 13:17). Now he brings the idea of a captivity and exile into his overall judgment on Judah. Notice that death, sword and (death by) famine all amount to death, and only the captivity is an alternative. The Lord is already hinting that the captivity in Babylon is the only possible road to survival for Judah. This will be made more clear in later passages.

3 I will punish them in four ways, declares the LORD. The sword to kill and dogs to drag away. The birds of the sky and the beasts of the field to devour and to destroy. 4 I will make them an object of horror to all the kingdoms of the earth because of what Manasseh son of Hezekiah king of Judah did in Jerusalem.

Returning to the punishment on everyone who does not go into exile, the Lord describes with graphic detail what will happen in the future. Animals will dispose of the bodies of the dead—we should remember how shameful this would have been to the Israelites; every bit as shameful as we would feel about it today.

The specific reason for all of this is now laid at the feet of one of Israel’s kings, Manasseh. His reign, including time spent on the throne (a co-regency) with his father Hezekiah, lasted an incredible 55 years—longer than any other king of Israel, Judah or the unified kingdom. Manasseh undid every single one of King Hezekiah’s reforms. The list of his idolatries is so long that it takes eight verses to describe in 2 Kings 21:

  • He followed the idolatry of the surrounding nations (2 Kings 21:2).
  • He rebuilt all of the high places (2 Kings 21:3).
  • He erected altars to Baal (2 Kings 21:3).
  • He set up an Asherah pole (2 Kings 21:3).
  • He worshiped “the starry host” (2 Kings 21:3b).
  • He built pagan altars in the Lord’s temple (2 Kings 21:4).
  • He set up altars to the starry host in the temple courts (2 Kings 21:5).
  • He was a sorcerer (2 Kings 21:6).
  • He practiced divination (2 Kings 21:6).
  • He practiced witchcraft (2 Chronicles 33:6).
  • He sacrificed his own sons (2 Kings 21:6).
  • He consulted mediums and spiritists (2 Kings 21:6).
  • He brought an Asherah pole into the Lord’s temple (2 Kings 21:7-8).
  • He led the people of Israel (Judah) astray into sin (2 Kings 21:9-15).
  • He “shed much innocent blood” (2 Kings 21:16).

It is likely that Manasseh is responsible for other atrocities, in particular, the murder of the prophet Isaiah. As one of the particular sins leading to the exile, Nehemiah said: “They killed your prophets” (Nehemiah 9:26), and perhaps the writer to the Hebrews has this in mind when he says: “They were stoned, they were sawed in two; they were put to the death by the sword” (Hebrews 11:37).

The sins of a leader can easily lead a nation into sin. But that doesn’t mean that each of us should not look to our own private relationship with God. We recognize our sins, confess them, and turn to Jesus Christ for forgiveness. His blood washes over us and cleans us through and through. Even Manasseh’s sins were forgiven—he repented, and the Lord listened to his plea (2 Chronicles 33:13). There is no sin that we repent of that cannot be forgiven by the blood of Jesus Christ. In him we have eternal life. 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.