Wisconsin Lutheran Chapel logo

God’s Word for You

Jeremiah 14:10-16

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, November 3, 2014

10 This is what the LORD says about this people:

This the Lord’s response to Jeremiah’s prayer (Jeremiah 14:1-9). That prayer was specifically about a drought that was going on, but the prophet also acknowledged the sins of the people and asked God to forgive them “for the sake of your name” (verse 7). In some laments in the Bible, especially in the Psalms, there is a liturgical pattern where the people confess their sins and ask God for his help, and then the Lord’s response is given (probably by a priest or a chanting Levite) to which the people respond. You can see this clearly in a place like Psalm 60, where David has the people confess (Psalm 60:1-5), God responds (Psalm 60:6-8) and then the people praise him (Psalm 60:9-12). Here, however, the prophet’s prayer is not answered in the way the people hoped. God’s answer is exactly what the prophet has been warning about all along:

They love to wander!
  They never restrain their feet.
So the LORD does not accept them.
  He will remember their guilt now
  and punish their sins.

The judgment of God was what Jeremiah had been anticipating (Jeremiah 4:13, 4:26, 5:6). God would not forget about their guilt. He would not accept them. Their guilt was going to be punished. What was still uncertain was what that punishment was going to look like. And feel like.

11 The LORD said to me, “Do not pray for the good of these people. 12 Even if they fast, I will not listen to their cries for help. Even if they sacrifice burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Instead, I will finish them off with sword, famine and plague.”

For the third time, God tells the prophet not to pray for his people (Jeremiah 7:16, 11:14, 14:11). The Lord had set his mind on a judgment for Judah, but it is for their eternal good. The punishment that was coming out of the north would cause the people to return to the Lord in prayer and devotion.

Yet for many of the people, death would be part of this punishment. We can’t always understand why God allows one person to die while he allows others to keep living. But sometimes—sometimes—we might consider: Did the Lord chose to call a person home to heaven while they were still in a state of grace? God knows the troubles that are coming, and there are times where it seems as if he permits death to bring someone home to heaven, and to keep that person from worse troubles to come.

13 Then I said, “Ah, LORD God, the prophets keep telling them, ‘You will not see sword or famine. I will give you lasting peace in this place.’”

Jeremiah’s prayer to the Lord obeys God’s command not to pray for the people. In fact, the prophet only points out that there are false prophets who have been contradicting God altogether.

14 Then the LORD said to me, “Those prophets prophesy lies in my name. I did not send them, I did not command them, and I did not speak to them. They are prophesying a false vision to you, a worthless divination—something from their own imagination. 15 Therefore this is what the LORD says about the prophets who prophesy lies in my name. I did not send them. They say that there will be no sword or famine in this land, but by sword and famine those prophets will die. 16 The people they are prophesying to will be thrown out into the streets of Jerusalem because of famine and the sword. No one will bury them—they, their wives, their sons, and their daughters. I will pour out on them the destruction that they deserve.”

“Sword, famine and plague.” God uses Jeremiah’s triple threat to show exactly how he will deal with false prophets. The Apostle John used the same terms to describe the Final Judgment: “There before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth” (Revelation 6:8). Here it is not Judgment Day at the end of the world, but the judgment coming to the false prophets that is being described. The very thing that they said would not come, was coming—for them. The Lord includes their families as he almost always does in such judgments (Numbers 16:27; Daniel 6:24). The reason for that is to utterly end a rebellion, with no one growing up to avenge or continue the rebellion. We might think that such a thing is merciless, but God punishes sin with justice, not ruthlessness. The miracle is that with complete injustice God spares some. We are the ones God has spared. We, our ancestors, and our children have all sinned against the Lord’s commands, and yet he rescued us and atoned for our sins with the blood of Jesus on the cross. That sacrifice brought us into God’s family through his inexpressible grace. That’s why we want to serve him with our lives, and to make our lives (as Luther said in the first of his 95 Theses) lives of repentance.

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.