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God’s Word for You

Jeremiah 13:20-22

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, October 27, 2014

20 Look up and see
      those who are coming from the north.
Where is the flock entrusted to you,
  the sheep you were so proud of?

In the very first chapter, the Lord warned about an army coming out of the north to attack Judah in judgment. Now Jeremiah reminds the people that God’s judgment hasn’t changed. The Babylonians will come down and destroy what is left of the shrinking nation of Judah.

The Future of Jerusalem
21 What will you say when friends you yourself have taught
      are set over you as masters?
Won’t pain seize you
  like a woman in labor?
22 If you ask yourself,
      “Why has this happened to me?”
it is because of your great guilt
  that your clothes have been torn off
  and you have been violated.

Verse 22 is challenging for the translator. He must consider: Should an indelicate matter spoken by the prophet be translated exactly as he states it, or could it be put more delicately? For example, in this verse, God’s people are depicted as a woman being raped. In the fourth and fifth lines, the Hebrew says more literally “your skirts have been pulled up, and you have been raped.” But because this passage has been handled more conservatively in the long tradition of translation (the King James Version is so delicate here that those translators, living in a day when the sight of a woman’s ankles would be scandalous, said “thy heels (are) made bare”), I have presented it much the way that others have: “your clothes have been torn off and you have been violated.”

The image of God’s people as a woman either loved by God her husband or violated by others is one that runs throughout most of the prophets and the poetic parts of the Old Testament. Ezekiel can be quite blunt and graphic (Ezekiel 23:1-35) and the Song of Solomon can be quite stirring and romantic: “You have stolen my heart, my sister, my bride; you have stolen my heart with one glance of your eyes, with one jewel of your necklace” (Song 4:9). Jeremiah falls closer to Ezekiel’s rough analogy: Judah was like a girl flirting with the wrong man. He turned out to be a rogue, and now Judah has been raped and ravaged and left for dead. She is altogether devastated.

Like a raped girl, the nation should be asking the question: Who can I turn to now? Who will love me? Who will protect me? Who will heal the wound in my heart and the shame in my breast? Judah needs to turn back to the Lord, to the one who will love her unconditionally. She needs to repent of her sin like a ravaged girl who understands now why it’s good to be faithful to her young husband and not wander around after whatever boy catches her eye. Judah needs to return and be faithful to her Savior.

We read this, removed from the scene by 2,500 years. But we also know that but for the grace of God this would be us. So we turn to our Lord in repentance and thank him that our time of grace is still ticking. Through Jesus, we have forgiveness and a place with our Father in heaven 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.

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