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God’s Word for You

Jeremiah 12:5,6

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Lord’s Reply
5 If you have raced men on foot and they have tired you out,
   how will you compete against horses?
If you fall in open country,
  how will you manage in the thickets of the Jordan?

God’s answer may not be what Jeremiah expected, but it is very similar to the answer God gave to Habakkuk when that prophet asked his similar question. Habakkuk’s question, “Why do you tolerate wrong?” (Habakkuk 1:3) was answered with: “I am raising up the Babylonians… (who) come bent on violence” (Habakkuk 1:6,9). Now Jeremiah is told: If you think your relatives are bad, just wait until you see what’s coming. The Babylonians are marching out of the north.

The common thread between the two halves of this passage is that Jeremiah had better run for it. This is no ordinary footrace: he’s about to be chased by horses. That’s really just a comparison for the different degrees of danger posed by the Babylonian army over his cousins from back home. But then he is also told: If you run away and then trip and fall when you’re stumbling away from your own relatives, what will it be like when you’re running with nowhere to hide and you try to get through the impossible tangle of thickets that covers the Jordan River?

The thickets of the Jordan are a theme that rises up a few times in Jeremiah (Jeremiah 49:19, 50:44). The river was not cleared for boat traffic; nor was it deep enough. The word Jordan means “ditch” in Hebrew, and it’s not at all surprising to hear that tangles of overgrown bushes were a familiar problem in Bible times.

6 Your relatives and the members of your father’s household
have betrayed you.
      They have raised a loud cry against you.
      Do not trust them when they speak friendly words to you.

Some early Christians saw a reference to the crucifixion in this and the following verses. In this case, the “loud cry” raised is seen as a reference to the shouts of “Crucify! Crucify!” at the trial of Jesus (John 19:6). Certainly the Lord is speaking about what was happening to Jeremiah, but how could we possibly deny that God might have been making a prophecy about the trial of his Son?

That trial and that outcry meant that the sacrifice of Jesus would take place. His sacrifice was “once for all…to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Hebrews 9:26). His blood cleared away the thickets of our guilt and sin, and washed us clean 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.