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God’s Word for You

Jeremiah 12:7-13

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, October 16, 2014

7 I have abandoned my house.
     I have forsaken my heritage.
I have given the people I love
  into the hands of her enemies.
8 My heritage has become like a lion in the forest to me.
     She roars at me, so I hate her.

God’s house and heritage are the same: the people of Israel. If we might read this passage by itself out of context we might think that God was unfeeling and wicked for abandoning his people—people he had once cared for so deeply. But we know that these people he once led out of Egypt “by the hand” (Hebrews 8:9) are the people who turned to idols again and again. They let themselves be led astray by Solomon’s idolatry (1 Kings 11:4,5), by the calf-worship of Jeroboam I (1 Kings 12:28,29), and the idolatry of Baasha (1 Kings 15:34), of Zimri (1 Kings 16:18,19), Omri (1 Kings 16:25,26), Ahaziah (1 Kings 22:51,52) and others, until the Lord turned away from his idolatrous and unloving bride. He gave the north up to the Assyrians, and he was about to give up the southern kingdom to Babylon.

Early Christians saw this passage as a reference to the crucifixion of Jesus, perhaps because of the Hebrew text of Psalm 22, which is clearly a prophecy about the crucifixion. Psalm 22:18 says: “They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.” Those words were fulfilled in Matthew 27:35, “When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots” In Psalm 22:16, David also prophesies: “Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet.” This is also a picture of Jesus being nailed to the cross by his enemies, but most Hebrew manuscripts do not seem to say “they have pierced.” Instead, they say “a band of evil men has encircled me like the lion, (Oh) my hands and my feet.” The reason most of our translations have “they have pierced” is because almost all ancient translations, including the Greek (which was made two hundred years before Jesus was crucified) have “they have pierced my hands and feet” (Greek oryxan cheiras mou kai podas, ὤρυξαν  χεῖράς  μου  καὶ  πόδας).Our Savior’s wounds in his hands and feet remained in his flesh even after his resurrection as a testimony to his identity (John 20:27). They are trophies of his victory over Satan, and although we will have no such marks or defects in our bodies when we rise from the dead, Jesus’ marks remain as a testimony of the gospel.

9 My heritage has become for me like a shrieking hyena
      surrounded by birds of prey
Go and gather all the wild animals.
  Bring them to devour her.
10 Many shepherds have destroyed my vineyard
      and trampled down my field.
They will turn my pleasant field
  into a desolate wasteland.

The hyena in this passage is a scavenger, a menace, and a thief (compare Jeremiah 7:11), but especially in this case a wounded animal surrounded by vultures waiting for it to die. Other animals are moving in to tear away chunks of the carcass. In the last years before the Babylonian captivity, some of the neighboring countries tore into Judah to plunder it, including “Aramean, Moabite and Ammonite raiders” (2 Kings 24:2). Their kings and generals would be the “many shepherds” destroying God’s vineyard, but so would the false prophets, priests and kings who caused unbelief to spread like an infection throughout the land.

11 They have made it a wasteland,
     It mourns. It is desolate before me.
The whole land is laid waste
  because there is no one who cares.
12 Looters swarm over all the barren heights
      in the wilderness.
The LORD has a sword that devours
  from one end of the land to the other.
  No one will be safe.
13 They plant wheat, but they reap thorns.
      They wear themselves out, but they gain nothing.
Be ashamed of your harvests,
  because of the burning anger of the LORD.

The ravaging invasions of Judah’s enemies were a judgment allowed by God to show his sinning people that what they were doing was unacceptable. Their pitiful harvests should have been seen as God’s judgment; something to bring shame. These were the weapons of the Lord: enemy nations, marauding bands, bad harvests, and even thorns. Each one was coming out of his divine arsenal and his burning anger.

This was meant to turn them away from their sin and to return to God; even to anticipate and look forward to the coming of Christ. But so few did this that the land was laid waste and the nation went into captivity.

Do not let your love for Christ grow cold. His love means our deliverance from sin, from death, and from eternal punishment in hell. All of this is tossed aside by the victory of the cross, and so we trust in Jesus. He embraces us with his love and compassion every time we return to worship, every time we receive the sacrament, and every time we ponder his Holy Word. 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.