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God’s Word for You

Jeremiah 5:12-19

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, August 12, 2014

12 They have lied about the LORD.
      They say, “He doesn’t exist!
No disaster will happen to us,
  we will not see sword or famine.
13 The prophets are only wind;
      the word is not in them,
      so let what they say happen to them.”

The opinion quoted here was meant to be an attack on the prophets and on Jeremiah in particular, but it wasn’t. It was an attack on God himself. Since the Hebrew word for “wind” (ruach) is the same word used for spirit (“into your hands I commit my spirit,” Psalm 31:5), or even the Holy Spirit (Genesis 1:2; Numbers 27:18), what prophet wouldn’t be happy to be accused of being “only ruach”? The attackers didn’t know what they were saying; but God understood what they meant. That’s why he condemned them. They were, in their way, postmodern in their thinking. They were men and women who rejected truth.

There are some educators who think that postmodernism began in the 1870s as a reaction to (and against) the Impressionist painters. A generation later, during World War I, postmodernism expanded into a criticism of religion and certain kinds of music. Postmodernism questioned whether any truth exists at all except as a subjective feeling held by an individual: “What’s true for me now, is true for me now.” Philosopher Daniel Dennett recently said that postmodernism had “largely played itself out in absurdity, but it has left behind a generation of academics in the humanities disabled by their distrust of the very idea of truth and their disrespect for evidence, settling for ‘conversation’ in which nobody is wrong and nothing can be confirmed.”

Postmodernism continues in our culture today among people who graduated from college between about 1980 and 2010. In other words, a great many adults currently in the workforce have, whether they are aware of it or not, a postmodern perspective. It is difficult to proclaim the gospel to people who don’t think anything is true—from the Bible to today’s news to their own memories. They sound a lot like the people in verse 12, who say, “(God) doesn’t exist!” They don’t think anything bad will happen to them after death because they don’t think anything happens after death at all.

14 Therefore this is what the LORD, the God of Armies, says:
“Because they have said this,
   I will make my words in your mouth a fire
   and this people the wood it consumes.
15 I am bringing a distant nation against you, house of Israel,
      declares the LORD,
an enduring and ancient nation,
  a people whose language you do not know,
  nor can you understand what they say.
16 Their quiver is like an open grave;
      they are all mighty warriors.
17 They will consume your harvest and your bread,
      they will consume your sons and daughters,
they will consume your flocks and herds,
  they will consume your vines and fig trees.
they will beat down your fortified cities,
  the places you trust, with the sword.”

“We will not see sword or famine,” the people had said. This was a quote of one of Jeremiah’s two favorite warnings (the other one is coming up in chapter 6). It was usually that “sword, famine and plague” were coming, and Jeremiah uses forms of this warning more than two dozen times in the book (and once in Lamentations 4:5). It is a quotation of a warning by God through Moses, who said, “I will bring the sword upon you to avenge the breaking of the covenant. When you withdraw into your cities, I will send a plague among you, and you will be given into enemy hands…I will cut off your supply of bread” (Leviticus 26:25-26). Now the fulfillment of that warning was coming, and Jeremiah delivered God’s warning in all its truth and terror.

He says, “Their quiver is like an open grave,” which is a strange word picture. The idea seems to be that the quiver, the container for holding arrows and the representation of their dependence on military strength, is nothing but an open grave, and that going to war to resist the coming invasion will do nothing at all except fill graves. Sometimes a battle is necessary and brings an end to a conflict, but in this case, that would not and could not happen.

18 Yet even in those days, declares the LORD, I will not destroy you completely. 19 When the people ask, “Why has the LORD our God done this to us?” answer them, “As you have forsaken me and served foreign gods in your own land, so now you will serve foreigners in a land that is not your own.”

Once again Jeremiah expresses the promise of a remnant being saved, and once again this promise is contained inside a warning and a call to repentance. Those who will serve foreigners in a foreign land—the exiles who would be taken away to Babylon—will be preserved, so that Christ would still come from this nation, the nation that had rejected their God.

Through Christ there is be peace and forgiveness for anyone who puts their trust in him. Too many do not. Too many despair. Too many are arrogant, or stubborn, or bow unquestioningly to other gods or human opinions. But the promise of salvation is still there. The question is: How long will the promise be held out to you? How long will the offer of forgiveness be there? The question can only be answered one way: Put your faith in Jesus Christ, whose forgiveness is full, free and forever. Turn away from whatever false gods beckon to you, anything at all that you might be tempted to turn to in place of Christ. He is your protection, your comfort and your strength.

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.