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God’s Word for You

Jeremiah 4:30,31

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, August 8, 2014

30 You are destroyed!
      What will you do?
Why do you dress in red
  and put on gold jewelry?
Why do you put makeup on your eyes?
  You are making yourself look beautiful for nothing.
Your lovers reject you.
  They seek your life.

Jeremiah has been preaching judgment, and here he has to point out the foolishness of Judah. The nation has become like a prostitute getting herself all made up to attract men. She’s got her red dress on, and her gold jewels (my wife tells me that red and gold go well together, but I have no fashion sense at all). Judah the prostitute also paints her eyes. In Hebrew, this action is literally “tearing up antimony onto her eyes.” Antimony, a black mineral powder, was commonly used as a black eye-makeup in Egypt and Palestine. The act of tearing it might have meant ripping a thin residue left over from a chemical process to separate out the metal (antimony doesn’t occur in a pure form in nature).

After all of this, the men who the prostitute-Judah has hoped to attract are only out for her blood. “They seek your life.” It wasn’t about joining with a foreign power at all, whatever their hopes were. Judah was going to be conquered.

31 I heard a cry of a woman in labor,
      the distress of a woman giving birth to her first child—
the cry of the daughter of Zion gasping for breath,
  stretching out her hands, saying,
‘Oh, please! I am fainting!
   My life slips away before murderers.’

Here is another picture of a woman before oncoming invaders. This time she is the distress of childbirth. Since it is her first child, she doesn’t know what to expect and she is afraid—but there is the added terror of the besieging army.

Perhaps there is something of cause and effect in these two verses. First, Judah is like a prostitute attracting a man, not realizing that the lover she hopes for will not care about her at all; and will eventually want her dead. Then, in verse 31, the prostitute Judah is giving birth to the baby that came as a result of her prostitution, but now she finally understands that her lover—or lovers—are murderers. Judah is paying the price for running after false gods and other nations for protection instead of being faithful to the true God.

There is still a note of God’s affection even in this desperate and tragic scene. Judah is called “the daughter of Zion” or “Daughter Zion” as some translations say. This is a term of affection from God to his people, loving the nation like his own daughter. Although this is a term used in David’s time and by David himself (Psalm 9:14), almost 40% of the Bible’s occurrences of “daughter of Zion” are found in Jeremiah or Lamentations. Many of the “Daughter of Zion” passages are warnings, or descriptions of Jerusalem in trouble (Isaiah 1:8; Lamentations 1:6 and Micah 4:10, to name a few), but some are promises of rescue. The best example of this is Zechariah 9:9, when the Daughter of Zion sees her Savior King, “gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

Our rescue is in Jesus Christ, and in him alone. The image of a handsome knight riding to save a damsel in distress from a wicked captor is a cliché as old as the King Arthur legends, but that’s not the image we have of our Lord. He came riding, but not on a tall horse. He rode humbly on the foal of a donkey, to take the punishment that was our judgment, and take it all on himself. He suffered and died so that we might live.

Isaiah prophesied: “O captive Daughter of Zion…You were sold for nothing, and without money you will be redeemed” (Isaiah 52:2,3). Our Savior bought us with his own blood, more precious than any money and more valuable than the rarest of things.

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.