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God’s Word for You

Jeremiah 5:20-25

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, August 13, 2014

20 Declare this to the house of Jacob.
      Proclaim it in Judah:
21 Hear this, you foolish, senseless people!
      You have eyes but cannot see.
      You have ears but cannot hear.

This accusation, “eyes but cannot see… ears but cannot hear,” is used by all three of the great Old Testament prophets (cp. Isaiah 6:10; Ezekiel 12:2) and by Jesus (Matthew 13:15-16; Mark 8:18). Paul picked it up as well (Acts 28:27; Romans 11:8). All of these statements recall a passage from Moses, who said: “To this day the Lord has not given you a mind that understands or eyes that see or ears that hear” (Deuteronomy 29:4). Moses was cautioning people to rely on God and on the proof of God’s miracles in their presence, as Jesus said: “At least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves” (John 14:11).

The good and amazing things God had done for his people should have turned them to him with an unshaking faith. Every generation since Moses’ day had seen God’s wonders performed on their behalf, from Joshua’s great victories to those of the Judges, the prophetic wonders of Samuel, the spectacular success of David, to the more recent miracles of Elijah, Elisha and the other prophets like Isaiah (the sun going back ten steps, Isaiah 38:8) and Jonah.

22 Do you not fear me? declares the LORD,
      Do you not tremble before me?
I made sand the boundary for the sea;
  an enduring barrier that it cannot cross.
The waves toss back and forth,
  but they cannot prevail.
The heaping waves crash,
  but they cannot pass by.

The people of Canaan did not have navies. The Hittites feared the sea, as did the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, and even the Assyrians. One group, the Phoenicians, embraced life and war on the sea, and moved from northwest Canaan to the distant shores of northern Africa at Carthage. The Israelites made one or two attempts at a navy. Solomon had a fleet of trading ships manned by Phoenicians (1 Kings 9:27), but when his descendant Jehoshaphat tried to establish another fleet, it was wrecked in a storm (1 Kings 22:48).

None of the false gods of Canaan had anything to do with taming the sea. There were legends of sea monsters, but nothing like what the Lord says here. He made the terrifying sea; he is the one who tamed what no one could tame. He set the boundary for the sea, and although there might be storms and floods and surges from time to time, the sea keeps its place. “The heaping waves crash, but they cannot pass by.” God told the sea: “This far you may come and no farther. Here is where your proud waves halt” (Job 38:11).

If Judah was looking for a miracle and wondering whether God had any power, they only had to look at the sea and the shore, and know that God was and is always there.

23 But this people has a stubborn and rebellious heart;
      they have turned aside and wandered away.
24 They do not say to themselves,
      “We should fear the LORD our God,
who sends autumn rains and spring rains at the right time,
  who reserves for us enough weeks for the harvest.”

There were miracles in everyday life, too. Agriculture in Palestine depends on a delicate balance of just enough rain at the right times of the year. Rains soften up the hard soil so that it can be planted, and heavier rains later on provide a burst of energy for crops to shoot up and ripen in the hot sun. There is just enough time to get the crops in. This is also a gift from God—a miracle that occurs year after year. But the people ignored it.

25 The guilty things you do have kept these things at a distance.
      Your sins have kept good things away from you.

This is one of the most excellent descriptions of the destruction of sin in the Bible. “Guilty things you do” are avon, sinning by wandering away from God’s way. “Sin” in the second part of the verse is chatath, which means to miss the mark, to try and fail. The open rebellion of the people and their failures had all kept them at a distance from God and had kept his good things away.

David said, “Blessed are those you choose and bring near to live in your courts! We are filled with the good things of your house, of your holy temple” (Psalm 65:4). Being blessed by God, being brought from a distance right to his table, is a matter of having faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus “came as high priest of the good things,” and he “obtained eternal redemption” for us through his own blood (Hebrews 9:11-12). All our sins, all our failures, are paid for in his blood. Don’t turn away from him. Receive the forgiveness he offers, and ask his help in the way you live.

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.