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God’s Word for You

Jeremiah 4:27-29

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, August 6, 2014

27 This is what the LORD says:
“The land will be laid waste,
   but I will not destroy it completely.
28 Because of this, the earth will mourn,
      and the sky above will grow dark.
I have spoken, I have planned,
  I will show no pity, and I will not turn back from this.

Notice the tiny kernel of gospel mixed in with the truckload of law here. The judgment of the previous verses (23-26) compared the present crisis with a reversal of creation, with mankind’s sins unmaking everything God had made for mankind’s benefit and pleasure. Some people might think that such language is just hyperbole, when things are said in an extreme way just to make a point. But now God isn’t painting with gigantic brushstrokes about the cosmos. He’s in your kitchen, pointing out the window at your yard and your fields, and he says: “The land will be laid waste.” In our culture, we might think, “Okay, I’ll move away and work until I can afford something else.” But that’s not the culture God was talking to. Their inheritance was there, in Judah; there, in Jerusalem. Joshua himself had cast lots for the twelve tribes when they entered the Promised Land (Joshua 18:6-21:45). The people were commanded not to desire any other property, but to be content with what they had (Exodus 20:17, the Ninth Commandment). Now, what the Lord had given, the Lord was going to take away, leaving them with nothing at all. “The earth will mourn,” he warns. “The sky above will grow dark.” And then, building four clauses that end with irrevocable finality, the Lord pounds this judgment home like a jailer locking up his prisoner in a cell with no windows.

“I have spoken” (his word stands forever, Isaiah 40:8).

“I have planned” (what the Lord does is not improvised, but is done carefully for the good of his people and for his glory at all times, Isaiah 14:24).

“I will show no pity” (because in his holiness, a sinner cannot approach him, Psalm 59:5, which is why we need a Savior to atone for our sins).

“And I will not turn back from this” (when the Lord begins a thing, he carries it through to its completion, Jeremiah 23:20, 30:24).

Yet there is that kernel of gospel hope. God was going to wipe out Judah and Jerusalem, and that certainly happened, but there was a tiny remnant that returned. The few who escaped the captivity were not the faithful ones. Jeremiah would make it clear with more than one oracle from the Lord that it would be through the Jews who went into exile and who would return after 70 years, that God would restore his people (Jeremiah 25:11-12, 29:10). But the promise of restoration through a handful was not necessarily welcome news to the rest of the multitude who were condemned. Jeremiah’s warning was an offer of rescue and forgiveness, but it was still a warning to those who refused to repent.

29 At the sound of riders and archers
      all the people of the city will flee.
They will go off into the bushes
  and climb up into the rocks.
Every city will be abandoned,
  and there will not be anyone to live in them.”

The caves around the Dead Sea were always a place of refuge. David hid there (Psalm 57, title), and the prophets pictured many people fleeing to the caves for refuge (Isaiah 2:19; Ezekiel 33:27; Revelation 6:15).

The coming judgment is a recurring theme throughout Jeremiah, not because the prophet loved to write about bloodshed and terror, but because he wanted everyone who heard his message to avoid the eternal terror of hell. It was his task to proclaim judgment

God’s word, whether law or gospel, is still his holy and perfect word. When he proclaims his law, it’s a blessing, because he wants us to stop sinning and turn back to him. He wants to offer us the blessing of the gospel, too—the blessing that heals our wounds and restores our place with him. Listen to every word he speaks, and know that he loves you. He wants you with him in heaven forever.

Something extra:

Some commentators over the centuries have debated whether the slender thread of the gospel in verse 27 should be there at all. They have attempted to say that “I will not destroy it completely” should be “I will, because of her, destroy it completely.” They are taking the negative Hebrew particle lo’ (לֹא) “not” and suggest that it might be lah (לָהּ) “because of her.” But there is no Hebrew manuscript that has this reading, and there is no translation into an ancient language that has it, either. When God offers the gospel, no man should ever try to suppress it.

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.