A. A model of repentance never fulfilled.
1. (1-6) The droughts upon Judah.
The word of the LORD that came to Jeremiah concerning the droughts.
And her gates languish;
They mourn for the land,
And the cry of Jerusalem has gone up.
Their nobles have sent their lads for water;
They went to the cisterns and found no water.
They returned with their vessels empty;
They were ashamed and confounded
And covered their heads.
Because the ground is parched,
For there was no rain in the land,
The plowmen were ashamed;
They covered their heads.
Yes, the deer also gave birth in the field,
But left because there was no grass.
And the wild donkeys stood in the desolate heights;
They sniffed at the wind like jackals;
Their eyes failed because there was no grass.”
a. The word of the LORD that came to Jeremiah concerning the droughts: Apparently this section of Jeremiah’s prophecy came during a season when Judah was afflicted by droughts. Sustained or multiple droughts were always a life-or-death issue in ancient societies where most made their living farming.
i. Drought was also a special issue for ancient Israel and Judah, because the often-worshipped Canaanite idol Baal was thought to be the god of weather and rain. Many ancient Israelites were drawn to Baal worship because they wanted rain.
ii. “Drought had been threatened for disobedience (Deuteronomy 28:23-24) and was part of the covenant curses. The Lord’s purpose in sending the drought was to bring the nation to repentance.” (Feinberg)
iii. “The word drought is plural here, indicating a series of such disasters, each one leaving the survivors less able to face the next.” (Kidner)
b. Their nobles have sent their lads for water, they went to the cisterns and found no water: With both prophecy and poetry, Jeremiah described the great calamity of successive droughts in Judah. The people were brought low because of the lack of life-giving water (they were ashamed and confounded).
i. “On the back of that confusion came despair; ‘they covered their heads.’ The Orientals cover their heads when in the deepest grief, as David did, when he went over the brook Kedron. It means, ‘I cannot face it. Do not look on me in my sorrow, nor expect me to look on you. I cover my head, for it is all over with me.’” (Spurgeon)
c. The deer also gave birth in the field, but left because there was no grass: When God brought discipline or judgment to Judah through drought, it also affected animals and nature around them. Their sincere and sustained repentance would not only benefit themselves, but also the natural world.
i. “Jeremiah’s acquaintance with country-life is shown in the aptness of his illustrations: the hind [deer] is a creature renowned for the care of her young; the wild asses [donkeys] are amongst the hardiest of animals, well able to endure drought.” (Cundall)
2. (7-9) A model of godly repentance in the time of drought.
O LORD, though our iniquities testify against us,
Do it for Your name’s sake;
For our backslidings are many,
We have sinned against You.
O the Hope of Israel, his Savior in time of trouble,
Why should You be like a stranger in the land,
And like a traveler who turns aside to tarry for a night?
Why should You be like a man astonished,
Like a mighty one who cannot save?
Yet You, O LORD, are in our midst,
And we are called by Your name;
Do not leave us!
a. O LORD, though our iniquities testify against us, do it for Your name’s sake: Using his prophetic imagination, Jeremiah thought of what true repentance would look like from Judah in response to the droughts. It began with an utter confession of guilt and an appeal to pure mercy, not what they deserved.
b. O the Hope of Israel, his Savior in time of trouble, why should You be like a stranger in the land: Having come to God with humility and repentance, now the appeal sought to remind God that He was Israel’s Hope and Savior, and asked Him not to be a stranger to them in their great need.
c. Why should You be like a man astonished, like a mighty one who cannot save: With great confidence in God’s power and ability to save, Jeremiah imagined the repentant one appealing to God’s honor in the rescue of His people – that God would show Himself as one who can save.
d. Yet You, O LORD, are in our midst, and we are called by Your name; do not leave us! The repentant one reminded God that He was near to Israel, and that they did belong to Him. He called upon God to act upon that nearness and identification.
i. “If only the nation had taken up this cry from the heart, and made it its own, then God could have shown forgiveness.” (Cundall)
3. (10) God’s response to the actual, shallow response of His people.
Thus says the LORD to this people:
“Thus they have loved to wander;
They have not restrained their feet.
Therefore the LORD does not accept them;
He will remember their iniquity now,
And punish their sins.”
a. Thus they have loved to wander; they have not restrained their feet: God responded to the imagined repentant one – they were just in the imagination. The Judah that actually existed loved to wander and did not hold themselves back from sin.
i. Repentance, confession, humility before God that is only in the mind (or heart) but not in genuine action to Him is of no effect. It must go beyond a feeling. The repentance described in Jeremiah 14:7-9 was wonderful, but not real.
b. Therefore the LORD does not accept them: Because the repentant one was only imagined, God would not accept an unfaithful people. He would remember and punish their sins.
B. Exposing the false prophets.
1. (11-12) The futility of the certainty of God’s judgment.
Then the LORD said to me, “Do not pray for this people, for their good. When they fast, I will not hear their cry; and when they offer burnt offering and grain offering, I will not accept them. But I will consume them by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence.”
a. Do not pray for this people: God gave a similar command to Jeremiah at Jeremiah 7:16-19. The people of Judah were at this point so hardened that they were past prayer; their course was set. God simply told Jeremiah, When they fast, I will not hear their cry.
i. It is significant that God had to tell Jeremiah not to pray; the assumption is that he would pray and that God had to tell him not to. There is something along these lines in the New Testament, at 1 John 5:14-16, where John explained that there are some people – at least in theory – who are beyond prayer, and therefore prayer should not be made for them.
ii. “O, how dreadful is the state of that people in reference to whom the Lord says to his ministers, Pray not for them; or, what amounts nearly to a prohibition, withholds from his ministers the spirit of prayer and intercession in behalf of the people!” (Clarke)
b. I will consume them by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence: The promised judgment would come. The insincere repentance offered would never be enough.
i. “The three items sword, famine, and pestilence were the regular accompaniment of war and are referred to several times in the OT.” (Thompson)
2. (13) Jeremiah reports the words of the false prophets.
Then I said, “Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, the prophets say to them, ‘You shall not see the sword, nor shall you have famine, but I will give you assured peace in this place.’”
a. Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, the prophets say to them: Jeremiah had a message in the name of the LORD to deliver to the people of Judah. Yet Jeremiah was not the only one who claimed to bring such a word. Others also claimed to be prophets.
b. You shall not see the sword, nor shall you have famine, but I will give you assured peace in this place: The message of the other prophets was that there would be deliverance from sword and famine. God would rescue. This was a hopeful, positive message that contrasted with what God gave to Jeremiah.
i. Jeremiah probably hoped to explain or excuse the lack of repentance among the people and leaders of Judah. They didn’t truly repent because other prophets told them everything would be fine.
ii. “The prophet urged excuses for the people, and cried for mercy upon them, and that persistently. Again and again Jehovah replied, showing His servant the uselessness of all such praying.” (Morgan)
3. (14-15) God’s assessment of these false prophets.
And the LORD said to me, “The prophets prophesy lies in My name. I have not sent them, commanded them, nor spoken to them; they prophesy to you a false vision, divination, a worthless thing, and the deceit of their heart. Therefore thus says the LORD concerning the prophets who prophesy in My name, whom I did not send, and who say, ‘Sword and famine shall not be in this land’—‘By sword and famine those prophets shall be consumed!’”
a. The prophets prophesy lies in My name: This was a direct and strong judgment. These pretended prophets did not truly speak in the name of the LORD; they prophesied lies.
b. I have not sent them, commanded them, nor spoken to them; they prophesy a false vision: God claimed no responsibility for the words of those supposed prophets. The source of their words was the deceit of their heart. Their false prophecies came from themselves, not from the LORD.
c. By sword and famine those prophets shall be consumed: The false prophets who spoke words of peace and safety when it was a time to repent and prepare for judgment would themselves be special targets of the sword and famine to come.
i. “The people should have known that the Lord punishes sin, and they should not have believed the false prophets. The judgment of the nation is spoken of here because the people were willing to be deceived.” (Feinberg)
4. (16) God’s judgment on those who remain under the words of the false prophets.
“And the people to whom they prophesy shall be cast out in the streets of Jerusalem because of the famine and the sword; they will have no one to bury them—them nor their wives, their sons nor their daughters—for I will pour their wickedness on them.”
a. And the people to whom they prophesy: God did not consider those who received the words of the false prophets as without guilt. They were responsible for rejecting the words of the true prophets (Jeremiah and others like him) and for receiving the smooth but false words of the false prophets.
b. Shall be cast out into the streets because of the famine and the sword: Hearing and believing the words of the false prophets did not make it true. They would suffer under the same judgment the false prophets said would never come.
c. They will have no one to bury them: This was regarded as a special disgrace, magnifying the dishonor when God would pour their wickedness on them.
C. The pain of the prophet.
1. (17-18) Weeping over the judgment to come.
“Therefore you shall say this word to them:
‘Let my eyes flow with tears night and day,
And let them not cease;
For the virgin daughter of my people
Has been broken with a mighty stroke, with a very severe blow.
If I go out to the field,
Then behold, those slain with the sword!
And if I enter the city,
Then behold, those sick from famine!
Yes, both prophet and priest go about in a land they do not know.’”
a. Let my eyes flow with tears night and day: It wasn’t a happy or triumphant thing for Jeremiah to know that he was a true prophet and those who said smooth things were false prophets. His pain at the calamity of coming judgment was far greater than any satisfaction in being right.
b. The virgin daughter of my people has been broken with a mighty stroke: Jeremiah looked at the people of God for what they could have been – like a virgin daughter unto God – and grieved that there would be no escape from coming judgment, not in the field or in the city.
i. “He calls Judah ‘the virgin daughter – my people’ because she had been jealously kept from the idolatrous nations, as virgins are guarded in Oriental households.” (Feinberg)
c. Both prophet and priest go about in a land they do not know: Those who should have been a light and a guide to the people of God were themselves blind. This left little hope for the people of God to escape the coming judgment.
2. (19-20) An astonished confession of sin and wickedness.
Have You utterly rejected Judah?
Has Your soul loathed Zion?
Why have You stricken us so that there is no healing for us?
We looked for peace, but there was no good;
And for the time of healing, and there was trouble.
We acknowledge, O LORD, our wickedness
And the iniquity of our fathers,
For we have sinned against You.
a. Has Your soul loathed Zion: Astonished at the calamity to come, Jeremiah was bold enough to wonder if God had cast off His people; if He had utterly rejected them, loathed them, and stricken them beyond healing.
i. God told Jeremiah that He would not hear the prayers prayed for the people of Judah (Jeremiah 14:11). Yet Jeremiah could not stop praying. “In spite of it, Jeremiah continued to plead for the people, and that Jehovah permitted him to do so, patiently arguing with him.” (Morgan)
ii. “What is Jeremiah to do in such a case as this? He is told that he must not pray for the people, and God seems determined to smite them. What can love do when even the gates of prayer are ordered to be closed? Notice how, after he is told that he must not pray, he edges his way up towards the throne of grace and, at last, he does what he is told not to do.” (Spurgeon)
b. We looked for peace, but there was no good: Prompted by the smooth words of the false prophets the people of Judah hoped for peace and healing, but instead came trouble.
c. For we have sinned against you: This was God’s desired result of the trouble to come upon them – to bring them to a full knowledge of their wickedness and iniquity. The hopeful but false words of the self-appointed prophets would not bring this result.
i. “The prophet knows that confession will result in forgiveness, and if the nation will not acknowledge its sin, Jeremiah will do so vicariously.” (Harrison)
ii. Adam Clarke saw that the people and leaders of Judah did not confess their sin after Jeremiah’s example: “This the prophet did in behalf of the people; but, alas! They did not join him.” (Clarke)
3. (21-22) A plea that God would remember them in their misery.
Do not abhor us, for Your name’s sake;
Do not disgrace the throne of Your glory.
Remember, do not break Your covenant with us.
Are there any among the idols of the nations that can cause rain?
Or can the heavens give showers?
Are You not He, O LORD our God?
Therefore we will wait for You,
Since You have made all these.
a. Do not abhor us, for Your name’s sake; do not disgrace the throne of Your glory: Seeing nothing good in them upon which to appeal to God, Jeremiah prayed with a different approach. He asked on the basis of God’s name, on the basis of God’s rule and authority (the throne of Your glory), and on the basis of His covenant with them.
i. “Now he is getting actually to praying; he cannot help himself. He is told that he must not pray, but he feels that he must; he loves the people so much that he must plead for them.” (Spurgeon)
ii. This ground of reasoning anticipates the New Covenant. Under the New Covenant we believe God for help and blessing and favor not based upon who we are or what we have done, but upon who God is and what He has done.
b. Are there any among the idols that can cause rain? The chapter began with concern over the droughts. Now Jeremiah hopefully speaks for a repentant people who recognize that Baal or any of the other idols are powerless to cause rain. Not even nature separated from God can do it (can the heavens give showers). The judgment of God, severe as it was, separated them from the idolatry and reliance upon the gods of the nations or nature to cause rain.
c. Therefore we will wait for You: The humbled, surrendered, and submitted heart simply looks to God in patient reliance. The severe work of God’s strong correction upon His people has performed a merciful work.
i. “Have you come to a very difficult, place? Are you in very sore trouble, – such trouble as you never knew before? Then wait upon the Lord; and if at first he does not answer you, and it seems as if the very gates of heaven are shut against you, still continue, to wait upon the Lord. Where else can you go if you turn away from him?” (Spurgeon)