A FRUITLESS SEARCH
Lord, I cling to You as my only hope in a sinful world.
Read JEREMIAH 5:1–13
Not One Is Upright
1 “Go up and down the streets of Jerusalem,
look around and consider,
search through her squares.
If you can find but one person
who deals honestly and seeks the truth,
I will forgive this city.
2 Although they say, ‘As surely as the Lord lives,’
still they are swearing falsely.”
3 Lord, do not your eyes look for truth?
You struck them, but they felt no pain;
you crushed them, but they refused correction.
They made their faces harder than stone
and refused to repent.
4 I thought, “These are only the poor;
they are foolish,
for they do not know the way of the Lord,
the requirements of their God.
5 So I will go to the leaders
and speak to them;
surely they know the way of the Lord,
the requirements of their God.”
But with one accord they too had broken off the yoke
and torn off the bonds.
6 Therefore a lion from the forest will attack them,
a wolf from the desert will ravage them,
a leopard will lie in wait near their towns
to tear to pieces any who venture out,
for their rebellion is great
and their backslidings many.
7 “Why should I forgive you?
Your children have forsaken me
and sworn by gods that are not gods.
I supplied all their needs,
yet they committed adultery
and thronged to the houses of prostitutes.
8 They are well-fed, lusty stallions,
each neighing for another man’s wife.
9 Should I not punish them for this?”
declares the Lord.
“Should I not avenge myself
on such a nation as this?
10 “Go through her vineyards and ravage them,
but do not destroy them completely.
Strip off her branches,
for these people do not belong to the Lord.
11 The people of Israel and the people of Judah
have been utterly unfaithful to me,”
declares the Lord.
12 They have lied about the Lord;
they said, “He will do nothing!
No harm will come to us;
we will never see sword or famine.
13 The prophets are but wind
and the word is not in them;
so let what they say be done to them.”
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Our world is full of nominally religious people who bother the true child of God with their insincere professions (cf. Jer. 12:2). Let’s make sure we’re not one of them.
Nothing has changed since the time of Micah, some 100 years earlier, who concluded that “not one upright person remains” (Mic. 7:2). The view from the exiles in Babylon was just the same: “I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so that I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one” (Ezek. 22:30). Of course, we also know that when Elijah concluded that he was the only one left, actually there were still 7,000 (1 Kings 19:18), and we can see that there are still one or two, like Baruch and Ebed-Melek, who are with Jeremiah. But the exceptions do not alter the fact that the whole community has turned away from God’s path. For them, the redeeming covenant is a “yoke” (5) that must go. The extent of the corruption is clear: it involves dishonesty in business (1) and betrayal in marriage (7,8) as well as in their commitment to God. It could possibly be excused in the poor and uneducated people who don’t know any better, but the leaders, teachers, and prophets are without excuse. Judah, despite knowing what has happened in Israel, remains “utterly unfaithful” (11).
So, what are we twenty-first century believers given a “new birth into a living hope” (1 Pet. 1:3) with “an inheritance… kept in heaven” (1 Pet. 1:4) to learn from this passage? Maybe it is to be vigilant, to recognize our own tendency to fail — and then constantly to turn back to God in a way that the nation of Judah refused to do. Pessimism about the state of our society may be justified, but don’t let that override your optimism concerning our living hope!
If a modern-day Jeremiah went searching for those who were still committed to God and clearly living and speaking for him, would you and I be easily identifiable?
Lord, there is so much evil around us. Help us to maintain our direct line with You, despite the wickedness that continually surrounds us.