Bible Commentary: Jeremiah 5

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Jeremiah 5

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"And My People Love to Have It So"

Jeremiah 5 continues on from chapter 4. See, God says to the prophet, if you can find anyone in Jerusalem "who seeks the truth, and I will pardon her" (5:1). Shockingly, the context implies that no one could be found.

Jeremiah considers that many people are poor and uneducated (verse 4), so maybe he will have success if he goes "to the great men and speak to them, for they have known the way of the LORD"—having had access to the Scriptures and history, being literate people (verse 5). "But these have altogether broken the yoke"—they have rejected God's authority and cast off any restraint (same verse). Therefore the wild animals (the gentiles) will slay them and take over their cities because "their backslidings have increased" (verse 6). "How shall I pardon you for this?," God asks in verse 7. "Therefore you are inexcusable, O man.... In accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath" (Romans 2:1-6).

The Israelites have a long history of lusting for and engaging in all the pagan philosophies and practices of Satan's world, when God has not only given them the best religion, but the only true religion on earth. God pictures them as being led strictly by sensual impulse rather than any intelligence (verses 7-8). "'Shall I not punish them for these things?' says the LORD. 'And shall I not avenge myself on such a nation as this?" (verse 9). After relating more of their sins, He repeats the question (verse 29)—and again a few chapters later (Jeremiah 9:9).

The imagery of God breaking off sinful "branches" of Israel (Jeremiah 5:10) is later used by the apostle Paul (see Romans 11). God is especially angry with false ministers who claim to be His spokesmen, and yet mislead the people with lies and false security (Jeremiah 5:12-13).

God proclaims: "I will bring a nation against you from afar.... a nation whose language you do not know.... They are all mighty men [well-armed and brutal]" (verses 15-17). This is dual, relating to Jeremiah's day and the end time, for verse 18 says, "Nevertheless in those days [indicating the last days]...I will not make a complete end of you." God says, "Declare this in the house of Jacob and proclaim it in Judah."

The recalcitrance of the people is largely explained by the fact that they are spiritually blind and deaf (verses 20-21). Yet all creation is a proof of God. And if people don't understand anything else, they ought at least to realize that they must obey their Maker (verse 24). Again, it is the people's sins that deprive them of blessings and happiness (verse 25).

"For among My people are found wicked men," God declares—extremely evil people who will do anything to anybody for personal gain, usually for money (verses 26-29). But the root cause of the evils is false religion. It is a "horrible thing" to God that "prophets prophesy [preach or teach] falsely, and the priests rule by their own power [not by God's Spirit]; and My people love to have it so" (verses 30-31). What a sad indictment! People would rather listen to lies than the truth. We especially see it today in the name of tolerance. Anyone who would label the behavior of others as wrong is looked upon as a bigot and hatemonger. And when criticism is silenced, there is soon no fear of consequences, as in verses 12-13.

The last verse asks the critical question, "But what will you do in the end [that is, when the hammer of judgment falls]?" The apostle Peter later asked a similar question: "Therefore, since all these things [the physical world around us] will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness...?" (2 Peter 3:11). We should all be asking ourselves such questions.