Verse 1: If you’re anything like me, this first verse is probably how you feel often: you ask why the wicked seem to get away with everything, and why they seem so happy living in sin. I’ve been reading a book called “God (B)Less America,” by Todd Starnes; he highlights all the ways that this country has forsaken the ways of God, and not only that, but how they have outright rebelled, even to silencing his children. Christians are treated worse than anyone else in this country. It’s almost infuriating. But this is nothing new: Job said, “The tabernacles of robbers prosper, and they that provoke God are secure; into whose hand God bringeth abundantly (Job 12:6),” and “Wherefore do the wicked live, become old, yea, are mighty in power (Job 21:7)?” Asaph wrote in his Psalm, “For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked (Psalm 73:3).”
Verse 2: Nothing gets past God though; he says to Isaiah, “Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honor me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men (Isaiah 29:13).” Jesus echoed this statement by Isaiah in Mark 7:6, talking about the Pharisees and their traditions that they held so dear.
Verse 3: Here we see Jeremiah asking God to act. He was not arrogant, as if he was sinless, but he knew that he had walked with a perfect heart. Hezekiah made the same prayer when he was told by Isaiah that he was going to die (2 Kings 20:3). God said to the seer for Asa, “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him (2 Chronicles 16:9).”
Verse 4: Paul wrote that the whole creation is groaning and travailing in pain together even until now (Romans 8:22). And we see that all over the earth; I have to think that the earthquakes and volcanoes that we hear about are sure signs that the creation itself is in pain.
Verses 5-6: In these two verses, we see God’s answer to Jeremiah’s complaint. Jeremiah was rightly discouraged that even his family was against him at this point, and he had even thought of giving up prophesying. Unfortunately for him, it was going to get a lot worse.
Verses 7-13: The Lord told Micah, “I will make you sick in smiting you, in making you desolate because of your sins. You shall eat, but not be satisfied; and your casting down shall be in the midst of you; and you shall take hold, but shall not deliver; and that which you deliver will I give up to the sword. You shall sow, but you shall not reap; you shall tread the olives, but shall not anoint you with oil; and sweet wine, but you shall not drink wine (Micah 6:13-15).” Sin does not go unnoticed by God; he sees everything we do, and everything that goes on throughout the world.
Verse 14: The Lord said to Zechariah that he that touches his people touches the apple of his eye (Zechariah 2:8). Israel has always had more enemies than friends; little do they know that Israel’s enemies are also God’s enemies.
Verses 15-16: Later on in the book, God tells Jeremiah all of what he will do to bring Israel back into their land. Let’s take a look at Jeremiah 32:37-39.
The concept of “one” is found throughout scripture, it’s one of God’s favorite numbers, as we know there is one God (Deuteronomy 6:4), one Lord, one faith, one baptism (Ephesians 4:5), one body (1 Corinthians 10:17), and so on, and we see it here in “one heart and one way.”
Things were really bad in Israel in Jeremiah’s time. God says to Jeremiah, “I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is there anything too hard for me (Jeremiah 32:27)?” And then tells him about how the city would be taken by Nebuchadnezzar. Verse 30 says that the people of Israel and Judah had done nothing but evil in the Lord’s sight from their youth, and have done nothing but arouse his anger with what their hands had made. But then verse 37 says, “I will surely gather them from all the lands where I banish them in my furious anger and great wrath; I will bring them back to this place and let them live in safety.” Then in verse 42, God says, “As I have brought all this great calamity on this people, so I will give them all the prosperity I have promised them.” Imagine the change of heart that will come over them when they’re all back in their land, and they see that God has kept his promise.
Right from the beginning after the flood, God said that the heart of man is evil from his youth (Genesis 8:21). Jeremiah wrote that the heart is desperately wicked, and who can understand it (Jeremiah 17:9)? Earlier in the book, he tells us that all nations will be gathered to Jerusalem, to the throne of the Lord, and neither shall they walk anymore after the imaginations of their evil hearts (Jeremiah 3:17).
The heart is a major factor with God; it’s where our relationship with him is based. We’re told to trust in the Lord with all our heart (Proverbs 3:5), and we’re told to love him with all our heart (Deuteronomy 6:5). But we need to make sure our heart is perfect toward the Lord as well; David says, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (Psalm 139:23-24).”
The heart that God will give his people is written about one chapter earlier in Jeremiah:
“‘This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,’ declares the Lord. ‘I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, “Know the Lord,” because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,’ declares the Lord. ‘For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more (Jeremiah 31:33-34).’”
By giving his people one way, God is setting them straight. Right now, there are so many “ways” out there, that the world is confused. But, in reality, there are only two ways out there: God’s way or the wrong way. One day soon, though, the right way will be made clear for everyone; Isaiah says that they will hear a word behind them saying, “this is the way, walk ye in it, when they turn to the right hand or to the left (Isaiah 30:21).” And fortunately for us, we already do know the way. Jesus is THE way, not just A way, he says he is the way (John 14:6); the road to the Kingdom is a one-way street.
Twice in Proverbs, it’s said that there is a way which seems right to a man, but the end of that way is death (Proverbs 14:12, 16:25). There’s a song that’s been around for almost fifty years now; it’s called “My Way,” and it was popularized by Frank Sinatra. I’m going to read a few of the lyrics: “Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew when I bit off more than I could chew, but through it all, when there was doubt, I ate it up and spit it out; I faced it all and I stood tall and did it my way. I’ve loved, I’ve laughed and cried, I’ve had my fill, my share of losing, and now, as tears subside, I find it all so amusing to think I did all that, and may I say, not in a shy way, oh, no, oh, no, not me, I did it my way. (By this point the orchestra is booming) For what is a man, what has he got? If not himself, then he has naught, to say the things he truly feels and not the words of one who kneels; the record shows I took the blows and did it my way!”
What the record also shows is that he’s no longer with us; he did it his way; how did that work out for him? Of course this isn’t just about Sinatra; people in the world sing this song every day in their minds. And sure, maybe they have it good, maybe they live really well. But when their 70, 80, maybe 90 years are up, what good will it do them to have done everything their way and not God’s way? Paul tells us that Jesus is the only name under heaven by which we can be saved (Acts 4:12). God sets before us good and evil, life and death (Deuteronomy 30:15); it’s as simple as that. There’s only one way to live forever.
David writes, “Thou wilt show me the path of life, in thy presence is fullness of joy, and at thy right hand are pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11).” God has shown us his way; he has shown us what is good and what he requires of us, do act justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8); we’re to depart from evil and to do good, to seek peace and pursue it (Psalm 34:14).
We know from Zechariah, we read this chapter a couple nights ago, that the Lord will be King over all the earth, and in that day there shall be one Lord, and his name one (Zechariah 14:9). Zephaniah says that God will turn to the people a pure language (Zephaniah 3:9); if you remember in the story of the Tower of Babel, God confused the languages (Genesis 11:7). Sometime very soon though, that will be reversed all over the world, and people will serve God with one consent.
This set of verses is about Israel, and they will have a very special place in the Kingdom, but fortunately this promise will eventually extend to the whole world: Isaiah says that one day in the future, that many people from all nations will go and say, “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths:” for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem (Isaiah 2:3). His ways are higher than our ways, as high as the heavens are above the earth (Isaiah 55:9). This shows the generosity of God; he never intended to limit salvation to the Jews; right now, he will gladly accept anyone who comes to him on his terms. Isaiah writes, “And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising (Isaiah 60:3).” Jeremiah later goes on to say that the Gentiles will come from the ends of the earth and say, “Surely, our fathers have inherited lies, and vanity, and things wherein there is no profit (Jeremiah 16:19).”
Verse 17: Jeremiah 12 finishes with a very stern warning. Isaiah uses very similar language: “For the nation and kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish; yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted (Isaiah 60:12).”
This is a chapter about God’s justice, as well as his mercy. It’s easy right now to look at the world we live in and get depressed because of the lack of morals, the lack of justice, everyone doing what is right in their own eyes, no respect for authority, whether political or even on a smaller scale, and so on. We can take comfort though that “the judge of all the earth [will] do right (Genesis 18:25).” The day is coming when wickedness will not be allowed anymore. Jesus was the light of the world when he was here (John 8:12), and will soon return to lighten the whole world that currently sits in darkness. It’s our responsibility to walk in God’s ways now; we have the light; you can’t see your way around when it’s dark, so we’re to walk as children of light (Ephesians 5:8). I want to finish by reading the first eighteen verses of Psalm 37, a Psalm of David: “Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb. Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. Delight thyself also in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass. And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday. Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass. Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil. For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the Lord, they shall inherit the earth. For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be: yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be. But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace. The wicked plotteth against the just, and gnasheth upon him with his teeth. The Lord shall laugh at him: for he seeth that his day is coming. The wicked have drawn out the sword, and have bent their bow, to cast down the poor and needy, and to slay such as be of upright conversation. Their sword shall enter into their own heart, and their bows shall be broken. A little that a righteous man hath is better than the riches of many wicked. For the arms of the wicked shall be broken: but the Lord upholdeth the righteous. The Lord knoweth the days of the upright: and their inheritance shall be forever.” nte