Continuing Jeremiah’s message from chapter 7, today's Scripture details the punishment for Israel's sins.
Jeremiah Chapter 8
Lessons from the text
You Can Hurt God
God is invincible, all-powerful, and undefeated. I could never hurt Him, right?
Verse 21 says that God is hurt because of the sins of His people. Why? Because He is stood up waiting in the healing place. Sinners or saint, we are all God's children. He does not want to see any of us suffer. In a certain sense, He expects the sinner to reject Him because of the wickedness of his heart, but He is sorely disappointed and astonished when His saints reject Him. Israel was in a covenant relationship with God. They had His laws, knowledge of His expectations of Him, and Him physical presence. They agreed to serve Him, under an oath and to always be obedient to Him voice serving no other gods (Josh. 24:16-27).
God's side of the covenant was that He would bless them and secure them in the land of Canaan. The Jews broke this covenant by idolatry. Having a relationship with God, they chose to leave Him and be spiritually married to another. This hurts God as deeply as it hurts a man to watch his wife walk away from her marital vows. We are made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26). Just as we have emotions and can be wounded by the action of others, so too God is affected by our choices. We need to take His feelings into consideration. After all, He is our father and, if you have accepted Christ, your fiancé.
Verse by Verse Commentary
1-2 The people are so caught up in idolatry that they will even desecrate the graves of their parents and grandparents. While this may be referring to a literal form of worship to false gods, this verse can be interpreted spiritually to mean that this generation of Jews have completely destroyed everything for which the previous generations have stood. Israel was built upon the faith of Joshua and the Jews who fought in the name of the Lord. By serving all these gods they have disrespected the elders so profoundly that it is same as if they had robbed their remains out of their graves and left their bones as worthless as dung just lying around.
3 Those who sin willfully choose to die rather than to live. Moses clearly explains that following God lead to live while disobedience to God leads to death (Deut. 28:1-68). They have clung to their sins so tightly that even after all of the punishment and judgments have come upon them they will not repent of their evil. Not even being in exile will purge them of their sin.
4-6 God points out the oddity of someone who trips and falls yet will not get back up. Israel has been falling backwards continuously without trying to get back up again. God says that they seem content to continue to fall backwards, even refusing to come back when summoned. They actually seem eager to fall down, charging like a horse towards the thrill of the battle. It just does not make sense.
7-8 The animal kingdom recognizes the authority of God in their lives. They know when to fight, when to migrate, and when their death is approaching. People, however, choose to forget such knowledge and live as if God does not exist. The Jews of Jeremiah’s time are so confused that they believe that the law of the Lord is with them. They cannot recognize God's judgment, both in the actions that God is taking against the nation and in the witness of the Scriptures. One can study the word of God, but without a spiritual mind, the judgments and mind of God remains hidden (I Cor. 2:13-14).
9 Those who are wise may have complete confidence in themselves, but when life blows up in their face, they are shamed and thus made aware that they are ignorant of the truth. Without God, what knowledge one accumulates in actuality amounts to nothing.
10-12 A society will look to its elders and leaders for guidance. The wise men, priests, and prophets of Judah have rejected God's wisdom for their own wisdom. Neither are they ashamed of their decision. Even though they have rejected what is right, they tell the people that everything is going to be all right. Not only have they chosen to commit folly but also they lead others to do the same. In response, God will strip them of everything, including their families. It is a dangerous thing to pat sinners on the back and tell them that they are doing just fine and that everything is going to be all right. When God comes, all will be held accountable for their sin.
13 The image here is of complete barrenness. The tree and all of its fruit will dry up. Sin is detrimental to a person's life. See also Mt. 25:14-30.
14-16 God says that after the judgment against Israel, they will be forced to recognize their sin. Surrendering to the rebuke of God, they will come to their senses and leave for defenced cities, representing coming into God's presence. There they will be silent before Him because they have no words whereby to defend themselves or their actions. Their silence is a recognition of their sin and submission to the judgment of God. They realize they are far from the truth, believing in the prophecies of peace rather than the prophecies of the judgment of God.
In Moses' Law is a section on prophets; those who prophesies in the name of the Lord are to be tried to see whether or not their prophecies are fulfilled (Deut. 13:1-5). When Jeremiah's prophecy is the one that is filled by the total destruction of the land, the people will be forced to acknowledge that his words are from God and that the other prophets are speaking falsely.
17 The judgment that God will send to the Jews that is untamable. See Jeremiah 7:16, 20. A cockatrice is a mythical serpent that could supposedly kill a person just by looking at him. The point is that a deadly serpent has come to destroy Israel.
18-22 God laments for His people. He will comfort Himself but is unable to do so because of the cry of His people. Even though they are in exile for their sins, God still feels their pain and is hurt by their suffering. They have been given time to repent, allowing the fruit of His work to be fully ripe. That is, He has done every thing necessary for salvation and their time of salvation has come and gone yet they are left unsaved.
God has healing waiting for them. He is the great physician who is capable of healing any wound, yet His own people will not allow Him to heal them. God is standing with open arms, waiting to heal any one of the disease of sin, yet He is left alone, astonished and hurt by the rejection of even His own people. Tragically, the Jews miss their opportunity for salvation by refusing to repent to avoid the Babylonian deportation.
Thank you for your faithfulness in studying God’s word.
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