For my people is foolish, they have not known me; they are sottish children, and they have none understanding: they are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge. (Jeremiah 4:22)
Jeremiah prophesied at the time just before, during and after the Babylonian captivity of Judah. As I read the first chapters of Jeremiah, I recognized the United States in the litany of charges God leveled against the nation of Judah. I mourn as the words on the page ring true as applied to the nation that I love.
Judah abandoned God and turned to and worshiped demonic gods. They still went to the Temple and offered sacrifices, but it had become a meaningless routine. “To what purpose cometh there to me incense from Sheba, and the sweet cane from a far country? your burnt offerings are not acceptable, nor your sacrifices sweet unto me” (Jeremiah 6:20). They were going through the motions, but treating the LORD no different than any of the other gods they worshiped. By this point in their history, Judah had gradually fallen into idolatry in the course of 200 years or more. God had been patient with them sending prophet after prophet to warn them of the dangerous road they were on, but they did not listen. “Hear, O earth: behold, I will bring evil upon this people, even the fruit of their thoughts, because they have not hearkened unto my words, nor to my law, but rejected it” (Jeremiah 6:19, emphasis mine).
God had it with Judah! On three separate occasions God told Jeremiah, “Therefore pray not thou for this people, neither lift up cry nor prayer for them, neither make intercession to me: for I will not hear thee” (Jeremiah 7:16, emphasis mine). Imagine offending God so badly that He will not listen to the prayers of those who pray for you! This is how low Judah had sunk. “Therefore pray not thou for this people, neither lift up a cry or prayer for them: for I will not hear them in the time that they cry unto me for their trouble” (Jeremiah 11:14, emphasis mine). Judah had crossed the line. “Therefore thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will bring evil upon them, which they shall not be able to escape; and though they shall cry unto me, I will not hearken unto them” (Jeremiah 11:11, emphasis mine). “Then said the LORD unto me, Pray not for this people for their good” (Jeremiah 14:11).
Judah’s list of sins was long and wicked. Not only did they worship idols fashioned after demonic gods, but they offered their babies as burnt sacrifices to these gods. They practiced sexual sins of all kinds. They took advantage of the poor and the widows. They listened to false prophets and rejected the prophets of God who spoke God’s truth like Jeremiah. This was no small thing and they breached the limit of God’s patience. Their rejection of God resulted in their demise at the hands of the Babylonians.
The warning God gave had both a short-term and a long-term application. The Babylonians carried out the short-term application and the Romans carried out the long-term application in A.D. 70 that lasted for almost 2000 years. However, God demonstrates His mercy in that He does not retain His anger forever. He also demonstrates His faithfulness in that He will not break His promise.
Although Israel and Judah were unfaithful to God with their idolatry, He determined to keep His word, not for any merit of this unfaithful nation, but because of His own integrity. He made a promise to Abraham long before Israel became a nation and the only collateral, He gave was His name. “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?” (Numbers 23:19, emphasis mine).
As an object lesson, God instructed Jeremiah to go to the house of the potter. There, Jeremiah saw the potter working at the wheel forming a clay vessel. In the process, the vessel developed a flaw at which time the potter crushed it and started over until he completed a vessel that suited his liking. “Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying, O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the LORD. Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel” (Jeremiah 18:5-6).
We see the fulfillment of this prophecy today. For almost 2000 years the Jews wandered from country to country never having a homeland of their own. Linguists considered the Hebrew language a dead language. The Jews did not speak it, yet they maintained their identity as a people and carried on all of their traditions. They never assimilated into the cultures of the lands in which they lived. Then, on May 14, 1948 God brought them back into their Promised Land from all over the world, made them a nation once, and revived their dead language. No other people group in the history of the world had maintained their identity after such a dispersion. The Jewish people returning to their land and the rebirth of their nation is a miracle of God and a promise kept! Of this day the Prophet Isaiah said, “Who hath heard such a thing? who hath seen such things? Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? or shall a nation be born at once? for as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children” (Isaiah 66:8).
There is more to come for Israel. However, what is true for Israel is not necessarily true for the United States of America. We can see many parallels. Regardless of what revisionist historians say, America was founded on biblical principles giving glory to God for His providence. Four hundred years have gone by since the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock. For most of our History, God was central to our government and our nation, but slowly the leaven of humanism crept in and started eating away at our foundations. About 50 years ago, the cracks in the foundation became more obvious, until now they seem to have crumbled altogether.
One big difference sets America apart from Israel. God never made an unconditional promise to any one of our founding fathers, not even to George Washington. God made an unconditional promise to Abraham; therefore, Israel survives as a nation. We have no such guarantee. “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance” (Psalm 33:12); but we, as a nation, have rejected God and made the earth our god. Unless we, as a nation, repent and return to God, no hope remains for our survival. I see no prospect of a national repentance. God’s patience is limited, and I fear we have breached the limit.
Yet, even though the nation crumbles – that seems evident to me – God’s people will survive. While God still has His people here, it is incumbent on His people to carry on His work until Jesus comes to take us home. As God’s people, we need to remember that this world is not our home. We are citizens of heaven and we are ambassadors of the king in this foreign land. Let us do the work of an ambassador until the Lord closes down our embassy and calls us home.
If you do not know God and are unsure of where you will spend eternity, please read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”