Thus says the LORD concerning this people:
“They have loved to wander thus;
They have not restrained their feet;
Therefore the LORD does not accept them;
Now He will remember their iniquity
And punish their sins.”
“Why have You struck us down so that there is no healing for us?
We looked for peace, but no good came;
For the time of healing, but behold, terror.
We acknowledge our wickedness, O LORD…
For we have sinned against You.
Do not spurn us, for Your name’s sake…”
Then the LORD said to me, “Though Moses and Samuel stood before Me, yet My heart would not turn toward this people. Send them out of My sight, and let them go!”
I have found that the book of Jeremiah is not light reading. The grossness of sin is aptly described over and over through illustrations, comparisons, and poignant language.
The point being hammered is this: God, in His goodness, chose to bless His people, yet they rebelliously choose to disobey Him. Adding insult to injury, they act like all is well in their relationship with Jehovah: they continue their religious rituals while blissfully adulterating themselves to idols of wood and stone.
When the seriousness of their situation hits them and they realize God is not kidding around about the punishment that is coming, they try to say sorry. “God, You’re good! You chose us! You can’t throw us out! We’ll change!”
The truth is, they threw God out. Way back when God was leading His people into the land, He made a covenant promise with them:
Keep silence and hear, O Israel: this day you have become the people of the Lord your God. You shall therefore obey the voice of the Lord your God, keeping His commandments and His statutes, which I command you today.
And if you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all His commandments that I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God….
But if you will not obey the voice of the Lord your God or be careful to do all his commandments and his statutes that I command you today, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you.
Deuteronomy 27:9-10, 28:1-2, 15
While God’s people were begging Him to “keep His covenant” and spare them, the fact is, the covenant they made with God stated clearly that if they didn’t uphold their end, they would be destroyed. So God patiently, earnestly sent prophet after prophet to remind and warn His people of what was coming. Yet the chosen people refused to listen, and now it was too late. They had no ground for arguing with God. The dark shadows of idols and terebinth trees spread over every corner of their land, testifying unrelentingly that they had broken their covenant and deserved the curses God was pronouncing.
Their protests were as futile as a naughty toddler’s when he is caught in the act of disobedience. “Mommy, I’m sorry! Mommy, I love you!” doesn’t change the fact that he went against his mother’s word and must pay the price. What if an older sibling were to speak for him? “Aw, Mom, please don’t punish him. Come on, you love us!” Yes, Mom loves you, but that still doesn’t negate the fact that a rule has been broken and a consequence must be paid.
God said even Moses and Samuel, men who has successfully interceded for God’s people in the past (see Exodus 32:11-14 and 1 Samuel 7:8-9) couldn’t change His mind this time. Things had gone on long enough and punishment must be served.
Like I said, heavy reading. But necessary to understand how great our sin is. God is a holy God: completely sinless and perfect and separate from us. When we come to Him, it must be on His terms. And His terms state that obedience leads to life, and disobedience leads to death. Those who don’t keep the law will be cursed, and those who refuse Him will be refused by Him.
And that is what makes the next part of the story so incredible. Moses and Samuel were mere men: they couldn’t turn away God’s furious wrath. But God’s own Son, coming in the form of a man, could bear it for us.
Do you realize that every ounce of anger, every curse, every woe God promised, was wrapped up in the punishment Christ accepted on the cross? This anger Jeremiah tells about–Jesus Christ took it all.
When I asked Jesus to be my Savior, I was letting Him trade places with me. Jesus asked if He could stand under the boiling pot of God’s righteous wrath and push me into my Heavenly Father’s arms. When I said yes to God, that’s what I said yes to.
Salvation is far more than escaping hell and entering heaven. I am now my Father’s child because His true Son was willing to be abandoned and killed. I can live free from sin because my Savior took the penalty and power away on the cross and left them behind in the grave. I, who forsook God, can know Him because Jesus was willing to be forsaken by Him (see Jeremiah 5:19, Matthew 27:46).
His robes for mine: God’s justice is appeased.
Jesus is crushed, and thus the Father’s pleased.
Christ drank God’s wrath on sin, then cried “‘Tis done!”
Sin’s wage is paid; propitiation won.
His robes for mine: such anguish none can know.
Christ, God’s beloved, condemned as though His foe.
He, as though I, accursed and left alone;
I, as though He, embraced and welcomed home!
I cling to Christ, and marvel at the cost:
Jesus forsaken, God estranged from God.
Bought by such love, my life is not my own.
My praise-my all-shall be for Christ alone.