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Thursday, May 23rd, 2024
the Week of Proper 2 / Ordinary 7
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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 12

Smith's Bible CommentarySmith's Commentary

Verses 1-17

Chapter 12

Now Jeremiah goes on and he is talking now about the situation, the wicked man Jehoahaz that is in power. And he begins by saying,

Righteous art thou, O LORD, when I plead with thee ( Jeremiah 12:1 ):

Starting from a base, from a foundation that is very important. Know this, that God is righteous and God is fair. Now, I will not always understand the righteousness of God or the justice or the judgment of God. You see, as a Christian we have problems. Because I believe that God is righteous, because I believe that God is love, I have difficulty understanding a lot of things that are happening in the world. Because it seems that if God is a God of love, then why would He allow these things to take place? If God is a fair God, if He is just, then why is it that wicked people oftentimes prosper, have great prosperity. And so many times good, righteous people are hurting, suffering. Now if I were God, I would bless all the righteous people and really put the thumb on the wicked, you know. But that would be because I'm stupid. Because then how would I really know that they loved me for me? They might just be, you know, mouthing words because they don't want the thumb to squash them out. If all righteous people were just blessed, had a great prosperity and everything else, then Satan could as he did with Job say, "Hey, does Job serve You for nothing? Look at the way You blessed that fellow. Why, anybody would serve You if You bless them like that. You don't know that Job really loves You. You don't know that Job is really faithful. He's a mercenary. He's just got good sense. The way You blessed him, he's just worshipping and praising You because of the prosperity You've given to the guy."

I was talking with a fellow the other day, very wealthy man. We were having lunch together and he was telling me of his difficulties. The difficulty lay in the fact that he was going with different young ladies but he really didn't know if they really loved him or not. He said he felt that he needed to go somewhere off somewhere and put on jeans and to put aside his fancy cars and yachts and everything else because he was looking for a woman who loved him, not his checkbook. And he said, "I really don't know." He said, "They all know me, they know who I am. They know what I've got. And so I don't know when they come smiling to me and making conversation if they are really interested in me or interested in my pocketbook, my checkbook."

Well, that would be a difficult problem. And it would be the same problem God would have if He cursed all the wicked and blessed all of the righteous. He wouldn't know if you really loved Him or not. But when here I'm seeking to live a good life and things go bad and I still love Him, I don't turn on Him and curse Him because things are suddenly going downhill and I made a foolish mistake and all and I say, "Oh God," and I begin to curse God. Then you see, He would know. So God lets me go through the fire and I still worship and praise the Lord. Say, "All right, you know, I still love You, Lord. I don't love You because I've been blessed. I just love You because I love You, because of You. Not because of Your blessings or whatever You've done. God, I just love You because You're You." And God knows that. When we in our adversities continue in our devotion and love to Him. So God allows us our adversity. God allows us problems. God allows us suffering. And He allows the wicked to prosper, because He doesn't want mercenaries. He doesn't want people just worshipping Him because of the fringe benefits, but because of Him Himself.

So Jeremiah is wrestling with this. "God, I know You're righteous. It's not a question of that. I'm not challenging." Now the mistakes that people often make is that they do challenge God. When they say, "If God is a God of love why does God... ?" And that's challenging God. If you come and say, "Now God, I know that You're a God of love, but I sure don't understand, you know, if You love me why You've allowed this to happen to me." That's all right, God accepts that. Just as long as you're not challenging His love for you. You can surely challenge the circumstances of your life. I mean, you can ask God why things are happening to you. "God, I know You love me. But Lord, why is this happening in my life? Why are things going wrong? Why?" And it may be that God will show you something that is not quite right that He's trying to correct. But it's wrong to challenge God. "I don't think God loves me."

You know, in Job in all that transpired against him, it said, "He did not curse God or charge God foolishly." Now many times you may not curse God but you may charge God foolishly. You may make foolish charges against God. And we've got to be careful about that, that we don't really charge God. "Well, God doesn't love me. I know He doesn't love me because look what's happened."

So God, I know You're righteous. No problem there.

but I want to talk to You about Your judgments, God: why do wicked men prosper? why are they so happy who deal so treacherously? [For it seems that] you have planted them, they've taken root: they grow, they're bringing forth fruit: you're near to their mouth, but you're far from their reins ( Jeremiah 12:1-2 ).

So Jehoahaz comes in on the throne, a wicked man. And it seems that he's been planted on the throne. "God, I don't understand it. Here is a good, righteous man Josiah. He's wiped out and you let this wicked Jehoahaz come upon the throne. He talks about God, but his life is not at all submitted. You're near to their mouth but far from the control center of their life."

But LORD, You know me: you've seen me, you've tried my heart toward thee ( Jeremiah 12:3 ):

Now, that's something that we can all say, "God, You know me. God, You've seen me." You remember in the messages of Jesus to His churches there in Revelation chapters 2 and 3. In each case He said, "I know thy works." "God, You know me. God, You've seen me. And God, You have tried my heart." And God does try our hearts. God does test the lot.

Now earlier in verse Jeremiah 11:19 of the previous chapter, Jeremiah said, "I was like an ox or a lamb that is being brought to the slaughter. Here I am, I love You, Lord, serving You, Lord; saying Your word, Lord, and I've become like a lamb that they're ready to kill. They told me if I prophesy anymore in Your name they're going to kill me. Now Lord, here's this wicked guy. Now set him up for slaughter. Not me."

prepare them for the day of slaughter. How long shall the land mourn, and the vegetables of every field wither, for the wickedness of them that are dwelling therein? the beasts are consumed, and the birds; because they said, He shall not see our last end ( Jeremiah 12:3-4 ).

They've ignored God. They've shut God out of their lives. God responds to him. "You think it's tough now? It's only going to get tougher, man."

And if you have run with the footmen ( Jeremiah 12:5 ),

If you got in a race with the footmen.

and they have wearied you ( Jeremiah 12:5 ),

How in the world are you going to race with horses? How, if you've been weary in these little things, how, what are you going to do when it really gets tough?

I do believe, I do know that things are going to get much, much tougher before they get better. I do think that our whole society has peaked as far as our standard of living, culture and all. I think that we have peaked and are on the way down. We cannot continue to use up the energy resources as we have in the past. We're going to have to start making sacrifices as far as our energy consumption is concerned. We are not producing enough food to feed the hungry world. And as more people get hungry, more demands are going to be made upon our food supplies. And we cannot ignore the Third World and its tremendous needs. And whether we like it or not, demands are going to be made upon us that are going to call for greater sacrifices and in the high standard that we've come to expect and to enjoy is over and we're on the way down. We're not going to be able to just go on forever gobbling up thirty-seven percent of the world's energy resources, because we're only six percent of the people. And it's over. The holiday, the picnic is over. Things are going to start getting tougher and they're going to get much tougher before they get better.

Now if you've run with the footmen and they have wearied you, what are you going to do when you start racing against horses? If on the level ground you've become tired, how are you going to run through the marshes of Jordan?

Now God doesn't really answer the question, "Lord, why do the wicked prosper and here I am a righteous man and they threaten to kill me? Lord, how come?" God doesn't answer. He just says, "Hey, it's not tough yet, Jeremiah. It's going to really get tough. What are you going to do then?"

Now God acknowledged that Jeremiah had been running. "You've been running with the footmen. You've been doing it." How have you been doing that? You've been doing it with the strength and the guidance of the Lord. And that strength and guidance that you've had in the past is the same way that you're going to be contending with horses. You've got to trust in the Lord. Now God has got all of us in training. The Bible says, "You are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto the good works, that God has before ordained that you should fulfill" ( Ephesians 2:10 ). God has each of us in training as He is preparing us for the future. God always prepares His children for whatever they will be facing. And God knows what you're going to be facing in the future and thus God has been training you to prepare you for it, because He'll never take you into anything by great shock and surprise. He'll never bring you to any place but what He hasn't already prepared you for that place. But I'll go one further. He's also prepared that place for you.

To the children of Israel after the wilderness experience He said, "Everywhere you pitched your tent I went before you and prepared the places for you to pitch your tent." I love that. God's gone before me, prepared every place for me to pitch my tent. I never arrive at any place but what God has not preceded me there and fixed it all up just for me. But He's also been working in me to prepare me for that place. So God is working in each of us, preparing us for the more difficult days that are to come. Teaching us to rely on Him. Teaching us to trust in Him. Teaching us the lessons of faith. Teaching us to know that God will not fail us. God will see us through. No matter what may come, the Lord will be with me and will help me. And He's been teaching me and training me because one of these days I'm going to be running with the horses. But if I haven't been running with the footmen I'll never be able to run with the horses. So God is working in your lives. So these little trials and testings that you're going through, they're all a part of God's work in His preparation of your life for things in the future that will be yet even more difficult than what we have experienced in the past.

So this is God's response to Jeremiah. The nation is going downhill. Jeremiah can see that the nation is going downhill and wicked men are in control and guiding it downhill. "God, why have You allowed the wicked to prosper? Why have You allowed the wicked to take over and to guide the people in this way of destruction?" And God just says, "Hey, fasten your seatbelt, man. It's going to really get tough. You've been running with the footmen. They weary you. But hey, you're soon going to be racing with the horses. You're just going to have to trust in Me. You're just going to have to hold on. I will see you through. I'll bring you through it, but you're going to have to have complete trust and reliance on Me."

For [Jeremiah] even your brothers, from the house of your father ( Jeremiah 12:6 ),

Your own brothers, flesh and blood.

even they have dealt treacherously with you; they have called a multitude after you: so don't believe them, though they speak fair words unto you ( Jeremiah 12:6 ).

Though they come and say, "Oh, Jeremiah, what a neat brother, you know." Don't believe them. They're conspiring against you.

God now declares concerning the nation Israel,

I have forsaken mine house, I have left my heritage; I have given the dearly beloved of my soul into the hand of her enemies ( Jeremiah 12:7 ).

Now notice how God still talks of Israel, "the dearly beloved of my soul." God still loves them. You remember the rich, young ruler that came to Jesus and said, "What do I have to do to inherit age-abiding life?" Jesus said, "Keep the commandments." He says, "Which one?" Jesus talked to him about the commandments that dealt with his relationship with his fellow men. And he said, "I've kept all these from my youth. What I lack yet?" Jesus said, "If you want to be perfect, go and take your goods and sell them and distribute them among the poor, your wealth. And then come and follow Me." And it said he went away sad because he had great riches. Now you thought that if you had great riches you'd be very happy. Here's a case where great riches made a man very sad. But it says Jesus looked upon him and loved him. This guy had a quality that was admirable. It drew out love from Jesus as He saw the sincerity in the guy's heart. Jesus looked upon him and loved him. But the guy couldn't pay the price. He went away sad. No sadder than Jesus, because Jesus loved him. And He speaks of the people though they have forsaken, though they are going down the tubes, though they have turned their back on God, God still calls them "the beloved of my soul." Oh, how great is God's love.

My heritage is unto me as a lion in the forest; it cries out against me: therefore have I hated it. My heritage is unto me as a speckled bird ( Jeremiah 12:8-9 ),

Now as a... birds or hens are very mean. If you have a chick that is deformed in some way or looks different, they'll peck it to death. That's where the term henpecking came from, not from wives, but from chickens. That a bird that is odd, they'll peck the thing to death. And so here, a speckled bird would be pecked by the other birds. And God says Israel has become like a speckled bird.

the birds round about are against her; come and assemble all the beasts of the field, come to devour. For many pastors have destroyed my vineyard, they have trodden my portion under foot, they have made my pleasant portion a desolate wilderness ( Jeremiah 12:9-10 ).

The shepherds have destroyed. I think today of how many men who take the title Pastor who are really destroying the fields, the flock of God, leading them astray.

They have made it desolate, and being desolate it mourns unto me; the whole land is made desolate, because no man lays it to heart ( Jeremiah 12:11 ).

I think that one of the greatest problems that we're facing today is that we are living in a desperate world. Things are really getting desperate. Look at the moral situation of our country. Look at the moral climate. It's getting desperate. Look at the economic situation. It's getting desperate. Look at the international situation. It's getting desperate. Look at this tremendous arms race, getting desperate. But God's people aren't desperate. I think the time has come when we really need to take it to heart and get desperate before the Lord. When we need to really gather together more and more. Assemble for prayer that God will send a revival that will really stir the nation at its very core, at its very heart, because we're going down the tubes fast. But no one's laying it to heart and God said this is the problem. Things are going down but no one's really laying it to heart. We say, "Oh my, isn't that horrible?" And that's it. We're not really getting desperate before God over the situation. No man is really laying it to heart.

The spoilers are come upon all high places through the wilderness: for the sword of the LORD shall devour from the one end of the land even to the other end of the land: and no flesh shall have peace. They have sown wheat, but shall reap thorns: they have put themselves to pain, but shall not profit: and they shall be ashamed of your revenues because of the fierce anger of the LORD. Thus saith the LORD against all my evil neighbors, that touch the inheritance which I have caused my people Israel to inherit; Behold, I will pluck them out of their land, and pluck them out the house of Judah from among them. And it shall come to pass, after that I have plucked them out I will return, and have compassion on them, and will bring them again, every man to his heritage, and every man to his land. And it shall come to pass, if they will diligently learn the ways of my people, to swear by my name, saying, The LORD liveth; as they taught my people to swear by Baal; then shall they be built in the midst of my people ( Jeremiah 12:12-16 ).

Now God promises He's going to take them out of the land. They're going to be out. Further on in Jeremiah he predicts that it will be for seventy years that they'll be out of the land. But God said,

But if they will not obey, I will utterly pluck up and destroy that nation ( Jeremiah 12:17 ),

If they come back and obey Me, then we'll set things up. But if not, then I'm going to destroy them.


Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Jeremiah 12". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/csc/jeremiah-12.html. 2014.
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