My soul, my soul! I am in anguish! Oh, my heart!
My heart is pounding in me;
I cannot be silent,
Because you have heard, O my soul,
The sound of the trumpet,
The alarm of war.
Disaster on disaster is proclaimed,
For the whole land is devastated;
Suddenly my tents are devastated,
My curtains in an instant.
How long must I see the standard
And hear the sound of the trumpet?
“For My people are foolish,
They know Me not;
They are stupid children
And have no understanding.
They are shrewd to do evil,
But to do good they do not know.”
Have you ever received a warning that you wish you hadn’t ignored? Jeremiah warned the people of Israel: destruction was headed their way if something didn’t change. Their sin made them vulnerable, and invasion from the north was knocking on their doorstep (4:6). They should grieve their sin and lament (4:5-13), and that should lead them to repent (4:14-18). Yet, they weren’t doing so, and it caused Jeremiah great pain and anguish in these verses. He cried out to God because the people’s stubborn disobedience grieved him deeply. How many times did he have to warn them before they listened? How many times did he have to call them to repent before they actually turned from their sin?
Israel was acting like a stupid child. The prophet’s blunt imagery might catch us off guard. A stupid child? That seems a bit harsh. And yet, Jeremiah’s point was this: Children often act without thinking about the consequences of their actions. They just want what they want. They don’t yet have the wisdom to do otherwise. That’s how Israel was acting—as if their sin wasn’t going to have any consequences.
In order to be obedient, we need the Spirit of God working in and through us. We don’t have the means of true wisdom apart from God. Israel could not do good (v. 22) because they did not know God (v. 19). The same is true for us. And reversing those will not get us anywhere, no matter how much we try. We cannot know God by doing good. We cannot do enough to earn our Father’s affection. We need Him to be obedient, or we will live as if our sin doesn’t have consequences. That’s why we must live in a pattern of repentance, daily turning from our sin and our flesh.
● In what ways are you acting as a spiritual child? How have you experienced consequences for sinful choices or patterns? Is there destruction that could have been avoided if you had listened to God’s call?
● Have you ever been broken for the sin around you as Jeremiah was? How does that inform the way you pray? The way you engage with others?
● Take some time to thank God for giving us the warning to come home. In His grace, He offers us the chance to turn before our sin can lead to destruction. If there are sinful patterns in your life you are holding onto, take some time to repent, and ask Him to break those chains.