The book of Jeremiah is a sad, dark commentary on the years of wicked, rebellious living among the nations of Israel and Judah. At the same time, Jeremiah’s writings are alarming, being prophetic of God’s upcoming judgment of His physical people for their behavior. As he writes to them, it is revealed that certain doom would come at the hand of a powerful, ancient nation that speaks a language they know not (Babylon, Jer. 5:15).
While their sins were many and vast, God highlighted a few of their offenses to Him in chapter 7. Though this passage specifically dealt with Israel and Judah, we could certainly learn from their mistakes in our land today.
For if ye throughly amend your ways and your doings; if ye throughly execute judgment between a man and his neighbor; if ye oppress not the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and shed not innocent blood in this place, neither walk after other gods to your hurt: Then will I cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers, for ever and ever.Jeremiah 7:5-7
As you may notice, we even find some common buzz words of contemporary political movements, such as justice and oppression. Let’s take a closer look.
If ye throughly execute judgment… Judgment and justice are synonyms. What does biblical justice look like? After all, “justice” is an often invoked term in America at present. Simply put, justice and judgment means that the penalty fits the crime. If someone commits a crime, he would pay. One should not be punished above what his crime warrants. And, no one should be free from justice because he or she is of a more elite societal class. Rulers are to be a terror to evil and when this occurs, justice has been served.
If ye oppress not the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow… You notice those three groups referred to disadvantaged people within Israel. The stranger would be one who was an alien to Israel, someone an Israelite may be tempted to afflict or treat unfairly. Yet many times in the law, God gave provision for the stranger. Likewise is it the case with the fatherless and the widow. Those two types of person faced serious challenges and often lived in poverty. Rather than turning a blind eye to their suffering, God’s people were to relieve their affliction. God gave commandments regarding these sufferers in the form of tithes and unharvested corners of the field, that no such person would starve. Did always Israel obey? No, they didn’t. God was displeased and would judge for this (Mal. 3:5). We even find this principle carrying over into the New Testament age, as James describes pure religion as visiting the fatherless and the widows in their affliction. We are to be diligent and devoted to caring for the poor.
Shed not innocent blood in this place… How might this apply to our society at present? Well, how is innocent blood shed? Media personalities love to emphasize sensational stories of confrontations between law enforcement and citizens that fly out of control into extreme violence and death. But is that the shedding of innocent blood? No – not if a person is fighting police after being involved in the commission of other crimes. The most glaring example of shedding innocent blood in our land and throughout the western world today is found in the practice of abortion. Thousands of unborn babies – special creatures made in God’s own image – are slaughtered every day in the name of convenience. This is sin, and we will not escape God’s judgment as a society for it. In fact, we’re likely living under such judgment now. Take a survey of the confusion, suffering, and violence of the last year. We certainly seem to be a land which has been cut off from God’s full blessings. This makes it all the more important for God’s people to act and think as such. We’re the salt of the earth and light of the world. How sad it is when we jump right into the rhetoric and behavior of the wicked world around us!
Neither walk after other gods… Lastly, as with so many other times, Israel was involved in idolatry. While their idols were made of wood, silver, gold, or stone, we can make an idol out of anything. Anything we put trust in or devotion to above God has become an idol. Our idols today could be social movements, recreation, politics and allegiance to political figures, or the rabid and cultish ideologies of “Wokeism” or the LGBT movement. Frankly, in light of all of the above, my instincts tell me we’re in a great deal of trouble.
What happens with repentance?
To be clear, the wicked, in their sinful and unregenerate state, have no desire towards God and can only be motivated away from reprobate behavior through the fear of punishment. These promises to Old Testament Israel apply today to God’s elect. Namely, we will have the blessings of God in a spiritual sense by obeying His Word and seeking repentance. We’ll be closer to Him. We’ll experience a more full assurance. Our churches will fare better. And eventually we can have a greater degree of influence in a positive way on the culture around us, as salt and light.
There really is nothing new under the Sun. Our problems today mirror their problems in Jeremiah’s day. And the solution is one and the same!