Jeremiah 5:1. Run ye to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, and see now, and know, and seek in the broad places thereof, if ye can find a man, if there be any that executeth judgment, that seeketh the truth; and I will pardon it.
It was a very wonderful offer, on the part of God, to forgive the inhabitants of the whole city of Jerusalem for the sake of one man; and it was all the more remarkable because he gave them time to make a thorough search to see whether such a person could be found: “if there be any that executeth judgment, that seeketh the truth.” Into what a horrible state of guilt must the Jewish capital have fallen when there was not one man, even among the magistrates or the priests, who cared for that which was just and true. May God prevent London and England from becoming like Jerusalem and Judah! May truth and righteousness flourish in our land!
Jeremiah 5:2. And though they say, The LORD liveth; surely they swear falsely.
Even those who assumed an appearance of being religious, and who said, “Jehovah liveth,”—even they were false swearers. To what a terribly sad state had the age come when its very religion was a lie, and its professedly holy things were thoroughly rotten!
Jeremiah 5:3. O LORD, are not thine eyes upon the truth?
If there be any truthful man anywhere, God sees him. His eyes are upon him, he regards him with attentive delight, and he will take care of him with the utmost vigilance. But what was the real character of these people?
Jeremiah 5:3. Thou hast stricken them, but they have not grieved; thou hast consumed them, but they have refused to receive correction: they have made their faces harder than a rock; they have refused to return.
Nothing could make them act rightly; whatever God did with them, they still persisted in their iniquity.
Jeremiah 5:4-5. Therefore I said, Surely these are poor; they are foolish: for they know not the way of the Lord, nor the judgment of their God. I will get me unto the great men, and will speak unto them; for they have known the way of the LORD, and the judgment of their God:
But he found no improvement among them; they were even worse than the poor and ignorant, for he goes on to say,—
Jeremiah 5:5-6. But these have altogether broken the yoke, and burst the bonds. Wherefore a lion out of the forest shall slay them, and a wolf of the evenings shall spoil them, a leopard shall watch over their cities: every one that goeth out thence shall be torn in pieces: because their transgressions are many, and their backslidings, are increased.
Now let us continue our reading at verse 10, where we shall see that both the house of Israel and the house of Judah had turned aside from the Lord their God.
Jeremiah 5:10-12. Go ye up upon her walls, and destroy; but make not a full end: take away her battlements; for the are not the LORD’S. For the house of Israel and the house of Judah have dealt very treacherously against me, saith the LORD. They have belied the LORD,—
They have made it out as though God himself were a liar. They have contradicted him whose word is the truth itself. They have despised his threatenings, they have refused his invitations, they have disbelieved his promises: “they have belied the Lord,”—
Jeremiah 5:12-14. And said, It is not he; neither shall evil come upon us; neither shall we see sword nor famine: and the prophets shall become wind, and the word is not in them: thus shall it be done unto them. Wherefore thus saith the LORD God of hosts, Because ye speak this word, behold, I will make my words in thy mouth fire, and this people wood, and it shall devour them.
It is a dreadful state of things when God turns from pleading with men to threatening them, when he ceases to invite them to return to him, and denounces them as transgressors against his laws. At such times, he makes the words that come out of the mouths of his prophets to be like fire, and men are utterly consumed by them as the stable in the field is destroyed by the devouring flames.
Jeremiah 5:15-18. Lo, I will bring a nation upon you from far, O house of Israel, saith the LORD: iris a mighty nation, it is an ancient nation, a nation whose language thou knowest not, neither understandest what they say. Their quiver is as an open sepulchre, they are all mighty men. And they shall eat up thine harvest, and thy bread, which thy sons and thy daughters should eat: they shall eat up thy flocks and thine herds: they shall eat up thy vines and thy fig trees: they shall impoverish thy fenced cities, wherein, thou trusted, with the sword. Nevertheless in those days, saith the LORD, I will not make a full end with you.
See how, in the midst of his wrath, God remembers mercy. He utters a terrible sentence concerning transgressors, and then he pauses, and says, “Nevertheless,”—listen to the gentle note of pity in that word,— “Nevertheless, in those days, saith the Lord, I will not, make a full end with you.” Still does he spare the guilty, and in his long-suffering he gives them further opportunities for repentance.
Jeremiah 5:19. And it shall come to pass, when ye shall say, Wherefore doeth the LORD our God all these things unto us? then shalt thou answer them, Like as ye have forsaken me, and serve strange gods in your land, so shall ye serve strangers in a land that is not yours.
A man may often see his sin in its punishment. Because they had served strange gods, therefore the Lord sent them to serve strangers in a strange land. Remember, O transgressor, that thy sin will come home to thee in some form or other! if we sow the wind, we shall reap the whirlwind. “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” Therefore, let us beware of scattering seeds of sin, for they will produce a terrible harvest of woe.
Jeremiah 5:20-21. Declare this in the house of Jacob, and publish it in Judah, saying, Hear now this, O foolish people, and without understanding; which have eyes, and see not; which have ears, and hear not:
And, alas! there are far too many of such people still about. They hear God’s Word, yet it never reaches their hearts. They see what God’s hand is doing all around them, yet they do not and they will not really see it as they should.
Jeremiah 5:22. Fear ye not me? saith the LORD, will ye not tremble at my presence, which, have placed the sand for the bound of the sea by a perpetual decree, that it cannot pass it: and though the waves thereof toss themselves, yet can they not prevail; though they roar, yet can they not pass over it?
There is a little belt of sand which checks the surging sea, and says to it, “Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further: and here shall thy proud waves be stayed.” Now, if sand, which is so weak a thing, can, nevertheless, control the mighty ocean within bounds, how readily ought you and I to be governed by God, and held in check even by the slightest intimations of his will!
Jeremiah 5:23. But this people hath a revolting and a rebellious heart; they are revolted and gone.
God restrains the sea, but nothing seems to be able to restrain the sinfulness of man. He breaks ever every barrier that should keep him back; he is like a desolating torrent when he gives way to iniquity.
Jeremiah 5:24. Neither say they in their heart, Let us now fear the LORD our God, that giveth rain, both the former and the latter, in his season: he reserveth unto us the appointed weeks of the harvest.
Though God gives timely and suitable seasons for the growth and in-gathering of the corn,—rain when it is needed to aid the upspringing of the blade, and fine weather for garnering the harvest,—yet many men see not the hand of God at all, and they are therefore not moved by gratitude to bless his name, and fear him to whom they are indebted for all that they receive. Oh, what an ungrateful and blind creature is man!
Jeremiah 5:25. Your iniquities have turned away these things, and your sins have withhold good things from you.
Does any unconverted man here know what good things he has missed up to the present moment? Suppose you, my friend, were to be saved tonight, yet can you even imagine what joy you have lost through all the years of your past impenitence? Nothing can ever give back to you the years that have gone, or impart to you, in the future, the joy you might have had, but which you have missed. And, mark you, if there were no hell to be endured, it is enough of hell to have missed heaven. It will be grief enough to your heart, at the last, to find that “your sins have withhold good things from you.”
Jeremiah 5:26. For among my people are found wicked men:
“Among my people,” saith the Lord,—in the very church itself, making as loud a profession as the most genuine Christian,—“among my people are found wicked men.” Here, in this place, tonight, mingling with the godly in this congregation, are found wicked men. The Lord have mercy upon them, and turn them from their evil ways!
Jeremiah 5:26. They lay wait, as he that setteth snares; they set a trap, they catch men.
Beware of these man-catchers, who entrap souls, and ruin them for ever, ensnaring them by leading them into evil habits and transgressions.
Jeremiah 5:27-28. As a, cage is full of birds, so are their houses full of deceit: therefore they are become great, and waxen rich. They are waxen fat, they shine: yea, they overpass the deeds of the wicked:-
The manifestly wicked,—
Jeremiah 5:28-29. They judge not the cause, the cause of the fatherless, yet they prosper; and the right of the needy do they not judge. Shall I not visit for these things?
Angels in heaven, God says to you, “Shall I not visit for these things?” And they answer, “Yea, Lord.” Even to the devils in hell, he may put the same question. They are already smarting under his wrath, and he may say to them, “Shall I not visit for these things?” And they also answer, “Yea.” He puts the question to all intelligent beings who know what is right and true, “Shall I not visit for these things?” And they, with one consent, reply, “Yea, Lord; it must be so.”
Jeremiah 5:29-31. Saith the LORD: shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this? A wonderful and horrible thing is committed in the land; the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so:
It is a most horrible thing that God’s own people should ever be willing that error should be preached, and that oppression and wrong-doing of any kind should be practised. You know that, if God’s own people did not tolerate false doctrine, it would soon cease to be heard in many places. But it is when those who profess to know God’s Word endorse that which is contrary to the truth that error is kept in power in the land: “The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so.”
Jeremiah 5:31. And what will ye do in the end thereof?
That is a question which I would propose in God’s name to all here. Is your religion of such a character that, when you come to die, it will bear you up? Or have you taken up with some form of falsehood which will not stand the test of your dying hour? Are you living in neglect of God? Is your life such that he must be angry with you, for he is angry with the wicked every day? Then, take home to yourself the question with which this chapter closes, “What will ye do in the end thereof?” I am going to speak to you presently about those who go forth with Christ, without the camp, bearing his reproach, so let us read a few verses about the glory which awaits them by-and-by.