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FRAMEWORKS: Jeremiah 4: Call to Repentance & a Warning of Disaster


PART ONE: v.1-4: A Call to Repentance & change
PART TWO: v.5-9: A Warning of a destruction that is coming from the north
PART THREE: v.10-18: That Warning is Clarified
PART FOUR: v.19-31: Anguishes, Concerns & the Lord's Refusal to Relent


[Preliminary Comment: The nature of this complex on one hand, but straight forward on the other hand, chapter means it is not easy to separate it into neat sections because there is a measure of repetition, for example:

- a call to repentance – v.1-4,8a,14 – which may also be implied in a number of other verses, e.g. v.18 that speaks of them bringing this on themselves,

- a warning to heed & prepare for what is coming – v.5,6

- vivid descriptions of what is coming

  - an invader from the north bringing terrible destruction v.6

  - who has left his home already to bring utter destruction v.7

  - revealing the Lord's anger v.8b

  - and will bring a sense of horror to all v.9

  - a sword that will remove the previous peace v.10

  - and bring a completely cleansing judgment v.11,12

  - from an army with chariots and horses v.13,14

  - bringing disaster from the north v.15,

  - an army that will lay siege to your cities v.16

  - bringing disaster that flows down through the land v.20

  - completely emptying the land v.25,26

  - yet not completely v.27

  - but spreading right through the land v.28

  - that will cause everyone throughout the land to flee v.29

- and the various responses of Israel (Judah)

  - they will be horrified by what is coming v.9

  - but it is their wrong responses to |God that has brought this on v.18

  - yet they act as senseless children v.22

  - and make themselves look good v.30

- There is also the anguish of the prophet himself

  - who feels they have been deceived by prior words of comfort v.10

  - while he anguishes over what he senses is coming v.19

  - and senses the anguish of the nation as a whole v.31

All together is a chapter of warning.



PART ONE: v.1-4: A Call to Repentance & change


v.1,2 The Call to Israel to forsake their idols & return to the Lord

v.1  ‘ If you, Israel, will return,
     then return to me,'
declares the Lord.
If you put your detestable idols out of my sight
[if you] no longer go astray,
v.2  and if in a truthful, just and righteous way
    you swear, “As surely as the Lord lives,”
then the nations will invoke blessings by him
    and in him they will boast.'


[Comment: The three required [and one implied] ‘if's' are conditions of genuineness for what now follows, but proved by the two ‘then's. i.e. if you say you'll return – do it; if your desire for re-establishing a relationship with God is genuine, the nations will see and respond.]


v.3 Instruction: Break up the hardened unprepared ground & remove the thorns

v.3  This is what the Lord says to the people of Judah and to Jerusalem:

‘Break up your unploughed ground
    and do not sow among thorns.

v.4 Instruction: cut out the protective covering that desensitizes your consciences

v.4  Circumcise yourselves to the Lord,
    circumcise your hearts,
    you people of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem,
or my wrath will flare up and burn like fire
    because of the evil you have done –
    burn with no one to quench it.


[Comment: You need to take action to deal with your hardness that prevents God's word touching your hearts and bringing the fruit of repentance – or He will come and deal with you.]



PART TWO: v.5-9: A Warning of a destruction that is coming from the north


v.5 Sound the alarm, gather together, flee to the city

v.5  ‘Announce in Judah and proclaim in Jerusalem and say:
    “Sound the trumpet throughout the land!”
Cry aloud and say:
    “Gather together!
    Let us flee to the fortified cities!”

v.6 Signal everyone to get to Jerusalem's safety for an invader from the north is coming

v.6  Raise the signal to go to Zion!
    Flee for safety without delay!
For I am bringing disaster from the north,
    even terrible destruction.'


[Comment: Because of what is coming, the people need to be warned to flee to a place of security.]



v.7 A destroyer has left his lair to bring destruction to you

v.7  A lion has come out of his lair;
    a destroyer of nations has set out.
He has left his place
    to lay waste your land.
Your towns will lie in ruins
    without inhabitant.

v.8 Show signs of repentance, for God's anger is pointed towards us

v.8  So put on sackcloth,
    lament and wail,
for the fierce anger of the Lord
    has not turned away from us.


v.9 When it happens all who lead us will be dismayed

v.9  ‘In that day,' declares the Lord,
    ‘the king and the officials will lose heart,
the priests will be horrified,
    and the prophets will be appalled.'


[Comment: This coming destruction is very real so you would do well to repent before God brings this judgment on you.]



PART THREE: v.10-18: That Warning is Clarified


v.10 Jeremiah feels they have been deceived with previous talk of peace

v.10  Then I said, ‘Alas, Sovereign Lord! How completely you have deceived this people and Jerusalem by saying, “You will have peace,” when the sword is at our throats!'


v.11,12 The Lord warns that what is coming will be totally destructive

v.11  At that time this people and Jerusalem will be told, ‘A scorching wind from the barren heights in the desert blows towards my people, but not to winnow or cleanse;

v.12  a wind too strong for that comes from me. Now I pronounce my judgments against them.'


[Comment: Previous words meant to encourage them to return to the Lord may in fact have left them feeling secure in their sin but they should realise God's judgment is coming.]



v.13 Jeremiah catches in his spirit a vision of the coming invaders

v.13  Look! He advances like the clouds,
    his chariots come like a whirlwind,
his horses are swifter than eagles.
    Woe to us! We are ruined!

v.14 He calls for the inhabitants of the city to repent

v.14  Jerusalem, wash the evil from your heart and be saved.
    How long will you harbour wicked thoughts?

[Comment: This judgment is real, it is an invader already on his way, so the people should turn to God in repentance quickly.]



v.15 The word comes from the north that the enemy is coming

v.15  A voice is announcing from Dan,
    proclaiming disaster from the hills of Ephraim.

v.16,17 Jeremiah calls for onlooking nations to observe [and learn – implied]

v.16  ‘Tell this to the nations,
    proclaim concerning Jerusalem:
“A besieging army is coming from a distant land,
    raising a war cry against the cities of Judah.
v.17  They surround her like men guarding a field,
    because she has rebelled against me,”'
declares the Lord.

v.18 Jeremiah warns them that they have brought this on themselves

v.18  ‘Your own conduct and actions
    have brought this on you.
This is your punishment.
    How bitter it is!
    How it pierces to the heart!'


[Comment: This enemy is already being reported by those living in the north and it will sweep across the land bringing destruction and it is their own sin that has brought this on them.]



PART FOUR: v.19-31: Anguishes, Concerns & the Lord's Refusal to Relent


v.19 Jeremiah anguishes at what he sees is coming

v.19  Oh, my anguish, my anguish!
    I writhe in pain.
Oh, the agony of my heart!
    My heart pounds within me,
    I cannot keep silent.
For I have heard the sound of the trumpet;
    I have heard the battle cry.

[Comment: The reality of this vision so impacts Jeremiah that he finds himself in a state of constant anguish.]



v.20,21 He knows it will be an ongoing destruction

v.20  Disaster follows disaster;
    the whole land lies in ruins.
In an instant my tents are destroyed,
    my shelter in a moment.
v.21  How long must I see the battle standard
    and hear the sound of the trumpet?


[Comment: He sees in his spirit the reality of the destruction that is coming



v.22 The Lord describes the folly of His people

v.22  ‘My people are fools;
    they do not know me.
They are senseless children;
    they have no understanding.
They are skilled in doing evil;
    they know not how to do good.'


v.23-26 This coming devastating destruction will denude the land

v.23  I looked at the earth,
    and it was formless and empty;
and at the heavens,
    and their light was gone.
v.24  I looked at the mountains,
    and they were quaking;
    all the hills were swaying.
v.25  I looked, and there were no people;
    every bird in the sky had flown away.
v.26  I looked, and the fruitful land was a desert;
    all its towns lay in ruins
    before the Lord, before his fierce anger.


[Comment: The Lord anguishes over the blind folly of His people who fail to sense the land vibrating as the invaders come.]



v.27 The Lord warns of massive (but not complete) destruction

v.27  This is what the Lord says:

‘The whole land will be ruined,
    though I will not destroy it completely.

[Comment: Although they will destroy, He will not let it be a complete destruction.]



v.28 He will not change His mind and hold back

v.28  Therefore the earth will mourn
    and the heavens above grow dark,
because I have spoken and will not relent,
    I have decided and will not turn back.'


[Comment: They should not hope that God will relent for He won't, His mind is made up.]



v.29 It will mean that all His people will have to flee

v.29  At the sound of horsemen and archers
    every town takes to flight.
Some go into the thickets;
    some climb up among the rocks.
All the towns are deserted;
    no one lives in them.


[Comment: When the invader comes they will all flee.]



v.30 He challenges the folly of appearing good on the outside

v.30  What are you doing, you devastated one?
    Why dress yourself in scarlet
    and put on jewels of gold?
Why highlight your eyes with makeup?
    You adorn yourself in vain.
Your lovers despise you;
    they want to kill you.


[Comment: Their dressing themselves with a pagan religion will do them no good; the invaders will ignore all that, so intent will they be on destruction.]



v.31 Jeremiah senses the coming anguish of Israel

v.31  I hear a cry as of a woman in labour,
    a groan as of one bearing her first child –
the cry of Daughter Zion gasping for breath,
    stretching out her hands and saying,
‘Alas! I am fainting;
    my life is given over to murderers.'


[Comment: The truth is that Israel herself will be in deep anguish when this comes on them as they sense there will be no hope at the hands of these coming marauders.]



Continue to Chapter 5