Bible: What Does Jeremiah 13-15 Teach Us About Pride, False Prophets, Unanswered Prayer, and Divine Judgment?
The Linen Sash
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Pride prevents Israel from attaining the position God had intended for him and, in fact, it causes him to go into exile.
The LORD utilizes two symbols—a linen sash and wine bottles—to instruct Jeremiah about Judah's unprofitableness.
He first takes the prophet through a three-step process in the ruination of a linen sash (a representation of Israel) [vv. 1-7].
The sash starts as a garment clinging to a man's (namely, Jeremiah's) waist (vv. 1-2).
Jeremiah then removes it and hides it in a hole in a rock by the River (vv. 3-5).
Finally, after a long time, he digs it up and finds it ruined and useless (vv. 6-7).
Yahweh attributes Judah's ruin to his pride in refusing to obey His words; ultimately, his rebellion led to apostasy and idolatry (vv. 8-10).
God had meant for them as His glorious people to cling to Him, but tragically they turned their back to His word (v. 11).
Symbol of Drunkenness
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Empty Wine Bottles
The second symbol involves the filling of all available bottles with wine (representing national drunkenness) [vv. 12-13].
Eventually, their inebriation will lead to annihilation (v. 14).
Speaking plainly, Jeremiah exhorts the people to humble themselves (v. 15) and give glory to God while His judgment delays (v. 16).
Their refusal to obey the LORD, he tells them, will cause him deep personal anguish because he knows that they will become captives (v. 17).
Yahweh attempts to convince the rulers to humble themselves (v. 18), warning them that their cities’ inhabitants will become completely captive (v. 19).
Pointing out the disappearance of "sheep," Jeremiah next inquires of the "shepherds," "Where are your flocks?" (v. 20), and "How will you explain your coming punishment?" (v. 21).
Judah will secretly ask himself this question, but he will have no answer (v. 22a).
The prophet, nevertheless, will supply it (v. 22b): "As impossible as it is for an Ethiopian to change his skin color or for a leopard his spots, so it is for you to change your behavior" (v. 23).
God therefore resolves to scatter them in judgment (vv. 24-25).
The people will know nothing but humiliation because of their many spiritual adulteries and refusals to be made clean (vv. 26-27).
A Lack of Water in Jerusalem
Droughts befall Jerusalem, and the people cry out because their cisterns are empty (vv. 1-3).
Lack of water drastically affects the agriculture and wildlife in the land: no rain, no grass, no strength (vv. 4-6).
In light of these events, Jeremiah pleads for the LORD to save Israel in spite of their great sin and if only for His name's sake as their Hope and Savior (vv. 7-8a).
The people ask Him why He acts like a stranger, a wayfarer, who shows little interest in them, or a warrior who demonstrates no power to save them (v. 8b-9a).
Yet they also acknowledge that He has always maintained a close relationship to them, and they plead that He not abandon them (v. 9b).
For His part, Yahweh remains determined to punish Israel for her continual wandering (v. 10).
A third time He commands Jeremiah not to pray for Israel, for He will not accept any intercession or sacrifice; He has resolved to punish by means of the sword, famine, and pestilence (vv. 11-12; cf. 7:16; 11:14).
The man of God then complains about the false seers who are contradicting his message by speaking words promising peace (v. 13).
After assuring him that their message is false, Yahweh reveals their fate: death by the very disasters that they deny are coming (vv. 14-15).
Not only will the false prophets perish, but their hearers will also die by these means, and their corpses will not be buried (v. 16).
The LORD commands Jeremiah to preach a word of woe and mourning, because death will spare neither the field nor the city (vv. 17-18).
Israel continues to mourn and complain that no remedy exists that might prevent the LORD's wrath from falling; even confessing sins seems not to stop the horror (vv. 19-20).
As his people's representative, Jeremiah voices his fear that God is going to forsake them utterly (v. 21).
Yet, in the next breath, he also acknowledges Him as the only God who can save (v. 22).
Moses and Samuel
Even The Prayer of Great Saints Will Fail
In order to demonstrate to the prophet just how far the people have apostatized, God delivers a very strong message to Jeremiah concerning Judah's fate.
To judgment they will go, and no one can successfully intercede for them.
Even if Moses and Samuel, Israel's two great prayer warriors and intercessors of the past, approached Yahweh’s throne, they would fail (v. 1).
The LORD names four separate punishments (vv. 2-4), and lays them all upon Judah because of Manasseh's particular wickedness.
Three rhetorical questions, each expecting a negative answer, inquire about Judah's spiritual and emotional state of mind. In the end, no one will care for her (v. 5).
God will not hold back His judgment any longer (v. 6), but will wreak destruction on families.
Children, husbands, and mothers will all die (vv. 7-9).
The Weeping Prophet
Realizing their destiny, Jeremiah bewails his role in life; he calls himself "a man of strife and a man of contention" (v. 10).
The LORD assures him, however, that "his remnant" will survive the perilous times ahead (v. 11).
They will exchange their wealth for their lives and go into captivity (vv. 12-14).
Because he not only suffered for the sake of Yahweh, but also faithfully delivered God's message and separated himself from his adversaries, the prophet (on the one hand) asks mercy for himself.
On the other hand, however, he desires vengeance upon his enemies (vv. 15-17).
Jeremiah hurts (he thinks excessively) from his "perpetual pain" and his "incurable wound," and wonders if God has forgotten him (v. 18).
In response, the LORD does not severely rebuke him, but merely mentions Jeremiah's "return."
[Whether God means that the prophet needed to repent, or that He was referring to Jeremiah’s return from exile, this writer can only speculate].
God will use him as His mouthpiece if he "takes out the precious from the vile" (v. 19).
Question: Again, does this phrase mean that the prophet needed to rescue the good Israelites from the bad, or is it just another reference to his personal need for repentance?
He will also protect him among the people; His presence will deliver and redeem him from their hands (vv. 20-21; cf. Jer. 1:18-19).
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