The Expository Files


Where Are They?

 Jeremiah 5:1-5


"Run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, look and take note! Search her squares to see if you can find a man who does justice and seeks truth, that I may pardon her," Jeremiah 5:1

Reading this verse plants in my mind a scene, like a video pops up on your computer. I see Jeremiah frantically searching through Jerusalem, trying to find one good man. That’s the image conveyed from this verse.

I don’t think of this in literal terms. But the literal picture helps me get the point. This very sad man is running through the streets, looking in the market place, in the dwellings, behind every idol, asking everybody and then moving quickly on. Is there one good man here?

He searches "high" and "low," in various economic groups. At one point he says, "I will go to the great. I will speak to them, for surely they know the way of the Lord." "But they all alike had broken the yoke; they had burst the bonds," (Jer. 5:5). He found many who swore falsely, plenty who "refused to repent," and idol manufacturers were too numerous to count. But as he searched "to and fro through the streets," he only found those who had no sense and who did "not know the way of the Lord," (see Jer. 5:1-5).

He was looking for men who are committed to justice. In the Old Testament, the word generally rendered "justice" or "judgment," (according to Mounce), "carries a legal or judicial connotation." It has to do with what is right, what is equal, what is fair, often in the context of some dispute or inequality. God is perfectly just and therefore defines the concept for man. The problem in the time of Jeremiah before the exile was, the people had abandoned the concept of what is right and fair. Jeremiah 7:6 states the problem of oppressing the sojourner, the fatherless and the widow. Idolatry had this component of injustice. Jeremiah – in the search image of chapter five – discovered a loss of justice. Where selfishness and power reigns, justice is absent.

The search was on for men who seek truth. Jeremiah sought in vain to find people who wanted the truth, the truth God had given them in statute, principle and example. It was critical to the survival of that generation for there to be people who wanted to know the truth, speak the truth, defend the truth and practice the truth. Jeremiah searched "high and low" for godly men to stand with him against the apostasy of the people. "If one wanted to take all the sins of Israel and reduce them to one spiritual failing, it was the loss of truth: ‘Truth has perished; it has vanished from their lips’," {Jeremiah and Lamentations (Redesign): From Sorrow to Hope (Preaching the Word) by Philip Graham Ryken, Kindle Loc: 2610}.

John Humphries is right to inquire from this text: "…Where are the men who are needed for spiritual leadership in the body of Christ? . . . where are the men who are truly the head of their families, including their wives (Eph. 5:22-33)? Where are the men who take the lead in the responsibilities of teaching and training their children in the Lord (Eph. 6:4)? Where are the men who are filled with the desire to prepare themselves for leadership responsibilities in the church (1 Tim. 3:1)? . . . Where are the men who truly want to be men of God?" {p.#51, Truth Commentaries: The Books of Jeremiah and Lamentations, John A. Humphries.}

The book of Jeremiah can be depressing for us today, not just because he was the "weeping prophet." But because today, we worry that such a search may soon yield the same miserable result. Look high and low. Try to find people who know the way of the Lord. But wait. Don’t get so caught up in that search that you miss the obvious. Are you living in the way of the Lord yourself? The search for us must not be just a prophetic or apocalyptic scene or historical account we read about. What about me?

I think that it is an obvious truth that very few hold the Lord God in the reverence He deserves today. Of course, we immediately think of the blatant ungodliness and rebellion that so typifies the behavior and statements of many. There's something missing from all of one's relationships when there is missing from his or her character a sense of awe with reference to the Creator. The respect which we have for God will influence our respect for others and for self. And it works the other way around as well. The Scriptures show that “...the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom He has not seen.” (1 John 4:20).

Maybe the reason that there is so little respect for one another today, and so much selfishness and hate, is because there is no respect for God. It is not easy to respect creatures in God's image if one does not respect the God who gives to all life and breath and all things.

But we must not just point an accusing finger at those outside the faith. Of even greater concern is a lack of respect for God among those claiming to be His children. This lack of respect does not often show itself as blatantly as it does in the world. It shows itself through such things as negligence. When one does not accept God's purpose for his or her life, it is because they lack respect. When one seeks to alter the Word of God by adding human religious creeds to it or taking away from it those things which God has ordained, it is because they lack respect. There's a song that says “You don't pull on Superman's cape.” Neither do you neglect God's will.

We have two New Testament epistles which Paul wrote to Timothy. Toward the close of the first, Paul sought to instill in everyone a reminder of the greatness of God. Consider what he said.

The Text
“...He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and the Lord of lords; who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light; whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen. (1 Timothy 6:15b,16).

The Blessed and Only Sovereign
“With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26). The word translated “Sovereign” (dunastes) is a noun meaning “ruler”, “potentate” or “prince”. The adjective form means “having power” or “capable”. Jesus used this form when He said “with God all things are possible.” In other words, God is able to do all that needs to be done. He never lacks the power to do what it is His will to do. He can save a rich man; He can allow a camel to pass through a needle's eye. Men cannot do these things, but God can.

Some men and women are powerful, relative to other men and women. But relative to God, all are weak. The greatest kings, dictators and generals of history are nothing in power when compared to God. Man, in his silly pride, often forgets this, to his own harm.

One other thing; this also tells the believer something. We can have confidence in our God. Neither His promises nor purpose will fail. He is in control and He rules over His universe. Nothing can occur without His allowance, and not a single tremor of the smallest molecule escapes His notice. Put your trust nowhere else. Let the world laugh now; its laughter will one day fall silent. Your faith is in One who made a career out of “overcoming the world” (John 16:33).

The King of Kings
“For the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our lawgiver,the LORD is our king; He will save us-” (Isaiah 33:22). Both the terms “King of kings” and “Lord of lords” cause us to think of Jesus because they usually apply to Him in the New Testament (cf. Revelation 17:14; 19:16), but here they refer to God the Father, and not God, the Son. The Greek word (basileus) simply means “king” or “leader”. To be the “King of kings” obviously means that God rules over all other rulers and that His authority is higher than any human authority.

Sometimes, this means that there will be a conflict between what God requires and what human authorities require. When this happens, we must not obey the king, but rather “the King of kings.” A good example of this is the apostles. Human civil and religious authorities forbade them to keep on doing what God had commanded them to do; that is; preach the gospel. Their answer: “We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29).

The Lord of Lords
“Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men...” (2 Corinthians 5:11a). The Greek word (kurios) is a noun which means “master”, “lord” or “supreme controller”. If we use the term honestly, then we are stating our subservience unto God when we call Him “Lord”. We are also stating our acceptance of His right to command us and our responsibility and willingness to obey His voice. We recall that Jesus once asked, “Why do you call Me 'Lord, Lord, and not do the things I say?” Luke 6:46). Such verbal acknowledgment without obedience is not what the Lord either requires nor desires.

Who Alone Possesses Immortality
“For just as the Father has life in Himself...” (John 5:26). The word translated “immortality” in our text (athanasia) has to do with being in a state untouchable by death. Only God possesses immortality inherent within Himself. But one day He promises to give it to the faithful as well. The word, used only three times in the New Testament, refers once to that which only God possesses, and twice to that new, spiritual body which the righteous receive at the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:53,54). We must participate in a godly life to inherit the life of God. Those who have lived by faith and died are not dead unto God. As Jesus said concerning the faithful of old and their continuing relationship with God, “He is not the God of the dead, but of the living” (see Mark 12:26,27).

Who Dwells in Unapproachable Light
“God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5). God's presence is unapproachable by mortal man, partly because of the glories that surround His throne. When men have glimpsed the light , the blaze of the glory shined as the sun and brighter yet. Peter, James and John stood in awe as they witnessed the transfiguration of Jesus. Moses' face shined for days after having been with the LORD on the mountain. If one lacks the proper awe and reverence for God in this life, at the judgment seat of Christ their disdain will one day be replaced with what should have been there all along. Let it be there now! “...and His face was like the sun, shining in its strength” (Revelation 1:16b).

Whom No Man Has Seen
“And He is the image of the invisible God...” (Colossians 1:15). We are not equipped to see God at this time. One day that will change when He equips us with spiritual bodies. God told Moses that “You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live” (Exodus 33:20). The privilege of seeing God face to face will have to wait until the next age. For now, we must know God by faith in His Son, who has revealed the Father to us.

“To Him be honor and dominion!” Paul exclaimed. The best thing one can do is honor God as God throughout their days. Then, at the proper time, the Redeemer will return to take us home to the Father. To be ready for that hour, with reverence, we keep the commandments of God (2 Timothy 6:11-14).


  By Warren E. Berkley
From Expository Files 21.7; July 2014