The Expository Files

Jeremiah Would Have Run Them Out of the Country

Americans love their country for the freedom and abundant opportunities from coast to coast. Never has there been an equivalent time for prosperity. A growing air of confidence exists among the people. One must admit, Americans are comfortable and loving it. Americans are patriots. Jeremiah lived in a comfortable time much like ours. The last good king Josiah spent an enormous effort on reform, removing idols, high places and wood-idols. Not even Assyria seemed to be much of a threat. Therefore, the people enjoyed political peace and prosperity. Jerusalem was on a pedestal. The Israelites, much like modern Americans, loved their country.

Israel's Patriotism
God had promised an everlasting an everlasting throne to King David (2 Sam 7:12ff.) and chosen Zion as His earthly home (Ps 132:13ff.). Therefore those within Jerusalem believed that no harm could ever come to His city or anyone residing there. Temple worship became a charm to ward off evil. The people trusted in the building and even the city itself (Jer. 7:4). Those in Jerusalem were patriots in the sense that they rallied for the political salvation of Israel. Consequently the people came to believe they could worship other gods provided they worshiped Yahweh at temple also. One might remember as Jeremiah would have the promised curses for disobedience laid out in Deuteronomy 28:15, 58ff., and 30:17-19. Harrison rightly summarizes Israel's misunderstanding, "What the Israelites were either unwilling or unable to comprehend was the fact that the external religious forms they were pursuing with such enthusiasm were completely alien to the spirit of Sinai and the Law."1 It was no wonder that Jeremiah's listeners accused him of treason and undermining the national morale when he preached the temple would be destroyed and, "He who goes out to the Chaldeans...will live" (Jer. 21:9; 26:9ff; 37:14; 38:2, 4). What Israel could not see was that Babylon was rising up to destroy them.

Jeremiah's Patriotism
Jeremiah was a patriot with the higher motivation not toward the political, but the moral salvation of his people. Jeremiah knew the only answer to Israel's moral salvation was to surrender to Babylon. In this sense, Jeremiah, although politically opposed to the majority, was a patriot on a higher plane. Political patriotism could in no way be compared to he higher level of moral patriotism Jeremiah held for God's nation. While political Israel focussed on material salvation, Jeremiah saw the big picture and worked toward spiritual salvation even when it meant giving up the country (21:9; 29:24ff; 38:2).

Many men and women are often so blinded by love that they fail to see obvious character flaws in the object of their love. Such was true for the people of Israel who loved political Israel so that they were blind to the states moral rottenness. So blind was Israel that they thought that Jeremiah was a traitor who undermined the morale of the country (37:14; 38:4). However, Jeremiah understood that Israel's political patriotism had blinded the eyes of her patriots, and therefore preached repentance fervently. Israel's only hope was to accept their punishment for their sins and turn back to God.

Raymond Calkins, in his book Jeremiah the Prophet: A Study in Personal Religion, rightly summarized Jeremiah's patriotism as the whole tragedy of his life. Jeremiah tried all his life to get Israel to repent and at the same time watched them deliver themselves over to destruction. This created in him a tension that tore him apart inside. On one hand Jeremiah loved his people and would suffer to the bitter end for them, but on the other hand, Jeremiah knew unerringly God's moral will and was forced to preach it (311).

As Americans and fellow Christians, we might learn from Jeremiah that we all have a tendency to be like Israel and trust what we have, in the "place" of our worship and the services we perform instead of the God that set them in order. It is easy to trust in what we do rather than who we are doing it for and forget the entire reason we worship at all. We need to thank preachers like Jeremiah who point out where we can improve.

Who was Jeremiah?
Jeremiah was a patriot to the end who loved his county more than his fellow countrymen ever realized. He never completely gave up on them. Jeremiah persevered through the worst trials, beatings and mockings in order to save his fellow countrymen from destruction. Jeremiah endured all things because he realized that religion was not only an external exercise but an internal relationship with the Almighty God.

Three things help a Christian in his or her walk with God, prayer - building a personal relationship with the Almighty, perseverance - walking through trials trusting in God's promises, and patriotism - a fervent love for God's spiritual nation and its people. Jeremiah exemplified all three of these characteristics. Jeremiah was a man after God's own heart. Let us be men and women of God like Jeremiah. Let us trust the Lord.

By Steve Quillian
From Expository Files 7.7; July 2000