The Book of Jeremiah makes its mark upon the canon by speaking of the iniquity of the people in clear and devastating terms, the anguish and fury of God, and the subsequent ripple effect that iniquity causes throughout the land and the ages.
The book opens with a series of lamentations from the people to God. These repeatedly elaborate upon the suffering of the people. Yet it is in verse 2:19 that the reader glimpses the heart of God and His desire to separate Himself from His people because of their sin and His heartache at their denial of Him: “Your wickedness will punish you, and your apostasies will convict you.” It is as a direct result of their sin that they are punished lest anyone claim otherwise; this shows God’s desire for clarity as well as complete burden of blame upon the people. The verse continues, “Know and see that it is evil and bitter for you to forsake the Lord your God.” Again, this is a reiteration of Judah’s separation from God. Finally, the last third of this verse reveals the pangs of God and He sees His beloved turn away from His mercy and lovingkindness, “the fear of me is not in you, says the Lord God of hosts.” How His people must cause Him such grief.
It seems that the book continues with many metaphors of God’s wrath upon the people: comparing them to a whore, to broken pottery, to fish in the sea, and to lost harvests. However, the book seems to take a different direction altogether in verse 16:21, “Therefore I am surely going to teach them, this time I am going to teach them my power and my might, and they shall know that my name is the Lord.” This verse booms with the magnitude of God’s righteous anger and retribution against the people. This verse seems to be the pivot point for the text and the mark to which the second half of the text revolves.
The third point of this text is in verses 16:10-13. These verses clearly define the reason for the God’s divine judgment. God knows that they people will ask “Why?” “Why?” His answer is that the fathers have sinned as have the sons and so all will be punished and will lose their land. The book continues by God sending Jeremiah to king after king and explained to the leaders what will happen to them as a result of the sin in their lands.
Amidst all the struggle and anguish as a result of their apostasy, God offers hope. Verse 23:5-6 states, “The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely…[and] in his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety.” The reader cannot make the mistake and jump ahead knowing the implication of this “righteous Branch” as is brought about in the New Testament. The reader must take Jeremiah at its face value and attempt to understand the calamity of the people from their own hand and the righteous wrath of God and His justified wrath against them. Yet God offers this kernel of truth and hope as it is buried within the text.
Thus, the iniquity and apostasy of the people cannot and will not go unpunished. Additionally, the people will know exactly why they are being punished as God is making those reasons straightforward and clear. And yet, God is jealous and merciful; He will offer hope to the nations, and they must suffer until that hope is fulfilled.