Week 5: Lessons from the Prophets Cont’d
Day 3 – When a Nation Neglects the Fatherless: Jeremiah 5:28, 7:6,7; 22:3,4; Lamentations 5:3
The message to Judah regarding the fatherless is a lot more extensive than what we saw yesterday in Jeremiah’s address to Edom. The first time they are mentioned is in chapter five where the sin of Judah and Jerusalem is addressed,
“They are waxen fat, they shine: yea, they overpass the deeds of the wicked: they judge not the cause, the cause of the fatherless, yet they prosper; and the right of the needy do they not judge. Shall I not visit for these things? saith the Lord: shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this?” Jeremiah 5:28,29
Once again, we see the neglect of the fatherless and the needy and God’s impending judgment. Notice first of all that it is neglect that is being discussed, not affliction, not oppression, but simple neglect. We may have been able to read over some of the other passages lightly and say, “I have not oppressed them. I have not afflicted them.” But here we see again, as with Job, the dangers of simple neglect and the importance of actively caring for their needs and taking up their cause.
This neglect, however, is only the surface problem. In verse twenty-two, the Lord puts a very important question out on the table.
“Fear ye not me? saith the Lord: will ye not tremble at my presence, which have placed the sand for the bound of the sea by a perpetual decree, that it cannot pass it: and though the waves thereof toss themselves, yet can they not prevail; though they roar, yet can they not pass over it?”
Remember Job’s first reason for ministering to the fatherless? “For destruction from God was a terror to me, and by reason of his highness I could not endure”, Job 31:23. Job feared the Lord. He understood His majesty, power and position as judge of the whole earth. Because Judah lacked this fear of the Lord, they turned away from the commands of the Lord and began following after the idols of the surrounding nations.
In chapter seven, Jeremiah preaches to the people and reveals how foolish it is for them to think that simply because the temple is in their midst they will not feel the judgment of the Lord. He reminds them of what happened when the tabernacle was at Shiloh and the judgment that came upon Israel when Eli’s sons took the Ark of the Covenant out into battle and 30,000 footmen died that day at the hand of the Philistines. Beginning in verse three, Jeremiah tells the people what they need to do if they want to be under the protection of the hand of the Lord, rather than under His wrath,
“Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, Amend your ways and your doing, and I will cause you to dwell in this place. Trust ye not in lying words, saying, The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, are these. For if ye throughly amend your ways and your doings; if you throughly execute judgment between a man and his neighbor; If ye oppress not the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and shed not innocent blood in this place, neither walk after other gods to your hurt: then will I cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers, forever and ever.” Jeremiah 7:3-7
Once again, God’s desire was repentance, and proper dealings with the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow was a desired, if not required, fruit of that repentance. You may ask, “What is to say that they might not simply do these things to avoid judgment? What is to say that someone today might not simply do these things today in an attempt to please, if not appease, God?” It is possible for someone to attempt this, but, while there are a rare few who might succeed, it is not probable that most will get very far. Dealing properly with the fatherless and the widow and the stranger, requires a great deal of personal sacrifice with very little in return. The rewards are laid up in heaven for sure, but if your heart is not in the right place it is very difficult to, forgive my bluntness, wipe urine and feces from the floor of a widow’s home week after week with the only return being a fair dose of whining and complaining. It is equally as hard to invest years of time and energy into the life of an orphan only to see them, as have the children of many a godly parent, throw off all that they have been taught and enter a life of sin and debauchery. Our desire must not be to appease – our salvation is not by works. Our desire must be to serve and obey the God who has saved us. He has promised to bless us when we minister to those who can in no way return the favor: “And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.” Luke 14:14
In Jeremiah twenty-two we see yet another, similar plea. It comes during the reign of Zedekiah. During his reign, Nebuzaradan besieged Jerusalem, captured the king, killed his sons in front of him, put out his eyes and carried him to Babylon. Nebuzaradan then burnt the house of the Lord, the king’s house and the houses of the great men of Judah. Though this is not the last plea with the people to come back to their God that we find in the book of Jeremiah, it is certainly one of the last before these terrible events.
“Thus sayeth the Lord; Execute ye judgment and righteousness, and deliver the spoiled out of the hand of the oppressor: and do no wrong, do no violence to the stranger, the fatherless, nor the widow, neither shed innocent blood in this place. For if ye do this thing indeed, then shall there enter in by the gates of this house kings sitting upon the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, he, and his servants, and his people. But if ye will not hear these words, I swear by myself, saith the Lord, that this house shall become a desolation.”
Did they listen? Did they do as the Lord commanded? From the horror’s of Zedekiah’s reign we know they did not. How sorrowful the words of Jeremiah,
“Our inheritance is turned to strangers, our houses to aliens. We are orphans and fatherless, our mothers are as widows. We have drunken our water for money; our wood is sold unto us. Our necks are under persecution: we labor, and have no rest…Our fathers have sinned, and are not; and we have borne their iniquities.” Lamentations 5:2-7
Consider it, Israel in ruins. The holy city a desolation. Let us not say as Judah did, The temple (church) of the Lord is here, He will not bring destruction upon us.
“For if ye throughly amend your ways and your doings; if you throughly execute judgment between a man and his neighbor; If ye oppress not the stranger, the fatherless and the widow, and shed not innocent blood in this place, neither walk after other gods to your hurt: then will I cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers, forever and ever.” Jeremiah 7:5-7
God’s patience with Judah was long, but when they did not respond their judgment was severe. Will we make Him wait as long?
Will we wait until He must make our nation a desolation to take up His commands and obey them?
Perhaps we do not afflict or oppress, but do we neglect? Do we fear the Lord our God?
Up Next: Day 4: Ezekiel and the Stranger
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