The dark cloud that God could be – Tuesday, 17th Week in ordinary time – Jeremiah 14:17b-22

The dark cloud that God could be – Tuesday, 17th Week in ordinary time – Jeremiah 14:17b-22

We are still in the reign of King Jehoiakim 609-598 who ruled after his father King Josiah. The context of this passage is a about a severe drought that rocked Judah (14:1-15:9)
The economy of Judah which was based on agriculture, ran on fresh water. Droughts of this magnitude were devastating and effected every corner of Judean society: from rich landowners to poor workers, even to the farm animals, which were the ancient equivalent of tractors and ploughs.

In response to the drought, the people plead with God (14:7-9). They confess their iniquities, ‘many as there are.’(14:7) When that fails, they try one last trick in their book, they appeal to God’s ego; like as if God has an ego or needs their false praise.(14:8-9). This God that they abandoned is now for them the ‘hope of Israel’ and the ‘saviour in times of trouble.’ They cannot understand why their flattery does not work and why God seems to be throwing up an apparent tantrum for ‘no reason’ by behaving like He is the stranger in their midst. Why, they ask, would a ‘mighty warrior’ like God not help the very people ‘called by his name.’

But this time nothing works. Often it is a single word that signals a change in relationship and chapter 14:10 has that definitive word, ‘THIS’. God now refers to Judah as ‘THIS people’. Up unto now, God has always called Judah HIS people or MY people; that has now changed with this four letter word that has created a chasm between God and Judah. Since they have not restrained their feet from leaving his temple to worship other gods, they will be rejected and their sin will be punished (verse 10). This punishment is seen in the immediate context of the drought but also in the future when they will be marched into exile.

Yet Isaiah, hoping for a reprieve for Judah, attempts to shift the blame from the people to the false prophets of his time who assured Judah that no sword or famine would touch them. God rejects this excuse for its lack of foundation; Yahweh did not send these false prophets, so the message of these false prophets can be nothing else but a product of their own imagination. Prompted by the smooth words of the false prophets, the people of Judah hoped for peace and healing, but instead came trouble.

Therefore Judah will face the consequences of her action; war will now break out on Judah, described in our text as a virgin daughter who is struck down by a crushing blow (verse 17). No one will be spared, for God seems determined to smite them. If famine does not wipe them out, war will! Now in desperation they confess their sin so that they may experience some reprieve

Astonished at the calamity to come, Jeremiah was bold enough to wonder if God had cast off His people; if He had utterly rejected them, loathed them, and stricken them beyond healing. The chapter began with concern over the droughts. Now Jeremiah hopefully speaks for a repentant people who recognize that Baal or any of the other idols are powerless to cause rain. Nature, when separated from God can do nothing.

Chapter 14 doesn’t simply chide the people for insincerity in their confession. Chapter 14 is not a case where the confessional or words of repentance are right but the heart isn’t in it as has happened in the past. Chapter 14 is not merely an attack of dead ritual. Whether the level of sincerity was high or low in the past, sincerity is not the issue now. The issue in just this, time has run out for Judah and the wells of God mercy have run dry.

Once God is active in punishment, the only way out comes from God himself. That is what is being pleaded here, and their plea is rejected by God. God is, in this text, rejecting the intercession of the people — not because it is insincere, but because the time for pleas is over. In this case, God will not be the silver lining to the drought or the war to come; here God is the dark cloud and he is not working to prevent destruction but is the cause of it.

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