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Justice in Judgment

“‘Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but everyone walked in the stubbornness of his evil heart. Therefore I brought upon them all the words of this covenant, which I commanded them to do, but they did not’” (Jeremiah 11:8).

The book of Jeremiah is almost entirely about God’s coming judgment upon the nation of Judah. While Isaiah’s prophecies offered some hope of repentance, by the time of Jeremiah that hope was all but gone. Things were so bad that God even told Jeremiah not to pray for the people, because their doom had already been decided. They were too far gone to repent. God had offered them that chance again and again, but again and again they threw it back in His face. The time for His mercy had ended. The time for His judgment had come.

The message of Jeremiah isn’t a pleasant one. It can be difficult to read these hard judgment passages, wondering how this portrayal of such great wrath is compatible with the image of a loving God. The truth is, we spend so much time focusing on the love of God that we forget He is a God of justice and wrath, too. But His judgments don’t just come out of nowhere. In the book of Deuteronomy, God gave His people specific details about what would happen if they disobeyed Him. These included famine, disease, and war. There would be a progression of horrible things until finally the people would be conquered by foreign nations and scattered across the world.

The warnings of Deuteronomy were coming to fruition in Jeremiah’s time. Already the people were plagued with famine and death. War hovered at every corner. And now Jeremiah was prophesying about the impending Babylonian conquest. This wasn’t something God decided to do just because He was frustrated with His people. This was part of His covenant. If the people of Israel failed to uphold their end of that covenant, the curses inherent in it would come upon them. God had warned them what would happen, but they chose to rebel anyway. God was not being faithless to them; rather, He remained absolutely faithful to His covenant. His justice is thus upheld. He is good because He keeps His promises—even the terrible ones.

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