Imagine that the Lord was to visit your town today in search of men and women who are honest and truthful. How many people would He find? Would you be one of them? This is exactly what the people of Jerusalem experienced as recorded in the book of Jeremiah. God was willing to forgive the entire capital city if He could find just one honest person who was seeking the truth, but He found no one (Jer. 5:1).
The people of Jerusalem—and all of Judah—had turned away from the Lord. Their lives were wracked with sin, and they were worshiping false gods (Jer. 11:13). Among these gods was Baal, a god of the Canaanites (Jer. 2:8). Baal worship often involved animal sacrifice and prostitution. In addition to Baal, the people worshipped Molech, a god who required the sacrifice of children (Jer. 32:35).
In a tremendous expression of grace, the Lord sent the prophet Jeremiah to warn the people of the impending consequences of their sin and call them to repentance. Tragically, they would not listen. For 40 years, Jeremiah prophesied, but the people would not repent. As a result, the Babylonians invaded Judah three times, conquered Jerusalem, destroyed the temple, and captured the people of Judah.
Despite the heroic example of Jeremiah’s obedience and God’s promise of future restoration (Jer. 30:3), the book of Jeremiah is a heartbreaking account of rebellion and the painful consequences of sin. Why didn’t the people of Judah repent? How did they miss decades of warnings from God’s prophet?
I’ve often told my children that it’s easier to learn from the mistakes of others than to learn from the painful consequences of our own mistakes. As we study the book of Jeremiah, I want us to learn from two key mistakes made by the people of Judah that contributed to their downfall.
First, though they tried to appear godly on the outside, on the inside their hearts were corrupt. They continued to visit the Lord in the temple (Jer. 7:9–11), but in reality, their hearts were far from Him. They mistakenly thought their worship rituals would give them favor in the eyes of the Lord.
Second, the people of Judah ignored godly counsel. Because of their stubborn, hard hearts, they refused to listen to Jeremiah’s warnings (Jer. 5:3). Jeremiah wrote about this foolishness when he described them as people “who have eyes but do not see, who have ears but do not hear” (Jer. 5:21).
Are we trying in vain to cover the sin in our hearts by following a religious routine? Do we humbly listen to the people God has put in our lives to speak truth to us? I challenge us to learn from Judah’s mistakes by examining our hearts and repenting of the sin in our lives, so that we can be right with the Lord. May God find us to be honest people who are seeking His truth.
By Dr. Paul Nyquist, President of Moody Bible Institute
Dr. Paul Nyquist is the ninth president of Moody Bible Institute and featured speaker on Moody Radio’s program “Moody Presents.” With his theological training, pastoral heart and global focus, Nyquist is leading Moody to go across the globe, cultures and generations to equip people with the truth of God’s Word, using new technology, in an agile and innovative community. He and his wife, Cheryl, have been married for 30 years, have four grown children, and are proud grandparents of one child.