Punishment can be termed the suffering imposed on result of their wrong-doing. Hope on the other hand is what one, expects desires, which will eventually come in spite of obstacles.
Punishment and hope are two parallel lines which do not meet. They are diametrically opposite, yet in God’s dealings with Israel,
He has brought these seemingly incompatible words together, to hand-in-hand throughout the Bible. Each time God announces any punishment for his people, there will always be rays of hope somewhere, provided there is repentance. This is clearly what this chapter is all about.
Punishment For Israel – Jeremiah 2; 5:14-19; 14:1-12
Jeremiah was commissioned by God to go to Jerusalem to prophesy to the people of Israel. They had been ungrateful for the cares and protection of God as well as His goodness. They had imitated other nations to serve idols. God’s anger against Israel and Judah were two-fold:
“For my people have committed two evils:” They have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” (Jeremiah 2:13)
In this case, God has been forsaken as the “fountain of living waters” while Israel has once again worshipped baal, (the “cistern that can hold no water.”) God is trying to proclaim through Jeremiah that at this stage of her growth as a nation, Israel should have known that baal is a dead god which has nothing to offer in terms of protection. Therefore, any attempt to forsake God for baal amounts to rejecting life ‘the fountain’ and choosing death ‘the cistern’.
God recounts how he led Israel out of Egypt: how he provided for them; sustained them; protected them and so on. And now, Israel is forsaking Him for a dead god. This amounts to not fearing God.
God’s word through Jeremiah represented ‘fire’ which will consume the people. The punishment was commensurable with the offence. Since they have decided to serve other gods, they would be taken to a foreign land where they will be treated as servants. The son will not suffer for the sins of the father “because the soul that sins shall die.”
Summary Of Israel’s Sins
- Israel has forsaken God and embraced baal.
- Israel has forgotten the days of old when God brought them out of Egypt. They have also forgotten how he sustained and provided for them in the wilderness.
- The former punishments Israel had received from God failed to serve as a deterrent to them.
- There was injustice everywhere.
- There was falsehood, people swearing falsely.
- There was the exploitation of the poor.
- There was sexual immorality.
- There was adultery.
- People approached women in their periods of impurity.
- There was oppression, robbery, wickedness and disobedience.
- There was blasphemy, and God and his prophets were despised. These could be seen in the streets of Israel.
Nature Of Punishment
- Because of the blasphemy they have spoken with their mouth, God will make his words become fire in their mouth, and the people will be made to be as wood so that the fire will devour them (Jer. 5:14). This implies great torture for Israel.
- God will bring a mighty nation from afar to eat up Israel’s harvest, their flock, their vines and at the end impoverish the land. This points to a great famine and pestilence and general hardship and suffering.
- They will be taken captive by this great nation, who will treat them as servants.
Hope – Jeremiah 3:11-18; 4:1-2;14
As earlier mentioned, God’s punishment is meant to correct and lead to repentance. Despite his threat to punish Israel severely, the people repent, call on God to forgive. This leads God to hold out a hand of fellowship to Israel once more. Thus, he speaks to Jeremiah on what to do:
“Go and proclaim these words towards the north and say: ‘Return, faithless Israel, says the Lord. I will not look on you in anger, for I am merciful, says the Lord; I will not be angry for ever. Only ? acknowledge your guilt, that you rebelled against the Lord your God and scattered your favours among strangers under every green tree, and that you have not obeyed my voice, says the Lord. Return O faithless children, says the Lord, for I am your master, I will take you; one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion” (Jeremiah 3:12-14).
From the above passage, it is clear that God’s anger has subsided and He has accepted Israel back and has promised to bring her back to Zion -Jerusalem from exile. God promises to restore them again back to glory, giving them better spiritual leaders. He goes on to assure Israel of his blessings and the restoration of Jerusalem on the seat and throne of God; as well as Israel’s return from exile.
God also promised that the enmity that exist between Israel and Judah would be taken away and both would turn to God when they returned from exile. The promises and blessings for Israel were to be transferred to other surrounding nations. The only means of deliverance left for Jerusalem was to wash her hearts from wickedness.
Lessons To Learn On Nature Of God
- God always holds out some hope for his straying children, in spite of his anger.
- Even when God forgives us and makes some promises to us, such blessings must be tied to conditions. God is not willing to over-pamper his children. He will always give conditions to bring back a lost child. For Israel, the condition was that for him to accept them back, they must not go back to their former iniquities.
- If we go astray, but realize our sins, confess and forsake such sins, God will always bring us back, for He is a kind and loving God.
- God is a jealous God. He wants us to have only Him as God, trusting and depending on Him only. Each time we forsake Him, we should be ready to face punishment.
- Sinners cannot go unpunished. However, after punishment, there is hope.
- God is interested in dwelling amongst his people but hates sin.
- Each time God thinks about punishment. he thinks about hope.
- His punishment is meant to correct and reform.
- God is full of love. always looking for our welfare.
- His punishment is not out of hatred but love.
- However, if after such punishments (which in most cases, he allows us to undergo) we express our desire to return, he will always take us back.