Jeremiah 5-6; Psalm 94-95
There’s a story in Genesis 18 that is kind of amusing to me (and also tragic). After God promised Abraham that he and Sarah would have a son in their old age he basically tells Abraham, “I’m going to go destroy Sodom and Gomorrah because of their great sin.” That’s not the part that’s amusing. Abraham knows that his nephew Lot and his family are living in Sodom and Gomorrah and he’s trying to persuade God not to destroy the whole city. “What about the good people in Sodom? Are you going to kill them along with all the bad people? What if there are 50 good people in Sodom, will you spare the city?” God agrees with Abraham’s request, “If you can find 50 good people in Sodom I won’t destroy it.” This is the part that I find amusing… Abraham starts to negotiate with God in the way someone might try to negotiate buying a used car. “What about 45 good people?” God says “Ok, I won’t destroy it for 45 good people.” Abraham keeps negotiating until he talks God down to 10. If there are only 10 good people to be found in Sodom, God will not destroy it. (Abraham is one fine negotiator)
Sodom is so bad it can’t even reach that low bar. God rescues Lot and his 2 daughters and everyone else dies (including Lot’s wife who turned back and became a pillar of salt.)
In today’s reading we’re not in Sodom, we’re in Jerusalem. Jerusalem, the city of God where the Temple and all its priests and religious leaders worked. Jerusalem, where the King and all his government served. You would think that with all of these important leaders of religion and government there would be lots of good people in Jerusalem, and you would be wrong. In Jeremiah 5 God says:
“Go up and down the streets of Jerusalem,
look around and consider,
search through her squares.
If you can find but one person
who deals honestly and seeks the truth,
I will forgive this city.”
When I was a kid, back when music was great, Three Dog Night had a song called “One is the Loneliest Number”. (Go ahead, if you’re under 50 go check out the song on You Tube, I’ll wait).
Welcome back! God is making an offer even better than the one he made to Abraham about Sodom. 1. If you can find just one person in Jerusalem that is honest and seeks the truth, he will forgive the whole city. That would be like today God saying “Go to Washington DC. If you can find one honest person in the whole city, I’ll spare the city.” Well, maybe we can imagine that. So apparently Jerusalem was Washington DC level corrupt. Now, with politicians we can kind of get it. But this was also the religious leaders, the priests and heads of religion. Surely they were all honest seekers of truth, right? (No, I’m not biased even though I’ve been a professional clergy for the entirety of my adult life, over 35 years). Come to think of it…. “Houston, we have a problem.”
There was not a king nor a priest nor anyone else who was righteous or cared about the truth. And so Jerusalem was toast.
But here’s the good news. God sent His son, Jesus, to Jerusalem. He was the one true and righteous king. He was the one priest who cared about truth. Of course, they killed him, but God raised him. And Jesus is the only way that we can find salvation. He is our righteous messiah and holy high priest. (See Hebrews).
Jeremiah paints a painful but honest picture of the brokenness of human beings. It helps set the stage for Jesus as the true and only one able to save us. Keep this in mind as you read Jeremiah 5-6 today. It was bad, it may get badder, but one day all will be well again.
I will end with a portion of Psalm 95 “Today, if only you would hear his voice, Do not harden your hearts…” Seriously, don’t harden your heart, let Jesus in.