The Ark and the City
“They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace” (v. 14).- Jeremiah 6:6–30
Human beings tend to take things for granted. We may not put in a full day’s worth of work and then, when our boss says nothing, continue on doing the job halfway for months to come. Perhaps we sin against our spouse or children, and when we do not experience immediate consequences, we go on sinning again, believing that our actions will go unnoticed, or at least unpunished.
In some ways it is easy to understand why we take the kindness of others for granted. After all, we are also prone to overlook the faults of others, so why should they not do the same for us? Yet the depth of such arrogance is seen in that we often take the goodness of God for granted. We sometimes believe we can sin with impunity because He has chosen us and certainly would never allow us to feel the harsh consequences of our foolish decisions.
This is precisely the attitude of ancient Israel during the time of the divided monarchy. Taking comfort in the physical presence of the ark of the covenant and the temple, the people repeated the mantra, “This is the temple of the Lord,” when Jeremiah warned them their sin would result in their exile (Jer. 7:1–4). They reasoned that since their covenant Lord, Yahweh, had chosen the city of Jerusalem and had built His temple there, He would never allow His beloved city to fall, His own house to be destroyed, and His throne — the ark of the covenant — to be lost.
Such thinking merely proved the ignorance of the people. Deuteronomy 28:58–68 warned Israel that the Almighty’s patience only goes so far and that destruction and exile would be the curse for unrepentant sin. In fact, the Lord Himself would bring the judgment, leading pagan armies to judge His people, which is His right as the sovereign of the world. This is the point of today’s passage. God is described as one who ordered the building of siege ramps so that these armies could get into Jerusalem (Jer. 6:6). He is the one who ordered thorough destruction, just as vinedressers take all the grapes from their vines, leaving none behind (v. 9). The false prophets promised peace, but the Lord’s holy wrath would judge His impenitent people (vv. 14–15).
Judgment did come on Jerusalem and the ark was lost (2 Kings 25:1–21). But, as the rest of Scripture tells us, God was not yet done with His city and His people.
The Lord is slow to anger, and He is gracious and merciful, but we can never take advantage of that fact. True, there is no condemnation if we are in Christ, but that does not mean we will not feel the consequences of our actions. Moreover, if we sin boldly, presuming upon God’s forgiveness, it may mean that we have never known Christ. When we read the warnings to repent in Scripture, we prove our salvation by actually repenting.
Passages for Further Study