A False Promise of Peace
“They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace” (v. 11).- Jeremiah 8:8–13
Bad news is something that we never want to hear. Yet when bad news is the truth, it must be heard if any good is to come of it. For example, nobody wants to hear that they have cancer. Still, we cannot seek treatment that can produce the good outcome of remission without knowing that we have the disease.
Jeremiah delivered truth in the form of “bad news” to the ancient people of God. Judah’s leaders, including scribes and other wise men, preached falsehoods in the form of “good news” that all was well and that the people were at peace with the Lord (Jer. 8:8–11). All things being equal, we are not surprised that the ancient Judahites wanted to hear only the good news. Yet all things were not equal. The bad news of looming judgment and the good news of security could not both be true, and Jeremiah proclaimed the truth even though it was bad news. Judah wanted to hear “peace,” but peace with God was a lie, and that false message could not lead to a good end (v. 11). Hearing and believing Jeremiah’s bad news, however, was the first step to repentance and restoration, to seeing that doom awaited the impenitent (3:12–17). Jeremiah was the Paul of his day, confronting people with the bad news of their sin so that they would run to God for salvation (Rom. 1:18–3:26).
Through Jeremiah, God conveyed the gravity of Judah’s sin in different ways, including his repeated, striking charge to the prophet not to pray for Judah (Jer. 7:16; 11:14; 14:11). It is hard to imagine the Lord being clearer about Judah’s desperate situation. Surely the nation had passed the point of no return if He was unwilling to hear the prayers of the prophets appointed to intercede for His people (see Num. 14:11–20).
Astonishingly, Jeremiah did not heed the Lord’s charge, interceding for the people even after being told not to pray for Judah (Jer. 37:3; 42:1–6). Did Jeremiah sin in this? No. First, prophetic oracles are often characterized by hyperbole that makes the reality of judgment clear and proves that the Lord will not ignore sin. The hyperbole does not falsify these oracles—it makes them more powerful to sinners’ ears, often becoming the means by which God moves people to repent. Second, the same God who told Jeremiah not to pray for Judah also told the prophet that He relents when a nation He has marked for judgment turns from sin (18:7–8). Even the most heinous sinners have an opportunity for repentance and forgiveness right up to the point that God’s wrath falls.
God loves His elect so much that He will do whatever it takes to move them to repentance and faith. This includes speaking even in hyperbole to get our attention. We should never look at God’s warnings in Scripture and think, “that could never happen to me.” Instead, we must heed these warnings, knowing that they are the means by which the Spirit keeps us in faith. The Lord’s electing grace preserves us, but He does so through the warnings we find in the Bible.
Passages for Further Study
1 John 5:16–17