Jer 4:23-28 describes the reversal of the creation process: The earth becomes void and unformed again, light is gone from the sky, no people remain, the birds have left, and the land has all become desert. God has power over all of creation, and at His good pleasure all of it may exist or all of it may be revoked.
Jeremiah almost certainly had access to Hosea’s writings of over a century prior in which God used the metaphor of marriage to describe His relationship with Israel. The imagery of the unfaithful wife neatly matches that of Hosea’s parables, and the language in 3:1-5 echoes that of the Mosaic law from Deut 24:1-4. God, however, shows that He will not be held to the moral law given to Moses: If in His mercy He chooses to forgive His people, He remains entirely within His rights to do so. (Jer. 3:12)
Jer. 5:19b: “Because you forsook Me and served alien gods on your own land, you will have to serve foreigners in a land not your own.” If we choose to disavow the Lord and His salvation, then He gives us over to our own desires to experience the full weight of our choices. cf. Romans 1:18-32
JSB repeatedly notes the parallel concepts in Ezekiel calling out the sins of Judah, the people and leaders alike, as well as the wrath of God against these sins.
Jer. 6:11 describes God being so overcome by the sins of the people that He can no longer contain His wrath. So serious is the offense that His wrath comes upon all, even the “innocent” infants along with the youths, middle-aged families, and the elderly.
In Jer. 6:20 the prophet decries unacceptable burnt offerings and sacrifices. Lev. 22:17-33 lays out guidelines about the acceptability of certain animals in various conditions, but this passage seems to relate more to the condition of the sacrificers’ hearts rather than the offering itself. We read similar complaints about meaningless sacrifice in Isaiah’s opening chapters.
Reading the prophets gives me a different conception of God’s priorities and admonitions for us: In the history books, particularly Kings and Chronicles, apostasy and idol worship clearly get highest ratings as the worst of the sins. In the prophets, though, these sins retain their significance, but God also calls the people out for their lack of righteousness among their fellows. For example, see Jer. 7:5-11:
…if you execute justice between one man and another; if you do not oppress the stranger, the orphan, and the widow; if you do not shed the blood of the innocent in this place; if you do not follow other gods to your own hurt- then only will I let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers for all time…
I suppose the distinction lies in the focus of the text: In the history books we read mostly of the leaders, and when they led the people into the worship of false gods, all these other sins followed. The prophets, on the other hand, go into detail about the various sins, both of the leaders and of the common people. Jeremiah thus far has described only a corporate judgment, but in Isaiah we read numerous examples of God visiting His blessings or punishments on individuals rather than the entire nation based on each person’s actions.
Israel considered the Temple and the sanctuary as the Most Holy Place of the Lord, and yet God insists that even this will be destroyed if the people continue to profane His name. Nothing in this world is sacred to God if we fail to align our hearts in the right direction. As noted before, even creation itself is subject to revocation at His divine command. We cannot appeal to anything in creation, no sacrifice, no holy object, no mortal person, to atone for sins for which we fail to repent.
In Jer. 7:22, the Lord through Jeremiah states that He did not mention (“speak with them or command them concerning”) burnt offerings or sacrifice to the patriarchs during the time of the Exodus from Egypt. An odd statement, since God through Moses describes in great detail the altar of burnt offering in Exodus, and much of Leviticus, and Numbers. Deuteronomy, on the other hand, makes only vague references to sacrifices and offerings of any kind, and none that I see to a burnt offering in particular. Could it be that Jeremiah was not familiar with Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers? I’ve heard many references to the Law found in the temple at the time of Josiah being specifically the Book of Deuteronomy. It is possible that this is as much of the Law that Jeremiah had available at the time.
Thus said the Lord: Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom; Let not the strong many glory in his strength; Let not the rich man glory in his riches. But only in this should one glory: In his earnest devotion to Me. For I the Lord act with kindness, justice, and equity in the world; For in these I delight – declared the Lord.
God is righteous, and He expects nothing less from us. Nothing we are and nothing we have can save us; Only in God Himself can we find our salvation.
JPS states that Jeremiah is the only prophet who specifically mentions circumcision. Here, in 9:24-25, he notes that circumcision of the flesh means nothing when the heart remains uncircumcised. The Apostle Paul echoes this sentiment at the Jerusalem council.
Being a prophet with a word from God against the current state of affairs can be quite hazardous to your health! Jeremiah’s peers in his hometown of Anathoth sought his life, but God promised to rescue him out of their hands (11:18-23), as He had sworn at the very beginning. (1:17-19)