5 January 2015

Jeremiah 35:15-17

“You did not incline your ear or obey me.” (v. 15b)

Psalm: Psalm 99


The prophet Jeremiah prophesied before and during the Babylonian exile in the 6th century BC, and was given the difficult task of proclaiming to the people of Judah that God would soon punish them unless they turned from their idolatry and wrongdoing. Those who heard the message failed to heed it, and so Jeremiah's prophecy was accompanied by tears for his people. His grief at the coming loss has led Jeremiah to be called the 'weeping prophet'.

In this passage, Jeremiah speaks God's warning to the people of Judah that their persistent refusal to hear and obey the prophetic word will lead to their destruction. Jeremiah contrasts the disobedience of the people of Judah with the obedience of "the descendants of Jonadab son of Rechbab" (v. 16), who - unlike the people in general - obeyed the commands of their ancestor. We know a little about this sect within Judaism from earlier in the chapter (Jeremiah 35:1-14), which describes their tenacious commitment to the teachings of their founder Jonadab. The majority of the people of Judah, however, were disobedient to the word of God, and so God promises to bring upon them judgement and punishment (verse 17). These are hard words, even if we know that on the far side of judgement restoration would come.

The idea of God as a judge or one who executes judgement might seem foreign to us, and yet here Jeremiah relates it to the failure of the people to listen to what God is saying. We might recall a later prophet - more than a prophet - reflecting on the same condition in his own generation (Luke 11:29-32). We are also reminded throughout the book of Jeremiah that the God who judges is the same God who shows mercy (Jeremiah 31:20), and that a time will come when God will establish a "new covenant" and remember the sins of his people no more (Jeremiah 31:31-34).

To Ponder

  • How do you react to the idea of God's judgement?
  • In what ways do you think those within the Church refuse to listen to God?
  • How can we become better 'hearers' of the word that God gives us? 

Bible notes author

Ed Mackenzie

Dr Ed Mackenzie is the Discipleship Development Officer for the Methodist Church and an Associate Lecturer at Cliff College. He lives in Derbyshire with his wife Ali and their two sons.