Does He Hear? (Jeremiah 10:17–25)

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I know, O LORD, that the way of man is not in himself,
that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps.
Correct me, O LORD, but in justice;
not in your anger, lest you bring me to nothing.
Pour out your wrath on the nations that know you not,
and on the peoples that call not on your name,
for they have devoured Jacob;
they have devoured him and consumed him,
and have laid waste his habitation.
—Jeremiah 10:23–25

The section of Jeremiah running from 8:4–10:25 concludes with a humble petition from Jeremiah wherein he pleads that the Lord have mercy in judgment by judgement. He doesn’t plead to be exempt from correction, but that the correction be according to covenant justice, and not in His anger. He asks that God’s wrath not be aimed at Israel, but at the nations who do not know God.

So it is that this section ends with questions but no answers. Does Yahweh hear this cry? The answer to each petition is found to be emphasized by two following sections in Jeremiah.

Concerning Jeremiah’s plea for correction, unmixed with anger, we go to the section running from chapters 30–33 known as “The Book of Consolation.” Of course, we could look at those famous passages therein concerning the new covenant as the answer to Jeremiah’s petitions, and they are, but there is an earlier portion of the Book of Consolation that is especially pertinent.

“Then fear not, O Jacob my servant, declares the LORD, nor be dismayed, O Israel; for behold, I will save you from far away, and your offspring from the land of their captivity. Jacob shall return and have quiet and ease, and none shall make him afraid. For I am with you to save you, declares the LORD; I will make a full end of all the nations among whom I scattered you, but of you I will not make a full end. I will discipline you in just measure, and I will by no means leave you unpunished. For thus says the LORD: Your hurt is incurable, and your wound is grievous. There is none to uphold your cause, no medicine for your wound, no healing for you. All your lovers have forgotten you; they care nothing for you; for I have dealt you the blow of an enemy, the punishment of a merciless foe, because your guilt is great, because your sins are flagrant. Why do you cry out over your hurt? Your pain is incurable. Because your guilt is great, because your sins are flagrant, I have done these things to you. Therefore all who devour you shall be devoured, and all your foes, every one of them, shall go into captivity; those who plunder you shall be plundered, and all who prey on you I will make a prey. For I will restore health to you, and your wounds I will heal, declares the LORD, because they have called you an outcast: ‘It is Zion, for whom no one cares!’ ” (Jeremiah 30:10–17, emphasis mine).

Jeremiah’s petition is born out of his lament that his wound is grievous (10:19). When Jeremiah laments there, he is speaking as and for the people. In chapter 30 God promises that this wound will be healed and that He will not make and end of them but of the nations.

This passage alone is sufficient to answer both of Jeremiah’s petitions, but there is a whole section that speaks to the second petition just as there is a whole section that speaks to the first. Beginning in chapter 46 and running to the end is a section known as the “Oracle Against the Nations.” In Jeremiah 51:5 we’re given a reason for the destruction of Babylon: “For Israel and Judah have not been forsaken by their God, the LORD of hosts, but the land of the Chaldeans is full of guilt against the Holy One of Israel.” Israel is not forsaken. Babylon will be judged.

But how can these things be? Jeremiah 30:10–17 was prefaced in this way:

“And it shall come to pass in that day, declares the LORD of hosts, that I will break his yoke from off your neck, and I will burst your bonds, and foreigners shall no more make a servant of him. But they shall serve the LORD their God and David their king, whom I will raise up for them.”

The answer will be made clear in the King God raises up whom they will serve. How can Judah be healed from so grievous a wound? The answer is that their King will be wounded for her.

“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:4–6).

Jeremiah cried out “For the wound of the daughter of my people is my heart wounded” (Jeremiah 8:21). Our Lord cried out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). Jeremiah suffered with his people; Christ suffered for his people. Know that He too prays for His people, pleading all that He is, and be certain that His prayers are heard.

Mediated is Superior to Immediate (Exodus 32:12–23)

Moses’ prayer to behold God’s glory is oft bandied about in a individualistic way. Indeed, Moses’ longing is the longing of every true saint, and Paul makes this application alluding to Moses’ experience in 2 Corinthians 3:15–18.

Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

Yet, note that Paul refers to this as something “we all” behold. This is the corporate experience of the church.

When you read Exodus 32–34 who do you identify with? “Show me Your glory,” we pray, but do you ever think of this as being prayed by another for your benefit? This chapter is the apex of Moses’ mediation, which runs like a mountain range through Exodus. Moses’ mediation is no small theme in this book. The theme of mediation isn’t comprised of a few foothills with a couple of snowcapped heights. Exodus contains the Old Testament Himalayas of mediation, and here stands Everest. Moses as mediator clearly is a foreshadowing of Jesus, yet, when Moses makes his boldest request, we want to insert ourselves. We’re not Moses. We’re golden-calf worshipping Israel. We need a mediator. To behold the face of God we need a Mediator who has beheld the face of God.

When Moses cries out to see God’s glory, that request cannot be separated from His pleading for His people. Moses’ beholding God’s glory speaks to the favor He has found with God, and if the Mediator has found favor, the people can take hope of God’s presence with them (Exodus 32:16).

The glory of God that the saints will forever behold is the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6). This is no mere reflected glory as with Moses for Jesus is the radiance of God’s glory (Hebrews 1:3). Our great confidence of seeing God’s glory is our Mediator’s prayer, “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world (John 17:24).”

God Is not Unstable so Be Not Unstabled (Exodus 32:1–14)

The point of the text is not to paint God like some Roman deity. God is not moody. God isn’t temperamental or vindictive. God is not emotionally erratic and unreliable. Exodus 32 should not cause the saints to doubt God’s faithfulness, rather, just the opposite. God’s covenant faithfulness is unfailing.  Everything that happens in Exodus 32 is part of God’s sovereign plan. Consider four things.

First, read this singular instance in light of the whole of Scriptures that show God as sovereign over all things. Israel’s sin and Moses intercession are both part of God’s plan.

Second, Moses has pleaded with God on the basis of God. Moses has not spoken of how good the people are. Moses has not bartered with God as Abraham did, asking that if there are just ten righteous that God would spare them. Moses pleads with God upon the basis of what God has done (Exodus 32:11), out of zeal for God’s glory (Exodus 32:12), and because of what God has promised (Exodus 32:13). This isn’t Moses changing God’s sovereign will, but instead, revealing it.

Third, God set Moses up. When God says, “let me alone (Exodus 32:10)” the implication is that if Moses does not leave, then God will not consume them. Moses doesn’t disobey God. He stays upon the basis of who God has consistently revealed Himself to be and what He has promised to do and he implores God based upon the implication of what God has threatened and who God has called him to be—an intercessor.

Fourth, Why is Moses who he is? At the beginning of this book, when Moses was first on this mountain speaking with God, he argued with God in a sinful way, offering up various excuses for not obeying God and going to Egypt to deliver God’s people. Previously, Moses argued with God in a sinful way for selfish purposes that would leave Israel in bondage. Now, he implores God in a holy way for unselfish purposes, that will preserve Israel. So who has made Moses who he is? Who does Moses look like? Into whose image is Moses being conformed? Moses looks like Jesus, which is to say, he looks like God.

The point of the tabernacle is that man is sinful, God is holy, and that a mediator and sacrifices are thus necessary. This chapter, sandwiched between the instructions for and construction of the tent, not only amplifies those themes, it unites them as the mediator puts himself forward as the sacrifice (Exodus 32:30, 32). Saints, this text should cause you to hate sin and it should show you the ugliness of sin, but it should not cause you to doubt God’s faithfulness. One better than Moses pleads for you. He died. It is finished. He rose. He is at the right hand of the Father. You are united to Him by the Spirit. It is the Father who gave Him. You cannot be cast away unless Christ be cast away, meaning you are unmovable. Oh great sinners, take comfort in your great Savior.