Righteous are you, O Lord,
when I complain to you;
yet I would plead my case before you.
Why does the way of the wicked prosper?
Why do all who are treacherous thrive?
You plant them, and they take root;
they grow and produce fruit;
you are near in their mouth
and far from their heart.
But you, O Lord, know me;
you see me, and test my heart toward you.
Pull them out like sheep for the slaughter,
and set them apart for the day of slaughter.
How long will the land mourn
and the grass of every field wither?
For the evil of those who dwell in it
the beasts and the birds are swept away,
because they said, “He will not see our latter end.”
The English Standard Version of the Bible gives verses one through four the title: “Jeremiah’s Complaint”. Some of the commentaries I have read about these verses state that this is not Jeremiah quarreling with God, or attempting to quarrel with God, but it is a plea. I would say a plea for justice.
It is a common plea or complaint many of us have. We wonder how evil and wicked people can prosper, while we struggle every day just trying to do what is right. But we should all know the right way is not always the easiest way. Making the right decision may be easy, but doing it and following through is usually the hard part.
Doing what is right is like anything else, the more you do what is right, the easier it becomes. You develop a habit of doing the right thing and eventually it becomes instinctive. We are creatures of habit, and righteousness is a good habit to establish. But it takes work and vigilance to develop and maintain righteousness.
In verses five and six, God answers Jeremiah’s plea
If you have raced with men on foot, and they have wearied you,
how will you compete with horses?
And if in a safe land you are so trusting,
what will you do in the thicket of the Jordan?
For even your brothers and the house of your father,
even they have dealt treacherously with you;
they are in full cry after you;
do not believe them,
though they speak friendly words to you.”
God tells Jeremiah that the world is beset with treachery and evil. If you don’t see it, recognize it for what it is, and deal with it, you will never learn about righteousness. It’s the balance of the universe. Without knowing the face of evil you will not know the face of good. If you are coddled and not exposed to evil, and at some point you will be, you will not be prepared to handle it with righteousness. You need to have experiences to learn and grow. Evil is a fact of life, so get use to it and learn how to deal with it.
God says, if you can’t keep up with the man on foot, what are you going to do when the horses come around? You’d better get in shape.
In verse six God tells Jeremiah, even your own family is after you, so you better shape up and recognize this evil. You better practice and strengthen that righteousness muscle because it’s going to get tough.
It’s not all gloom and doom for Jeremiah. In chapter 12 God assures Jeremiah of the balance of the universe. God let’s Jeremiah know that the evil that has come upon the people of Israel will get its just desserts. But it will be on God’s terms.
Jeremiah Chapter 12 tells us that experience makes us stronger. This makes us able to deal with the ups and downs, the good and the evil in life. God will deal out the justice, the balance. You just keep working on your righteousness muscle.
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