For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2003 James Melough 

14:1.  “The word of the Lord that came to Jeremiah concerning the dearth (drought).”


Though there is no other specific mention of this drought it seems probable that it occurred in Jeremiah’s time, and was sent as chastisement for Judah’s wickedness, for in Lev 26 and Dt 28 drought is listed as one of the punishments that would result from Israel’s failure to keep their part of the covenant, and the drought sent in the days of Ahab, see 1 Ki 17, ought to have been a warning that God was not to be trifled with.


It is to be noted incidentally that chapters 14 to 39 were written before the Babylonian captivity began.


14:2.  “Judah mourneth, and the gates thereof languish; they are black unto the ground; and the cry of Jerusalem is gone up.”


The severity of the drought is indicated here, for its being said that “the gates languish” means that all normal business activity had ceased; while “black unto the ground” is taken by most to mean that the people sat on the ground mourning, their wails of despair being virtually the only sound to be heard in the stricken city.


14:3.  “And their nobles have sent their little ones to the waters: they came to the pits, and found no water; they returned with their vessels empty; they were ashamed and confounded, and covered their heads.”


Some translations render nobles as flock-masters; and pits as wells, water-holes, pools, storage cisterns, but the exact definition is unimportant: the picture is of nation-wide deadly drought, while the empty-handed return of the servants or children “ashamed and confounded” is rendered by Taylor as, “baffled and desperate.”


14:4.  “Because the ground is chapt (parched and cracked), for there was no rain in the earth, the plowmen were ashamed, they covered their heads.”


The hardened and cracked ground, impossible to plow, left the idled plowmen helpless, frightened, and in despair.


14:5.  “Yea, the hind also calved in the field, and forsook it, because there was no grass.”


The terrible drought affected also the wild creatures so that hinds, dying of hunger and thirst, abandoned their young also to death.


14:6.  “And the wild asses did stand in the high places, they snuffed up the wind like dragons (jackals); their eyes did fail, because there was no grass.”


The wild asses likewise were dying, standing on the bare hillsides, their mouths open, gasping for air in an effort to relieve their thirst, their eyes dimming in death.


These graphic cameos present an appalling scene of desolation and death that ought to instil in every heart the dread of incurring God’s wrath.  But sadly, it failed to touch the consciences of God’s people then, nor does the reading of it affect them today.  The majority of Christians, in fact, don’t even bother to read this that has been written for their warning; and the few who do read remain unmoved, too busy with the things of this world to consider that the record of the past has been preserved for the warning of all generations.


If these were the physical results of Judah’s having incurred God’s anger, who can begin to imagine the eternal torment that awaits every unrepentant sinner in the terrible lake of fire!  A sin-blinded world refuses to recognize that the God Who delivered His Own Son up to such suffering at Calvary, will deliver up to eternal torment every man who dies without having trusted that Son as his Savior.  The God to Whom all men must eventually account is not just a God of transcendent love and grace and mercy: He is also a God of absolute holiness and justice Who will consign to the eternal torment of the lake of fire every man who refuses to be cleansed from sin by accepting the Lord Jesus Christ as his Savior.


Corresponding to the literal drought that had brought ruin and death to rebellious Judah is the spiritual drought that is wreaking havoc in Christendom today.  Water is a biblical symbol of Scripture, and as has been discussed already, much of its language is symbolical and typological, but the enlightenment of an ungrieved and unquenched Holy Spirit is essential to the understanding of that deeper spiritual meaning.  God would have us see in rebellious Judah dying from lack of water, a picture of today’s Christendom dying spiritually from lack of the water of life.


In Judah’s case it wasn’t that the water didn’t still exist: it was that God refused to make it available in the form of rain and dew and bubbling springs.  And so is it today: Scripture still has the power to quench the thirst of men’s souls, to refresh their spirits, and cleanse their sins; but it can do all this only when there is submission to God’s will; and as Judah’s rebellion cut off the literal water, so has Christendom’s rebellion cut off the spiritual water.  The Scriptures are still there, but without the Holy Spirit’s enlightenment they might as well not exist, with the result that an apostate Christendom is suffering spiritual ills which are the counterparts of the literal misery of ancient Judah.


Behind the boisterous hollow laughter, are troubled aching hearts.  Families are torn apart by divorce which dooms children to live in new marriage alliances with new “fathers” and “mothers” who are such in name only.  Drowned by the cacophony of so-called music, is the weeping of those whose lives have been destroyed by sin.  An ever increasing tidal wave of crime has people living in fear, on the streets, in their cars, in their homes.  Terrorism has them living in the constant uneasy awareness that at any moment there could be another calamity similar to that of 9/11.  There is a seldom voiced awareness that the world is a powder keg ready to explode and engulf the globe in war more terrible than anything ever known.


And added to these social ills are natural disasters in the form of drought, floods, earthquakes, and forest fires. 


And as the animal kingdom in the land of Judah became also the hapless victims of man’s sin, so is it in today’s world.  With their natural habitat shrinking annually as a result of human encroachment, countless wild creatures die of starvation.


Scripturally taught men have no difficulty seeing in the Judah languishing under the judgment of an angry God, the microcosm of today’s wicked world tottering on the very brink of the impending terrible Tribulation judgments.


14:7.  “O Lord, though our iniquities testify against us, do thou it for thy name’s sake: for our backslidings are many; we have sinned against thee.”


Writhing in hopeless anguish under the terrible judgment of the God they had brazenly defied, the people recognized Him as the Author of their misery, and now, seeking deliverance from the consequences of the sins they reluctantly confessed, but did not really repent of, they begged Him “do thou it,” i.e., deliver us.


“... for thy name’s sake.”  Their hypocrisy is unbelievable!  They who had by their wickedness caused His name to be mocked by the nations, now had the brazen effrontery to make the honor of His name a reason for Him to intervene and save them!  What they couldn’t grasp was that they had crossed the invisible line which separates His mercy from His wrath.  Their fate was sealed.  No appeal would induce Him to spare them.


And so is it with today’s apostate Christendom.  An America which has defied God to His face, which has banned prayer and His book from her schools, which teaches evolution and denies Him as Creator, stunned by the calamity of 9/11, had the brazen hypocritical effrontery to call upon Him, but whereas Judah in the day of her calamity, at least had confessed her sin though unrepentantly, no such confession has been heard in America except by the obscure and ignored few who see this great nation hastening down the same road to ruin as was trodden by Judah.


14:8.  “O the hope of Israel, the savior thereof in time of trouble, why shouldst thou be as a stranger in the land, and as a wayfaring man that turneth aside to tarry for a night?”


Too late they looked to Him as their only Hope, as their only Savior, not realizing that their repentance had come too late.  His relationship to them and to the land was better portrayed by that of a stranger passing through and looking only for a night’s lodging.  They who had had no use for Him in the time of their prosperity were now to learn that He had no use for them in the time of their calamity.  Their failure to repent in His time had changed His role from that of Savior to Destroyer; and so will it be with every man or nation which refuses to repent in His time.  The apostasy of Christendom has brought about that change today: her doom is sealed.


14:9.  “Why shouldest thou be as a man astonished (dumbfounded), as a mighty man that cannot save? yet thou, O Lord, art in the midst of us, and we are called by thy name; leave us not.”


Desperately looking for any appeal that would induce Jehovah to deliver them, they asked why He acted as though He were unable to save them, hoping thereby to tempt Him into displaying His mighty power on their behalf.  What folly!  God can’t be tempted to do anything.  He has no need to vindicate Himself in the eyes of His creatures.  What they failed to understand was that obedience is the only thing that commands His blessing, but they wouldn’t obey.  They continued in their idolatry, having become to long accustomed to it that they failed to realize that it was the foremost sin that had provoked His wrath against them.  They didn’t understand that they had exhausted His patience and thereby sealed their doom.


“... thou art in the midst of us ... we are called by thy name.”

They clung tenaciously to the belief that empty form, and mere outward ritual, were all that was necessary to secure His blessing. 


Apostate Christendom makes the same mistake, and will, like Judah, perish.


“... leave us not.”  Had they not been spiritually blind they would have understood that they had long ago left Him, and had spurned every plea to return, thus making impossible His return to them, for it is written that man must first return to God, “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you,” Jas 4:8.


14:10.  “Thus saith the Lord unto this people, Thus have they loved to wander, they have not refrained their feet, therefore the Lord doth not accept them; he will now remember their iniquity, and visit their sins.”


The Lord’s angry charge against them was that instead of delighting in following Him in the paths of obedience, they loved to walk in sin, and made no attempt whatsoever to resist enticement to do evil; with the result that He no longer looked upon them as being His people.


The assurance God gives to every believer is, “Their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more,” Heb 8:12; but the assurance given unbelieving Judah was the very opposite, “He will now remember their iniquity, and visit (punish) their sins,” the punishment being destruction.


Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is the only thing that causes God to forget for ever a man’s sins, and it is to be remembered that the faith of the OT saints was exactly the same as that of their NT counterparts, the faith of the OT believer looking forward to Calvary; that of the NT saint looking back to that same place where sin has been completely atoned for by the death of the sinner’s Substitute.  The fact that God would remember and punish Judah’s sins declares, that with the exception of the small believing remnant within the apostate mass of the nation, Judah did not have that saving faith, without which she, and all other unbelievers, must perish.


14:11.  “Thus saith the Lord unto me, Pray not for this people for their good.”


No intercession was to be made for the apostates, nor any prayer for their blessing.  Sin long reveled in, and unrepented of in God’s time, had carried them irrevocably beyond hope of mercy.  They had mocked His warning given in the beginning to every man, “My spirit shall not always strive with man,” Ge 6:3, and now they had become the heirs of His fierce anger that was about to destroy them.


Apostate unrepentant Christendom has likewise made herself the object of that same destructive anger.


14:12.  “When they fast, I will not hear their cry; and when they offer burnt offering and an oblation (meal offering), I will not accept them: but I will consume them by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence.”


This declares the worthlessness of the mechanical performance of the outward ritual of religious forms.  All of it was, and still is, an abomination in God’s sight.  Instead of securing blessing as they hoped, it would compound their iniquity, and increase the measure of their punishment.  God would destroy them by war, famine, and disease; and the Great Tribulation will destroy apostate Christendom by the same means, as the book of Revelation makes abundantly clear.


14:13.  “Then said I, Ah, Lord God!  behold, the prophets say unto them, Ye shall not see the sword, neither shall ye have famine; but I will give you assured peace in this place.”


This indicates that the drought had not yet occurred, since it is clear that the lying prophets had not yet been discredited.


14:14.  “Then the Lord said unto me, The prophets prophesy lies in my name: I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spake unto them: they prophesy unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing of nought, and the deceit of their heart.”


Today’s false teachers are the counterparts of the false prophets, and they do the same evil work.  Their lack of knowledge of Scripture renders them ignorant of what God has written, hence their inability to understand prophecy.  Their corrupted minds and fertile imaginations, however, together with their wish to curry favor by preaching what the people want to hear, have led them to present a God Who is too loving to punish anyone; and to present a so-called gospel that has been expunged of warning, and therefore of any mention of hell.  They, as deluded as the dupes to whom they preach, see no warning in the natural phenomena which the scripturally taught man sees clearly to be the expression of God’s anger, and His warnings of coming judgment. 


Divination, condemned in Scripture, is the practice of attempting to foretell the future or acquire knowledge by means of occult or supernatural means.


14:15.  “Therefore thus saith the Lord concerning the prophets that prophesy in my name, and I sent them not, yet they say, Sword and famine shall not be in the land; By sword and famine shall those prophets be consumed.”


The lying prophets would be destroyed by the same agents as would destroy their duped hearers, but then it would be too late; and so is it today.  But this raises a legitimate question, How could the people have distinguished between a genuine prophet and a counterfeit?  Very easily!  True prophecy would foretell what was in accord with Scripture, and by that criterion the people ought to have known that their sinfulness must inevitably bring God’s judgment, for it is written clearly in His Word.


The gift of prophecy ceased with the completion of the canon of Scripture, the prophet’s office having been replaced with that of the teacher, see 2 Pe 2:1; but the same rule applies to the means of discriminating between false and genuine teachers.  If the man’s teaching isn’t confirmed by the written Word he is a fraud, and by that infallible standard many of today’s preachers and teachers are frauds.  But it is today as it was in the days of Jeremiah: the knowledge of the Scriptures has been lost through neglect.  Even amongst genuine believers only a very few evince any desire to read or hear God’s Word expounded, and the result is that an untaught Christendom is incapable of distinguishing between true and false teaching, hence the almost universal disbelief of coming judgment: either that of the impending Great Tribulation, or of hell and the lake of fire for every unbeliever.


14:16.  “And the people to whom they prophesy shall be cast out in the streets of Jerusalem because of the famine and the sword; and they shall have none to bury them, them, their wives, nor their sons, nor their daughters: for I will pour their wickedness upon them.”


Contrary to the euphoric assurances of the false prophets to the contrary, the terrible reality was that in a very short time God’s word would be fulfilled.  In the siege and capture of the city the dead bodies would be left lying in the streets with no one to bury them.


“... for I will pour their wickedness upon them” means that the judgment their wickedness deserved would be poured out upon them.


14:17.  “Therefore thou shalt say this word unto them; Let mine eyes run down with tears night and day, and let them not cease: for the virgin daughter of my people is broken with a great breach, with a very grievous blow.”


There is general agreement that it is Jeremiah’s eyes that would run with unceasing tears as he beheld the terrible end of the once virgin daughter, who having become a wretched spiritual harlot, must now be put to death; the “great breach” and the “very grievous blow” being the destruction of the city and the slaughter, captivity, and enslavement of the people by the Babylonians.


14:18.  “If I go forth into the field, then behold the slain with the sword!  and if I enter into the city, then behold them that are sick with famine! yea, both the prophet and the priest go about into a land that they know not.”


The unburied bodies of the slain would be strewn throughout the length and breadth of the land, while in the city the unburied bodies of those who had died of hunger and disease would lie in the streets, those remaining still alive being too weak with hunger and disease to bury them.  And following the breaching of the city, those still able to walk, including the lying prophets and priests, would be carried off into slavery in Babylon.


The latter part of this verse relative to the activity of the false prophets and evil priests is understood by some to mean that these would ignore God’s warnings of coming judgment, and would continue their evil work in the land, not knowing that they and the land were to be destroyed.


When this is read in conjunction with what is written in Revelation it is apparent to all but the spiritually blind that this scene of death and destruction is but a preview of what will be, not only in Palestine, but world-wide in the coming Great Tribulation.


14:19.  “Hast thou utterly rejected Judah? hath thy soul loathed Zion? why hast thou smitten us, and there is no healing for us? we looked for peace, and there is no good; and for a time of healing, and behold trouble!”


Long neglect of God’s Word had so inured the people to sin that they were ignorant of their own wickedness, hence their unbelief of God’s having rejected, not only the nation, but also the worship associated with Zion, i.e., the Temple.  They found it impossible to grasp that He had cast them off and was about to destroy them.  And so is it with apostate Christendom.  She too has lived so long in sin that she no longer sees it as sin and an offence to God; nor can she believe that He is about to destroy her.


14:20.  “We acknowledge, O Lord, our wickedness, and the iniquity of our fathers: for we have sinned against thee.”


It is readily apparent that their confession was superficial, divorced from repentance, and designed only to procure removal of the judgment.  God, however, deals in reality, nor can He can be deceived.  They had exhausted His patience, and must perish.  It was too late for repentance, as it is also with today’s apostate Christendom: she too has crossed the spiritual Rubicon.


14:21.  “Do not abhor us, for thy name’s sake, do not disgrace the throne of thy glory: remember, break not thy covenant with us.”


They who had so blatantly dishonored God’s name and throne, and who had wantonly dragged His glory in the dust, would then have the effrontery to imply that it was He Who had broken His covenant with them! 


The conduct of present day apostate Christendom certifies that she too will be guilty of the same temerity when her time of judgment comes.


14:22.  “Are there any among the vanities (idols) of the Gentiles that can cause rain? or can the heavens give showers? art not thou he, O Lord our God? therefore we will wait upon (obey) thee: for thou has made all these things.”


When the foretold judgment would come then they would acknowledge, too late, that the idols they had worshiped were nothings, incapable of causing rain or anything else.  Then would they realize that apart from God’s direction the heavens themselves had no power to give rain.  They would then freely confess that He alone was the omnipotent Creator of all things, and would promise to obey Him - but sadly, all of this would come too late.  There was no confession or promise that would turn away His wrath: their long continued blatant rebellion had carried them for ever from the realm of grace into that of judgment.


So will it yet be with Christendom, and with every man who refuses to accept the Lord Jesus Christ as his Savior within God’s time frame.


[Jeremiah 15]


     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough