Jeremiah 19: Forgiveness and Justice
If you read the Old Testament, it is pretty obvious that God demands obedience. There are so many times when people violate the commands of God, and they get punished for it. In Jeremiah 19, we see more of the same, and I guess it raises the question as to why God is so concerned with obedience.
Jer 19:14 Then came Jeremiah from Tophet, whither the LORD had sent him to prophesy; and he stood in the court of the LORD’S house; and said to all the people,
Jer 19:15 Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will bring upon this city and upon all her towns all the evil that I have pronounced against it, because they have hardened their necks, that they might not hear my words.
It is a basic cause-and-effect relationship. The people are not following the directions that they had been clearly given, so they are going to receive all of the consequences of their actions.
I guess that raises the question as to why God is so worried about obedience. After all, He is always talking about forgiveness, so why is there all this talk of punishment. Can’t God simply forgive?
There are a few points to take on this one. Notice that in this passage in Jeremiah, the punishment is a consequence for breaking the law of God. It is similar to a basic judicial system. When you break the law, you receive punishment because that is justice. There is a difference between justice and forgiveness.
If someone committed a crime against me, I ought to be willing to forgive them. As hard as that is, we are called to forgive. However, that does not mean that we immediately abandon justice. We might forgive a murderer, but that does not mean that we argue for him to be released from prison. There are still consequences to previous actions.
I think that is what we see a lot in the Old Testament that explains why there was a lot of talk about obedience and punishment. It seems to me that the justice comes as the consequence of what the people had done. It doesn’t mean that they are beyond forgiveness whatsoever, and we see that God does forgive the people of Israel many times throughout the Old Testament. However, when the law has been broken, justice is called for.