“You have stricken them but they have not grieved, You have consumed them but they have refused to receive correction. They have made their faces harder than rock; they have refused to return” Jeremiah 5:3
This is a description of the hardness of heart that mankind has toward God. Before we attribute these words solely to Judah we should reflect on other times when the Lord afflicted Gentiles.
Before Israel even existed Cain was afflicted and refused correction. In the days of Noah the world refused the Lord’s correction and was destroyed by flood. Sodom and Gomorrah refused the word of the Lord and were buried. Nineveh received God’s warning for a time after reluctant Jonah warned them but they are among the few exceptions. The next generation of Ninevites rejected the warning and were destroyed. There are more occasions in the Bible where Gentiles were afflicted yet refused to receive correction. Most notable is Pharaoh of Egypt when Moses confronted him with the word of the Lord.
People often ask the question why there is so much suffering in the world today and blame God for it. They say that if there is a God of love why doesn’t He stop the evil? The Lord answers, “Have you not brought this on yourself in that you have forsaken the Lord your God? Your own wickedness will correct you and your backslidings will rebuke you” (Jeremiah 2:17, 19). This is God’s way to bring us back into fellowship with Him. The alternative is His righteous judgment. Sadly, many people think they will survive His righteous judgment of God without Jesus Christ.
In Jeremiah 5:19, Jeremiah informs Judah, and everyone else as well, why we are so afflicted. He writes the question that is on our minds, “Why does the Lord our God do all these things to us?” and then answers it from the Lord. “Just as you have forsaken Me and served foreign gods in your land, so you shall serve aliens in a land that is not yours.” Israel’s separation from the Promised Land was because they had refused correction from the Lord that came through His prophets. There had to be a step up in affliction. Ultimately this will be successful and a remnant of Israel will enter Christ’s future earthly kingdom.
The same is true for Gentile nations. The level of affliction will be stepped up to encourage the nations to accept God’s correction. We are observing the same reaction to the word of the Lord and to Jesus Christ that Pharaoh gave to the word of the Lord that came through Moses. The world accepts no responsibility, accuses God, refuses His correction usually by denying His existence and wonders why it is suffering more afflictions. Jeremiah puts it in a nutshell, “Your sins have withheld good from you” (5:25). This is stated more fully in 18:7-10. Any nation that turns from its evil ways and to the Lord will avoid the disaster that He had intended to bring upon it. The nation that He intended to favour, if it turns from the Lord, will not receive that favour but will receive His judgment.
We have a national choice. The Lord has revealed the outcome of the two possibilities. We cannot blame the Lord for our choice.