Summary: A text of hope in the context of God's determination against His people.
“YET I WILL NOT MAKE A FULL END”.
Many of our readings in Jeremiah seem to, like Lamentations, open out on to a vista of total devastation and despair. However, depending on what translation one uses, there is hope: “yet I will NOT make a full end” (Jeremiah 4:27). As always, God’s judgments are tempered with mercy.
In fact, despite the terrible circumstances that Judah was facing, the intention all along (even the intention in the exile when it came) was for good and not for evil (Jeremiah 29:11). Whatever circumstances we may be facing at any given moment, even if it is the direct consequences of our own foolishness, God has a better end in sight.
The selected verses first confront us with a sirocco, a dry dusty wind coming in from the Sahara which can reach hurricane speeds in North Africa. This is no mere winnowing or cleansing wind, but a fierce wind from the LORD (Jeremiah 4:11). Yet this is only a metaphor for something infinitely worse: the eventual Babylonian invasion of Judah (cf. Jeremiah 4:13), and the scattering of the Jews from their homeland – as a judgment from the LORD (Jeremiah 4:12).
The LORD continues to indict His people, in terms reminiscent of the Wisdom books. They are foolish and have not known God. They are metaphorically drunk on their silliness. Their only skill is to do evil, and they do not know how to do good. (Jeremiah 4:22).
The apocalyptic horror of the following verses takes us all the way back to Creation (Genesis 1:2) – the only other time when the words “waste and void” (Jeremiah 4:23) appear in the Scripture. It is as if God is wiping the slate clean, allowing the world to return to its primeval chaos, and starting all over again. Such dissolution of the heavens and the earth (Jeremiah 4:23-24) is also envisaged at the opening of the sixth seal (Revelation 6:14), and as a prelude to the end of the age (2 Peter 3:10).
After the hurricane, the Babylonian invasion, we are left with a wilderness of utter devastation. The people are gone, and the birds have fled; the fruitful field is a wilderness, and the cities are broken down. All this is because of the fierce anger of the LORD against His people (Jeremiah 4:25-26).
It is here that we capture our text of hope in the context of God’s determination against His wayward people (Jeremiah 4:27). The punishment is inevitable, and God will not turn back from it (Jeremiah 4:28). “Yet I will NOT make a full end” (Jeremiah 4:27).
In what turned out to be the Church’s inaugural sermon, Peter spoke of Jesus being delivered over BY GOD to be crucified by the hands of evil men (Acts 2:23). Man meant it for evil, but God meant it for good (Acts 2:36; cf. Genesis 50:20).
We gain a better perspective for the verses of Jeremiah in today’s reading if we take into account the overall theological background of God’s sovereignty - and His continued working of good, even out of what we deem ‘evil’.