In Jeremiah 4:17-18 the prophet continues his warning regarding coming judgment but adds the thought that they brought this on themselves. It says, “Like keepers of a field are they against her all around, because she has rebelled against 17 blameme, declares the LORD. Your ways and your deeds have brought this upon you. This is your doom, and it is bitter; it has reached your very heart.” Feinberg explains this passage this way, “As watchmen guard their fields from predatory animals, so Jerusalem will be surrounded to cut off any who would escape (v.17). All has come on her because of her own wickedness and rebellion (v.18). The calamity is bitter to bear because the people now realize that they have brought it on themselves. Their wounds are serious, reaching to the heart.”[1]

I have been my own worst enemy most of my life.  There are consequences to our thoughts, words, and actions.  I have reaped the consequences of wrong behavior often in my life. I have reaped the consequences of having said the wrong things in the heat of the moment. I’ve allowed my thought life to drag me into the pits of despair when I simply needed to reject that kind of thinking, but I didn’t. I’ve been my own worst enemy most of my life. According to Karl Barth, this is the case with all men. He writes, “Man may think that he can and should be gracious to himself, but this is impossible. He thinks and acts as his own helper, but believing that he is his own best friend he is all the time his own worst enemy. Looking after his own interests, he does not advance but damage them.”[2]

When Princess Diana died, Phil Yancey got a phone from someone wanting him to explain how God could possibly allow such a terrible accident. When Dan Jansen lost the 500 meter speed skating race his wife wanted to know why God could let such a thing happen. Dobson got a letter from a woman who was dating a man and became pregnant. She wanted to know how God could let that happen. When Boxer Ray Mancini struck his opponent with a hard right it caused a massive cerebral hemorrhage resulting in death. Ray asked, “Why does God let things like that happen? Susan Smith, who pushed her two sons into a lake to drown, ran off screaming “God, Why did you let this happen?” Finally, Yancey tells about seeing a television interview of an actress whose lover had rolled off a yacht in a drunken stupor and drowned. The actress, asked, bizarrely, “How could a loving God let this happen?”[3] Why is the truth so easy to see here and not in our own lives?

[1] Charles L. Feinberg, “Jeremiah,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 6 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1986), 408.

[2] Karl Barth, Geoffrey William Bromiley, and Thomas F. Torrance, Church Dogmatics: The Doctrine of God, Part 1, vol. 4 (London; New York: T&T Clark, 2004), 465.

[3] Craig Brian Larson, 750 Engaging Illustrations for Preachers, Teachers & Writers (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2002), 40–41.