There was a period when our kids were young that they called everyone they didn’t like “stupid.” We had to discipline them to stop them from doing it. I’m sure I’ve used the word much more than I should have also. It’s not a nice word and we 22 know goddon’t like it when we hear others call someone stupid. I can remember an older neighbor boy a long, long time ago calling me “stupid.” It really isn’t very nice. You have to ask yourself if there is ever an appropriate time to use that term to refer to anyone. Well, Jeremiah thought so in Jeremiah 4:22. Actually, it’s God speaking through His prophet Jeremiah. I guess if anyone at any time has the right to call someone stupid, it would be God. He says, “For my people are foolish; they know me not; they are stupid children; they have no understanding. They are ‘wise’—in doing evil! But how to do good they know not.”

At the heart of this verse is the condemnation that the people of Judah did not “know God.” They know all about sin but they don’t know God. In the Old Testament to know God is to live wisely. Sin takes us away from all wisdom. I like the way Constance describes this dilemma, “This is the common law of sinning in its influence on the mind. It blinds the intellect, and all that is morally good, and it seems to rob the mind of reason and good sense, subjecting it to the supreme dominion of folly. This moral state of the people is the reason why such fearful calamities fall on the whole land. Nothing can be more important than to give this message again and again, for all hope of saving the nation lies in obedience to it.”[1]

But like many concepts in the Bible to “know” God is not just an intellectual understanding. The knowledge of God changes the way we live with each other. Jeremiah is going to explain that more thoroughly in Jeremiah 22:15-16. In that passage we see what it really means to know God and how that leads to wholesome living. It says, “[Josiah] did what was right and just, so all went well with him.  He defended the cause of the poor and the needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me? Declares the LORD.” To know God is to live unselfish lives in community with others. The children of Judah didn’t know God, therefore Jeremiah continued his indictment in Jeremiah 22:17, “But you have eyes and heart only for your dishonest gain, for shedding innocent blood, and for practicing oppression and violence.”

[1] Mrs. T. M. Constance, Jeremiah, vol. 1 (Dickson, TN: Explorer’s Bible Study, 1978), 23.