Jeremiah’s search for “One Righteous person” left him disillusioned with man. He had searched the nooks and crannies of Jerusalem, looking for one person who loved truth and justice and who would care about his neighbors. But he came up empty handed. So he 09 fatherrationalized his failure in Jeremiah 5:4. He says, “Then I said, “These are only the poor; they have no sense; for they do not know the way of the LORD, the justice of their God.” He had searched through the streets, in the back alleys, and in the market places. Obviously he was looking in the wrong places. Constance says, “Jeremiah perceived that because they were poor they were ignorant and did not know the ways of the Lord. Deprived of education, all their thoughts and cares were focused on what the world had to offer them in material things. They did not attend God’s house and were obsessed with sinful practices and selfish pleasures. They had no time for God.”[1]

This verse sounds insulting to the poor, but it is rather Jeremiah’s attempt to excuse their lack of the “goodness” he was searching for. He may have been defending them before God and explaining their plight in life to draw God’s sympathy to gain his mercy. Mackay says, “Presumably the lower class would consist of those who had not received any training in the elite scribal school at Jerusalem, and therefore might not be expected to have a good grasp of what behavior was expected from them.” The lack of knowledge of God’s law was at the heart of their problem. It wasn’t their fault. Mackay continues, “Jeremiah considers the possibility that the wrong behavior of the ordinary people arises from the fact that they had had neither time nor opportunity to be educated in God’s ways and so were acting in ignorance.”[2]

Jeremiah’s heart was breaking because of all that he had endured personally and would yet have to face, yet his interest was in saving others. I’ve seen Jesus in the study of Jeremiah in many different ways. Here it is again. You will remember that Jesus prayed as the nails were driven through his hands, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”  You’ve heard of the three temptations Satan brought to Christ in the wilderness after His baptism. There is an old legend of a fourth temptation. It came after being deserted by His friends, betrayed by his enemies, convicted by His own people, turned over to the executioner, mocked, beaten, crowned with thorns, and nailed to a cross.  Then, “while Jesus was hanging in excruciating pain on the cross, the devil returned and whispered in His ear, ‘They aren’t worth it, Lord.’ It was then, according to the story, that the Master was heard to say, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).[3]

[1] Mrs. T. M. Constance, Jeremiah, vol. 1 (Dickson, TN: Explorer’s Bible Study, 1978), 32.

[2] John L. Mackay, Jeremiah: An Introduction and Commentary: Chapters 1–20, vol. 1, Mentor Commentaries (Fearn, Ross-shire, Scotland: Mentor, 2004), 242–243.

[3] G. Curtis Jones, 1000 Illustrations for Preaching and Teaching (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1986), 91.