Read Deuteronomy 12, Jeremiah 5, and Proverbs 14:19-35.
This devotional is about Jeremiah 5.
Jeremiah was called by God to proclaim judgment to Judah, the Southern Kingdom. He is called “the weeping prophet” because he saw the judgment he prophesied happen and wrote a lament about it in the book of the Bible known as “Lamentations.” God judged Judah because they worshipped idols instead of the true God. Jeremiah wrote about that in this chapter in verses 7-25, but the opening verses of this chapter look at the problem differently.
In verses 1-3 God told Jeremiah to search Jerusalem, capital of the Southern Kingdom, to find a truthful person. Verse 1b issued this challenge: “If you can find but one person who deals honestly and seeks the truth, I will forgive this city.” But, in verse 2, the Lord told Jeremiah that everyone in his city was dishonest. People might swear in God’s name to be telling the truth, but they were lying.
Jeremiah knew this to be true, but he believed the problem was confined to the poor who “do not know the way of the Lord, the requirements of their God” (v. 4b). He was confident that the leaders of Judah would know better. “Surely they know the way of the Lord, the requirements of their God” he said to himself in verse 5b. So, verse 5a tells us about his resolve to speak to the leaders to see if he could find that one honest man that would spare the whole kingdom from judgment.
But, no. According to verses 5c-6, even the leaders of Judah had traded truthfulness for dishonesty.
Since the root problem was that Judah did “not know the way of the Lord, the requirements of their God” (v. 4), that they had “sworn by gods that are not gods” (v. 7b) and “‘have been utterly unfaithful to me,’ declares the Lord” (v. 11), why is there such a focus on telling the truth in the early verses of this chapter?
The answer is that truth is an attribute of God. An untruthful person is showing the evidence of his unbelief. Lies are a measurable symbol of what someone worships. The further a person or a society strays from God, the more untruthful that person or society will become.
Unbelievers do tell the truth at times. They may even be generally truthful in what they say. But people like us have an uncanny ability to lie to and deceive ourselves. We all speak sincerely at times about our beliefs, but if we’ve chosen to believe something to be true that is actually false, we are not objectively truthful. Eventually whole societies are swallowed up in nonsense because they—collectively—have agreed to believe and to affirm what is false. Unless you know God, you can’t live a life of truth.
As Christians, we too struggle to be truthful. We sometimes deceive others purposefully and we often deceive ourselves. We do this when we make excuses for sin (our own or others) or give assent to what is popular even though it is unbiblical and often irrational.
This passage should remind us that the God of truth that we worship calls us to reflect his nature in our lives by being truthful people as we grow to become like him. Jeremiah could not find a truthful man because he couldn’t find a man who really worshiped the Lord. Let us who know the Lord, then, choose to show the glory of God, the God of truth, in the honest, truthful ways in which we speak.