God begins a search throughout all Jerusalem for a single man who does justly and seeks the truth so that He may pardon her — relent of the judgment of destruction that is coming upon Jerusalem (Jer 5:1). His desire is to extend mercy, not punishment. This reminds me of the history of Sodom and Gomorrah — God sent angels to search out the wickedness or righteousness of those cities. Abraham interceded for them, and God promised that if even 10 righteous could be found in them, He would not destroy them.
God does not delight in the destruction of the wicked. Even a single righteous person in a city is like a seed of righteousness, a lamp shining in the darkness. A seed planted grows and produces fruit, containing more seed like itself. Those seeds likewise, when sown, increase its fruit and its seed. If the seed is righteousness, the fruit will be righteousness. This is the law of like kinds from Gen 1, and it applies to the natural world as well as the spiritual.
That Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians, shows that God did not find even one righteous man in the city (Jer 6:13). So if God is longsuffering, gracious and merciful, why does He bring judgment? Why does He punish? This is a charge of injustice that is leveled against the Creator of the heavens and the earth by the uninformed and unjust. He cast Adam and Eve out of the Garden; He brought Noah’s Flood on the world; He rained down fire and brimstone on Sodom and Gomorrah. He put all the Canaanites everywhere to the sword and destroyed them as a people. He allowed Israel to be carried captive and Jerusalem to be destroyed by the Babylonians.
I believe it is because, there is a tipping point when wickedness has so overtaken a place or a people, so that no shred of righteousness is left, at that point, it is an act of mercy and grace to make an end of that wickedness. Let us not be deceived: wickedness is wicked because it hurts people. Where there is oppression and violent crime, slander, greed and coveteousness, there are always victims on the other end of those crimes and sins, that are hurt, and sometimes hurt so severely that their life is forfeit. To relieve the victims, an end must be made of wickedness.
With the case of Israel and Judah, the two houses of His people, He cleansed them of wickedness so thoroughly by the dual judgment of Assyrian and Babylonian captivity, that when Judah at least returned to the land (Israel has not yet been returned from Assyrian captivity) they so abhorred idolatry that they were a proverb and a byword among the Romans for treatment with kid gloves, because the merest imposition of Roman culture or paganism on the Jews would spark a fuse on the dynamite of rebellion so intense, the whole nation would rather be put to the sword than submit to idolatry. This is the purified remnant who was left, among whom Jesus was born.
God has been silent since the time of Jesus. But a time is coming, of which we ought to be mindful, when He will one last time, cleanse the earth of wickedness by judgment.
‘Do you not fear Me?’ says the LORD.
‘Will you not tremble at My presence,
Who have placed the sand as the bound of the sea,
By a perpetual decree, that it cannot pass beyond it?
And though its waves toss to and fro,
Yet they cannot prevail;
Though they roar, yet they cannot pass over it.
But this people has a defiant and rebellious heart;
They have revolted and departed.
They do not say in their heart,
“Let us now fear the LORD our God,
Who gives rain, both the former and the latter, in its season.
He reserves for us the appointed weeks of the harvest.”
Your iniquities have turned these things away,
And your sins have withheld good from you. Jer 5:22-25
Thus says the LORD:
“Stand in the ways and see,
And ask for the old paths, where the good way is,
And walk in it;
Then you will find rest for your souls.
But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’ …
Therefore hear, you nations,
And know, O congregation, what is among them.
Hear, O earth!
Behold, I will certainly bring calamity on this people—
The fruit of their thoughts,
Because they have not heeded My words
Nor My law (torah), but rejected it.” Jer 6:16-19
Listen, as a people, have not Christians rejected the law of the LORD? Yes, we have rejected it as a means of salvation, as well we ought, but modern Christianity has imposed a new doctrine on the church which it has not ever held before: we have been told that we do not need to obey even the Ten Commandments, because the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ has covered our sins. So half of Christians divorce, which breaks the commandment of not committing adultery, as Jesus our Lord taught us in the New Testament. Christians have abortions, which breaks the commandment of do not commit murder. Christians steal from their companies because everyone else does it. Christians refuse to rest even on Sunday, which is not the Sabbath day, but be that as it may.
These sins are not unforgiveable, but let us not have the heart attitude that our obedience does not matter — we must repent and be grieved that we have broken the law of our God and done that which is not pleasing in His sight, and we must set our hearts to seek the old paths and walk in them. That means, obedience from now on. We must come out of Babylon — rebellion against the commands of God (that is what the Tower of Babel rebellion was) and be separate or holy to the LORD our God (Rev 18:4)!
Let us not forget that Israel and Judah were the LORD’s own people by blood covenant, and He did not spare them because of their disobedience. Let us not forget that everything that happened to them, happened for our instruction, to be an example for us — New Covenant believers (1 Cor 10:1-11). Wake up, church! Find the old paths, and walk in them!