22–28 November 2015.
History teachers tell us that “one thing we learn from history is that people don’t learn anything from history!” In history’s stories we see so many mistakes and failures. But instead of learning from those mistakes, we just do them all over again.
Maybe the prophet had a similar feeling we he spoke to Jerusalem’s leaders. In vv. 1–4 he repeats a prophecy about the destruction of Samaria, which used to be Israel’s capital. Will Jerusalem learn from history and from Samaria’s mistakes? No; in vv. 7–14 Jerusalem’s drunken leaders laugh and refuse to listen. Both king and priest are covered in drunken vomit; they have given up on wisdom and learning. Instead they make fun of the law, and of the prophet’s teachings.
Since they aren’t willing to listen, in v. 11 the prophet tells them they will learn their lesson the hard way: when foreign powers come to destroy and conquer them. They thought they were so clever, they thought they should abandon God, their secure foundation. They thought it was better to make partnerships with foreign empires and foreign gods. But by doing this they have made a deal with death, and are putting their trust in lies (vv. 15–18). In their fear, they tried to protect themselves by following other gods, but the result will be the destruction of their whole land.
In the same way that a farmer tears up the earth and plows everything under, God will also tear up Judah, plowing them under, destroying them, and making way for other crops, for other nations to move in and replace the foolish Israelites.
So in v. 22, the prophet angrily tells them: “Now stop your mocking, or your chains will become heavier”, learn to follow God and listen to him, or you will just make things even worse for yourselves!
But somehow we human beings never quite manage to learn our lessons the easy way. Sometimes it takes troubles and disasters of our own to wake us up to the wrong things we are doing. Let’s pray that God may give us the wisdom to learn from the mistakes that the Israelites made, and instead hold onto God as our secure foundation.
Pastor Stephen Lakkis