What Jeremiah Prayed For – Destruction of Those Who Do Not Call on Your Name

Our text today is Jeremiah 10:23-25. Here we see Jeremiah pray after God has spoken to him about the impact of false gods and idols on His people. Again, God highlights that the false gods are not like Him. They are made by the hands of men; They are not alive; they did not create the earth; they did not stretch out the heavens; they are worthless; they did not make all things. Jeremiah, after being spoken to by the LORD God, prays to God. Here is what he said:

23 I know, O Lord, that a man’s life is not his own;
it is not for man to direct his steps.
24 Correct me, Lord, but only with justice—
not in your anger,
lest you reduce me to nothing.
25 Pour out your wrath on the nations
that do not acknowledge you,
on the peoples who do not call on your name.
For they have devoured Jacob;
they have devoured him completely
and destroyed his homeland.

Verse 23 is reminiscent of Proverbs 16:9 where too the writer acknowledges that a man’s life is not his own. Personally, I believe that Jeremiah is acknowledging that he nor any other man has no right to carve out a life for himself even if that was possible. In fact, the verse says that man can try, but it is God who directs his steps. Verse 25 it is not for man to direct his steps because his life is not his own. God created us. He can choose to do with us as he pleases. Is that how we feel about our lives? Do we yield our lives – our hopes, dreams, desires, wants and wishes – to God? Do we try to impose our will on God as if that were possible.  The point here is that God can do with man as He chooses because he created us for His glory.

In verse 24, Jeremiah is pleading for the Israelites not to be corrected in a manner congruent with what their sin deserves but tempered by justice. Matthew Henry says it this way. Of Jeremiah, “He speaks not for himself only, but on the behalf of his people: O Lord, correct me, but with judgment (in measure and with moderation, and in wisdom, no more than is necessary for driving out of the foolishness that is bound up in our hearts), not in thy anger (how severe soever the correction be, let it come from thy love, and be designed for our good and made to work for good), not to bring us to nothing, but to bring us home to thyself. Let it not be according to the desert of our sins, but according to the design of thy grace. Note, (1.) We cannot pray in faith that we may never be corrected, while we are conscious to ourselves that we need correction and deserve it, and know that as many as God loves he chastens. (2.) The great thing we should dread in affliction is the wrath of God. Say not, Lord, do not correct me, but, Lord, do not correct me in anger; for that will infuse wormwood and gall into the affliction and misery that will bring us to nothing. We may bear the smart of his rod, but we cannot bear the weight of his wrath.”

The prayer in verse 25 is just like Psalm 79:6-7. It may be a quote from there; however, several commentators purport that this prayer is not solely for the destruction of non-Israelites (Gentiles), but that His judgement or wrath might not be on Israel alone as they do not acknowledge you nor do the peoples call on your name. It almost screams of let’s be fair in your judgement or asking God to consider that while the Israelites worshiped other gods they at least called on His name from time to time. The references to those people devouring Jacob and destroying his homeland was reminder that God had chosen Jacob i.e. Israelites as His own, but those people had done harm to His people. Again Matthew Henry says “What the heathen, in their rage and malice, do against the people of God, though therein he makes use of them as the instruments of his correction, yet he will, for that, make them the objects of his indignation.”  Basically, what he is saying is that God uses everyone to achieve His purposes. In that case, he used various nations to correct the Israelites.

If God will discipline His people, He will certainly hold accountable those who are not His own. All will be held accountable for following God. That is clear from John 3:36 “36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.” If you do not call on the name of Jesus for salvation, you will be destroyed by the wrath of God.


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