Every piece of information that we need regarding what was occurring in Judah is not supplied in Jeremiah 5, but the basic lie was religious. It was Baalism, to use a general term. It began when the priesthood deceived itself into allowing a bit of falseness to creep into their preaching, and they convinced themselves that a little bit would not hurt at all. It would be all right. What they did over time was to gradually severe their mooring to God's law and the restraints contained in it.
The implication in verses 30-31 is that even those who say that they are looking for truth really are not. When a society gets this corrupt, they have no idea what truth is anymore, and God says they had come to the point that people loved to be lied to.
A few years ago the whole nation watched the Senate hearings concerning Oliver North and Iran Contra. It was interesting, in terms of this sermon, because Oliver North admitted that, in the national interest, he lied to a Congressional committee. That was his justification: It was in the national interest to lie. Oliver North came out of those hearings a hero. The people loved it because of his persona. He "looks" so nice, so clean. He was so dynamic and sharp. Yet, he was a liar! And the people loved it.
This is actually not unusual because we have reached the state in American culture where lying is taken for granted in the political arena, in the relationships that we have with other nations. It is part of the game. Everybody knows that everyone else is lying in their national interest. Nobody trusts anyone else.
President Eisenhower lied to the whole nation when Gary Powers was shot down in a spy plane over Russia (the U2 incident). So, in a report to America, he lied. Did President Nixon lie to us? Of course he did. And who knows how many other lies are said for the sake of politicians' careers!
John W. Ritenbaugh
Truth (Part 1)
The entire nation—Jeremiah is reporting here on Judah around the time Nebuchadnezzar invaded in 607 BC—was spiritually and morally sick. "And the priests rule by their own power" means in more modern language that the priests were functioning on their own authority, that is, they had pushed the law of God aside.
The people loved it because in so doing, they allowed themselves to be deceived into thinking that the restraints and penalties of God's law would not affect them. "It will not happen to me." That is what God shows happened in the Garden of Eden. Satan said, "You shall not surely die," and Adam and Eve became convinced that the penalty for sin would not affect them if they disobeyed what God said. They fell for what Satan sold them.
Why does God concentrate on morals in His Book? There are many things He could have written about, but He chose to write a great deal about the morals of the people with whom He had made a covenant.
One reason is that morals are like a weathervane. They show the direction a nation, a church, or an individual is headed in.
A second reason why God concentrates on morals focuses on the prophets and the preachers. Why? Because He has appointed them to be the conscience of His people. Preachers tend to lead the people either into morality or immorality—one or the other. They are like the tip of the spear or the point of an arrow that points the direction of the nation. They are leading indicators. So it says in verse 30, "An astonishing and horrible thing has been committed in the land: the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule by their own power."
Even if a minister is not doing his job, pointing out the sins of the people for whom he is responsible to God, we still, individually, have the responsibility to obey God regardless.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sin of Self-Deception
Within the teachings of these churches, abortion does not stand alone as a single issue but as an integral part of a liberal theology which shuns the teaching of moral absolutes. This theology emphasizes moral relativism, very seriously blurring the connection between cause and effect in social areas.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Jeremiah 5:31: