Jeremiah 5:1, “Run to
and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, and see now, and know, and
seek in the broad places thereof, if ye can find a man, if there be
any that executeth judgment, that seeketh the truth; and I will pardon
Those were the words of Jehovah to His prophet Jeremiah, a prophet to Judah in the years immediately preceding Judah’s fall before Babylon. The people of Judah were God’s chosen people, chosen for the primary purpose that through them God would fulfill His promises to Abraham and bring into the world the Savior of all mankind, Jesus Christ His Son. Yet, the Lord, and Jeremiah, were distressed over the spiritual condition of this nation, and for good reason. These words are a sad commentary on their state. The Lord wanted something, but what He wanted could not easily be found even among His own people.
Note the extent to which Jeremiah was to involve himself in the search for what God wanted: “Run to and fro through the streets...,” back and forth, retracing your steps, searching diligently. Go to the broad places, even the market places where many people could be found, looking everywhere. The very nature of the search indicates the scarcity of that which the Lord sought.
What was it the Lord
wanted? He said, “Find a man.” He was not looking for a
male human being. Surely, many of them could be located. But He wanted
a man of certain qualities of character and spirit. This certain kind
of person was one that “executes judgment,” or as
one translation renders the phrase, “doing justly.” Also
he was to be one who “seeks the truth.”
To execute judgment meant one that dealt fairly with others, measured all things by God’s standard, honest in his word and motive. He was to be what we often refer to as being “above board.” You could depend on what he said and did, discharging his duties with responsibility. His word was his bond.
There is so much dishonesty, cheating, lying, stealing, in almost every realm of human activity. Daily we read of people in government, in business, doing things that are dishonest. One of the tragic ills of mankind is this fundamental fault seen in so many. They simply are not honest people. When any nation reaches the place where honor and integrity are scarce, the nation is in a deplorable spiritual condition.
God also wanted a person who sought the truth. Many of us have never really made a diligent search for what is right and wrong. We deserve no credit for having searched for the truth because we have simply taken what has been handed down to us without investigating what the Word of God teaches. While there is credit due for holding on to truth, how much of an appetite for it do we possess? Do we really hunger and thirst for righteousness? People often shun the truth, ridicule the truth, because they have no real love for truth. I suppose I shall never understand why those who profess to be God’s children have to constantly be urged, begged, and pushed to the opportunities for Bible study. Surely, those who seek the truth and wish to know the will of God do not have to be shoved along.
The story is told of an ancient Greek philosopher named Diogenes who went through the streets of his city in daylight with a lighted lantern. When asked what he was doing, he said he was looking for an honest man. In this way he emphasized the scarcity of such people. By the search that Jeremiah was called upon to make, God emphasized the scarcity of the kind of people that were pleasing to Him in the city of Jerusalem. If you and I had lived in Jerusalem at that time, would we have qualified?
Why did the Lord want such a person? It was because his influence could be used to the preservation of the entire body of people. Paul teaches that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump (First Corinthians 5:6). He was speaking of how the influence of evil can contaminate the whole body. But it is also true that good influence can sometimes be used to make things better. Bad can defile the good, but good can also drive out the evil when properly administered. Jerusalem, though warned of their impending doom because of their sins, could have been spared if they would only turn from their sinful manners and return to God. But who was there among them that could be used for this purpose?
As we read in Jeremiah, chapter five, we learn of many of the abominations that characterized Jerusalem at this time. In verse two, they swore by their false gods, and in verse three, they refused to be corrected. There are some people that just will not listen. They would not see with their eyes, nor hear with their ears. Their heart was hardened and closed. They were a revolting and rebellious people. In verse four, they were foolish, not knowing the way of Jehovah, but they could have known as verse five teaches. In verse six, their transgressions were many, and they were backsliders. Even their great ones failed them. Verse seven, they were guilty of forsaking the needy and were overrunning with iniquity. Indeed, the spiritual state of Judah was one that grieved the heart of God and His prophet.
Someone has rightly said that the trouble with Judah can be defined with a set of “P’s”: their priests, prophets, princes, and people were polluted. The nation was almost like Elijah once thought Israel to be; namely, totally against God and none to follow Him except Elijah. While that later proved not to be exactly the case, the condition of the nation was one that could only lead to the doom predicted for it.
Please take note that these were not irreligious people. God did not tell Jeremiah to find a religious person. There were plenty of those all around. But being religious and being righteous are not always the same. The people of Judah, like the Pharisees in Jesus’ day, conformed to many ceremonies and rituals, going through religious forms, but their heart and manner of life was evil. Are there not possibly many in churches today of whom just such an evaluation could also be given? Many people seem to have the idea that their religion should not interfere with their life. But let me ask, “Is there any realm, any activity, anything in which a Christian involves himself or herself that is not to be governed by the faith he professes?” Can you name anything in the life of a Christian that ought not be regulated by the fact that he or she is a Christian? Our habits, words, thoughts, actions, associations, everything and anything must be under the umbrella of the truth that we are people of God and should conduct ourselves accordingly. If that is not as it ought to be, what is the value of following Christ in this life? While we properly observe the ceremony and ritual that is a part of worship and New Testament Christianity, should it not determine how we live at all times?
But it is amazing to note that in spite of all this wickedness among the people, God still loved Judah. No, He did not approve of them, but He did love them and did not want to punish them. The reason He wanted to find this certain quality of person was so that from that person and with such an influence there might be a change among the manners of the people and they could be spared. Destruction was not the Lord’s desire, but He longed to save them from their fate. As Peter wrote, “The Lord is not willing that any should perish,” but encourages mankind to repent.
This attitude was seen when Christ prayed over the city of Jerusalem. The people could have been gathered by the Lord but they would not have it so (Matthew 23:37). It is a wonderful thought to know how the love of God extends to us even while we are yet sinners. If only we would appreciate that love sufficiently to take advantage of the salvation He offers us.
It is inescapable for us to miss the emphasis of the value of a good person in this lesson. Sometimes we may conclude that we are so small and insignificant in this world that what we do and say really does not matter. But that is a false conclusion. There is no such thing as an unimportant person. Especially is this true among the righteous. Good people can be used by the Lord to bring salvation to all.
Consider the time when God told Abraham that He would not destroy the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah if only ten righteous souls could be found. Unfortunately, they could not be found and the entire people perished.
I would persuade you that if the freedoms and the blessings of our own land are to be preserved for the oncoming generations, it is the responsibility of the present age to be righteous and do good. Those of the degenerate conduct cannot save our land. They have within them the seeds of death, not preservation and life. The value of being good is not only for our personal benefit, but for those who follow after us and those who live among us. Evidently, there was an insufficiency of good people in Jerusalem because it soon fell beneath the mighty power and destruction of the Babylonians.
One has said that man has learned to swim through the water like a fish, and fly through the air like a bird, but has yet to learn how to walk on the earth like a man. Certainly many do not know how to walk like the man God sought.
But that day of Jerusalem has long since passed and those people failed to heed their warning. What of those of us living today? Shall we profit from their mistake or shall we persist in our own way and make the same mistake they made to our destruction and that of others? It is a decision each must make and for which each shall be held accountable.
1. What kind of person was God seeking when He told Jeremiah to find a man?
2. Why was there such a need for such a person?
3. Were the people without religion?
4. What made their religion so useless?
5. Did God still love those people?
6. Did God approve of those people?
7. How can our freedoms and blessings be preserved for future generations?