“My People Are Foolish; They Know Me Not”

Jeremiah 4:22 announces a dramatic rationale for the impending judgment upon Israel:

For my people are foolish; they know me not; they are stupid children; they have no understanding. They are “wise” — in doing evil! But how to do good they know not.

This verse shows that Israel did exactly opposite of what knowing God demands. They did not repent of evil, fear the Lord or listen to his voice. As a result, they became totally disoriented in thought and desire, piety and ethics. They did not know what truly matters or what to do about it. They were spiritually illiterate and ethically worthless. Their lack of knowledge made them clever only for unrighteousness and idolatry.

Verses 23–26 present the spiritual and social disaster that befell God’s people when they became willfully ignorant and foolish:

 I looked on the earth, and behold, it was without form and void; and to the heavens, and they had no light. I looked on the mountains, and behold, they were quaking, and all the hills moved to and fro. I looked, and behold, there was no man, and all the birds of the air had fled. I looked, and behold, the fruitful land was a desert, and all its cities were laid in ruins before the Lord, before his fierce anger.

These verses portray creation undone because God’s people had “no understanding”! Jeremiah expressed the scene in the most vivid imagery: the earth returns to chaos, echoing Genesis 1:2 (“without form and void”). A reversal of creation has occurred, and the earth is lacking human understanding of God. God’s image-bearers ceased to display the glory of God or fulfill their mission on earth―because they were “stupid children”!

From this passage, we see quite clearly that ideas have consequences. Especially wrong ideas about God, produce catastrophic results. Likewise, ignorance has consequences. And as this passage so evidently demonstrates, willful ignorance about God produces negative consequences in idolatry, personal ethics, and social disorder, which amounts to a reversal of creation.

It is amazing, however, that the principal reason given for the reversal of creation is human stupidity!

For my people are foolish.
They know me not.
They are stupid children.
They have no understanding.
They are “wise”—in doing evil!
But how to do good they know not.

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