Jeremiah 14:1-15:9 – Repentance That Comes Too Late
SummaryThe people of Israel openly confess their sins to God (14:7, 20), but it comes too late to have a positive effect on their future.
AnalysisThis text is dialogical in character, with contributions from people (14:7-9, 19-22), prophet (14:13), and God (14:1-6, 10-12, 14-18; 15:1-9). It is dominated by laments from all three principals. The people confess their sins, but it makes no difference with regard to their situation! Some scholars suggest that the people's prayers were insincere, but there is no specific evidence in the text for such an understanding. A more helpful way into the text is to recognize that, whether the people's prayers were sincere or not, they were too late. The disastrous situation was too far along for anything (including prayers) to stop it. Like a boat just above a waterfall, there comes a point when it will go over, come what may. The only future for this people was on the far side of disaster.
Prayers, even if sincere, are not necessarily efficacious. This point does not suggest, however, that only God's will was at work in this situation. People's prayers are never offered in isolation from other factors at work in a given situation (social, medical, individual, and communal history). These factors have an effect on the situation and will shape the efficacy of the prayers offered, even ways in which God is able to be involved. The effect of the sins of the people had been so pervasive that the situation could not be turned around. Even by God!
The force of these verses is that nothing can stop the destruction of Israel: not religious or political leaders, not sacrificial acts, not intercessions (to which God will refuse to listen, 14:11; see also 7:16; 11:14), or confessions of sin, or professions of faith, not even sincere lamentation. It is too late!