Jeremiah 9-10
(The Tongue Is a Deadly Arrow)
August 6th

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

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Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

"Their tongue is a deadly arrow;
  it speaks deceitfully.
With their mouths they all speak cordially to their neighbors,
   but in their hearts they set traps for them."

- Jeremiah 9:8 (NIV)

Summary of Chapters

These two chapters conclude the second section of Jeremiah (Oracles Primarily from the Days of Jehoiakim) by describing a forthcoming funeral lament and a critique of bad behaviors that included boastfulness, fabrication, and the worshiping of false idols. These behaviors are the result of the poor leadership by Jehoiakim who shepherded his people towards immoral practices and idol worship. The consequence would be destruction of Jerusalem and all of Judah by the Babylonians.

Chapter 9 begins with Jeremiah weeping for his people who will be slain. The LORD responds by reminding Jeremiah of the evil of the people, none of whom can be trusted. For example, he says

    “They make ready their tongue
      like a bow, to shoot lies;
    it is not by truth
      that they triumph in the land.
    They go from one sin to another;
      they do not acknowledge me,”
         declares the LORD.
    Beware of your friends;
       do not trust anyone in your clan.
    For every one of them is a deceiver,
       and every friend a slanderer."

    -Jeremiah 9:3-4 (NIV)

The original Hebrew form of verse 4 used a phrase that could have been translated as "For every one of them is a Jacob," implying that the current generation is as deceitful as their forefather Jacob, whom was described in Genesis as an artful swindler.

The LORD explains that he will punish the people because they had forsaken his law and describes the future scene to come when women will wail as death surrounds them and the fields are full of dead bodies.

Near the end of the chapter, the LORD makes a declaration warning men not to boast of their own attributes, but to seek and boast of their knowledge of the LORD.

In chapter 10, the LORD mocks the creation of false idols that are created by man and therefore have no power to control anything on earth. In fact, the idols will eventually be destroyed by the earth’s power: “ ‘It’s like a scarecrow in a cabbage patch—can’t talk! Dead wood that has to be carried—can’t walk! Don’t be impressed by such stuff. It’s useless for either good or evil' (Jer 10:5 - MSG).”

At the end of the chapter, Jeremiah warns the people to pack their bags and leave, then writes a prayer to God, asking to be corrected (but within limits):

    Correct me, LORD, but with equity,
    not in anger, lest you diminish me.

    - Jeremiah 10:24 (NAB)

But Jeremiah then concludes his prayer with a supplication for unlimited wrath on the nations that will destroy Judah, using a verse that is also found in Psalm 79:6-7:

    Pour out your wrath on the nations that do not know you,
    on the tribes that do not call your name;
    For they have utterly devoured Jacob,
    and laid waste his home.

    - Jeremiah 10:25 (NAB)

Reflection and Application

There are at least two themes in these two chapters that are picked up in the New Testament. For example, in Jeremiah 9 the prophet records the LORD using a simile to compare the tongue to a bow that shoots lies and says the tongue is a deadly arrow. James also addresses the concept of taming the tongue, as recorded in his eponymous book in the New Testament. In the first three verses of chapter 3 he compares the tongue to the rudder on a ship – small, but able to steer a great body, implying that it can be used to steer the body on the right course, or lead the body off course. He adds that

    “All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.”

    - James 3:8-9 (NIV)

Did the use of the tongue improve from the time of Jeremiah to the time of James, several hundred years later? Apparently not. Has it improved from the time of James to our time, two thousand years later? Apparently not. We have tamed animals, sent men, women, and robots into space, and even created our own climates inside of buildings and vehicles, but have still not fully mastered our own tongues nor our fingers when using pen, keyboard, or touchpad. Let us pray to God that we may discipline ourselves today to use our spoken and written words for good and not for evil.

The idea of what to boast about by tongue or pen is addressed by the Apostle Paul in 1 and 2 Corinthians, echoing God’s statement from Jeremiah:

    “but let the one who boasts boast about this:
       that they have the understanding to know me,
    that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness,
       justice and righteousness on earth,
       for in these I delight,”
         declares the LORD.

    - Jeremiah 9:24 (NIV)

Paul re-iterates this point when he says “We, however, will not boast beyond proper limits, but will confine our boasting to the field God has assigned to us, a field that reaches even to you (2 Corinthians 10:13 - NIV).”

Then what type of boasting is appropriate? When we are looking for a job, we do need to promote ourselves and talk about our strengths, but we should do so with honesty. In other situations, we should try to avoid bragging about what we have accomplished, but rather seek to explain what God has accomplished in our lives, because he is the one behind all our successes.

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. When was the last time you shot a bow and arrow?
    2. How can you use your tongue to lift up someone today?
    3. How can you use your tongue to boast about God today?
    Recommended Prayer
    Father in heaven, we know that you created our ability to communicate so that we can help and encourage one another. Help us to use our tongues for good and not evil.

    Suggested Prayer Concerns

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: Jeremiah 11-13 (The Life of Jeremiah)

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