Chapter twelve is contains four subjects.
First, there is “justice,” which begins with a bit of humor if you think about Jeremiah siding up to God and saying “you are always righteous O Lord” (giving first the compliment) and then sticking in the dagger: “yet I would speak with you about your justice.” In other words, ‘God, you seem just, but you really aren’t.’ Jeremiah’s understanding of justice isn’t far from the understanding of God’s people in any age. Evil people prosper, and that just ain’t right.
But this matter of justice has two parts. Not only are the evil people prospering, but the pain God is bringing on His people because of evil is disproportionally affecting good people. Jeremiah wants God’s justice to be more surgically precise.
The second matter is influence. This complaint of Jeremiah’s isn’t just his. He has been influenced by the words of family members (verse 6) who likewise feel they are being unjustly treated by God.
God’s response is two fold: First, all this is really over Jeremiah’s head. Second, the complaints of his family are deceiving because they are the very evil ones God is punishing. It’s just because they are family that Jeremiah can’t see that. But the punishment will not stop. They deserve their suffering, and God is going to increase it.
The third matter is that despite the fact that God’s people are wicked and deserving of discipline, they are still God’s people. The rods of God’s correction are the nations around Israel, but despite the fact that God is using them to execute punishment, He will punish the punishers for doing so. There are two reasons: first, they aren’t punishing because God told them to, but because they want to. They bear malice toward the people of God. Second, they are hurting the people of God. Even though God says he hates Israel and will abandon her, note God’s abiding preference for her. It’s a message worth remembering.
Finally, there is the matter of prophecy. Don’t miss it! God promises a time when the nations who are not his people will become His people – a short, almost overlookable reference to the new age Jesus will inaugurate.