“Even if you gave me a million dollars I still wouldn’t [fill in the blank]” – that’s an expression that people use to stress how definite their “no” is. It might be surprising to learn that God had an expression of His own to stress how definite the coming judgment on Judah was. To be sure, there’s more to this statement than simply an affirmation of the unrelenting nature of God’s promised wrath on the southern kingdom, but before we see what’s implicit lets understand what’s explicit.
The opening verse of Jeremiah 15 reads:
Then the LORD said to me, “Even if Moses and Samuel stood before Me, My mind would not be favorable toward this people. Cast them out of My sight, and let them go forth.”
This was God’s response to Jeremiah’s heartfelt, contrite, and God-honoring intercession (Jer. 14:19-22). You would think after reading it that God would’ve said, “Yes, Jeremiah, I will relent” but that’s not what He did. God’s answer was a definitive “no.” Sometimes we can think that if we pray a certain way, if we truly bring the most broken and God-centered prayer that we could genuinely muster, it will procure the answer we hope. God’s reply to Jeremiah here and the Father’s response to His Son in the Garden of Gethsemane is proof that even the best of prayers prayed by the best of men will not necessarily secure a “yes” when the will of God is a “no.”
Now the tone that rings out the loudest is obvious – God will not turn back His coming judgment, but we shouldn’t let that obscure the reassurance that God was giving to Jeremiah. By referencing Moses and Samuel it’s as though God was reassuring Jeremiah that judgment was not coming because Jeremiah wasn’t as good of an intercessor as he needed to be. It’s as though God was not only making a statement but also comforting His prophet.
Both of the men that God referenced were famous in Israel for being those who stood as intercessors before Him. Such a reality was recorded in Israel’s psalter and sung by the nation:
Moses and Aaron were among His priests, And Samuel was among those who called upon His name; They called upon the LORD, and He answered them.(Ps. 99:6)
So even if Moses, the man who stood in the gap and interceded for golden calf-worshiping Israel when the LORD said that He would consume them and make a great nation out of him (Ex. 32:10-14), even if he was the God-appointed prophet to Jeremiah’s generation it wouldn’t assuage God’s anger or garner His favor. Likewise, even if Samuel, the man whose intercession for the nation was the means through which the Lord wrought deliverance from the Philistines when they encroached upon the Israelites at Mizpah (1 Sam. 7:8-9), even if he stood in Jeremiah’s sandals God would not be favorably disposed to rebellious Judah. It wouldn’t have mattered what prayers or what sacrifice had been offered by either of those men, God would still say: “Cast them out of My sight, and let them go forth.” They would still be driven from the land of promise and from the place where the Lord had placed His name. They would still be taken into exile. But that’s not all that the LORD had in mind when He said, “let them go forth” (Jer. 15:1c). As He noted in verse 2:
2 And it shall be, if they say to you, ‘Where should we go?’ then you shall tell them, ‘Thus says the Lord: “Such as are for death, to death; And such as are for the sword, to the sword; And such as are for the famine, to the famine; And such as are for the captivity, to the captivity.”’
God had appointed four forms of destruction (Jer. 15:3) and no intercession would avail. The people’s stance of rebellion was fixed and so was God’s determination to judge their rebellion.
So what solace can we take in a passage like this? Well, I don’t think we should fail to notice the intimate relationships that God has enjoyed with human beings. That’s something worth marveling at. Our God is indeed relational. One simply needs to read the history of Moses and Samuel to see how the eternal God interacted with these created men in proximate and personal ways. And we’re reminded of that here.
For you whom the Lord has given a heart to know Him you can press on to know Him further still; you can enjoy a true relationship with Him; you can speak to Him as one speaks with a friend (cf. Ex. 33:11). And granted you won’t be Moses, Samuel, or Jeremiah, and that’s fine, you don’t need to be. Besides, the point isn’t, who are you going to be, the point is – you have access to the same relational God.
And lastly, there is cause for Gospel-rejoicing even in a text like this. Every one of us who has seen Jesus’ sacrifice as the sufficient payment for our sins, can rejoice that God doesn’t say about us: “Even if Moses and Samuel stood before Me, My mind would not be favorable toward this people” (Jer. 15:1a) but rather, ‘Because My Son stands before Me, as the Advocate who satiated my divine justice, My mind will forever be favorable to this people.’