O Lord, my strength and my stronghold,
my refuge in the day of trouble,
to thee shall the nations come
from the ends of the earth and say:
“Our fathers have inherited nought but lies,
worthless things in which there is no profit.
Can man make for himself gods?
Such are no gods!” (Jeremiah 16:19-20 RSV)
That is what the nations, Jeremiah says, are going to say to God at last. They are going to come to him and confess the emptiness of all the things they trusted in. Jeremiah lifts up his eyes and looks down the course of the ages and sees the end of history. And he says, “Lord, what you’re doing now, though it’s hard for me to bear, nevertheless, I have a stronghold in you, a place of refuge, and I know it’s going to work! One day the nations are going to see the result of their incredible folly, and come and confess to you the emptiness of all the things they had followed.” And he is praising God for this. God’s response is,
“Therefore, behold, I will make them know, this once I will make them know my power and my might, and they shall know that my name is the Lord.” (Jeremiah 16:21 RSV)
That is, only by the utter collapse of all that men trust in will they ever have their eyes opened to what God has been saying to them. This is why God moves the way he does with individuals — to bring them to the end of themselves, to let them get into trouble and fall apart, and bankrupt themselves in every degree. It is then that both individuals and nations get their eyes open. Then they see who God is — see his power and his might and his love.