Can You Find Just One?

They are few and far between:

One could go in all sorts of directions with a title like this. Am I talking about an honest politician? Or a reliable media source? Or a no-gimmicks megachurch? Or a government really concerned about its citizens? Or a book I have not yet read?! Those are all possible topics for discussion, but here I want to simply run with a particular passage found in Scripture. It too involves looking for just one person.

I refer to Jeremiah 5:1: “Go up and down the streets of Jerusalem, look around and consider, search through her squares. If you can find but one person who deals honestly and seeks the truth, I will forgive this city.” I will speak more to this particular text in a moment, but for now, consider its relevance. Simply consider all the cities today that this might apply to:

-Go up and down the streets of Melbourne…
-Go up and down the streets of Sydney…
-Go up and down the streets of London…
-Go up and down the streets of Paris…
-Go up and down the streets of Auckland…
-Go up and down the streets of Chicago…
-Go up and down the streets of Los Angeles…
-Go up and down the streets of Toronto…

You get my drift. What the prophet was lamenting some two and a half millennia ago is still true today. And there are two main takeaways from a passage such as this. One, truth is in short supply. And two, it is usually a remnant that gets the job done.

As to the first, there are many other such texts that could be mentioned. Here are a few more of them from the Old Testament:

Isaiah 59:14-15 So justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance; truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter. Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey. The LORD looked and was displeased that there was no justice.

Jeremiah 9:3-6 “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 your brothers. For every brother is a deceiver, and every friend a slanderer. Friend deceives friend, and no one speaks the truth. They have taught their tongues to lie; they weary themselves with sinning. You live in the midst of deception; in their deceit they refuse to acknowledge me,” declares the LORD.

And of course verses about justice gone missing could also be mentioned. As to the idea of a remnant, other verses also come to mind, such as:

Isaiah 10:20-23 In that day the remnant of Israel and the survivors of the house of Jacob will no more lean on him who struck them, but will lean on the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God. For though your people Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will return. Destruction is decreed, overflowing with righteousness. For the Lord God of hosts will make a full end, as decreed, in the midst of all the earth.

Ezekiel 9:4 and said to him, “Go throughout the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it.”

Ezekiel 22:30 And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none.

But let me return to Jer. 5:1. It is an obvious allusion to Genesis 18 where God wants to wipe out Sodom and Gomorrah, but Abraham tries to avert this by finding a small remnant. Let me offer a bit of commentary on the verse. As Walter Kaiser writes:

It is not every day that an offer comes along to save one’s civilization, but in this case all it would take is for Jeremiah to locate in their midst just one truly righteous man – not fifty, forty-five, thirty, twenty, or even ten, as was the case when Abraham argued a similar case for the possible deliverance of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 18:26-33). If one citizen could be found who had real integrity, and who followed Yahweh, God would “forgive” the sins of an entire city.

Image of The Book of Jeremiah (New International Commentary on the Old Testament (NICOT))
The Book of Jeremiah (New International Commentary on the Old Testament (NICOT)) by Goldingay, John (Author) Amazon logo

In his new commentary on Jeremiah, John Goldingay says this:

Exercising authority and seeking truthfulness are the particular vocation of people with responsibility for justice in the city. . . . While its implications overlap with Gen. 18:22-33, it starts from a different assumption. When Yahweh has to reconcile the importance of taking waywardness seriously and of taking seriously his own commitment to the community and to his own purpose, then one way of doing so is to allow a remnant to survive, another is to let the entire community survive on the basis of the faithfulness of the few, but another way is to let the entire community survive on the basis of the presence of just one person exercising authority with truthfulness. Yahweh is then not looking for just an ordinary individual but for someone like Moses, Aaron, Phinehas, or Samuel—someone who is pushing the city to live in a way that matches his concern for faithfulness. If there is such a person, then all is not lost. It opens up the possibility of pardon.

This is all quite relevant for today of course. As I mentioned, trying to find a remnant in Melbourne or Montreal is no easy task today. But it is vital that those who are truly his maintain hope and remain faithful. Our cities filled with lost souls who are not interested in God may well depend upon this handful of genuine Christ followers. As Philip Graham Ryken states:

These poor people were in spiritual denial. They doubted that God judges sin or rules in history. For all their religious talk, they refused to follow God. Their worship was false because they did not give glory to God in their hearts….

 

As Jeremiah walked the streets of Jerusalem, he found many people who had endured suffering. They had been struck down and crushed by the hardships of life. Among people who had endured such adversity, he might have expected to find someone who feared God. Or someone who had learned obedience through suffering. Surely Jeremiah could find at least one!

 

“O Lord, do not your eyes look for truth?
You struck them, but they felt no pain;
you crushed them, but they refused correction.
They made their faces harder than stone
and refused to repent.” (v. 3).

 

They were callous, stubborn, and obstinate. They were men and women of steel. Their suffering did not produce godliness because they were immune to pain. They would not receive correction. Even after all of Jeremiah’s warnings, they refused to repent. Jeremiah began to realize he was not getting anywhere in his search.

Is this not a perfect description of life in Seattle, Sydney, Stockholm or San Diego? Is this not exactly where the West finds itself today? We keep going through one thing after another: floods, famines, plagues, wars, corrupt governments, and economic collapse – all likely brought about by the gracious hand of God to get our attention – but we go our merry way. We STILL do not turn to God.

All the more need for those who still remain true to Christ to arise and shine in these dark days. All the more reason for all the saints of God – including those especially into intercessory prayer and spiritual warfare ministries – to cry out to God and intercede for our cities and our nations.

The challenge remains for us all: to find that one person, or those few persons, who will be God’s man or woman for such a time as this. If such people cannot be found, judgment is absolutely certain.

[1352 words]

7 Replies to “Can You Find Just One?”

  1. San Francisco and the halls of the entertainment industry too maybe? So long as there is time to run before judgement day and sin remains in this world there will be men who will follow after their lusts and passions whilst deserting God.

  2. On the other hand if one is looking only in the cities one may be looking in all of the wrong places. I read once, but cannot cite, that ancient Rome struggled with the cultural divide between the metropolitans pursuit of equality and the rural pursuit of liberty. In the cities, an inch of rain is a curse of stormwater flooding and destruction, whereas in the rural areas the same rain is a blessing for which we offer our gratitude with a prayer for more timely, beneficial rain. Maybe we live more intimately with the permeable dirt to which we shall return than the impermeable asphalt and concrete of the metropolitans.

  3. There is some confusion in my mind about “spiritual warfare ministries” – what are these? I fear they may be one of those things that divide the church.

  4. Thanks John, but anything and everything can divide the church – even Christ himself! However, anyone who is familiar with the New testament knows that Satan exists, demons exist, principalities and powers exist, and spiritual warfare exists, and Christians in various ways need to be involved in these battles. But I have written often on this before, eg:

    https://billmuehlenberg.com/2018/09/08/christians-living-like-atheists-where-are-the-warriors/

  5. Thank you.

    Much in this article is what has been on my heart – the wealth of wisdom and truth to be found in prophecy – especially when so much relates to today. It holds the knowledge we desperately need to have for the current situation.

    Take:-

    “Destruction is decreed, overflowing with righteousness. For the Lord God of hosts will make a full end, as decreed, in the midst of all the earth.”

    The word translated “destruction” also relates to pining and failure. Is that not exactly where we find ourselves today? Destruction and failure in the world while we pine?

    Like so much prophecy, this, obviously, is not just for physical Israel.

    We see so much destructive ideology, which cannot help but fail, while we pine for what could be, yet we are told the situation is overflowing with righteousness, which I’m pretty sure means that, as the world goes down the tubes, the righteousness of the ‘remnant’, I.e. those who remain, will overflow. How else could the situation be overflowing with righteousness? These two near opposite things will occur simultaneously. The destruction/failing will deliver evil people into darkness and the righteous remnant will seek God more and partake of the overflowing of righteousness.

    And, of course, making the difference between the righteous and the wicked more obvious will make the judgement so much easier.

    Bless the Lord forever.

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