“This is a nation that has not obeyed the LORD its God or responded to correction. Truth has perished; it has vanished from their lips” Jer. 7:28
“They make ready their tongue like a bow to shoot lies; it is not by truth that they triumph in the land.” Jer. 9:3
God opened the eyes of his prophet Jeremiah as he looked hard at the people of Judah, and amongst the many revelations that both impressed and hurt him was the realization that everywhere he looked there was dishonesty and deceit. When the word of the LORD came to him about this matter it was very sharp and jolting, “Truth has perished!” Doubtless there were people in Judah who were honest and trustworthy but the prevailing characteristic of the nation was an embedded dishonesty. The apple, so to speak, had one or two green patches but on the whole it was rotten. And the rot was growing – it was virtually impossible to stop it. I wonder how we in our own country and in the West generally might score in God’s sight on this issue; how rotten is our own apple?
The fact is that lying, deceiving, dissimulating, insinuating, accusing, backbiting and the like are constantly being exposed in the business world, the political world, the financial world, and the professional world as well as the world of work generally. Ironically most of the exposure comes largely through the world of media which itself becomes more and more hypocritical and deceitful. The emergence of “fake news” has added a whole new and dangerous dimension to all this.
Perhaps the most disturbing feature, however, is the fact that in all these areas many of the very highest echelons of leaders seem to be involved in this deceit and lying. It was, for example, something of a shock that in the motor world the deliberate falsification of the readings of the emission level of diesel engines was not something that came about through dishonest activity in back street garages, but was programmed into the original instruments of the cars during manufacture with the connivance of the people at the highest management level of the most “reputable” of car makers. Likewise the revelation that numbers of M.P.s were grossly falsifying their expenses accounts equally brought shock waves. It seemed that in precisely the places that you would expect honesty and integrity the opposite was to be found. The scam of “injury compensation” touted by unscrupulous lawyers brought defamation to a profession where one would certainly have expected integrity. The notion that those who have the most responsibility should show the greatest honesty is not now a sentiment that is commonly held. When the leaders, makers and shakers, and the role models of society behave without integrity and truth the cancer soon spreads throughout society. A society that cannot look up to its leaders for good examples of living is a society that is in decline.
Lies and deceit are, of course, really the offspring and consorts of other and worse behaviour. Those whose lives are bent at all costs on securing positions of power and influence find that their ambitions are frequently to be gained and kept by false accusations and deceits; it is very difficult for them not to undermine rivals with slander and gossip, and more difficult still to maintain integrity in an atmosphere where it is lacking. For those whose main aim is riches in abundance deceit, lying, falsification all too often become an easy tempting road to success. Adultery or “having an affair” inevitably leads to a destructive web of deceit and denials. What we may conclude from this fact is that a society which can be characterized as dishonest will be invariably a society in which much deeper evils are to be found. Lying is the fungus growing on the deeper decay.
The important question is whether we are looking at something in our nation that has always been there and not exposed, or whether we are witnessing something of a real and serious moral decline. People have always lied, but has it ever been quite so rampant? The answer to the question has been coming from a number of different directions and there seems little doubt there is a consensus that we are in fact seeing a moral decline. The sanctions which kept control over our behaviour have now either gone or been severely weakened. The area of sexual behaviour probably provides the clearest evidence of this. Certainly what was viewed as pornographic only a decade or so ago is now mainstream in all kinds of publications and not just tabloids. Two or three decades ago such publications would have produced an outcry. But in an increasingly self- indulgent money-obsessed society we have seen the loss of sanctions in all directions, and particularly the sanctions which are a crucial aspect of a Christian culture and which have lapsed with the retreat from Christian faith. The Ten Commandments no longer stand tall in the background of life and warn of danger.
When the word of the LORD, “Truth has perished” came to Jeremiah it did not mean that only speaking honestly and with integrity had died among his generation. It also meant that the truth about God has also perished in their midst. Their understanding of God, their fear of God, their trust in Him and their keeping of his ways had all been lost in preference to a clinging to idols of their own creation. People were worshipping what they had made rather than the Creator who had made everything. Their idols were in every way more convenient for their life-style, particularly since they called for no sanctions on their behaviour. On the contrary their idols encouraged loose sexual behaviour along with riotous living. In our own day man himself, the human being, has become the great idol and put centre stage. The human rational intellect is seen as the fountain of wisdom and to be lauded above all else. But man, like other idols, does not in himself bar the way to easy access to sexual looseness and riotous living. The call is now to trust our enlightened grasp of science and technology – this will give us the answer to everything. Philosophy (the love of wisdom) has replaced theology (the study and understanding of God), even though philosophers themselves have made it clear that philosophy is not likely to change behaviour. Ours is a generation which has lost the “Truth”. Pilate asked Jesus, What is truth?” He did not receive an answer, but Jesus had already made the answer very clear in his teaching with the words, “I am the way, the truth and the life”. God, and God alone, is truth at the deepest level. It is because we have lost the TRUTH Himself that we have inevitably become a people who cannot speak the truth. It is God who hates lies and deceit and demands utter integrity. Without his Spirit we inevitably fall from the grace of honesty.
Remember, Jeremiah is not carrying out an historical survey of Judah; he is a prophet with a message from God, and the message is one of judgement on societies which are too blind or clever to acknowledge their Maker and his ways.
Bob Dunnett 09/10/17