“Then I said, “But what can we expect from the poor? They are ignorant. They don’t know the ways of the Lord. They don’t understand God’s laws. So I will go and speak to their leaders. Surely they know the ways of the Lord and understand God’s laws.” But the leaders, too, as one man, had thrown off God’s yoke and broken his chains.” Jeremiah 5:4-5
Among other things, these verses suggest that the initial search for the honest man had not indeed included a search of the whole population, but that it was somewhat partial, hence the decision here to search among the higher echelons of society; but the results were no better. They had all left God. They also worshipped idols. People who worship idols will discover that they are powerless. Idols cannot speak and they are lifeless. There are three steps in the downfall of a nation. First, there is abandonment of a religious belief. The second step is moral decay. The third step is political anarchy, a state of disorder due to absence or no recognition of authority. These are the three steps by which nations pass through to the stage of human history. This has always been the way it has moved. The primary problem never was political anarchy. It never was moral decay. As bad as moral decay is, the root of the problem goes back to the abandonment of religious belief. Turning away from the living and true God. The downfall of a nation begins in idolatry. We would like to think that idolatry has gone out of style. This is not true. We worship many things. We worship money. We worship sex. We worship pleasure. We even worship ourselves. We worship everything but the one true God. This was the downfall of Judah. Unless we wake up, it will be our downfall.
Once Judah had abandoned God and acknowledged some other sovereignty, it was inevitable that the curses of the covenant would follow. It was natural; therefore, that Jeremiah in this passage should have mentioned their failure to worship the Lord sincerely. Moral and religious evils are finally inseparable since they stem from a common cause. The common cause is sin.