Jeremiah 5:1 (ESV)

Run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem,

look and take note!

Search her squares to see

if you can find a man,

one who does justice

and seeks truth,

that I may pardon her.

For two whole chapters (Jeremiah 3-4) we read in Jeremiah about the sins of Judah and Israel and their refusal to repent even in the face of threats of judgement from God. Now God tells Jeremiah to search the streets of Jerusalem for someone, anyone, who lives according to the law and in the fear of God. This is similar to the search that God tells Ezekiel about around the same time (Ezekiel 22:30).

The sins of Israel are horrendously great and brazen. They commit spiritual adultery (3:1-13) and then question God as to why they are having troubles (3:4-5). They are intransigent in their sin (3:21). God mercifully offers them pardon if they will but repent (4:1-4), but they do not and will not. So God chooses to spare the city of Jerusalem if He can but find one man who is living righteously. And He can find none.

This speaks to us of at least two things.

1) The godlessness is universal. Sin has taken hold of all of Israel, north and south (3:6-11). There is religion but there is no faith or spirituality or righteousness. It is endemic. It is a plague that has acted like a contagion and infected all. Not even one righteous man can be found.

2) God’s mercy is stunningly great. If He can find but one man who has not gone the way of spiritual whoredom He will spare the nation. If there is even one, God will do something far beyond what they deserve.

And there was not even one. This takes us directly to the point of the whole Bible. Isaiah 59:16 says

He saw that there was no man,

and wondered that there was no one to intercede;

then his own arm brought him salvation,

and his righteousness upheld him.

God always knew that there would never be anyone who could do what was necessary to do in order to redeem His people from their sins. He knew that the search for a righteous one would prove fruitless. He knew what would have to happen, because He had planned to do it from before the creation of the world (Revelation 13:8).

God does find One who is righteous, who is not defiled. It is the Son of God Himself. And in the fullness of time He will come and live the law perfectly and be the sacrifice for sin for all of God’s chosen ones and they shall be saved. The great sins of the nation of Israel take us to Christ. God’s search for a man takes us to Christ.

What should be done with a nation whom God has chosen for His own possession and who has rebelled? The justice of God demands that He punish them for their rebellion. The love of God demands that He show mercy.  And the Son will take the punishment and in love win all of them back to the Father. And He will do more. He will win back people, not only from Israel, but from every tribe and people and tongue and nation. This one Man whom God finds will do what all men for all time would never be able to accomplish. He will do what no man could ever imagine God would be willing to do. The One God finds will intercede for His people and win them back. What a picture! What an accomplishment! What a Gospel.

We can look with surprise at how stubbornly the people of Israel held on to their sins instead of responding to the loving entreaties of their God to them to repent and be saved. But we are no different. If not for the Father sending the Son and the Son willingly and lovingly coming  and the Holy Spirit powerfully convicting sinners, we would be just as stubborn and just as hopeless. Jesus has done what needed to be done. He has done it all. And because He has, our faith is not in vain and we have hope. What a Man God found.