Read Jeremiah 19
Focus on verse 3
One of my first, and if I recall correctly, my last agricultural entrepreneurial experiments was to raise free-range chickens on my father’s farm where I grew up. I began with four hens and a rooster for which I had built a small hutch between the lilac hedge and the old garage. I managed to keep them alive through the first winter, and in the spring several of the hens successfully hatched broods of chicks with very little help from me. I kept this operation going for several years during which we had anywhere from ten to twenty some chickens roving about our yard eating insects (which was good) and leaving their donations in return (which occasionally got messy when us kids would roll around in the grass with unsuspecting friends). It was also highly entertaining to me when the mean old rooster would chance my younger sister around. Something tells me it was not all that entertaining to her at the time. Apparently she has forgiven me as we get along fine at this point.
All through those years those chickens would typically find their way back to that little hutch that I had built for them each night before the sun went down. This tendency amongst domestic fowl to return to the chicken coop for night is presumably where the phrase “when the chickens come home to roost” originates.
It is this phrase that is sometimes used (at least among folks with agrarian roots) to describe what our brothers and sisters of the Far East might call “karma”. The way this is presumed to work is that when we behave in less than admirable fashion and the fruit of our deeds finds its way back to haunt us, one could say, “our chickens have come home to roost”.
In today’s reading God is essentially informing Israel that their “chickens” are on the way home. Isaiah writes:
You shall say, hear the word of the Lord, O kings of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem. Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I am bringing such disaster upon this place that the ears of everyone who hears it will tingle. (v. 3)
God had sent Isaiah to Israel to inform the people that the gig was up. The seeds of evil that they had sown over the years had now grown to maturity, and they were about to bear fruit and it wasn’t going to be pretty. In this we see a side of God that some would rather not see. The justice of God is such that sin and evil have consequences. It is not that God delights in bringing disaster upon people. He would much rather bestow His blessing upon us in response to our obedience and devotion. The bottom line seems to be that we have the freedom to choose whether to walk in obedience and experience His favor, or to walk in rebellion knowing that either way the chickens will come home to roost and we will to some extent experience the fruit of whatever it is we have sown.