Grace is no longer offered when the people refuse to turn back to God. I imagine this as if the only way to get you to take grace is to force you into it and violate your free will, then it will no longer be offered to you. The characteristics of the country of Judah in this state are: they did not turn to God (v.4-6), they did not feel guilt or question their ways (v. 6,12), they did not seek God’s ways (v. 7-8), even the religious leaders are focused on worldly gain (v.10) and make God’s gracious gifts superficial (v.11), and they did not use God’s gifts to produce fruit (v.13). Jeremiah is crushed by this (v. 18-22). Not even the best medicinal healing of the day can heal this wound. V.19 is interesting, it could be read as the Lord speaking in the latter part, saying, “Am I not still here?” in answer to Jeremiah’s reasoning that if the Lord is destroying them, then he must not be with them. It’s as if God is saying that this destructive justice is part of his nature too. Alternatively, v. 19 could be read as the people saying something like, “What can happen to us? God is with us, we are his people!” This reading is similar to the idea of sinning so that grace may abound. But that’s not how it works. Ch. 7 explains why grace doesn’t work that way and why God can be both gracious and destructive.
This passage strongly motivates me to seek to understand God’s ways and follow them, not to save myself, but to stay in covenant with him. I will still need grace when I fail, but I also need to be able to recognize when I fail so that I can seek grace. This requires me to 1. know what God’s ways are and 2. examine myself. For this, I need both religion (studying what God’s ways are) and spirituality (self-reflection and reflection on God’s ways).