A PAINFUL PORTRAIT
Lord, never permit me to stray from my initial moorings.
Read JEREMIAH 2:1–22
Israel Forsakes God
2 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 “Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem:
“This is what the Lord says:
“‘I remember the devotion of your youth,
how as a bride you loved me
and followed me through the wilderness,
through a land not sown.
3 Israel was holy to the Lord,
the firstfruits of his harvest;
all who devoured her were held guilty,
and disaster overtook them,’”
declares the Lord.
4 Hear the word of the Lord, you descendants of Jacob,
all you clans of Israel.
5 This is what the Lord says:
“What fault did your ancestors find in me,
that they strayed so far from me?
They followed worthless idols
and became worthless themselves.
6 They did not ask, ‘Where is the Lord,
who brought us up out of Egypt
and led us through the barren wilderness,
through a land of deserts and ravines,
a land of drought and utter darkness,
a land where no one travels and no one lives?’
7 I brought you into a fertile land
to eat its fruit and rich produce.
But you came and defiled my land
and made my inheritance detestable.
8 The priests did not ask,
‘Where is the Lord?’
Those who deal with the law did not know me;
the leaders rebelled against me.
The prophets prophesied by Baal,
following worthless idols.
9 “Therefore I bring charges against you again,”
declares the Lord.
“And I will bring charges against your children’s children.
10 Cross over to the coasts of Cyprus and look,
send to Kedar and observe closely;
see if there has ever been anything like this:
11 Has a nation ever changed its gods?
(Yet they are not gods at all.)
But my people have exchanged their glorious God
for worthless idols.
12 Be appalled at this, you heavens,
and shudder with great horror,”
declares the Lord.
13 “My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken me,
the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns,
broken cisterns that cannot hold water.
14 Is Israel a servant, a slave by birth?
Why then has he become plunder?
15 Lions have roared;
they have growled at him.
They have laid waste his land;
his towns are burned and deserted.
16 Also, the men of Memphis and Tahpanhes
have cracked your skull.
17 Have you not brought this on yourselves
by forsaking the Lord your God
when he led you in the way?
18 Now why go to Egypt
to drink water from the Nile?
And why go to Assyria
to drink water from the Euphrates?
19 Your wickedness will punish you;
your backsliding will rebuke you.
Consider then and realize
how evil and bitter it is for you
when you forsake the Lord your God
and have no awe of me,”
declares the Lord, the Lord Almighty.
20 “Long ago you broke off your yoke
and tore off your bonds;
you said, ‘I will not serve you!’
Indeed, on every high hill
and under every spreading tree
you lay down as a prostitute.
21 I had planted you like a choice vine
of sound and reliable stock.
How then did you turn against me
into a corrupt, wild vine?
22 Although you wash yourself with soap
and use an abundance of cleansing powder,
the stain of your guilt is still before me,”
declares the Sovereign Lord.
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
How would you react to a teenager who points out what you know to be the truth of your spiritual failings?
The first task confronting God’s prophet is to tell it as it is; to face the world and the covenant community and then proclaim how God sees things. There is no room for alternative truths when speaking for God, and Jeremiah certainly hits the ground running! Now put yourself in his hearers’ shoes. No one likes to hear this kind of truth, and one can only imagine their response (which later in the book we read of): “Look, Jeremiah, you are out of order, you are exaggerating. We are God’s people, we hold proper services every week, we bring all the right offerings and we speak out against the sins of others. And we’ve been around longer than you. So, don’t speak to us like this and mind your manners. If anything, you deserve punishment for confronting us like this.”
The point is, however, that this nation, which has committed itself to being the people of God and which has signed on to the covenant, has completely forgotten what that means and has flagrantly rejected God’s demands. The people have been told all they need to know about God, but they have disregarded it. This is a real challenge to those of us who claim to be God’s people today. Are we really living in a way reflective of that relationship? The gods of ancient Egypt and Assyria pose no temptation to us, but the gods of materialism, consumerism, blind nationalism and many other such things certainly are. If a modern Jeremiah would speak like this to me or my church, would we all get defensive and dismiss it out of hand, or would we be willing to listen and change? The good news is that because of the life and death of Jesus “the stain of [our] guilt” (22) has been taken away.
Do you have the boldness to proclaim what God wants said, regardless of the awkwardness of the situation?
Lord, help me to be what You want me to be, every moment of every day.