From Jeremiah 1-3
Israel started off well with the LORD, but her initial devotion waned as she turned to other gods. In today’s passage the LORD levels a charge against Israel. Despite their hopeful beginnings Israel turned away from him. The warning for us in this is not to let our early love for Jesus grow cold.
This post is part of my bible in a year series.
Passage and Comments
Jeremiah has been called by the LORD. In today’s passage he is given the message he must preach.
2 The word of the LORD came to me, saying, 2 “Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem, Thus says the LORD,
“I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed me in the wilderness, in a land not sown.
3 Israel was holy to the LORD, the firstfruits of his harvest. All who ate of it incurred guilt; disaster came upon them, declares the LORD.” (Jer 2.1-3)
‘The devotion of your youth’, ‘Your love as a bride’. The history of the relationship between the LORD and Israel starts off with the pleasant honeymoon period. An early time of following the LORD in the wilderness, perhaps on the way to Sinai.
However with the shift in gender, Israel is addressed as a female to start then male at the end, comes a shift in how their marriage has turned south. A substantial part of the remainder of the passage describes how their relationship soured after their hopeful start.
4 Hear the word of the LORD, O house of Jacob, and all the clans of the house of Israel. 5 Thus says the LORD:
“What wrong did your fathers find in me that they went far from me, and went after worthlessness, and became worthless?
6 They did not say, ‘Where is the LORD who brought us up from the land of Egypt, who led us in the wilderness, in a land of deserts and pits, in a land of drought and deep darkness, in a land that none passes through, where no man dwells?’
7 And I brought you into a plentiful land to enjoy its fruits and its good things. But when you came in, you defiled my land and made my heritage an abomination.
8 The priests did not say, ‘Where is the LORD?’ Those who handle the law did not know me; the shepherds transgressed against me; the prophets prophesied by Baal and went after things that do not profit. (Jer 2.4-8)
The message has turned into a series of charges and complaints the LORD has directed at Israel. Israel turned away from the LORD after all the good he had done for them.
They went after the worthless and became worthless themselves. What do you pursue in life?
The LORD keeps stating they did not ask where he was. They did not seek him out even after all he had done for them in leading them through the wilderness, bringing them in to the promised land and providing for them.
All levels of their society had turned away from the LORD. None knew him including the priests, the shepherds and the prophets. They sought other religions.
9 “Therefore I still contend with you, declares the LORD, and with your children’s children I will contend.
10 For cross to the coasts of Cyprus and see, or send to Kedar and examine with care; see if there has been such a thing.
11 Has a nation changed its gods, even though they are no gods? But my people have changed their glory for that which does not profit.
12 Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the LORD,
13 for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water. (Jer 2.9-13)
The LORD promises he will contend with Israel and their children for several generations because of how they have rejected him.
‘Has a nation changed its gods, even though they are no gods?’ The LORD charges Israel with apostasy. They have abandoned him for false gods. The Baals.
What do you glory in? What is your glory?
The glory of Israel is the LORD himself.But they have exchanged their glory for worthless images (Rom 1.23). Images and false gods that can do nothing for them. That serve no practical purpose.
14 “Is Israel a slave? Is he a homeborn servant? Why then has he become a prey?
15 The lions have roared against him; they have roared loudly. They have made his land a waste; his cities are in ruins, without inhabitant.
16 Moreover, the men of Memphis and Tahpanhes have shaved the crown of your head.
17 Have you not brought this upon yourself by forsaking the LORD your God, when he led you in the way?
18 And now what do you gain by going to Egypt to drink the waters of the Nile? Or what do you gain by going to Assyria to drink the waters of the Euphrates?
19 Your evil will chastise you, and your apostasy will reprove you. Know and see that it is evil and bitter for you to forsake the LORD your God; the fear of me is not in you, declares the Lord GOD of hosts. (Jer 2.14-19)
Israel, once protected by the LORD, has now became the target of more powerful nations. They brought this upon themselves because they abandoned the LORD.
Sin becomes their own punishment. God hands them over into it.
20 “For long ago I broke your yoke and burst your bonds; but you said, ‘I will not serve.’ Yes, on every high hill and under every green tree you bowed down like a whore.
21 Yet I planted you a choice vine, wholly of pure seed. How then have you turned degenerate and become a wild vine?
22 Though you wash yourself with lye and use much soap, the stain of your guilt is still before me, declares the Lord GOD.
23 How can you say, ‘I am not unclean, I have not gone after the Baals’? Look at your way in the valley; know what you have done— a restless young camel running here and there,
24 a wild donkey used to the wilderness, in her heat sniffing the wind! Who can restrain her lust? None who seek her need weary themselves; in her month they will find her.
25 Keep your feet from going unshod and your throat from thirst. But you said, ‘It is hopeless, for I have loved foreigners, and after them I will go.’ (Jer 2.20-25)
The LORD delivered Israel from slavery in Egypt. Now they have turned to other gods and refuse to worship the one true God.
The LORD planted them a ‘choice vine’. But they have become ‘degenerate’ and ‘wild’. The people of Israel try to wash themselves, but their washing is not one of the heart. They are not truly repentant. Consequently the ‘stain of their guilt is still before the LORD’.
How does one become truly clean and free of guilt before the LORD?
Some in Israel have attempted the deny the LORD’s charge of going after the Baals. The LORD has seen their lust for the other gods. Wandering around seeking gods other than the LORD.
26 “As a thief is shamed when caught, so the house of Israel shall be shamed: they, their kings, their officials, their priests, and their prophets,
27 who say to a tree, ‘You are my father,’ and to a stone, ‘You gave me birth.’ For they have turned their back to me, and not their face. But in the time of their trouble they say, ‘Arise and save us!’
28 But where are your gods that you made for yourself? Let them arise, if they can save you, in your time of trouble; for as many as your cities are your gods, O Judah. (Jer 2.26-28)
Israel has been caught out in her apostasy. The LORD has given them birth, he is their true father and creator. But they have turned their backs on him.
The LORD mocks them – ‘But where are your gods that you made for yourself? Let them arise, if they can save you, in your time of trouble.‘
The point is that the gods they have chosen over the LORD can do nothing. They cannot save. Only the LORD can save them and they have abandoned him.
29 “Why do you contend with me? You have all transgressed against me, declares the LORD.
30 In vain have I struck your children; they took no correction; your own sword devoured your prophets like a ravening lion.
31 And you, O generation, behold the word of the LORD. Have I been a wilderness to Israel, or a land of thick darkness? Why then do my people say, ‘We are free, we will come no more to you’?
32 Can a virgin forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire? Yet my people have forgotten me days without number. (Jer 2.29-32)
Despite all this the people ‘contend’ with the LORD and charge him with wrong because they are being besieged by stronger nations. They have no argument. The LORD is righteous and they are guilty.
Israel the LORD’s bride has forgotten the husband of her youth for a long time.
33 “How well you direct your course to seek love! So that even to wicked women you have taught your ways.
34 Also on your skirts is found the lifeblood of the guiltless poor; you did not find them breaking in. Yet in spite of all these things
35 you say, ‘I am innocent; surely his anger has turned from me.’ Behold, I will bring you to judgment for saying, ‘I have not sinned.’
36 How much you go about, changing your way! You shall be put to shame by Egypt as you were put to shame by Assyria.
37 From it too you will come away with your hands on your head, for the LORD has rejected those in whom you trust, and you will not prosper by them. (Jer 2.33-37)
The LORD lists a number of the other sins. They teach women to be adulteress’ and they spill the blood of the poor. Despite all this they do not acknowledge their guilt. They say they have not sinned.
If you have sin in your life, don’t deny it. Confess it before the LORD and ask for forgiveness.
The LORD predicts they will be put to shame by Egypt and Assyria. Their allies they trusted to protect them. Even under their protection they will be conquered and led away with the hands on their heads.
“The Israelites forgot their deliverance from Egypt and the way the LORD provided them in the wilderness despite the numerous challenges they faced. The Israelites only turned to God for help in distress. Only then to be ignored, forsaken, insulted, directly rebelled against, when he saved them. They were eating the fruit of the good land which God had given to them while they were rebelling against him. This is even worse than ingratitude for past blessings. Such ingratitude might attempt to plead the excuse of failure of memory; but ingratitude for present mercies can only arise from gross spiritual blindness or wilful disregard of all claims of justice and affection.” (Spence-Jones, H.D.M. ed., 1909. Jeremiah, London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.)
Israel started off well, but as we have seen that does not mean they remained devoted to the LORD. They abandoned the LORD and fell away. It can come all to easy to become complacent and turn away from the LORD. Jesus issues a similar warning in the gospel.
3 As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” 4 And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. 5 For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. 6 And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. 7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.
9 “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. 10 And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. 11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. (Mt 24.3-14)
‘The love of many will grow cold’ (v12). Of the many aspects under which sin may be viewed none is more sad than that of ingratitude to God. Every act of sin is a distinct act of ingratitude; for every such act is an offence against him who has shown to us nothing but love, and from whom we are taking innumerable favours in the very moment of our transgression.
Don’t let your early devotion to Jesus grow cold. Renew your affection for him day by day.
Copyright © Joshua Washington and thescripturesays, 2016. All Rights Reserved.