Jeremiah 3:6-11

During the reign of King Josiah, the Lord said to me, “Have you seen what faithless Israel has done? She has gone up on every high hill and under every spreading tree and has committed adultery there. I thought that after she had done all this she would return to me but she did not, and her unfaithful sister Judah saw it. I gave faithless Israel her certificate of divorce and sent her away because of all her adulteries. Yet I saw that her unfaithful sister Judah had no fear; she also went out and committed adultery. Because Israel’s immorality mattered so little to her, she defiled the land and committed adultery with stone and wood. 10 In spite of all this, her unfaithful sister Judah did not return to me with all her heart, but only in pretense,” declares the Lord.

11 The Lord said to me, “Faithless Israel is more righteous than unfaithful Judah.
(Jeremiah 3:6-11 NIV)

As we begin today’s passage, the passage shifts from a general call to repentance over the years to an event at a particular point in time.  Also, the literary form switches from a patterned poetic form to prose (standard writing).

Jeremiah recalls a time during the reign of King Josiah (the reforming king of Judah).  To add a bit of historical context, the Hebrew nation had divided into two kingdoms – the northern kingdom of Israel, and the southern kingdom of Judah.  The northern kingdom, under the reign of Manasseh, turned its back on God and was eventually overtaken by the Assyrians in 722 BC.  Josiah was king of Judah after the fall of the northern kingdom (Israel) to the Assyrians.  Josiah instituted many religious reforms, getting rid of the Canaanite gods and their places of worship.

With this historical context in mind, the Lord spoke to Jeremiah about the two kingdoms.  The Lord compared the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah to two sisters – related to each other and of the same parentage, but each unique and distinct.

As the Good Father, the Lord was heartbroken over Israel’s choice to turn away from Him and serve the Canaanite false gods, to commit spiritual adultery (v. 6).  The Lord was hoping that the painful lesson Israel had learned because of her bad choices would be a deterrent to her younger sister Judah as He knew that Judah was watching (v. 7).

Instead of learning from her older sister’s mistakes and seeing her consequences, Judah went out and committed the very same sins (v. 8).  The Lord saw that there was repentance in Judah, but it was on the outward surface only (referring to Josiah’s reforms).  There were no more idol worship shrines, but that did not stop Judah from giving their hearts to the foreign and lifeless Canaanite gods (v. 10).

So what was God’s assessment of the two sisters?  The Lord declared Israel the more righteous of the two, as she made no pretense of her situation compared to her sister Judah that acted like she was in good relationship with the Lord, but outwardly only (v. 11).  This judgment must have come as quite a surprise to the people of Judah.  They likely thought that they were the righteous ones, as they still had their kingdom after Israel was overtaken by the Assyrians.  Therefore, the people of Judah thought that they were in a genuine relationship with God.

So what are the lessons learned here?  First and foremost, the Lord looks at our hearts as well as our outward actions to see how we’re relating to Him.  Empty words with no heartfelt dedication are meaningless.  Outward actions with the wrong motives (trying to get credit by following the rules) are no better.  It’s not an “either-or”, but a “both-and” in our walk with God.

Secondly, despite whatever sins we may have committed, God’s love and desire for restoration is available.  No sin that is so great that He will not forgive us.  But we must come in humility and brokenness before Him, with full realization that there is nothing we can do to earn God’s favor.  God loves us unconditionally.

May we walk in simplicity and single-hearted devotion to our Father, who loves us and desires the best for us.

May we allow no one and nothing to cause us to turn our backs on God’s love and care for us.  The enticements may be great, but the reality is empty.

Blessings,
~kevin

Jeremiah 3:1-5

“If a man divorces his wife
    and she leaves him and marries another man,
should he return to her again?
    Would not the land be completely defiled?
But you have lived as a prostitute with many lovers—
    would you now return to me?”
declares the Lord.
“Look up to the barren heights and see.
    Is there any place where you have not been ravished?
By the roadside you sat waiting for lovers,
    sat like a nomad in the desert.
You have defiled the land
    with your prostitution and wickedness.
Therefore the showers have been withheld,
    and no spring rains have fallen.
Yet you have the brazen look of a prostitute;
    you refuse to blush with shame.
Have you not just called to me:
    ‘My Father, my friend from my youth,
will you always be angry?
    Will your wrath continue forever?’
This is how you talk,
    but you do all the evil you can.”
(Jeremiah 3:1-5 NIV)

As we begin chapter 3, we find ourselves in the same courtroom setting where we ended chapter 2.  The Bridegroom (God) has His bride (the Hebrew nation) on trial for her infidelity to Him.  As before, the Bridegroom’s goal is not divorce, but reconciliation.

In verse 1, the Bridegroom asks a hypothetical question of His bride.  The pronouns are singular and female, again indicating this was referring to Jerusalem in particular.  If He (the Bridegroom) were to grant His bride the certificate of divorce she demands, and she marries another man, is it acceptable for her to then come back to her first husband?  Again, the idea here is to get the bride to think through the consequences of her actions before actually carrying them out.

The answer to the hypothetical question is an emphatic “no!”, based on Deuteronomy 24:1-4.  Not only is the practice forbidden, God said that if the remarriage happened, it would bring a curse on the land.

The Bridegroom makes the point that the bride has had many “husbands” (actually lovers) as a prostitute, and now she wants to come back to the Bridegroom.  This is a very serious conundrum for the Bridegroom, as He wants to check her sincerity before taking her back.  If we jump for a moment to verses 4 – 5, we see that the bride seeks reconciliation, but on her terms.  There is no admission of sin or wrongdoing on her part; she uses words of friendship and fond memories of old times as her allure to the Bridegroom.  When the Bridegroom compares the bride’s words to her actions, there is no correlation.

Jumping back to verse 2, the Bridegroom asks the bride if there is any place she has not willingly played the spiritual harlot to the Canaanite gods.  The “heights” referred to the hilltops where the shrines to the false god Asherah were set up, and the “desert” refers to the Arab practice of ambushing and pillaging a passing caravan.  The bride had no shame in giving herself away spiritually (and assumed physically, as the Canaanite religious practices involved many sexual rites, including widespread prostitution).

Going back to the Deuteronomy passage, verse 3 indicates that the peoples’ spiritual infidelity had brought the promised curse on the land.  There was a drought, and both spring and fall rains had not come.  In a semi-arid land, this was a serious problem.  But yet, even with the lack of rain, there was no repentance, no guilt, not turning of heart toward the Bridegroom.

May we, in whatever country we live in, pray for revival in our land, to see our respective countries turn to the Lord, her Bridegroom with humility and sincerity.

May we faithfully pray for the leaders of our respective countries, that the Lord would work in and through them, to turn their hearts toward Him and lead well, that the land and its inhabitants would receive a blessing and not a curse from the Almighty’s hand.  His heart and character is one of reconciliation, love, and blessing.

Blessings,
~kevin

Jeremiah 2:33-37

33 How skilled you are at pursuing love!
    Even the worst of women can learn from your ways.
34 On your clothes is found
    the lifeblood of the innocent poor,
    though you did not catch them breaking in.
Yet in spite of all this
35     you say, ‘I am innocent;
    he is not angry with me.’
But I will pass judgment on you
    because you say, ‘I have not sinned.’
36 Why do you go about so much,
    changing your ways?
You will be disappointed by Egypt
    as you were by Assyria.
37 You will also leave that place
    with your hands on your head,
for the Lord has rejected those you trust;
    you will not be helped by them.
(Jeremiah 2:33-37 NIV)

Today’s passage continues in the same courtroom setting as before.  The Bridegroom (God) is bringing charges against His bride (the Jewish nation) because of her infidelity to Him.  The Bridegroom is not seeking a divorce, but rather, reconciliation.  He wants the bride to drop her claims of innocence, repent of her sins and return to Him.

As we wrap up Chapter 2, the pronouns (“you”, “your”) switch from plural male to singular female starting in verse 33.  From our earlier studies, the Hebrew language scholars taught us that the plural male pronouns related to the Israelite nation as a whole, and the singular female pronouns referred to Jerusalem in particular.

In verse 33, the Lord builds upon the imagery of a beautiful woman and a bride in verse 32, as well as a prostitute in verse 20b.  Jerusalem had not forgotten how to adorn herself (verse 32) and look absolutely stunning in her spiritual beauty.  The problem was that she was not dressing up for her Bridegroom (the Lord), but for her lovers, the false Canaanite deities.

Jerusalem’s display of spiritual harlotry was not a one-night stand.  The Lord uses the word “skilled”, implying that the bride had mastered her vice of spiritual idolatry with such sophistication and allure that she was now teaching (“schooling”) others how to do the same.  The Lord points out that in the physical realm, even professional prostitutes who had no regard for any god could learn from the bride’s sinful ways.

In verse 34, the Lord points out that the bride’s spiritual prostitution was not a victimless act.  There was real (actual) murder, with the loss of innocent lives.  The Lord was likely referring to the terrible reign of Manasseh, where the entire city of Jerusalem was literally covered in the blood of innocent people (2 Kings 21:16).  The Bridegroom even takes  away the argument of justifiable homicide before the bride can offer it in her defense.  The Lord was referring to Exodus 22:2-3, where the Lord held the homeowner guiltless for killing a thief while defending their home in the middle of the night.  The Lord would not dismiss the charges; this was clearly a case of premeditated, cold-blooded murder in broad daylight.

The Bridegroom is astonished that His bride would still maintain her innocence and claim to be in good stead with her husband, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary.  His judgment on her does not even address the heinous acts themselves.  Instead, He focuses on her hardened attitude and lack of repentance for saying ‘I have not sinned’.  The word “sinned” (Hebrew “chata’ “, pronounced “khä·tä’ “) literally means “to miss the mark”.  If the bride were practicing archery, the Lord would not be accusing her of missing the bull’s-eye in the middle of the target.  Rather, the Lord would be accusing her of deliberately and intentionally shooting at a completely different target and claiming faultlessness from the loss of innocent life resulting from her calculated actions.

In verses 36 – 37, the Bridegroom pleads with His bride by asking her a series of questions.  Why does she continually change her mind and her direction?  She is wandering aimlessly like the female camel in the desert (v. 23) and wearing herself out with no benefit (v. 25).  Yes, it is a woman’s prerogative to change her mind, but those decisions must first consider the consequences.  The Lord reminds her that this will not end well.  Playing power politics with Assyria and Egypt will not bring forth the benefits that they had promised and she had hoped for.  They will abandon her in her time of need.  She will end up grief-stricken, weeping, with her hands on her head.  Why won’t she repent, turn from her sinful ways, and come back to her Bridegroom who still loves her unconditionally?

May we seek the Lord while He may be found, and allow Him to begin a revival in and through us.

And may we rejoice in the Lord, and in the joy of His salvation through the freedom that comes from walking in community with Him, our Bridegroom.

Blessings,
~kevin

Jeremiah 2:26-32

26 “As a thief is disgraced when he is caught,
    so the people of Israel are disgraced—
they, their kings and their officials,
    their priests and their prophets.
27 They say to wood, ‘You are my father,’
    and to stone, ‘You gave me birth.’
They have turned their backs to me
    and not their faces;
yet when they are in trouble, they say,
    ‘Come and save us!’
28 Where then are the gods you made for yourselves?
    Let them come if they can save you
    when you are in trouble!
For you, Judah, have as many gods
    as you have towns.

29 “Why do you bring charges against me?
    You have all rebelled against me,”
declares the Lord.
30 “In vain I punished your people;
    they did not respond to correction.
Your sword has devoured your prophets
    like a ravenous lion.

31 “You of this generation, consider the word of the Lord:

“Have I been a desert to Israel
    or a land of great darkness?
Why do my people say, ‘We are free to roam;
    we will come to you no more’?
32 Does a young woman forget her jewelry,
    a bride her wedding ornaments?
Yet my people have forgotten me,
    days without number.
(Jeremiah 2:26-32 NIV)

Today’s passage continues in a courtroom setting, with the Bridegroom (God) painting a series of short vignettes describing the actions of His bride (the Hebrew nation).  The goal of the Bridegroom’s trial is not to divorce her but to show her the error of her ways and win her back.

Verse 26 reiterates what the Lord had said in verse 8 – the people, the kings, government officials, priests, and prophets are all guilty and disgraced.  The entire nation has been caught like a thief, stealing glory and worship from the Living God and offering their worship instead to the inanimate Canaanite idols.

In verse 27a , the Lord shows sarcasm as He describes the objects of Canaanite worship.  Wood referred to the female goddess Asherah, and stone referred to the male god Baal.  In Canaanite lore, Asherah was purportedly Baal’s mother.  When God quotes the Israelites claiming the female idol Asherah as their father and the male idol Baal as their mother, He is drawing a parallel to the far more serious issue of the Hebrews failing to see the difference between the lifeless Canaanite idols and the Living God that loves them and provides for them and protects them.

Verses 27b – 28 continue this dialogue about choices.  God made us with a front and a back.  We face what is most important to us and turn our backs on what is least important to us.  God points out that the Israelites turned their backs on Him, but then demanded that God should show up and rescue them when they run into trouble.  Continuing the sarcasm, the Lord tells the Israelites to call upon the lifeless Canaanite idols to save them.  After all, there are as many Canaanite gods as there are towns in Judah.  Since the Living God is only one god and there are so many Canaanite gods, surely the Hebrews are in safe hands, correct?  The argument is absurd, and the bride is ashamed of her bad choices.

Verse 29a is the unrecorded but stated counter-argument of the bride against the Bridegroom.  As she pleads her case, through a fountain of tears, she wails:  “If you truly love me, and you saw me in distress, why didn’t you come and rescue me?”  The Lord responds:  “I pleaded with you to stay under My umbrella of protection and provision.  But you chose to rebel and leave.  I tried in vain to warn you of the consequences of your actions, even making it tough on you to walk out.  You chose to leave anyway.  I love you so much that I honor your choice to leave.  I will not hold you against your will.  But you then need to accept the natural consequences of your actions.  Those consequences are not My doing.  You brought those on yourself.” (vv. 29b – 30)

In verse 31, the Bridegroom gently and quietly repeats His questions from verses 4 – 8 to the bride:  “Have I not lovingly cared for you and provided for you?  Did I not lead you out of the desert and bring you to the Promised Land?  Did I ever abandon you and leave you in despair when we were together?  But yet, you still chose to walk out on Me and demand your independence and freedom.  You pretended like I don’t even exist.”

Verse 32 shows the absurdity of the bride’s argument.  Does a woman dress up and forget to accessorize with jewelry?  Does a bride forget every detail of what she wore on her wedding day?  Of course not.  But yet, the Israelites had long forgotten about the One who was so much more to them than dressing up or even geting marrried.

So what does our modern-day equivalent of turnng our backs on God or forgetting God look like?  James, the half-brother of Jesus, has some insight here:

13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”
(James 4:13-15 NIV)

In this crazy busy, always-connected, never-turn-off world we live in, may we remember to stop and breathe, to give the Lord room in our schedules, our minds, in our hearts, even down into our innermost beings.

May we, as author Emily P. Freeman encourages, “create space for our soul to breathe.”

When we do so, we remember our Bridegroom and His love, provision and protection.  And our affections return to our Bridegroom, turning our backs on the tyranny of the urgent and everything that would rob us of the relationship and joy He longs to have with us.

Blessings,
~kevin

Jeremiah 2:20-25

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.
23 “How can you say, ‘I am not defiled;
    I have not run after the Baals’?
See how you behaved in the valley;
    consider what you have done.
You are a swift she-camel
    running here and there,
24 a wild donkey accustomed to the desert,
    sniffing the wind in her craving—
    in her heat who can restrain her?
Any males that pursue her need not tire themselves;
    at mating time they will find her.
25 Do not run until your feet are bare
    and your throat is dry.
But you said, ‘It’s no use!
    I love foreign gods,
    and I must go after them.’
(Jeremiah 2:20-25 NIV)

Like yesterday’s passage, we find ourselves in the courtroom again, observing the trial between the Bridegroom and His bride.  As we stated previously, God’s goal is not to divorce His people, but to help them see the error of their ways, return to Him and be reconciled to the fullness of the love relationship He created for them to enjoy.

Today’s passage depicts the bride in a series of short vignettes.  Verse 20a shows the overall attitude of the bride toward her bridegroom.  Rather than enjoying the protection and provision of her marriage, with the bonds of mutual love to the bridegroom, she saw her marriage as enslavement and struggled until she was free.  The promise and lure of the unknown and forbidden was irresistable.  Her cry of freedom was not one of relief and release from an abusive spouse.  Her cry of freedom was of angry, open defiance toward any relationship with her Bridegroom:  “I will not serve you!”

Once the bride declared herself free from her Bridegroom, what does she do?  Verse 20b tells us that she immediately gives herself to another, namely the Canaanite false gods of Asherah and Baal.  This was not an intellectual or educational study of these local religions; the bride lay down like a common whore for any false lover that came her way.

When I first read this passage, my initial reaction was, “wow, Lord, those are really graphic words!”  As I studied more, I then understood that the false Cannanite deities of Asherah and Baal were their fertility gods, and part of their cultic practices included ceremonial prostitution at their places of worship.  God’s people gave their hearts away and practiced spiritual prostitution by worshipping these false gods.  They also gave their bodies away by participating in the physical practice of ceremonial prostitution.

Verse 21 picks up the next illustration, a choice vine gone wild.  Other translations call out the Sorek vine, which was a highly-prized vine that bore red grapes used to make great wine.  The Lord Himself picked out the vine (Abraham and his descendants), planted it in fertile soil (the Promised Land), and was hoping for an abundant harvest of choicest grapes (the children of Israel walking with Him in love and community) to make fine wine (the love of God shared with the rest of the world).  Instead, something had gone terribly wrong.  The grape flowers (the children of Israel) had cross-pollinated with an obnoxious weed (the Canaanite people and their false gods), and the result was foul-smelling and terrible-tasting fruit, not fit for consumption.

Verse 22 depicts a tinge of guilt on the part of God’s people.  They knew what was right, and tried to wash themselves of their sins and accompanying guilt.  The Lord told them that nothing that they could do would remove the stain of their sins.  There was (and is) no soap strong enough to cleanse them (or us) of unrighteousness.  Only God can (and did) take away their (and our) sins through Jesus Christ.

Verse 23a plays back the statement that God’s people made in their own defense:  “we have done nothing wrong; we have not pursued the Canaanite false gods”.  The Lord confronts them with the overwhelming evidence:  “Tell me then, what happened in the valley. What did you do there?”  The “valley” referred to the Ben-Hinnom valley just outside Jerusalem.  This was the epicenter of all pagan shrines and worship including the detestable practice of child sacrifice (2 Kings 23:10) to the false god Molek (also spelled “Molech” in some translations).

Verses 23b and 24 paints the next vignette God uses to illustrate the behavior of His children.  Like a wild she-camel, she is wandering aimlessly in the desert, her paths cris-crossing each other.  Like a wild she-donkey in heat, she is sniffing the wind, pursuing the scent of male urine in order to mate.  Normally with both domesticated and wild animals, the males pursue the females, following the female scent.  God says that the male donkeys can stay in one place; the females will shamelessly find them.  And so it is with the hearts of God’s children – they will seek out the false gods and worship them.

Verse 25a is God’s offer of forgiveness, cleansing of unrighteousness, rest, healing, and reconciliation to His bride.  Verse 25b is her response:  “I can’t help myself; I love these idols, and have to chase after them.”  She is still openly defiant and hell-bent on pursuing her animal-like lusts.

May we learn from the mistakes of the Israelites and be satisfied with the love relationship God offers us as His bride.

May we realize that chasing after anything other than God Himself is an exercise in futility, and ends badly.  God’s bonds of love with us are not constraints, but boundaries of love and protection in which we have tremendous freedom to love others.

May we shed the excuses that “we can’t help ourselves” and give up our pursuit of our own contemporary Canaanite gods, whatever they might be, and humbly turn back to our Bridegroom in repentance.  He waits with loving and open arms to forgive us and take us back.

Blessings,
~kevin

Jeremiah 2:14-19

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.
(Jeremiah 2:14-19 NIV)

From yesterday’s passage, we see the Bridegroom (the Lord) fighting for His marriage, bewildered as to why His Bride (His people Israel) would want to leave Him (vv. 4-8).  Starting in verse 9, we see them in the courtroom, the Bridegroom arguing to restore their marriage, not get a divorce.

In today’s passage, the courtroom argument continues.  The first question (v. 14a) goes back to God’s calling of His people.  Did God call His people to be slaves, either by choice or by birth?  The answer is both an implied and exclaimed “No!”.  God led His people out of slavery when they left Egypt.  God provided a land and freedom for His people, where they could be a sovereign state with Him as their God.

Verse 14b asks the hard question, “What has happened?  Why is it that you now find yourselves enslaved again?”  In great courtroom dramatic fashion, the Lord answers the question.  Imagine the Lord’s oral arguments:  “What has happened?  Let me tell you what has taken place…”

The Lord then describes two historical events, both presented by indirect reference.  Verse 15 refers to Assyria’s invasion.  The “roaring lion” is associated with Assyria and its many invasions of Israel (the northern kingdom of God’s people) that left the land devastated (v. 15).  The references to Memphis and Tahpanhes (v. 16), two towns in Egypt, refer to the short time when Egypt overtook Judah (the southern kingdom of God’s people).  Remember that the world was at war during this entire time period, with many changes of power in the ancient Middle East.  These two vignettes were snapshots of the time when the Assyrians and Egyptians held God’s land and people in captivity.  The Babylonians would later sweep through the region and hold all regional power for a while.

God’s people, His bride, the ones on trial here, would heartily agree with God about the invasions and subsequent enslavement by Assyria and Egypt.  The reason they would agree is that they could then play the “victim” card.  God’s people would then argue, “Lord, why didn’t You protect us and provide for us?  It’s Your fault that we are now in slavery again.”

In verse 17, the Lord goes directly to the root cause of their enslavement, the argument presented as a question:  “Have you not brought this on yourselves by forsaking the Lord your God when he led you in the way?”  The Lord snatches away their “victim” card, burns it in front of them, and holds them accountable for their actions.  The Lord had not left His bride; she had left Him.

Verse 18 addresses the unholy alliances that Israel and Judah had made with their captors.  Drinking the waters of the Nile and the Euphrates referred to agreements that the people made with Egypt and Assyria in their vain attempt to protect themselves.  In other words, they sold their soul to their captors in order to preserve some shred of pride and dignity.  In our day and age, we might say that someone “drank the koolaid” or “folded up like a cheap suitcase”, meaning that they caved in and did not stand up for what they knew to be right.  Their faith was not in God; they placed their faith in their own reasoning and in the hands of their cruel captors rather than their Bridegroom.

In verse 19 , the Lord tells His people that they have brought their punishment upon themselves – they are the victims of their own doing.  The bride had turned traitor, and she was now suffering the punishment of a traitor at the hands of the Assyrians and the Egyptians.  The bride feared her captors more than she feared her Husband, the Lord.

The Lord reminds His people of His power by the name He calls Himself at the end of verse 19.  The NIV translates this name as “the Lord Almighty”.  Other translations use the phrase “the Lord of Hosts”.  The best use of this name of God is when David confronts Goliath:

Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.
(1 Samuel 17:45 ESV)

When young David stood alone against Goliath, he knew he did not go alone.  He had the power and presence of the God of the universe backing him up.  “The Lord of Hosts” meant that God Himself, with all of the forces of the universe that He has at His disposal, was standing with David.  This included Israel’s army, all the forces of nature, angel armies, and every other natural and supernatural force over which God is sovereign.  All of a sudden, Goliath looked really small compared to God.

The implication is that the people of Israel and Judah were worried about Assyria and Egypt, and caved in to make agreements with them.  By comparison, Assyria and Egypt were nothing compared to the Lord of Hosts.  The bride had chosen poorly, and now was suffering the consequences of her choices.

What unholy alliances and agreements do we make in our day?  What are we depending on rather than the Lord?

What are our “Assyria” and “Egypt” victim cards that we present as arguments?

May we look anew with respect and awe to the Lord of Hosts and run to Him for our protection and provision.

May we renounce any unholy alliances that we have made with people or with things that we put ahead of or in place of our God Almighty.  Nothing is too difficult for Him.

Blessings,
~kevin

Jeremiah 2:4-13

Hear the word of the Lord, you descendants of Jacob,
    all you clans of Israel.

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.
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?’
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.
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.

“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.

(Jeremiah 2:4-13 NIV)

In yesterday’s passage, The Lord painted a beautiful picture of His relationship to His people, like a bridegroom and bride beginning their life journey together.  The bride was at her bridegroom’s side through the wilderness journey on their way to the Promised Land.  The bridegroom jealously defended and protected His bride from all attackers and detractors, dealing swift and sure justice to any who would seek to harm or defile her.

In today’s passage, time has passed and the bride and bridegroom have arrived safely at the Promised Land and have set up residence.  The marriage is in trouble; the bride is unhappy and demands freedom from her bridegroom.  She wants to be unconstrained from her vows to her husband that brought her safely through the wilderness.  She now seeks the freedom to pursue other love interests.

The bridegroom is bewildered and asks what fault she and her family see in him that they would reject and abandon him (v. 5a).  He asks, can she not see that this will end badly? (v. 5b).  The phrase “They followed worthless idols and became worthless themselves” shows the absurdity of expecting to find fulfillment in chasing after other lovers.  John Bright translates this phrase as follows:

“And following Lord Delusion,
Deluded became.”

The Lord then questions five groups about their part in the breakup in this marriage:

  • The parents (v. 6)
  • The people themselves (v. 7)
  • The priests (v. 8a)
  • The rulers (Hebrew, “shepherds”) (v. 8b)
  • The prophets (v. 8c)

In verse 9, the scene changes from the couple’s home to a courtroom, where the bridegroom is fighting for his marriage.  The Lord asks for another example of a nation that has abandoned its gods (which are not gods at all) to follow another god.  The bridegroom says to look from shore to shore and see if there is another example of this level of unfaithfulness.  The Lord concludes His argument by saying that His people, His bride, has exchanged her Bridegroom, the true and living God, for worthless idols (v. 11).  What does God say to the bride?  “Be appalled… and shudder with great horror” at her actions toward her Bridegroom.

Note that the Lord is not divorcing His people, but calling them to repentance, to turn from their unfaithful ways and follow Him once again.

The Lord summarizes His arguments with an analogy in verse 13.  In a dry and thirsty land, water is a necessity.  The Lord compared Himself to a continuous supply of fresh, cool, living, spring water versus cistern water (also known as “dead water”).  Cisterns were dug in the limestone, and rainwater was collected for later use.  The problem was that the limestone was porous and would leak the water away.  Even efforts to plaster over the limestone proved ineffective, as small seismic tremors (undetectable earthquakes) would create cracks in the rocks and leak the water away.  The Lord asks why His people would work so hard and in such vain to provide for themselves what He freely gave them in the first place.

What contemporary idols do we chase?

Where have we abandoned our Bridegroom?

Why are we digging our own cisterns of comfort and convenience when the Lord offers us living water of community with the Almighty?

May we run into the open arms of Jesus, who offers living water to all who will receive it (John 4:10-14).  For all who believe and trust in Him, Jesus promises that “streams of living water” will flow through them (John 7:38).

Blessings,
~kevin