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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).


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