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.