14 This is the word of the Lord that came to Jeremiah concerning the drought:
2 “Judah mourns,
her cities languish;
they wail for the land,
and a cry goes up from Jerusalem.
3 The nobles send their servants for water;
they go to the cisterns
but find no water.
They return with their jars unfilled;
dismayed and despairing,
they cover their heads.
4 The ground is cracked
because there is no rain in the land;
the farmers are dismayed
and cover their heads.
5 Even the doe in the field
deserts her newborn fawn
because there is no grass.
6 Wild donkeys stand on the barren heights
and pant like jackals;
their eyes fail
for lack of food.”
7 Although our sins testify against us,
do something, Lord, for the sake of your name.
For we have often rebelled;
we have sinned against you.
8 You who are the hope of Israel,
its Savior in times of distress,
why are you like a stranger in the land,
like a traveler who stays only a night?
9 Why are you like a man taken by surprise,
like a warrior powerless to save?
You are among us, Lord,
and we bear your name;
do not forsake us!
(Jeremiah 14:1-9 NIV)
Today’s passage moves from the threat of the armies of the north in previous chapters to something far more immediate – the peril of natural disaster, namely, drought.
Normally, I would provide some context for the passage, then walk through the verses to understand their meaning and application to our lives.
But today is different. There is so much more going on here, and it has taken my heart by surprise. In fact, it has taken two days to process and write about this passage.
The text is quite straightforward – that is not the issue. This passage calls out the effects of the drought on man and beast (verses 2 – 6), followed by the confession of sin by the people of Judah and their appeals for God to intervene (verses 7 – 9).
Then what is the issue? Why am I not able to write? What is going on in my heart that made my hands too weighed down to type?
Putting myself back in the land of Judah, in Jerusalem, walking with Jeremiah, the enormity of the drought on top of the impending invasion by the armies of the north was overwhelming, almost too much to bear.
But even feeling the combination of war and drought was not the source of my writer’s block – it was bigger than that.
As prayers and meditation on what we have studied so far in Jeremiah slowly began to lift the weight of the fog, the bigger picture started taking shape: The forthcoming captivity, the drought, everything that was happening to Judah and Jerusalem was the Lord’s hand to bring His people back to Himself.
Many of you are probably saying, “Thank you, Captain Obvious.” Yes, we have talked about this as a theme of the very character and nature of God – no surprises here.
Seeing God’s Providence at work was what caught my heart by surprise. There were no surprises here – only the Lord opening my eyes to what He had already said. Let me walk you through just a few of the insights that the Lord weaved into what we’ve studied so far:
- The drought (verse 2) and captivity are God’s way of taking His children back to the point of His covenant with their forefathers as they were coming out of Egypt (see 2:6). He was taking them back to the same conditions that their ancestors experienced when they had no other choice to trust Him. Sometimes the way back is the way forward.
- The people searching for water in empty cisterns (verse 3) rather than searching for wells was telling of their spiritual condition of trying to provide for themselves independently of the Lord. The Lord had brought this to their attention early on (see 2:12 – 13), and nothing had changed. God longed to be their Patriarch and Provider, but they turned their backs on Him and went their selfish way.
- Unless the nation of Judah changed its path in repentance and turned to the Lord, their eyes were glazing over in near death (verse 6) from spiritual dehydration just like the wild donkeys were from the physical drought. The people were about to plunge themselves from the fading twilight of God’s guidance (see 13:15-16) back into the darkness of their selfish way, just like the captivity their forefathers had experienced in Egypt before the Lord rescued them (see 2:6).
But yet, as we see in verses 7 – 9 and shall witness in the next few passages, the nation of Judah’s heart was determined to follow its self-centered path. Judah demanded that the Lord serve its needs by giving relief from the natural drought rather than turning from its wicked ways and seeking to end its spiritual drought.
May we, like Jeremiah, stand in the gap and pray for our particular nations before the spiritual darkness and drought become the norm rather than the exception.
May we pray, not in self-righteous judgment, but humbly, asking God to do whatever it takes to restore our respective nations to Himself.
This prayer request is not too hard for the Lord – but it starts in our broken hearts and on our bended knees, not for our comfort and convenience, but for His glory.
May we allow the Lord to use Jeremiah as our spiritual director and show us the way.