13 Therefore this is what the Lord says:
“Inquire among the nations:
Who has ever heard anything like this?
A most horrible thing has been done
by Virgin Israel.
14 Does the snow of Lebanon
ever vanish from its rocky slopes?
Do its cool waters from distant sources
ever stop flowing?
15 Yet my people have forgotten me;
they burn incense to worthless idols,
which made them stumble in their ways,
in the ancient paths.
They made them walk in byways,
on roads not built up.
16 Their land will be an object of horror
and of lasting scorn;
all who pass by will be appalled
and will shake their heads.
17 Like a wind from the east,
I will scatter them before their enemies;
I will show them my back and not my face
in the day of their disaster.”
(Jeremiah 18:13-17 NIV)
In yesterday’s passage, we saw the Lord use a symbolic act of a potter forming and reforming a lump of clay into a pot. The Lord used that real-life illustration to remind HIs people that He can shape the nations into anything He wishes. The Lord calls for His people to repent and avoid the impending disaster because of their idolatry and sin. The residents of Judah and Jerusalem reject the Lord’s call and continue their way.
In today’s text, we see the Lord responding to the people rejecting Him. Verse 13 starts with the word “Therefore”, showing connection back to the previous statement (in this case, verse 12).
As I study this passage, there seems to be a one-word summary that jumps out for each verse. I will list the verse and the one-word summary, then provide a few thoughts to elaborate and bring further depth.
Verse 13 – Horrible. The Lord describes the nation Israel as a virgin that has willfully and knowingly chosen to play the harlot. She was to be completely loyal to her betrothed (the Lord) but was brazenly unfaithful instead. The nation’s choice was not an accident – this was a dreadful decision with horrible consequences.
Verse 14 – Unnatural. The Lord compares and contrasts Israel’s unfaithfulness to His character and love for His people. God uses His creation and nature as His evidence. The snows of Lebanon and the cold water from the constant underground springs in a dry and arid land were witnesses to God’s love, provision, and faithfulness to His own.
Verse 15 – Betrayal. As part of their unfaithfulness, the people knowingly sacrificed to other gods besides the Lord. This idol worship was an open act of apostasy, the defection and betrayal of their previous loyalty to their betrothed and beloved, the Lord.
Verse 16 – Hypocracy. Even the foreigners from the surrounding nations knew that each nation had their god. These passers-by might not know or respect the God of Israel and Judah as the One True God, but they knew enough not to worship another nation’s god instead of their own. The outsiders could only shake their heads in amazement and give a small whistle or hiss to exclaim what they were witnessing: “What were the people of Israel thinking?”
Verse 17 – Turn. Because of the nation’s willful sin and unwillingness to return to the Lord, everything was the opposite of what it should be. The sirocco, that hot, dry wind coming off the desert that the Lord used to protect His people from the enemies approaching by sea (Psalm 48:7) would now be turned against God’s enemies within (the nation of Israel). Just as the people had turned their backs on the Lord, He was now going to turn His back on them in the day of their disaster.
It’s hard to look in the mirror and see ourselves objectively, isn’t it? We either hide behind our masks to project the image we want others to see, or we avoid looking in the mirror altogether, so we don’t have to deal with the reality of who we are.
The amazing thing about the Lord is that He sees the real me, and loves me unconditionally. God provides the Bible as our mirror, to help us see ourselves as we are.
Before we come to Christ, the Lord shows us the ugliness of our sin against the perfect reflection of Himself, holy and without sin, defect, or blemish.
After we accept Jesus as our Savior and Lord, God shows us the beauty and acceptance of who we are, not because of anything we have done, but because of Christ’s payment for our sins through His death, burial, and resurrection.
May we approach the Lord in humility, look in the mirror of His Word to see ourselves as He sees us.
May we have the clarity to accept what we observe in His Word (either the “before” or “after” picture described above), the integrity to accept what He shows us and the desire to allow Him to change us from the inside out to be more like Him.