This week in Bible Study we looked at Jeremiah 2-6, but for the purposes of writing I shall split my notes into two blog posts. So here we will highlight chapters 2-4. The big picture? Israel and Judah’s leaders have gone astray, as have all the people. All are deserving of death. Yet there will be a remnant.
God describes their sin from many angles, the people had ceased feeling any shame and didn’t feel their sin was all that sinful. They didn’t define sin as God does. We must ask ourselves: Do I view life, including sin, from God’s perspective? Am I willing to hear His word? Including His correction?
Lots of poetry, metaphors, oracles, laments. This section is not a mere run down of sins, it is descriptive from many facets.
2:1-3 Opens with a reminder of hesed–a Hebrew word with no one-word translation. Here, devotion; yet it encompasses promise making and keeping, and loyalty, all bathed in ardent love. The opening metaphor is marriage, devotion, and the bride; God was reminding His people of the intimate, exclusive, mutually loving and legally binding relationship between God and His people. Yet, in 2:20 we are told that God’s people chose to be whores, or prostitutes. They threw their favors into the wind rather than enjoying a relationship with God.
The other opening metaphor: God’s people as the Firstfruits, they were holy unto God, set apart from other peoples. Yet, they strayed from this purpose.
2:7 God tells of His great love and affection–that He brought them in to enjoy the land, yet they defiled it. God’s purposes include pleasure, affection, delight, enjoyment. We think having a democratic choice would be better! Like Israel and Judah, we also choose defilement over beauty and true pleasure.
2:8 Prophet, priest, rulers… all going astray and leading others astray. All will be held responsible. Throughout this section we see that the leaders will be held accountable, and the people who follow will be as well.
2:11 The heart of the sin the people are guilty of: changing ‘gods’ which God declares is walking away from their true glory. In Christ–Who has redeemed us from the curse of the law–we partake in true glory! Yet here, in our sojourning, we will struggle with this same temptation. Exchanging true glory for lesser glory, for “self” and looking inward, or looking to vocation and other relationships.
2:12 what is the appropriate response? Have you ever shuddered at the thought that your sin is detestable to God? Have you shuddered at the thought that your sin separates you from true glory and pleasure–which are to be had at His right hand eternally?
2:13 all sins are equivalent to us forsaking God, forsaking Life, and walking away from the fountain of Living Waters to hew our own broken cisterns. Jeremiah later would be thrown into one such cistern, a reminder to the people of their lack of physical sustenance, and spiritual ‘water’ as well. In addition, 2:18, they seek the rivers of other nations!
How does this point us to Christ?
Pause here to read John 4:10, John 7:38; and then the verses sounding each of those. Meditate on what Christ offers; the quality of what He offers; the state of the people to whom He is speaking; the reactions of the people to whom He makes the offer. Do you really believe you have all you need in Christ? Have you pondered what a gift His Spirit is?
2:17 God was leading in one direction, they went another. We are tempted to take this concept out of context (more on this in future chapters as well!). We ask “how is God leading you?” And what we mean is “what are you feeling?” We confuse young believers into thinking that God will lead us today apart from His word. Or that God’s path is a mystery and we must listen closely for clues, and mysterious signs, and put the puzzle together. NO! He spoke through His prophets clearly. They disregarded and disobeyed.
Pause here to read Hebrews 1:1-4
He speaks now through His Son–through the Word. He does not lead through mysterious ways… we don’t sit down and wait for ideas to be plopped into our brains. We do not attempt to interpret dreams or feelings or circumstances. We live in a fallen world. We want everything to happen for a reason that deals with ME and my purpose and my path. Yet sometimes, a person is born blind simply to show off God’s glory. So that He would be glorified. The blind man could do nothing to heal himself–and God would not have been glorified if he spent his whole life asking “what does God want me to learn from this? What does this mean for my purpose in life? How then should I live in light of all this?”
So here in Jeremiah, God reminded His people that He was leading clearly through His prophets and the Law. They disobeyed blatantly. We spoke much in Deuteronomy and Galatians about the purpose of the law so we won’t get into that now.
Dread. The Fear of the LORD. The beginning of wisdom.
2:19 over and over in this book God will repeat why these things are happening: Your own wickedness, your own deeds, your apostasies, and “the dread of Me is not in You.”
2:20-21 Israel, selfish, asserting independence (is this not us!??!!!). God planted you here, you are His, yet… we too try to say “I’m not defiled.” They call their sins “not sins.” How many sins do we say are not really sins? How do we let our modern, democratic, free-market American values draw our view of sin away from the Scriptural definition?
2:26-29 Throughout this book, beginning here, we will see that God reveals His desire to be recognized as Father. Yet the people and leaders have all said to a tree “you are my father.” They have given the rightful title of Father to an idol. The relationship, the intimacy, the respectful title, given to a work of their own hands. They accredit anyone but God for their being, and call upon rocks and trees for help. Just like the rest of the known world at that time, wherein each locality had its own god–so too Israel and Juday. Not hyperbole.
This “fatherly” focus continues in Jeremiah 3:4 and 3:19. When Jesus taught His disciples to pray “Our Father,” could they have remembered having heard Jeremiah’s book read in the synagogue? Do we take for granted that we have been drawn into His Fatherly care? Let us cry out “Abba, Father!” with renewed passion and find the comfort only our Father can give.
One favorite idol was the storm god, Baal. One of the threatened curses for idolatry was the removal of the blessing of rain. Israel and Judah tried the “come and go” approach to ‘faithfulness.’ God stops the rain to show baal’s non-existence and the futility of praying to both God and Baal. He wanted to remind them that He alone is Sovereign over creation.
2:33. How well you prepare your way to seek love–the love of your false gods. We are seeking. Always seeking. We make excuses–“Christianity is too hard!” “Reading my Bible takes tooooooo much effort. Am I really supposed to do it for more than three minutes!?!!” “Going to church, in a pandemic? Ugh. DO I HAVE TO??!!”
We are willing to prioritize all manner of what this culture calls “self care” and “mindfulness,” prioritizing physical health and even mental health–but we divorce it all from the Creator of our entire being. He has whole-person-health in mind, He calls you to seek Him that you may find Life, but we seek just a fraction here and there from worldly sources instead. Seeking is not hard. Focusing on God rather than self, therein lies our difficulty.
His Mercies are ever present!
3:22 What a promise! God invites His people with “return to Me,” He calls them to true repentance. Our life ought to be one of repentance here, and perfection in heaven. He will heal our faithlessness! He is faithful and that will never change.
3:24 Ever since the first sin, sin and shameful things will consume those who indulge. We delight in them for a moment, but this will always be the end result. Rottenness and wasting away.
4:4, Turn briefly to Deuteronomy 10:16 and 30:6-9; and Jeremiah 9:26; Romans 2:28-9; and Colossians 2:8-14. The CROSS!!!! Beloved, He calls us to circumcise our hearts, shows us the futility of attempting that on our own, and then circumcises our hearts. The heart, He is after your heart, not your ability to be a white-washed tomb.
4:14 And so we must face the question they did, “How long will your wicked thoughts lodge within you?” Oh that His Word would abide in us, that we would lay down those wicked thoughts, and cherish them no longer! God reproves them for rejecting His word, refusing to listen to His prophets, and we see here what dwelt within them.
4:18 So, why these consequences? Why must God’s people be expelled from the land, taken away from the Temple where they worship, removed from the kingship and given to a foreign nation and foreign king? “Your ways and your deeds have brought these things on you…How it has touched your heart!”
Whatever else you ponder from these chapters, remember God does not separate actions from thoughts and feelings. He never separates body, mind, and heart. We do, but should we? He cares about thoughts, feelings, actions. He wants to make you whole, will you seek whole-person-healing, and whole-person-spirituality? Will you answer the call daily “return to Me.”?