Series: Thru the Bible
Jeremiah reads God’s Diary – “Dear Judah…”
Thru the Bible: Jeremiah 2 & 3
God compares Israel to an unfaithful wife
“(1)The LORD’s message came to me,
(2) “Go and declare in the hearing of the people of Jerusalem: ‘This is what the LORD says: “
The first point I want to bring up here is the mode of God’s communication with Israel. He is of course still honoring their desire to not hear Him directly like on the mountain – so He comes through the voice of a prophet like Moses, only in this case it is Jeremiah.
Also, this is where ‘inspiration’ is demonstrated. The greatest portion of the scriptures were not dictated they were inspired. God gave a message to Jeremiah and said, “Go tell them this…”
This is FAR more natural and relational than most Christians are comfortable with. It is not entirely unlike when a manager tells an employ to convey a message. First off, if the manager is a good manager, they will not entrust such a representative responsibility on someone who is unfaithful and does not know the heart of the manager or the core of the issues involved. Secondly, they are not looking to micromanage. They fill the ear of the messenger with the details and then sends the messenger to inform whoever they were sent to. Unless otherwise clearly stated, there is no justified reason to assume Jeremiah fell into some sort of trance and God took over his mouth so that every word, every cyllibil, every pause and exclamation was dictated by God.
That is NOT to say there are not portions of scripture which ARE in fact word-for-word, like the ten commandments which were engraved by God’s Own finger. In fact, we are inclined to believe that the entire Pentatuch was dictated to Moses by God. Even in the New Testament we see this very clearly. The gospels often have records of the exact same events, but they are sometimes worded slightly different. The details are the same, but the word choices differ from author to author. So that when they are quoting Jesus, they were by inspiration conveying the inspired words of Jesus.
It is this for this reason that you have such differences along with complete continuity between gospel accounts.
Let me offer you a great example before we move on…
Nearly every reasonably well read Christian knows the account of the Centurion who requested that Jesus heal his servant. The account Matthew offers and the one Luke offers almost seems contradictory if you did not understand the way things worked. Let’s look at these accounts.
“(5) When he entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him asking for help: (6) “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, in terrible anguish.” (7) Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.” (8) But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof! Instead, just say the word and my servant will be healed. (9) For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave ‘Do this!’ and he does it.” (10) When Jesus heard this he was amazed and said to those who followed him, “I tell you the truth, I have not found such faith in anyone in Israel!”
“(1) After Jesus had finished teaching all this to the people, he entered Capernaum. (2) A centurion there had a slave who was highly regarded, but who was sick and at the point of death. (3) When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders to him, asking him to come and heal his slave. (4) When they came to Jesus, they urged him earnestly, “He is worthy to have you do this for him, (5) because he loves our nation, and even built our synagogue.” (6) So Jesus went with them. When he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to say to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof! (7) That is why I did not presume to come to you. Instead, say the word, and my servant must be healed. (8) For I too am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me. I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.” (9) When Jesus heard this, He was amazed at him. He turned and said to the crowd that followed him, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith! (10) So when those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave well.”
Also, in Matthew more is told of what happened after. Luke simply tell us that they found the servant well. Matthew tells us that after jesus marveled at the man’s faith He went on to say, “(11) I tell you, many will come from the east and west to share the banquet with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, (12) but the sons of the kingdom will be thrown out into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
That is the profound difference between dictation and inspiration and in our account here Jeremiah is operating under the anointing and inspiration of God.
One clue to this is that Jeremiah was not sent to Jerusalem and then given what to say, he was given what to say and then was sent to Jerusalem.
Continuing on in Jeremiah 2
“I have fond memories of you…” Did you know that God has fond memories of you? I know you knew He was capable of it, but are aware…do you live in your every moment aware that God treasures times He has had with you in His heart? That is so healthy and healing and restorative and rejuvenating and life-giving to know we are not the only ones getting something out of this relationship. God loves you, cares for you, has hopes and dreams for you and holds on to memories of times you’ve spent like one might hold on to old birthday cards with messages of love from the past.
As we continue, I want you to listen for words of heart endearment from God to Israel (and by extension to us and YOU). God is NOT embarrassed of His love for you… His heart devotion to you. He is also 100% transparent and unambiguous about how He feels. GOD makes Himself VULNERABLE to us!
“I have fond memories of you, how devoted you were to Me in your early years. I remember how you loved Me like a new bride; you followed Me through the wilderness, through a land that had never been planted. (3) Israel was set apart to the LORD; they were like the first fruits of a harvest to Him. All who tried to devour them were punished; disaster came upon them,” says the LORD.”
Here we have two relationships hinted at. That of a bride and that of a child.
There’s Distance and then their DISTANCE
People in their insecurities get so bogged down in terminology that one has to get bogged down in terminology to drag them back up again. God here begins to speak of the strain of Israel’s relationship with Him in terms of distance. I’ve actually heard people say that this cannot be true since God is everywhere. Especially under the New Covenant, when James says “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you” – these people begin to feel as if their relationship is somehow on shaky ground and so they posture and develop odd doctrines to protect their feeble faith. When I hear things like this I am literally taken aback. I’m like…really? Is it truly possible that you do not understand the meaning of these words?
There is distance in terms of physical location and then there is heart distance which can be light years apart while in the same room. It is like the idiom, “alone in a crowd”. That is NOT physically possible, but emotionally, spiritually, socially it can be the deepest most meaningful truth there is! This is a concept every human being is aware of and that is what is being spoken of here.
“(4) Now listen to what the LORD’s message, you descendants of Jacob, all you family groups from the nation of Israel. (5) This is what the Lord says:
“What fault could your ancestors have possibly found in Me that they strayed so far from Me? They paid allegiance to worthless idols, and so became worthless to Me. (6) They did not ask: ‘Where is the LORD who delivered us out of Egypt, Who brought us through the wilderness, through a land of valleys and gorges, through a land of desert and deep darkness, through a land in which no one travels, and where no one lives?’ ”
Have you ever missed an event where you were looking forward to going with some family or friends to see someone you haven’t seen in a while? Have you ever, upon seeing those who were able to go, ask, “Did they ask about me? Did they wonder where I was? I bet they were surprised to see that I wasn’t there…” or something like that? Have you ever heard the deeply wounding reply, “Actually they didn’t seem to notice. They never said a word.”
That is the heart in which these words are being expressed. God is saying, your hearts wandered so far from Me and though one would have expected it…never one time did you ever reflect back on our times together and ask, “Where is the Lord?”
How about this…Have you ever put a lot of thought and effort into a gift that was treated lightly upon reception?
Or have you ever longed to be known by someone who in the end, showed little care of what you thought and why?
“(7) I brought you into a fertile land so you could enjoy its fruits and its rich bounty. But when you entered My land, you defiled it; you made the land I call My Own loathsome to Me.”
(8) Your priests did not ask, ‘Where is the LORD?’ Those responsible for teaching My law did not really know Me.”
Your rulers rebelled against Me.
Your prophets prophesied in the name of the god Baal.
They all worshiped idols that could not help them.
(9) “So, once more I will state My case against you,” says the LORD. “I will also state it against your children and grandchildren. (10) Go west across the sea to the coasts of Cyprus and see. Send someone east to Kedar and have them look carefully. See if such a thing as this has ever happened: (11) Has a nation ever changed its gods (even though they are not really gods at all)? But my people have exchanged Me, their glorious God, for a god that cannot help them at all!
(12) Be amazed at this, O heavens! Be shocked and utterly dumbfounded,” says the LORD.
(13) “Do so because My people have committed a double wrong: they have rejected Me, the fountain of life-giving water, and they have dug cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns which cannot even hold water.”
The two evils:
- They rejected God
- They replaced Him.
“(14) “Israel is not a slave, is he? He was not born into slavery, was he? If not, why then is he being carried off? (15) Like lions his enemies roar victoriously over him; they raise their voices in triumph. They have laid his land waste; his cities have been burned down and deserted. (16) Even the soldiers from Memphis and Tahpanhes have cracked your skulls, people of Israel.
(17) You have brought all this on yourself, Israel, by deserting the LORD your God when He was leading you along the right path.
(18) What good will it do you then to go down to Egypt to seek help from the Egyptians?
What good will it do you to go over to Assyria to seek help from the Assyrians?
(19) Your own wickedness will bring about your punishment.
Your unfaithful acts will bring down discipline on you.
Know, then, and realize how utterly harmful it was for you to reject Me, the LORD your God, to show no respect for Me,” says the Sovereign LORD of Heaven’s Armies.”
You know I don’t think the average person has a firm grasp on the healthy benefits of showing respect where it is due. Perhaps a godly counselor who runs into it all the time might have a better feel both for its need and the consequences of not showing it.
There is a depth of relationship one can discover and enjoy where respect is shown. There is an inner deference that is given one to the other that goes beyond simply politeness and into a genuine value one has for another. In that type of relationship, I believe one can grow closer than nearly any other.
“(20) “Indeed, long ago you threw off My authority and refused to be subject to Me.
You said, ‘I will not serve You.’ Instead, you gave yourself to other gods on every high hill and under every green tree, like a prostitute sprawls out before her lovers.”
There are times when I feel the Bible should have at least a PG-13 rating, but in some ways that tells us a lot about God. He’s like…kids are less naive than you think, and some issues have no stronger illustrative value than something sexual and crued.
Have you ever heard the phrase, “You can’t unsee something”. Someone may show you a picture of an open wound, or a festering sore, or a particularly hairy mole and you think…thanks a lot! I can’t unsee that…and it becomes like a song you don’t like that keeps playing in your head unbidden.
THAT was the intention of the image Jeremiah was painting. It was a deliberate and vulgar word picture intended to make one cringe a little. It is the picture of a lewd and wantonly naked prostitute laying down in the presence of multiple partners and spreading her legs invitingly to whoever can reach her first.
Unless one is very sexually depraved, this scene is repulsive and THAT was the intent.
“(21) I planted you in the land like a special vine of the very best stock. Why in the world have you turned into something like a wild vine that produces rotten, foul-smelling grapes?
(22) You can try to wash away your guilt with a strong detergent. You can use as much soap as you want. But the stain of your guilt is still there for Me to see,” says the Sovereign LORD.
(23) “How can you say, ‘I have not made myself unclean. I have not paid allegiance to the gods called Baal.’ Just look at the way you have behaved in the Valley of Hinnom! Think about the things you have done there!”
The Valley of Hinnom was where they caused their children to pass through the fire or offered them as sacrifices on the fire. It is the place that became the Gehenna spoken of in the New Testament. A refuse pile on the outskirts of town where they burned human waste and dead bodies which Jesus used as illustrative of the eternal condition of the lost.
“You are like a flighty, young female camel that rushes here and there, crisscrossing its path. (24) You are like a wild female donkey brought up in the wilderness. In her lust she sniffs the wind to get the scent of a male. No one can hold her back when she is in heat. None of the males need wear themselves out chasing after her. At mating time she is easy to find.”
(25) Do not chase after other gods until your shoes wear out and your throats become dry.
But you say, ‘It is useless for you to try and stop Me because I love those foreign gods and want to pursue them!’
(26) Just as a thief has to suffer dishonor when he is caught, so the people of Israel will suffer dishonor for what they have done. So will their kings and officials, their priests and their prophets.
(27) They say to a wooden idol, ‘You are my father.’
They say to a stone image, ‘You gave birth to me.’
Yes, they have turned away from Me instead of turning to Me.
Yet when they are in trouble, they say, ‘Come and save us!’
(28) But where are the gods you made for yourselves? Let them save you when you are in trouble. The sad fact is that you have as many gods as you have towns, Judah.
(29) “Why do you try to refute Me? All of you have rebelled against Me,” says the LORD. (30) “It did no good for Me to punish your people. They did not respond to such correction. You slaughtered your prophets like a voracious lion.”
Here we see the intended purpose of correction, but sadly for those who have no discernment – they do not learn from it.
“(31) You people of this generation, listen to the LORD’s message. “Have I been like a wilderness to you, Israel? Have I been like a dark and dangerous land to you? Why then do you say, ‘We are free to wander. We will not come to You any more?’
(32) Does a young woman forget to put on her jewels? Does a bride forget to put on her bridal attire? But my people have forgotten Me for more days than can even be counted.
(33) “My, how good you have become at chasing after your lovers! Why, you could even teach prostitutes a thing or two! (34) Even your clothes are stained with the lifeblood of the poor who had not done anything wrong; you did not catch them breaking into your homes. Yet, in spite of all these things you have done, (35) you say, ‘I have not done anything wrong, so the LORD cannot really be angry with Me any more.’
But, watch out! I will bring down judgment on you because you say, ‘I have not committed any sin.’
(36) Why do you constantly go about changing your political allegiances? You will get no help from Egypt just as you got no help from Assyria. (37) Moreover, you will come away from Egypt with your hands covering your faces in sorrow and shame because the LORD will not allow your reliance on them to be successful and you will not gain any help from them.”
God compares Israel with a failed marriage
“(1) If a man divorces his wife and she leaves him and becomes another man’s wife, he may not take her back again. Doing that would utterly defile the land. But you, Israel, have given yourself as a prostitute to many gods. So what makes you think you can return to Me?” says the LORD.
(2) “Look up at the hilltops and consider this. Where have you not been ravished? You waited for those gods like a thief lying in wait in the wilderness. You defiled the land by your wicked prostitution to other gods. (3) That is why the rains have been withheld, and the spring rains have not come.”
This all goes back to the prayer Solomon Prayed, which was taken from the words of Moses.
“(24) If Your people Israel are defeated before an enemy, because they have sinned against You, and they return to You and praise Your name, and they pray and plead for mercy before You in this temple, (25) may You hear in heaven and forgive the sin of Your people Israel. May You restore them to the land You gave them and their ancestors. (26) When the skies are shut and there is no rain because they have sinned against You, and they pray toward this place and praise Your name, and they turn from their sins because You are afflicting them, (27) may You hear in heaven and forgive the sin of Your servants and Your people Israel, so that You may teach them the good way they should walk in. May You send rain on Your land that You gave Your people for an inheritance.”
How did Israel respond to this chastening of the Lord?
“Yet in spite of this you are obstinate as a prostitute. You refuse to be ashamed of what you have done. (4) Even now you say to me, ‘You are my father! You have been my faithful companion ever since I was young. (5) You will not always be angry with me, will you? You will not be mad at me forever, will you?’ That is what you say, but you continually do all the evil that you can.”
The way they responded and the way we respond is not all that different. When troubles come we ask why? The very fact that we are asking indicates that we suspect God sent it or allowed it, but the ‘WHY’ of our question reveals a heart so hard that we do not see any fault in ourselves worthy of judgement. We write daily sins off as “petty” and altogether not worthy of chastening, but we do not realize the malignity of sin because we have failed to see the Glory, Honor and Holiness of God.
“(6) When Josiah was king of Judah, the LORD said to me, “Jeremiah, you have no doubt seen what wayward Israel has done. You have seen how she went up to every high hill and under every green tree to give herself like a prostitute to other gods. (7) Yet even after she had done all that, I thought that she might come back to Me. But she did not.
Her sister, unfaithful Judah, saw what she did. (8) She also saw that, because of wayward Israel’s adulterous worship of other gods, I sent her away and gave her divorce papers. But still her unfaithful sister Judah was not afraid, and she too went and gave herself like a prostitute to other gods. (9) Because she took her prostitution so lightly, she defiled the land through her adulterous worship of gods made of wood and stone.
(10) In spite of all this, Israel’s sister, unfaithful Judah, has not turned back to Me with any sincerity; she has only pretended to do so,” says the LORD.
(11) Then the LORD said to me, “Under the circumstances, wayward Israel could even be considered less guilty than unfaithful Judah.”
God offers Mercy but requires confession
“(12) “Go and shout this message to my people in the countries in the north. Tell them, ‘Come back to me, wayward Israel,’ says the LORD. ‘I will not continue to look on you with displeasure. For I am merciful,’ says the LORD. ‘I will not be angry with you forever. (13) However, you must confess that you have done wrong, and that you have rebelled against the LORD your God. You must confess that you have given yourself to foreign gods under every green tree, and have not obeyed my commands,’ says the LORD.”
Why confession? Well God has always required this on some level from Adam’s sin, “Adam where are you? What have you done?” to the confessions of sin for forgiveness as God’s child under the New Covenant, “If you will confess your sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins…”
No true restoration of relationship can ever occur until there is an admitting and owning of our unfaithful behavior. To show genuine and sincere remorse for what we’ve done and how it affected the one we care about.
The core of Israel’s sin was not seeing it as sinful as it truly was. As the passage says, “she took her prostitution so lightly”. Returning to God requires that we change our hearts and our thoughts, allowing them to become softened again to Him. This is why you require a child to ‘own up to’ what they did. If all they have to do is say “sorry”, but never give verbage to what they did…owning it, then true restoration can never be achieved…it will be simply a “sweeping it under the rug” but it will always stand as a barrier between them and true intimacy.
“(14) “Come back to me, my wayward sons,” says the LORD, “for I am your true master. If you do, I will take one of you from each town and two of you from each family group, and I will bring you back to Zion. (15) I will give you leaders who will be faithful to Me. They will lead you with knowledge and insight.”
(16) In those days, your population will greatly increase in the land. At that time,” says the LORD, “people will no longer talk about having the ark that contains the LORD’s covenant with us. They will not call it to mind, remember it, or miss it. No, that will not be done any more!
(17) At that time the city of Jerusalem will be called the LORD’s throne. All nations will gather there in Jerusalem to honor the LORD’s name. They will no longer follow the stubborn inclinations of their own evil hearts.
(18) At that time the nation of Judah and the nation of Israel will be reunited. Together they will come back from a land in the north to the land that I gave to your ancestors as a permanent possession.”
Don’t miss this! God is revealing what was going on in His heart and thoughts regarding His people.
“(19) “I thought to myself, ‘Oh what a joy it would be for Me to treat you like a son! What a joy it would be for Me to give you a pleasant land, the most beautiful piece of property there is in all the world!’
I thought you would call Me, ‘Father’ and would never cease being loyal to Me. (20) But, you have been unfaithful to Me, nation of Israel, like an unfaithful wife who has left her husband,” says the LORD.
(21) “A noise is heard on the hilltops. It is the sound of the people of Israel crying and pleading to their gods. Indeed they have followed sinful ways; they have forgotten to be true to the LORD their God.
(22) Come back to Me, you wayward people. I want to cure your waywardness.
Say, ‘Here we are. We come to You because you are the LORD our God. (23) We know our noisy worship of false gods on the hills and mountains did not help us. We know that the LORD our God is the only One Who can deliver Israel. (24) From earliest times our worship of that shameful god, Baal, has taken away all that our ancestors worked for. It has taken away our flocks and our herds, and even our sons and daughters.
(25) Let us acknowledge our shame. Let us bear the disgrace that we deserve. For we have sinned against the LORD our God, both we and our ancestors. From earliest times to this very day we have not obeyed the LORD our God.’”
I hope this teaching will challenge you and encourage you to place your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.
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