Today: [Jeremiah 2] Cisterns that Hold No Water: In chapter 2 of Jeremiah the prophet cries out to a nation that considers itself right before God but is in reality, standing in the shadow of its own destruction because it has forsaken Him. The people Jeremiah speaks to are so convinced of their self-worth that it takes very strong language on the prophet’s part to convince them they have put their trust in a system (or cistern) that can hold no water (or promise) for them.
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[Jer 2:1-37 KJV] 1 Moreover the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 2 Go and cry in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith the LORD; I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after me in the wilderness, in a land [that was] not sown. 3 Israel [was] holiness unto the LORD, [and] the firstfruits of his increase: all that devour him shall offend; evil shall come upon them, saith the LORD. 4 Hear ye the word of the LORD, O house of Jacob, and all the families of the house of Israel: 5 Thus saith the LORD, What iniquity have your fathers found in me, that they are gone far from me, and have walked after vanity, and are become vain? 6 Neither said they, Where [is] the LORD that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, that led us through the wilderness, through a land of deserts and of pits, through a land of drought, and of the shadow of death, through a land that no man passed through, and where no man dwelt? 7 And I brought you into a plentiful country, to eat the fruit thereof and the goodness thereof; but when ye entered, ye defiled my land, and made mine heritage an abomination. 8 The priests said not, Where [is] the LORD? and they that handle the law knew me not: the pastors also transgressed against me, and the prophets prophesied by Baal, and walked after [things that] do not profit. 9 Wherefore I will yet plead with you, saith the LORD, and with your children’s children will I plead. 10 For pass over the isles of Chittim, and see; and send unto Kedar, and consider diligently, and see if there be such a thing. 11 Hath a nation changed [their] gods, which [are] yet no gods? but my people have changed their glory for [that which] doth not profit. 12 Be astonished, O ye heavens, at this, and be horribly afraid, be ye very desolate, saith the LORD.
Continuing our study of Jeremiah we see that it is the 2nd of the 5 books classified as the “major prophets” or prophetic books of the bible with 52 chapters in its pages. Jeremiah was a contemporary with Zephaniah, Habakuk, Daniel and Ezekiel. It is a book written in the looming shadow of Babylonian invasion. In the beginning Jeremiah prophesies toward the last possibility that the nation might be spared, but seeing there is no repentance in the hearts of the people, he prophetically guides them in the transition from sovereignty to captivity. In the beginning of Jeremiah’s ministry, Judah is a sovereign nation, after which it is dismantled by the Babylonians but only restored by Persia as a province and not an independent state. So from Jeremiah’s day till 1948 the nation of Israel exists only as a puppet state to various conquerors who dominate it.
Chapter 2 begins with a lamentation of the Spirit of God remembering the espousals and love of the nation that came out of the wilderness to conquer Canaan under Joshua. Verse 2 describes Israel as a cherished bride in those days, ravished by God as a husband over His people. In the wording we see something of what God longs for where His people are concerned. The word espousals in v. 2 means to lie down as in the most intimate embrace between a man and woman. It is very difficult for us in our sexualized society to mixed piety and sexuality together. We are a culture that has lost its innocence and purity where sexual issues are concerned but there is something very telling and very deep here in revealing the heart of God toward us as a husband’s passion and love for His bride.
From that context of deep love and devotion verse 5 then turns to confrontation as the Father demands an explanation for the idolatries of the people. In the midst of looming destruction and total devastation of their way of life, the people still stubbornly turn in their hearts to false gods while all the while serving God with outward show and religious protocols and sacrifices. The Father declares the people have walked after vanity and become vain. Here is an answer to those who choose iniquity and claim “they were born that way”. It is interesting that there is an inherent admission of guilt and awareness of sin in that excuse. Those who claim they were born homosexual in orientation by extrapolation admit that they realize that if they were not born that way as they falsely contend that their lifestyle would be inexcusable. This is true not only in such cases, but regarding every excuse we give to explain where our character and lifestyle departs from that which reflects the character and heart of God. We become vain because we have walked after (or invested our lives, time and energy in) vanity. So take stock of your life. What do you spend your time, money, energy and investment in pursuit of? That is what you are becoming, right or wrong. If that dictates a change in direction then it is yours to make in the shadow of the testimony of God’s word.
13 For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, [and] hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water. 14 [Is] Israel a servant? [is] he a homeborn [slave]? why is he spoiled? 15 The young lions roared upon him, [and] yelled, and they made his land waste: his cities are burned without inhabitant. 16 Also the children of Noph and Tahapanes have broken the crown of thy head. 17 Hast thou not procured this unto thyself, in that thou hast forsaken the LORD thy God, when he led thee by the way? 18 And now what hast thou to do in the way of Egypt, to drink the waters of Sihor? or what hast thou to do in the way of Assyria, to drink the waters of the river? 19 Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backslidings shall reprove thee: know therefore and see that [it is] an evil [thing] and bitter, that thou hast forsaken the LORD thy God, and that my fear [is] not in thee, saith the Lord GOD of hosts. 20 For of old time I have broken thy yoke, [and] burst thy bands; and thou saidst, I will not transgress; when upon every high hill and under every green tree thou wanderest, playing the harlot. 21 Yet I had planted thee a noble vine, wholly a right seed: how then art thou turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine unto me? 22 For though thou wash thee with nitre, and take thee much soap, [yet] thine iniquity is marked before me, saith the Lord GOD. 23 How canst thou say, I am not polluted, I have not gone after Baalim? see thy way in the valley, know what thou hast done: [thou art] a swift dromedary traversing her ways; 24 A wild ass used to the wilderness, [that] snuffeth up the wind at her pleasure; in her occasion who can turn her away? all they that seek her will not weary themselves; in her month they shall find her. 25 Withhold thy foot from being unshod, and thy throat from thirst: but thou saidst, There is no hope: no; for I have loved strangers, and after them will I go.
Verse 13 breaks down the most basic heart issues regarding the transgressions of the people of Judah. We could no doubt study their lives or even the lives of those around us and find a veritable laundry list of transgression, sin, fault and vanity – and there are those who delight to pursue this as an outward expression of what they think godliness requires (in finding fault in others rather than themselves). Verse 13 however sweeps all such hypocrisy away and identifies the real reason why we stray in our relationships with God:
1.) We have forsaken God as our resource of refreshing.
2.) We are looking beyond the heart of God for fulfillment from the broken systems of the world.
In 1 John 5:21 the apostle warns what is in reality a very spiritual and godly people. “Little children – keep yourselves from idols…” Now if you read the book of 1 John you can only conclude there is no way this deeply devoted church the book is addressed to – there is no way they are being tempted to go to the local pagan temple on the way home from work and offer up a sacrifice to a false god or to consort with a temple prostitute. Why then the warning? If these highly spiritual and very godly believers are to be warned regarding the temptations of idolatry what of us? In our culture we tend to have a very narrow definition of idolatry as burning incense to a Buddha, or keeping a shrine of images to false gods in our home. Idolatry is much more than that.
Jesus said in Luke 17:20-21 that the kingdom of God is within us. He warned us in that passage not to look outwardly for what we ought to seek inwardly for. Christianity over the centuries has fostered greater dependence on outward religious infrastructure than it has encouraged inward reliance on who Jesus is on the inside of you. Why would this happen? Because as one cultural component of a lost and dying world, Christianity has left its first love. True, viable intimacy with who Jesus actually is on the inside of you has been substituted for either dead religious traditions or subjective outward experiences that have no power and no presence of the spirit of God in the midst.
26 As the thief is ashamed when he is found, so is the house of Israel ashamed; they, their kings, their princes, and their priests, and their prophets, 27 Saying to a stock, Thou [art] my father; and to a stone, Thou hast brought me forth: for they have turned [their] back unto me, and not [their] face: but in the time of their trouble they will say, Arise, and save us. 28 But where [are] thy gods that thou hast made thee? let them arise, if they can save thee in the time of thy trouble: for [according to] the number of thy cities are thy gods, O Judah. 29 Wherefore will ye plead with me? ye all have transgressed against me, saith the LORD. 30 In vain have I smitten your children; they received no correction: your own sword hath devoured your prophets, like a destroying lion. 31 O generation, see ye the word of the LORD. Have I been a wilderness unto Israel? a land of darkness? wherefore say my people, We are lords; we will come no more unto thee? 32 Can a maid forget her ornaments, [or] a bride her attire? yet my people have forgotten me days without number. 33 Why trimmest thou thy way to seek love? therefore hast thou also taught the wicked ones thy ways. 34 Also in thy skirts is found the blood of the souls of the poor innocents: I have not found it by secret search, but upon all these. 35 Yet thou sayest, Because I am innocent, surely his anger shall turn from me. Behold, I will plead with thee, because thou sayest, I have not sinned. 36 Why gaddest thou about so much to change thy way? thou also shalt be ashamed of Egypt, as thou wast ashamed of Assyria. 37 Yea, thou shalt go forth from him, and thine hands upon thine head: for the LORD hath rejected thy confidences, and thou shalt not prosper in them.
Verse 26 is a reference to the now lost 10 tribes of the northern kingdom. Jeremiah is using them as an example. Throughout its history the northern kingdom refused to worship at the altar of Solomon’s temple. Instead out of political expediency and other priorities an alternative altar of worship was erected at Bethel. In so doing v. 26 tells us the people of the north had ROBBED GOD of His rightful place of veneration in their lives. What is the meaning of this for us? Idolatry is identified in our lives when we look outwardly for security, peace of mind and meanfulness in life to anything, any person, relationship or resource rather than looking to God Himself. The idols in our lives are exposed by the lack of peace, or worry that comes when the source of our personal idolatry is threatened in some way. Whatever steals your peace or robs you of your peace of mind is in effect, an idol, or a potential idol. What a sobering thought – and the reason why now after centuries of patient dealing by the hand of God the nation of Judah, and the line of kings stretching from David to Zedekiah is now about to be extinguished during the lifetime of Jeremiah.
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