Gleanings in Jeremiah : 7: Why have you changed?
Jer 2:1,2 The word of the LORD came to me: “Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem: ” `I remember the devotion of your youth, how as a bride you loved me
Lord now gives Jeremiah something to DO: “Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem.” (v.2a) It comes as yet another ‘word’ to him. Perhaps we can note here the distinction between a person with the prophetic gift and a prophet. It is the fluency or frequency and ease with which a ‘word’ comes. A prophet once said to me, ‘You should be able to put anyone in front of a prophet and they could have a word for them.’ The word flows easily to Jeremiah (v.1) and it is a word of instruction.
But it is not merely a word that says go and speak, for it also brings content of what the Lord wants to say to the people of Israel in Jerusalem. These ‘words’ expose the state of Israel. Let’s observe what He says to Israel:
First of all, the Lord looks back: “I remember the devotion of your youth, how as a bride you loved me and followed me through the desert, through a land not sown.” (v.2) He reminds them of the Exodus. His dealings with them as a nation began then. He says how He saw them then: “Israel was holy to the LORD, the first fruits of his harvest.” (v.3a) He looked to the world in the long-run, and now of course we can see that the millions of Christians of the last two thousand years were His bigger harvest, and so Israel were, if you like, ‘first fruits’ of His intended harvest, a people who related to Him. He reminds them how He had been there for them, standing against their enemies when He says, “all who devoured her were held guilty, and disaster overtook them,’ ” declares the LORD.” (v.3b) This is all part of His reflecting back in history. This is both a testimony to the Lord’s goodness to them and also a challenge in the light of what is happening in the present.
But then second, the Lord asks them to pay attention to what He is about to say. “Hear the word of the LORD, O house of Jacob, all you clans of the house of Israel.” (v.4) It comes almost as a new word to them, and stands out as such, something they will clearly hear and understand. When He says, “Hear the word of the Lord,” He is saying hear and take in this specific thing I am saying to you. So He opens up this line of enquiry.
Thus, third, He moves on and the Lord asks what brought the change? “This is what the LORD says: “What fault did your fathers find in me, that they strayed so far from me? They followed worthless idols and became worthless themselves.” (v.5) He says, look at what has happened. Once you were close to me but now your people follow worthless idols, and asks, what did your fathers find in me that made them act like this? There must be a reason why you have gone this way, what is it? Is the cause in me, and if not (implied) is it in you?
So fourth the Lord asks them again to remember their past: Look back and see what you did: “They did not ask, `Where is the LORD, who brought us up out of Egypt and led us through the barren wilderness, through a land of deserts and rifts, a land of drought and darkness, a land where no one travels and no one lives?’ (v.6) At no point did they question about me or seek me to see what I thought because if they had done they would have remembered how I cared for them and looked after them when I brought them into being as a nation and led them through the desert from Egypt to Sinai and then from Sinai to the Promised Land. Don’t you remember how, “I brought you into a fertile land to eat its fruit and rich produce?” (v.7a) If you had thought about it you would have remembered that I only did good by you, providing you with this wonderful land with all its provision.
Now fifth, we find the Lord bringing charges against their guilt. But no, you wouldn’t want to remember those past days because, “you came and defiled my land and made my inheritance detestable” (v.7b) That history is clearly there in the time of the Judges. How easily time and time again you turned from me to the idols of other nations, the nations round about you.
When you got into difficulties, “The priests did not ask, `Where is the LORD?’ Those who deal with the law did not know me.” (v.8a) Those who had the Law as a constant reminder of my will failed to turn the eyes of the people back to it and to me again and again. “The leaders rebelled against me. The prophets prophesied by Baal, following worthless idols.” (v.8b) How terrible! Leaders turned away from me and false prophets tuned in to the false religions around them and their worthless idols. It was sham!
“Therefore I bring charges against you again,” declares the LORD. “And I will bring charges against your children’s children.” (v.9) I charge you with this guilt and knowing what you are like, it will be a charge that applies not only to the past generations but the ones yet ahead as well!
The charge comes in the form of a question first of all. Their guilt will become more clear in the verses ahead which we will consider in the next meditation, but first the question: “Cross over to the coasts of Kittim and look, send to Kedar and observe closely; see if there has ever been anything like this: Has a nation ever changed its gods? (Yet they are not gods at all.) But my people have exchanged their Glory for worthless idols. Be appalled at this, O heavens, and shudder with great horror,” (v.10-12) Your footnotes will tell you that Kittim is Cyprus (lands further afield) and Kedah is the desert lands to the south and east, closer by. Look at these foreign places and tell me if anything like this has happened there, that a nation has changed its gods? Yet you have changed the wonder of my glory and my wonderful presence for worthless and lifeless idols. What are you on about, we might say today?
These are the people that Jeremiah has to go to, a people who have turned away from God to worthless idols. One cannot help but compare modern UK and USA and see similarities. Both countries have known such an inheritance of the Lord’s blessing and presence and yet today, both countries exhibit creeping godlessness which has spread to the majority who have given themselves over to the modern idols of materialistic affluence and humanistic endeavour. It is little wonder that parts of the Middle East look to these two countries and speak of ‘the Great Satan’, for so much of the modern western world has so little to commend it to fledgling nations who look for a moral lead which is missing. Many people don’t like to face these truths and yet they are there, ready to be talked about by those who are confident that God will look after them.