Gleanings in Jeremiah : 10: Deceptive Blindness
Jer 2:27 They say to wood, `You are my father,’ and to stone, `You gave me birth.’ They have turned their backs to me and not their faces; yet when they are in trouble, they say, `Come and save us!’
For those who would unwisely criticise the Lord for His dealings with Israel, these are significant verses and we need to note them individually and in the big picture. The Lord continues to lay out His charges against Israel: “As a thief is disgraced when he is caught, so the house of Israel is disgraced – they, their kings and their officials, their priests and their prophets.” (v.26) Look, He says, you are just like a thief when he is caught in the act – disgraced. That is exactly what you are like. You’ve been caught in the act, you are so obvious, what you are doing, all of you, rulers, officials, priests and prophets, you are all into this idol worship imported from abroad: “They say to wood, `You are my father,’ and to stone, `You gave me birth.’” (v.27a) It’s like He says, stop and think about it, how stupid it is that you talk to wood and stone, inanimate objects and attribute life to them. I have watched what this nation has done: “They have turned their backs to me and not their faces; yet when they are in trouble, they say, `Come and save us!’” (v.27b) They have turned away from me to their idols and then when they get into trouble with invading nations they come running back to me and say come and save us.
He goes on to deride their idol worship: “Where then are the gods you made for yourselves? Let them come if they can save you when you are in trouble! For you have as many gods as you have towns, O Judah.” (v.28) Come on, He says, if you’ve got all these idols that you appear to believe in, can’t they help you? You’ve got so many of them in every town there is no shortage of those you could turn to. Are you telling me that these ‘things’ you have turned to as a replacement for Me are in fact helpless and can do nothing to help you????
But the problem is even worse. The people have blamed God or spoken against Him; people do that when they are trying to makes excuses before God, they put the blame for the mess in their lives on Him. “Why do you bring charges against me? You have all rebelled against me,” declares the LORD.” (v.29) You are trying to blame me for things going wrong but you have caused it by rebelling against me and going your own ways. I tried to bring you to your senses: “In vain I punished your people; they did not respond to correction. Your sword has devoured your prophets like a ravening lion.” (v.30) I brought the same punishment to you by invaders as I have had to do so many times in your history (see the book of Judges), yet now it seems in vain for you do not come to your senses. You have tried to shut out my voice as you have killed my prophets and only let the false prophets live.
It’s like He pauses but then starts again: “You of this generation, consider the word of the LORD.” (v.31a) He is not turning His back on this people, He is instead speaking to them yet again through Jeremiah. It is a sign of His love for them and His desire to give them yet another chance to repent, that He continues speaking through Jeremiah. Bear this in mind as we continue.
He challenges them to face the truth about how He has dealt with them: “Have I been a desert to Israel or a land of great darkness?” (v.31b) I like how the Message version starts this bit: “Have I let you down?” Has your experience of me and my provision or you been one where you have starved in a desert, or been one where you wander in the confusion of darkness? You know it has been exactly the opposite. So, “Why do my people say, `We are free to roam; we will come to you no more’?” (v.31c) You rejected all the wonder of my provision and care for you and said, we are a free people we can do what we like and go where we like. Why? Think about this!
“Does a maiden forget her jewelry, a bride her wedding ornaments? Yet my people have forgotten me, days without number.” (v.32) If I can put it in terms you should understand, does a young girl, a bride forget the precious jewelry she has on her wedding day? Have you forgotten all I did for you when I called you out of Egypt and made you my nation, my bride, at Sinai? Your behaviour reveals you for exactly what you are: “How skilled you are at pursuing love! Even the worst of women can learn from your ways.” (v.33) Everyone can see how you’ve gone off looking for other ‘lovers’ other religions; you are like the worst of women in your society.
In every way your behaviour has been less than that expected of a holy people: “On your clothes men find the lifeblood of the innocent poor, though you did not catch them breaking in.” (v.34) The marks of your corruption and violence are there to be seen in your society, how you have shed the blood of those who are poor and innocent, not beaten because they were burglars which might have been excused, but beaten and oppressed by the rich and powerful among you who care nothing for justice.
“Yet in spite of all this you say, `I am innocent; he is not angry with me.’” (v.34c,35a) You make excuses for yourselves and try to deny the truth and pretend it doesn’t offend me. “But I will pass judgment on you because you say, `I have not sinned.” (v.35b) I will punish you as much for your denial of the truth as for the things you have done wrong. Look, “Why do you go about so much, changing your ways? You will be disappointed by Egypt as you were by Assyria.” (v.36) Why have you changed so much and gone to these other nations? Don’t you realise that they will not live up to your expectations of them. Compare what they do for you with what I have done for you (implied) The end will not be good: “You will also leave that place with your hands on your head, for the LORD has rejected those you trust; you will not be helped by them.” (v.37) God hasn’t blessed them so how can you expect them to bless you? No, it will not end well, they are not a ‘cistern’ you can rely on.
In the world, people, individuals, authorities, governments, all rely on things, methods, plans, strategies, one another, anything except the Lord. The is the folly of Sin. Leaders can even be ‘religious’ as they so often show at election times, but it is merely a show; the reality is that they do NOT look to the Lord for guidance, they do NOT rely on Him to lead them. If we follow their example we will suffer the same outcomes as them. May it not be so.
The wonder of these passages, and I realise these ten verses have been fairly heavy stuff, is that the Lord continues to seek to communicate with Israel, continues to try to get them to be honest with themselves, and it is all to bring them back to Him, back to a place where they can experience again the goodness, the love and the blessing of the Lord. Is the Lord trying to speak to us similarly? Do we fully enter into the goodness, the love and the blessing of the Lord? If not, is it because we are relying upon things, upon people, upon anything but the Lord Himself?
(Here we will pause up in Jeremiah and return to him at a later date)