I imagine I’m not alone in this, but would you indulge me here for a moment? Have you ever felt as if you’ve poured out every ounce of yourself but to no avail? When is the last time you worked so hard toward something or someone, and still came up empty or lacking? A chasing after the wind? An uphill climb without ever reaching the summit of that mountain? Driving and driving, but never reaching your destination?
As you ponder how you would answer those questions, I’d like to welcome you to Jeremiah chapter two.
Last week in the different Bible study groups I lead, I taught on some hard truths – the honest truth without sugar-coating it. While these lessons are seldom easy to hear and swallow (and let’s be honest, far more difficult to teach), they are necessary. I was then thoroughly delighted this weekend when I sat through our weekend church service that rang out a very similar tune:
Sometimes, we need the sobering reminder of the consequences of sin.
Yes, God’s mercy covers. Yes, God’s forgiveness redeems. But neither erases or eliminates the very real consequences that result from our sinful choices. This is the hard truth. This is what we more often than not need to hear but don’t.
If you’re not familiar with the Old Testament prophet, Jeremiah, allow me to introduce you to him. He is referred to as the weeping prophet because he witnessed with his own eyes the brutal fall of God’s chosen people and the aftermath of the destruction of God’s house, and in short, it broke his heart. His consistent message and repeated plea to the nation of Israel was to repent – to turn from their wickedness and to run back to their God. But they just wouldn’t.
Nope, Israel was determined to run after filth. They were determined to do things their own way, despite the warnings of inevitable punishment and despite the stories from their past. They chose evil again and again and again. Welcome to Jeremiah chapter two.
Jeremiah begins with remembrance – how Israel used to be faithful to God. But after only four short verses, he quickly moves to rebuke.
This is what the LORD says: “What fault did your ancestors find in me, that they strayed so far from me? They followed worthless idols and became worthless themselves.” Jeremiah 2:5
Notice their singular downfall: Idolatry.
The moment they chose to put created things of this world before the Creator of this world, they became worthless, just like their idols. They removed God from the thrones of their hearts, and He therefore removed their effectiveness. Did you miss that? Take a look at the last three words of Jeremiah 2:5 again: “became worthless themselves.” What once had been an effective nation, suddenly became worthless, ineffective, and futile, not to mention, captive. Why? Because they took their eyes off of God.
This story, although ancient in its context, bleeds principle into our lives today. What efforts are you making in this life? Are you seeking to climb the corporate ladder? Are you striving to have the best home and the most perfect children? Are you aiming to please everyone around you? And at what cost? God’s Word makes it very clear from its opening story to its closing words:
We were created to worship.
The object of our worship was always intended to be our Creator, but we easily replace Him with the pressing and the urgent of our day to day lives. What is pressing and urgent in your life right now? What are you laboring after, and are you coming up empty?
“My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” Jeremiah 2:13
Is God no longer #1 in your life? – They have forsaken me.
What cisterns are you digging? On what do you spend most of your time, energy, and resources? – They have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.
Ever feel like your labor is in vain? Maybe it is. Maybe it’s time for a turning from (repentance) and a returning to (reconciliation) the One who created you to worship Him alone.
Lori Prince says
So much to ponder dear Cherie, thank you for words to chew on!
Your words: “Because they took their eyes off of God” stood out to me this morning. When our eyes lose their focus we simply loose His Presence. In Him we will have strength to endure each day and the day can be victorious in Him. Jonah 2:8 came to my mind: “Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s “love” for them.” Wow. Other translations tell us we will lose His “mercy”, and some use the word “grace.” Yes, no doubt about it, “they that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy” (Jonah 2:8) our labor IS in vain when our focus is not on Him.
Another verse, – “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (I Thess 1:9) came to my mind, too. May we rely on His grace to serve Him by “going” to the lost, to those in need of Jesus. Maybe through an encouraging word. Maybe an act of kindness. May be a meal to a neighbor in need. Maybe even the gift of our presence with someone God places on our heart. No doubt, our presence can grace an individual. Just like He graces us with His tender presence. May He alone guide us today as we yield our way to live His word.