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? — Jeremiah 2:5
When people choose to go away from the Lord and walk after “vanity,” it is tragic. Stan Frank told his story this way. “At one time my wife and I were saved, and bringing up our children to love the Lord. We had five children between the ages of two and eight years when we began to look other places for our pleasure. We neglected to read the Bible and to pray, and stopped going to church. Sin came into our lives, and my heart was full of rebellion.
“My wife and I thought we could find something in this world to satisfy our hearts. We searched in many avenues, but we were miserable. One time my wife was so angry that she said she would pack her clothes and leave. I didn’t give her any consolation; I told her I would help her pack!
“Thank God for His mercy that followed us for twenty years! One day I had a heart attack while playing golf with my younger son. God was calling me. My wife and I began going to church. I knew that I needed God, but I was so proud! One Sunday, two men I had known most of my life encouraged us to pray. Finally, we both knelt and repented of our sins. A miracle took place! God forgave our sins and put His love back into our hearts. He also gave us love for one another. I put my arm around my wife and kissed her, which was really something for me! I had neglected her for a long time.”
God does love backsliders, and He uses every possible method to bring them back to Him. He was trying to draw the Jewish people back through the Prophet Jeremiah. In our text, Jeremiah reminded the people of how the true God that they had rejected and no longer inquired about had brought them out of the land of Egypt. He had taken them through the wilderness and the perils of an unknown land until they reached the plentiful country that He had promised to them. The land was bountiful and they were well-fed, yet they chose to defile their great heritage and reject the One who had given it to them. They turned to idol worship. Even the priests and those who handled the Law no longer knew the true God, but were prophesying according to Baal.
In spite of this, God still loved the Jewish people and remembered the times when they had sought after Him in the wilderness and during their early days in the Promised Land. In the same way, God continues to love backsliders today and call after their hearts. Jeremiah faithfully reminded the people of Judah that punishment would come to them because of their refusal to repent. Similarly, ultimate judgment will come to backsliders who continue to reject God’s mercy.
Reminding ourselves of the things God has done for us, thanking Him, and continuing to seek His direction in our lives will guard our hearts against backsliding and forgetting the benefits of keeping our trust in God and His Word.
Today’s text is the first of twelve addresses given by Jeremiah to the Jewish people. However, these are not necessarily in chronological order.
God earnestly tried to reason with the people of Judah. He told Jeremiah to speak in Jerusalem, which was the center of their idolatry. God reminded the people of His blessings and miracles, and how they had rejected Him and turned to the idols that their neighbors worshipped. Jeremiah compared this to a marriage where the initial devotion of the bride (the Jewish people) was replaced by unfaithfulness.
In verse 8 we read that those who were commissioned to direct the people to God had turned to idolatry. The priests were responsible for expounding the religious Law to the people, and the pastors were in charge of the administration of the civil laws. The prophets chose to prophesy the supposed oracles of Baal.
In verses 9-11, God told the people to look at the nations about them, who had not abandoned loyalty to their gods. Yet the people of Judah had departed from the living and true God, and turned to gods who could not communicate with them or help them.
Cisterns, referenced in verse 13, were tanks used to collect rain water, and were common in the East where wells were in short supply. The water from the cisterns was far inferior to a fresh supply, and if the stonework was cracked or broken, the water would leak out. God said that His people had forsaken Him, the fountain of living waters, and turned to false gods, who were comparable to a broken cistern that could hold no water.
In verses 14-18, God reminded Judah of the consequences of rejecting Him. Noph and Tahapanes were cities in Egypt that were supposed to be allies. However, they had “broken the crown of thy head.” Some commentators believe this referred to the slaying of King Josiah by the king of Egypt (see 2 Kings 23:29-30).
In verses 19-26, Jeremiah said although God had given them a good start as a “noble vine,” they had turned into a “degenerate plant.” No matter how much soap they used to make themselves clean, they remained a polluted people. God compared their lust for Baalim (the plural for multiple gods) to the lust of a dromedary (a young female camel) when she is wandering to and fro looking for a male.
In verses 27-28, God said that when trouble came, the people would turn to Him for help, but He would not listen. Besides their national deities, Judah had a god for each city. God told the people to ask these gods for help and see if they could save in Judah’s time of trouble.
In verses 29-37, God reminded Judah that He had tried to chastise them, but they had refused to listen and had killed His prophets when they tried to proclaim the truth. God had been faithful to them in supplying their needs when they put their trust in Him, but they declared that they were their own masters, and they did not need His help. God said they were less attached to Him than a maid was to her ornaments, or a bride to her dress.
God also accused Judah of shedding innocent blood, which may have referred to the children who had been sacrificed to Molech, or to the profusion of blood that Manasseh had shed in Jerusalem during his reign (2 Kings 21:16). In spite of Judah’s declaration of innocence and determination to seek help from foreign alliances, God would see that the nation did not prosper.
At the beginning of chapter 3, Jeremiah again used the analogy of a marriage to illustrate Judah’s attitude. The people were not ashamed of their sinfulness, which had polluted the land.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II. The pronouncement of judgment against Judah
A. The condemnation of the prophet
1. The first sermon: Judah’s unfaithfulness (2:1 — 3:5)
a. Israel’s previous devotion (2:1-3)
b. Israel’s coming judgment (2:4-13)
c. Israel’s humiliation (2:14-19)
d. Israel’s rejection (2:20-37)
(1) The character of Israel’s sin (2:20-28)
(2) The result of Israel’s sin (2:29-37)
e. Israel’s admonition (3:1-5)
We want to cherish God’s commandments and blessings and never turn away from them.