A Reading from Jeremiah 2:1-13
1 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 “Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem:
“This is what the Lord says:
“‘I remember the devotion of your youth,
how as a bride you loved me
and followed me through the wilderness,
through a land not sown.
3 Israel was holy to the Lord,
the firstfruits of his harvest;
all who devoured her were held guilty,
and disaster overtook them,’”
declares the Lord.
4 Hear the word of the Lord, you descendants of Jacob,
all you clans of Israel.
5 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.
6 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 ravines,
a land of drought and utter darkness,
a land where no one travels and no one lives?’
7 I brought you into a fertile land
to eat its fruit and rich produce.
But you came and defiled my land
and made my inheritance detestable.
8 The priests did not ask,
‘Where is the Lord?’
Those who deal with the law did not know me;
the leaders rebelled against me.
The prophets prophesied by Baal,
following worthless idols.
9 “Therefore I bring charges against you again,”
declares the Lord.
“And I will bring charges against your children’s children.
10 Cross over to the coasts of Cyprus and look,
send to Kedar and observe closely;
see if there has ever been anything like this:
11 Has a nation ever changed its gods?
(Yet they are not gods at all.)
But my people have exchanged their glorious God
for worthless idols.
12 Be appalled at this, you heavens,
and shudder with great horror,”
declares the Lord.
13 “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.”
This lesson is Jeremiah’s first public prophecy. It begins with God’s memory of an all-encompassing, beautiful, and pure love. God describes the loyalty of the people of Israel, their love like that of a newlywed in a pure, fresh land. Then he expresses astonishment that the people have left that first love and gone for idolatry. They have “rejected a source of living water and hewn out for themselves cracked cisterns that hold no water.” Yet it is a pattern seen throughout the history of humanity’s relationship with God, beginning with Adam and Eve who chose “their way” over the Garden of Eden.
In the wilderness of Sinai, the freed slaves repeatedly wanted to go back to slavery in Egypt where they had had plenty to eat instead of continuing to journey through the wilderness under the leadership of God who had just split the Red Sea for them. Jesus lamented that Jerusalem failed to recognize the day of its deliverance; its rulers rejected him in spite of the overwhelming witness he provided.
Those who don’t believe in God generally raise three major objections: science can explain everything, some Christians are bad, and innocent people suffer. These objections have been answered convincingly many times. But these three reasons cover up the reason that people refuse to commit themselves to God: “I don’t want to.”
Being powerfully loved by God is frightening; being made new is painful; following the truth is very difficult. People often choose “cracked cisterns” they have made themselves over the “source of living water” that they must accept as a gift, because receiving such a gift changes the recipient’s entire view of everything, including one’s identity. This is Jeremiah’s message, and it is from the Lord: accept that you are loved, and receive all that you desire; or reject it and die of thirst.
David Baumann served for nearly 50 years as an Episcopal priest in the Dioceses of Los Angeles and Springfield. He has published nonfiction, science fiction, and short stories. Two exuberant small daughters make sure he never gets any rest.
Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
The Diocese of Rejaf – The Province of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan
St. John's Episcopal Church, Lynchburg, Virginia