Cruising Route 66
“Israel was holy to the LORD, the first fruits of His harvest; all who devoured her were held guilty, and disaster overtook them,” declares the LORD. Hear the word of the LORD, O house of Jacob, all you clans of the house of Israel. 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.” Jeremiah 2:3-5
Jeremiah is addressing the house of Israel, the people with whom God had a special relationship. These were dark days. The Northern Kingdom had been devastated and her people taken into captivity, and the Southern Kingdom of Judah was under the threat of invasion. These were the people God chose, a people He delivered from bondage, protected, supplied their needs, fought against their enemies, and prospered them. Yet they became a nation divided on the verge of total annihilation.
What happened? Even God asks, “What fault did your fathers find in Me?” What was it I did, or what was it they saw that made them turn their backs on Me?
Take note, when God asks a question, He isn’t seeking information. He already has the answer. So why does he ask? He is making a point. Judah was delivered by God and loved by God, but they were chasing after gods made with their own hands. Throughout this book, we see that Judah’s attitude was one of self-sufficiency, a performance of religion without the presence of. heart.
Their religious observances were performed outwardly. The people’s hearts were not right with God, and in that condition, all their efforts and sacrifices were invalid. The nation, which had begun with such great potential and high hopes, was now weakened, deficient, and incomplete. They saw themselves as healthy and whole, but in reality, they had become sick and broken!
“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
The first of all sins must be the forsaking of God. This is the foundational sin that must precede any other. Before you can commit any sin, you must first discard God’s authority over your life and ignore His desire for you. As an example, the building of something is not a sin, but when you have removed God from the process, it is not only going to be constructed incorrectly it will also never be complete.
A cistern was a large pit, usually dug where there was no fresh stream, in order to catch rainwater. It was the lifeblood of those who lived in a dry, arid land. If the cistern was broken, the people who relied upon it would perish. Empty cisterns were often used as prisons, even as a form of execution. (Tossed into the pit and covered over by a rock., Jer. 38:6)
The attitude of Judah is not unlike our attitude today. Do we really need God? Couldn’t we provide a nice life for ourselves, be relatively happy, and seek help when needed, without God? Can’t we be good people, doing the right things, and being good examples without being so focused on God? It is easy to fall into the trap of believing we don’t need Him.
Some feel we live in an atheistic or at best agnostic culture. I believe we live in a culture that chases many gods while rejecting the One that has established guidelines for our lives. The danger that we Christians face is self-sufficiency versus God-dependency. We are not exempt from building our own cisterns. Jeremiah uses an interesting term to describe Judah’s condition, he says that they were marred.
This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: “Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him. Then the word of the LORD came to me: O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does?” declares the LORD. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel.” Jeremiah 18:1-6
Jeremiah wasn’t left to draw his own conclusion. God tells Jeremiah that it is the potter, not the clay, that is in charge. Apply this story to the human experience and the conclusion is simple, God is the sovereign master of man’s destiny.
“Marred” is a word that conveys the impression of something spoiled and useless. In a pottery store, you will sometimes see a shelf marked “Seconds,” pieces that aren’t quite perfect and so are being sold at a discount. Now don’t miss the message of hope here. Our God is the God of the “Second Chance,” what has been marred can be made again. Our God isn’t in the business of producing “Seconds”. Like the potter, our Heavenly Potter is willing to refashion us.
He is always at work seeking to mold these shapeless lives of ours into things of beauty. His hands apply the gentle pressure that enables our lives, like clay, to take on form and symmetry. It can come inwardly through conviction or outwardly through circumstance. We like the vessel, have been marred in the hand of the potter but not rejected by Him. “Marred, so he made it again” speaks of His love for us.
Why does he do it? Someone once said, “God loves us … because He loves us.” – There’s no explanation apart from His grace, His unmerited favor toward us. Our salvation through Jesus Christ was made possible, not because of Israel’s faithfulness or ours, but through the faithfulness of God.
Until next time,