The Hard Truth

Posted: February 27, 2014 in Jeremiah

Jeremiah 2, “The Hard Truth”

Some conversations are hard.  There are things that can be pretty tough to say.  Gentleness is always preferable, but sometimes people stop listening to gentleness & things need to be said a bit more firmly.  That’s what God had to do with Israel, and that’s what He sometimes has to do with you & me.

Jeremiah had a call from the Lord – a responsibility to proclaim what God had said to him.  The message God gave Jeremiah was difficult, and Chapter 2 dives right into the thick of things.  Israel had sinned greatly against the Lord God, and God lays out His case against the nation.  Like an adulterous wife, Israel had committed adultery against her covenant God.  She was ravenous in her idolatrous lust, and God doesn’t mince any words with them. 

Sometimes the truth is harsh, but the truth still needs to be said.  If we are going to place our faith in a Savior, we have to understand our desperate need to be saved.  Israel needed a wake-up call – just like us.

Jeremiah 2

  • Memories of a good relationship (vss. 1-3)

1 Moreover the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 2 “Go and cry in the hearing of Jerusalem, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD: “I remember you, The kindness of your youth, The love of your betrothal, When you went after Me in the wilderness, In a land not sown. 3 Israel was holiness to the LORD, The firstfruits of His increase. All that devour him will offend; Disaster will come upon them,” says the LORD.’ ”

  • God told Jeremiah to go tell His word: “God and cry in the hearing of Jerusalem.”  What Jeremiah was about to convey from God would be hard, but the people needed to hear it.  They may not want to listen (and no doubt, they would not), but God would not leave them with the excuse that they had not heard.  God commanded Jeremiah to ensure that Jerusalem would indeed hear – what Jerusalem did with what they heard after that point was up to them.
    • Gets back to the idea from Chapter 1 that Jeremiah had a responsibility to take the word of the Lord to the people.  It wasn’t that Jeremiah had to ensure the people repented.  They wouldn’t repent, and there was no way Jeremiah could force them to do so, if he tried.  But he DID have a responsibility to tell the people what God had told him.  If he did not, then he would bring guilt upon himself.
    • Likewise with us today.  We have been given the news of Jesus Christ, both in His 1st and 2nd Comings.  We have a responsibility to share it with the world around us. We need to tell them that Jesus came once to bear the penalty for our sin at the cross, and He’s coming again in judgment over all those who do not receive Him as Lord.  That’s the news.  We can’t make anyone respond to it, but we can ensure that we proclaim it in their hearing.  That is OUR calling & responsibility.
  • Jeremiah did have a hard message to share, but things weren’t always so bad.  God remembered good days with the house of Israel: “the kindness of your youth, the love of your betrothal.”  The nation of Israel was the bride to the Lord God, and God looked back on their betrothal period with fondness.  Ironically, that time of betrothal is identified as their time “in the wilderness” – which isn’t exactly a time that Israel was known for their faithfulness to God!  God had brought the nation out of Egypt in a magnificent display of power and might, brought them to Mt. Sinai, given them the commandments, and Israel responded by committing a heinous act of idolatry with the golden calf.  Moving on from there, they complained in the wilderness, grumbling about the miraculous provision of manna God gave them & grumbling about the lack of water which God brought forth from the rocks.  God took them to the edge of the promised land, and they rebelled against Him there, and God sent them on a death march for 40 years while the unfaithful generation died off.  And those were the “good old days!” ?!  Compared to the sin that the nation had now fallen into, the wilderness years were fond memories to the Lord God of how the Hebrews actually followed after God in faith.  (That’s how bad things had gotten!)
  • There were periods of revival and faith during those days, and despite all of their grumbling and complaining, God saw Israel as “holiness to the LORD, the firstfruits of His increase.”  IOW, simply the existence of the nation of Israel was honoring to Yahweh God (because He was the One who gave birth to the nation), and God in turn honored Israel and protected them.  Their clothing and shoes did not run out, nor did they lack any good thing during the wilderness days.  The visible presence of God guided them day & night, and Israel could always be assured of the love of God for His people.
    • It was this love that Israel had lost.  This is the relationship they had during the wilderness – and this is the relationship they could have had with God throughout the decades and centuries, even into the kingdom years.  Yet they threw it all away.  God remembered the past relationship, but Israel had not.  They had forgotten their first love. … Not unlike the church of Ephesus: Revelation 2:4–5, "(4) Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. (5) Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent." []  They had a great history with the Lord & a terrific foundation – but they moved away from it.  They rested on their laurels & got lazy in their faith & deeds.  They needed to get back to the basics & remember their first love in Jesus Christ.
    • We don’t want to forget our first love!  We don’t want to always look back at certain times in our Christian faith & think, “Those were the good old days – too bad we don’t have those anymore.”  Why not?  Why should the days we live in today not be as much filled with faith in Jesus as the days in which we were first born again?  Jesus hasn’t changed; we have.
  • The relationship defiled (vss. 4-30)

4 Hear the word of the LORD, O house of Jacob and all the families of the house of Israel.

  • Note: this word isn’t just to Jerusalem, or even the whole nation of Judah.  This word was given to the whole nation of Israel – “all the families of the house of Israel.”  Historically at this point, the northern kingdom of Israel had been overrun by Assyria, and the southern kingdom of Judah was all that was left.  However, when King Josiah ascended to the throne, he had cleansed the northern land of Israel/Samaria of the high places & false priests, and even invited the few Hebrews that were left to participate in the Passover.  Although most of the northern Hebrews/Samaritans were gone, the whole nation could still be addressed. It was ALL Israel that had sinned, and God had a word for ALL Israel.

5 Thus says the LORD: “What injustice have your fathers found in Me, That they have gone far from Me, Have followed idols, And have become idolaters?

  • What a striking question from the Lord!  “What have I done wrong?”  The all-powerful perfect God CAN do nothing wrong, yet He asks the question.  Why?  Israel had certainly acted as if God had sinned against them.  If God had mistreated Israel, at least then they would have an excuse as to why they abandoned the Lord for idolatry.
  • Of course, that’s the problem: they had no excuse.  It is impossible for God to sin, and God did no “injustice” against Israel.  Yet they still chose to leave the True God to follow after multitudes of worthless idols.
  • Isn’t it amazing what people give up in order to engage in false worship?  Because we want to worship ourselves & the things of our hands, we turn away from truth & life.  We turn away from the only God who can give life in a vain attempt to try to gain it for ourselves.  It’s the height of foolishness, yet it’s what human beings do every single day.
    • What is worse is when God’s people (who ought to know better) turn away from God.  When we who are saved turn from the God who saved us to go back and wallow in the filth of our old sin.  It’s more than foolish; it’s downright tragic.  May God keep us ever-mindful of our dependence upon the grace of Jesus!

6 Neither did they say, ‘Where is the LORD, Who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, Who led us through the wilderness, Through a land of deserts and pits, Through a land of drought and the shadow of death, Through a land that no one crossed And where no one dwelt?’ 7 I brought you into a bountiful country, To eat its fruit and its goodness. But when you entered, you defiled My land And made My heritage an abomination.

  • This is what the people had: protection & provision.  God had brought them “out of the land of Egypt” – He had taken them “though the wilderness” – though “deserts…pits…death,” etc.  God had taken His people through all sorts of trials.  Egypt had attempted to breed the Hebrews to death (by killing the firstborn males) – they had tried to work the Hebrews to death – Amalek had tried to ambush the nation – Moab had tried to get the people to curse themselves.  Israel had no lack of enemies in the wilderness, yet God protected them through it all!  Even after Israel’s initial rebellion, God still brought them to the land of promise which was “a bountiful country.”  God had been gracious with them beyond any possible expectation.
  • And what did Israel do when they arrived?  They spit on God’s favor.  They “defiled” the land, polluting it into “an abomination.”  What ought to have been a perpetual gift from God and blessing to Israel became a defiled cursed place overrun by worthless idols.  Instead of seeing the people of God praising the Creator God in a Kingdom giving glory to His name, one would see people called by the name of God worshipping anything BUT God.  The ways of God were perverted, and the kings were blasphemers.
  • It’s one thing to refuse to receive anything from the Lord; it’s another to take what He has graciously given & defile it.  THAT is what Israel did.
    • That’s what Christians do when we take the grace of Jesus and use it as an excuse for sin.  Romans 6:1–2, "(1) What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? (2) Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?" []  Far be it from us to abuse the grace of God lovingly showered upon us through Jesus Christ!  May we be those who walk worthy of the calling by which we were called!

8 The priests did not say, ‘Where is the LORD?’ And those who handle the law did not know Me; The rulers also transgressed against Me; The prophets prophesied by Baal, And walked after things that do not profit.

  • Every corner of Israel had sinned – every faction of leadership had given themselves over to idolatrous things.  The priests who were supposed to be the mediators between God & man did not even bother to seek the Lord at all.  The scribes and teachers who were supposed to be experts in the Scriptures had no trace of a relationship with God.  The elders and kings engaged in blatant sin, and the prophets sought to prophesy by the false gods of the Gentiles.  It’s descriptive of a people who abandoned God entirely.
  • Sadly, much of the same description could be given to many so-called churches & denominations today.  They’ve all but abandoned the Scriptures, simply ignoring whatever Bible verses they don’t like.  Men and women with multiple PhD’s in theology who do not even believe in the deity of Christ, nor His resurrection from the dead.  Pastors who have no faith in Jesus, yet keep their position because they don’t want to give up their job.  And it’s not just the leadership – men and women abound who call themselves Christian, yet show disdain for the Scriptures & desire ear-tickling messages that please their carnal flesh rather than proclaim the truth. … These are signs of the end-times!  Let there be no mistake that we are in the final days.  Just as God called the nation of Israel to be shaken up & brought to repentance, so does God call the Church to be shaken up!  Let those who are sleeping be awakened, and let those who are lost be made aware they are lost so that they might be saved!

9 “Therefore I will yet bring charges against you,” says the LORD, “And against your children’s children I will bring charges.

  • God had a right to justice!  He had a covenant relationship with the people of Israel, as a King unto His people.  So He would bring criminal charges against them, as was His due.
  • Keep in mind, that is God’s right, but God’s desire is for mercy!  Even today, though God commands the whole world to repent and promises His judgment, God’s desire is that all men would be saved & come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim 2:4).  Israel had no repentance of the heart – any repentance they had was surface-level & temporary (as will be seen later in Ch. 2).  If there were any who truly repented, God would have gladly received them as His own.  He wanted backsliding Israel to return to Him. (3:12-13)
    • It is never too late to repent!  There may be consequences that we cannot avoid, but as long as we draw breath it is never too late to start anew our relationship with Jesus.  God has many charges against us, but Jesus stands ready to serve as our Advocate!

10 For pass beyond the coasts of Cyprus and see, Send to Kedar and consider diligently, And see if there has been such a thing. 11 Has a nation changed its gods, Which are not gods? But My people have changed their Glory For what does not profit.

  • How terrible was Israel’s abandonment of God?  It wasn’t even done among the Gentiles.  They could look to the north & the east, and still not find pagan nations that abandoned their false gods.  To be sure, there would be cities that had multiple gods they worshipped (and all of them false), but they wouldn’t dare abandon one completely without being forced to do so…they’d be too afraid of making their local deity angry at them.  Yet there was Israel, worshipping the one true God – they worshipped the “Glory” of all creation, the Creator Himself – and yet they exchanged Him for “what does not profit.”  They left the truth to go after the false.
  • It’s one thing to be deluded in ignorance and worship a lie; it’s another to know the truth and then go back to the lie.  In the “Matrix” movies [not recommended], the main character was given the choice to wake up from the machine-driven delusions, knowing he could never go back.  It would never be the same.  For him to go back to the machine would be totally illogical & wrong (which was what one of the traitors did).  That’s what Israel did.  They knew the truth: they had lived in the daily reality of God as they saw His presence leading them through the wilderness, providing manna in the desert, etc.  And yet despite what they knew to be true, they chose to revert back to the lie.  That’s the essence of apostasy.  For someone to know the reality of Jesus, and then choose to depart from Him to return to the filth of the world is not just illogical…it defies description.  It’s something the pagans wouldn’t even do. 
    • Question: was an apostate Christian ever truly saved?  Scholars debate the theology, with Scriptures supporting either position.  All of it skirts the real issue: you don’t want to be one (an apostate)!  If you’re not in Christ right now, it doesn’t matter what your past confession was…you just need to return to Christ.  Whether that’s a recommitment or a 1st time commitment is irrelevant – you just need Jesus!

12 Be astonished, O heavens, at this, And be horribly afraid; Be very desolate,” says the LORD. 13 “For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, And hewn themselves cisterns—broken cisterns that can hold no water.

  • So bad was the sin of Israel that God calls creation as a witness against them.  Like any courtroom case, witnesses are required – in this case, it is the heaven itself.  Creation would be dismayed by the treatment of God by Israel.  It was unheard of throughout the entire universe.
    • Not even the original fall of Adam had the same implications as the apostasy of Israel (or that of individual Christians).  Adam left everything that was good when he sinned, but then at least mourned over his sin.  The Hebrews had been brought FROM sin/death/slavery into the goodness of God by His grace, and then chose to go back to it.  This was rebellion on a whole new level!
    • The one historical rebellion that comes closest to apostasy can only be the rebellion of Satan.  Here is a being that personally witnessed the unrestrained glory of God, and still chose to rebel, desiring to hoard it to himself.  Being cast out of heaven, knowing the victory of Christ, he still chooses to rebel and war against his Creator God, and will continue to rebel at least until the end of the Millennial Kingdom.  If anyone ought to know better by now, it is Satan.  Likewise, apostasy is devilish in its foolishness.
  • God details two aspects of their apostasy: (1) Forsaking the true God, and (2) making false gods.  It’s one thing to turn away from God (which is bad enough); it’s another thing to actively make an inferior replacement for worship.  Of course, this is inevitably what happens in every case.  Even those who forsake God to turn to atheism truly do create their own false gods as replacement, even if they call those gods “reason,” “intellect,” or “self.”
  • Yet what do people leave when they forsake the true God?  “The fountain of living waters.”  Jesus said that He alone can give the living waters, and that anyone who thirsts can come to Him and drink!  God can give what our souls truly long for: abundant life, grace, and peace with the One who created us.  That’s living water!  How sad it is to turn away from that offer & to a broken vessel that cannot hold a drop!
  • That wasn’t God’s intent for Israel – nor is it for us…

14 “Is Israel a servant? Is he a homeborn slave? Why is he plundered? 15 The young lions roared at him, and growled; They made his land waste; His cities are burned, without inhabitant. 16 Also the people of Noph and Tahpanhes Have broken the crown of your head.

  • God had not intended Israel to be a “servant.”  God brought Israel out of Egypt specifically so that she could be freed from slavery; not to be brought back into it.  Yet that was what they were beginning to experience.  Assyria had already wiped out the northern kingdom & constantly threatened the south.  Egypt had flexed its muscles over Judah again, and it was Egypt that had “broken the crown” of Jerusalem when King Josiah died in a battle against Pharaoh Necho (2 Kings 23:29).  “Noph & Tahpanhes” are references to Egyptian cities.  Already the nation was beginning to experience the consequences of abandoning God.  When they removed themselves from the Lord, God would remove His covenant protection from the people.

17 Have you not brought this on yourself, In that you have forsaken the LORD your God When He led you in the way?

  • Israel could not blame God for His lack of protection; it was their own fault!  They had “brought this” upon their own heads.  God had always “led” them rightly; it was Israel that had turned away.
  • Likewise, sin is always our fault.  So often, we want to find someone else upon which to blame it.  We get ourselves into trouble, and then start yelling at our families, our boss, our God…anyone but ourselves.  “God, why did You do this to me?!”  Really?  We were the ones playing around with temptation and sin, and then we have the gall to get angry at God when the consequences come?  No – sin is our fault.  As the old proverb says, “When you lie down with the dogs, you’re going to wake up with the fleas.” 
    • Beyond the individual, this idea applies to nations as well.  Is it any wonder that our own nation is experiencing the problems that it is?  Our culture has long since abandoned any pretense to Biblical morality.  When we’ve treated marriage as disposable for 40 years, is it any wonder that marriage loses all definition?  When we haven’t valued the lives of infants for 40 years, is it any wonder that the lives of the elderly or disabled aren’t valued either? 

18 And now why take the road to Egypt, To drink the waters of Sihor? Or why take the road to Assyria, To drink the waters of the River? 19 Your own wickedness will correct you, And your backslidings will rebuke you. Know therefore and see that it is an evil and bitter thing That you have forsaken the LORD your God, And the fear of Me is not in you,” Says the Lord GOD of hosts.

  • The nations that sought to be the oppressors of Judah were the ones to which Judah was running for alliances.  Those were the places that the evil kings sought their refuge – with certain kings (like Manasseh) actually adopting their foreign gods.  They would keep seeking after those false things, and they would keep experiencing the consequences that would come as a result.  They had truly “forsaken the LORD [their] God” and it was indeed “evil & bitter!
  • Apostasy isn’t apathy; it’s evil.  It’s sin.  To abandon the “fear” of the Lord is to abandon the worship of God, and thus to abandon relationship with the “Lord GOD of hosts.”  The very God that could fight on their behalf would actually come against them in battle & judgment.  This is how serious it was & why God sent Jeremiah to warn them.
    • Warning of imminent judgment is ultimately an act of love.

20 “For of old I have broken your yoke and burst your bonds; And you said, ‘I will not transgress,’ When on every high hill and under every green tree You lay down, playing the harlot. 21 Yet I had planted you a noble vine, a seed of highest quality. How then have you turned before Me Into the degenerate plant of an alien vine? 22 For though you wash yourself with lye, and use much soap, Yet your iniquity is marked before Me,” says the Lord GOD.

  • Recounting their covenant history, God had freed Israel, and they had promised to serve God.  Numerous times, the nation had been warned what would come from abandoning their covenant, and every time the nation affirmed that they wanted God to be their God.  Even after the time in the wilderness, Joshua led the people into the land, and they fought years of the conquest moving into all that God had for them.  As they were reaffirming the covenant, Joshua specifically told the people that they were not able to serve the Lord.  Joshua 24:19–21, "(19) But Joshua said to the people, “You cannot serve the LORD, for He is a holy God. He is a jealous God; He will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins. (20) If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, then He will turn and do you harm and consume you, after He has done you good.” (21) And the people said to Joshua, “No, but we will serve the LORD!”" []  They bore witness against themselves that this is what they said they would do – and now what?  They prostituted themselves out to foreign gods, exactly as Joshua had said.  They promised to serve God, and they lied.  How they had fallen!  They had been planted by God, and now they were virtually unrecognizable, joined to something else entirely – an “alien vine.
  • The worst part?  They couldn’t cleanse themselves if they wanted to.  Sadly, they didn’t want to.  They wanted to proclaim their innocence, but they didn’t actually want to serve the Lord.  But even if they had, they wouldn’t be able to clean themselves up again.  It didn’t matter how “much soap” they used, or how many sacrifices they made.  Their hearts were far from God, and they were truly tainted by their sin & “iniquity.
    • They could not cleanse themselves, but God could.  If they but turned in true repentance, God could change them from the inside-out.  Through the earlier prophet Isaiah, God pleaded with Israel to come reason with Him, saying though their sins were as scarlet, God would make them white as snow (Isa 1:18).
    • This is the promise we have in Christ Jesus!  We cannot cleanse ourselves, no matter how badly we might desire.  There’s no amount of soap we can use to wash off the dirt of our guilt.  How do we clean our heart?  How do we scrub our mind?  How can we erase the past of all the evil we have done?  Especially in the areas that we knew we were sinning against God – we just rebelled against Him and ran the other way…how can we truly be cleansed of that?  That’s the glorious promise of Jesus Christ!  That is the extent of His love for us, that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins & cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 Jn 1:9).  Do you want to be clean?  You cannot do it yourself; you must go through Jesus – but that is exactly what He desires for you to do!
  • What God does NOT desire is for us to lie about our own condition…

23 “How can you say, ‘I am not polluted, I have not gone after the Baals’? See your way in the valley; Know what you have done: You are a swift dromedary breaking loose in her ways, 24 A wild donkey used to the wilderness, That sniffs at the wind in her desire; In her time of mating, who can turn her away? All those who seek her will not weary themselves; In her month they will find her.

  • Israel refused to acknowledge how sinful she was.  After all the nation had done, they still attempted to proclaim their own innocence.  As if their idolatry was somehow hidden from the sight of the All-Seeing God!  How could they claim, “I am not polluted”?  Of course they were polluted!  The relatively good kings of Judah were constantly pulling down the high places & other pagan items of false worship.  It was as if the nation were in a perpetual renovation project – construction was always going up & down regarding idolatry.  The people could hardly restrain themselves in their idolatry.
  • God actually uses quite the grotesque illustration in describing them.  How bad was the idolatry of Israel?  They acted like animals in heat.  They were uncontrolled & undignified in their lusting after false gods.  They prostituted themselves out to every possibility of a false god, like sexual perverts refusing to be restrained. 

25 Withhold your foot from being unshod, and your throat from thirst. But you said, ‘There is no hope. No! For I have loved aliens, and after them I will go.’

  • They specifically chose the “alien” gods.  It wasn’t as if they didn’t know what they were doing; they knew exactly.  Their acknowledgement in vs. 25 made their lie of vs. 23 plain.  Of course they went after the Baals – they were fervent their lust for them.
  • It’s described in almost addictive terms, and that’s a fairly good description of sin.  People get a taste of sin, and then we desire more & more.  We say we are in control, when in reality it controls us.  Soon people find themselves given completely over to it – enslaved to its lusts.  That’s not what God desires for anyone, much less the people who are called by His name!  God does not want us enslaved to anyone; He wants us to free to live as the people He has created us to be.  That’s only possible when we admit the sinfulness of our sin & throw ourselves upon the mercies of Jesus.  As long as we are blinded to our sin & proclaim our own innocence, we’ll never experience the true freedom that only Jesus can give.

26 “As the thief is ashamed when he is found out, So is the house of Israel ashamed; They and their kings and their princes, and their priests and their prophets, 27 Saying to a tree, ‘You are my father,’ And to a stone, ‘You gave birth to me.’ For they have turned their back to Me, and not their face. But in the time of their trouble They will say, ‘Arise and save us.’ 28 But where are your gods that you have made for yourselves? Let them arise, If they can save you in the time of your trouble; For according to the number of your cities Are your gods, O Judah.

  • For Judah, it was too late at the time.  It’s not that God did not desire their repentance; He did!  It’s not that God would not extend to them His mercies; He would!  It’s that they had gone too far in their unrestrained idolatrous lusts, and God was giving the nation over to them.  They had worshipped dead things, and pretended that they were alive, so now God says that they could ask those dead things to deliver them from the trouble to come.  He would not abide by foxhole faith [that which is temporary & easily forsaken].  They might be “ashamed” and pretend to turn to God in faith, but God new the truth of their hearts.  He knew they weren’t truly turning to Him, and thus He would not rise up on their behalf.

29 “Why will you plead with Me? You all have transgressed against Me,” says the LORD. 30 “In vain I have chastened your children; They received no correction. Your sword has devoured your prophets Like a destroying lion.

  • Why would they plead their innocence?  Did they think God would not know?  They had not received correction in the past, and so God would not turn aside His anger now.  They would experience the consequences of their own actions, because that is seemingly the only thing that they would listen to.
  • No parent likes getting to this stage with his/her own children, and no doubt God doesn’t like getting there with us.  Yet He will do it.  If we need to be turned over to our own devices to experience what our sin brings, then that is exactly what God will do.  Yet there simply is no reason for us to go there.  If we repent in truth, God will receive us!
  • Israel is not innocent (vss. 31-37)

31 “O generation, see the word of the LORD! Have I been a wilderness to Israel, Or a land of darkness? Why do My people say, ‘We are lords; We will come no more to You’?

  • Harkening back to vs. 5, God asks a similar question: had He done any wrong?  Had He given Israel a reason to seek other gods?  Had He been remote or barren?  Absolutely not!  God had given them His presence on a daily basis in the wilderness.  God had given them His provision on a daily basis in the wilderness.  God had granted deliverance time & time again during the days of the judges.  God had granted them mercy after mercy during the days of the kings.  And it’s not as if God had not spoken to His people.  They had been given histories, and psalms, and prophecies – all kinds of words from the Living God.  Had He been a wilderness?  Perish the thought!  God could not have been more accessible to Israel if He had tried!
  • How many ways has God reached out to us through Jesus Christ?  How many times did you hear the gospel before you were finally saved?  And once saved, how often did you have to ignore the prompting of the Holy Spirit to engage in sin?  We virtually have to climb over God to get after our temptations & lusts!  And sadly, we do it readily.  He has given us no reason to sin, but He has given us every reason to repent – and thankfully, every opportunity to do so.

32 Can a virgin forget her ornaments, Or a bride her attire? Yet My people have forgotten Me days without number. 33 “Why do you beautify your way to seek love? Therefore you have also taught The wicked women your ways.

  • Can you imagine a woman showing up to her wedding having forgotten to put on her gown?  There may be a lot of details that get forgotten on a wedding day, but how the bride is dressed is not one of them!  Yet that’s what Israel did to God.  She had forgotten to beautify herself for her groom – and more than that, she forgot her groom entirely.  She was betrothed to a husband (vs. 2), but neglected the wedding entirely.
  • So evil was Israel towards God that she could virtually serve as an instructor to the “wicked.”  Gentile nations could learn from Israel how best (worst) to sin against the Lord.  None could hurt God as much as His own people, just like none could hurt us like our own family.

34 Also on your skirts is found The blood of the lives of the poor innocents. I have not found it by secret search, But plainly on all these things. 35 Yet you say, ‘Because I am innocent, Surely His anger shall turn from me.’ Behold, I will plead My case against you, Because you say, ‘I have not sinned.’

  • The evidence of Israel’s sin was obvious, despite their protests.  They pleaded innocence, but they knew their own guilt.  Like the murderer who has blood dripping from his hands as he claims nothing happened, so was Israel with the God regarding her idolatry & sin.  The case against Israel was open & shut, and there was no ritual they could do to change it.

36 Why do you gad about so much to change your way? Also you shall be ashamed of Egypt as you were ashamed of Assyria. 37 Indeed you will go forth from him With your hands on your head; For the LORD has rejected your trusted allies, And you will not prosper by them.

  • Israel did not seek the Lord, but they did seek the gods of Egypt & Assyria.  They looked to other nations to deliver them, yet God said they would only find defeat.  At this point, it wouldn’t matter what schemes Israel devised, the judgment of God was certain.  They would not “prosper.

Conclusion:
It was a harsh word for a harsh people – and God isn’t even done yet!  Israel had sinned against God in the most heinous of ways, lustfully going after every idol & forsaking the true God who had always shown Himself strong on their behalf.  They were an apostate nation, and they were about to pay a terribly steep price.

One would think that the reality of this would sink in, that they would admit their sin & truly plead in repentance for the mercies of God.  But they didn’t.  And because they didn’t, God would give them over to the consequences of their sin.

This isn’t exactly the feel-good health-and-prosperity message, is it? J  Yet it’s the word of God.

Sin has consequences, and apostasy kills.  Of all the nations of the earth, Israel ought to have known better than to abandon the God of their covenant.  And of all the peoples of the earth, Christians ought to know better than to abandon the God of our salvation.  We dare not turn aside from Jesus!  Scripture warns us of a great falling away – a time when those who would seem to call themselves by the name of Christ abandon everything that Jesus has taught.  We need to be warned.  We need to be firm and grounded in the word of God.  We need to hold fast to the faith, unwavering.  We know better.

Beyond falling away from the faith in general, we need to stand firm in temptation.  Again, we ought to know better!  We cannot proclaim our own innocence, nor can we afford to think we can cleanse ourselves from our sin.  Without the power of Jesus Christ, we are just as helpless today as we were the day before we were saved.  We are dependent upon His grace and power EVERY day to be cleansed from sin & to walk in faithfulness and grace.  God keep us from looking back on the “good old days” when we had a strong walk with Christ – but may every day help us abide in Jesus, walking steadfastly with Him in the power of the Holy Spirit!

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