Summary: We have left a God-shape hole in our lives and try to fill it with other things.
In this passage the LORD yet again makes His complaint against the whole house of Israel (Jeremiah 2:4). As we read it, we begin to realise that this is also His indictment against the whole of mankind, and against the visible Church in particular.
“What iniquity have your fathers found in Me?” complains the LORD (Jeremiah 2:5). What iniquity had Adam found in the LORD when he first defied Him in the garden? Mankind has since gone far from Him. We chase after vanity (Ecclesiastes 1:2). In doing so we have become vain. Vanity makes us vain: ‘As a man thinks in his heart, so is he’ (Proverbs 23:7; cf. Romans 1:21).
Not only has man forgotten God the Creator, but even the visible Church has forgotten God the Redeemer (Jeremiah 2:6). Israel was in slavery in Egypt when God “brought them out.” Mankind was in bondage to sin and death when God ‘sent His only begotten Son’ (John 3:16).
‘It was while we were yet sinners that Christ died for us’ (Romans 5:8). We crucified Him, but death could not hold Him: yet still we reject Him and His salvation. We would rather wallow in the hog-pen than return to God by the Way which He has opened up to us (John 14:6; Acts 4:12).
Not only did God bring them out of slavery, but He led them through the wilderness (Jeremiah 2:6). They rebelled against Him there for a full forty years, but our Suzerain never forgot His covenant. Then He brought them into a “plenteous land, to eat the fruit thereof” (Jeremiah 2:7), but they defiled it, and refused His Word.
Some of us have been brought up in the shadow of gospel privilege. We have been given a ‘plenteous redemption’ (Psalm 130:7), but when we do not ‘desire the sincere milk of the word’ (1 Peter 2:2-3) it stagnates, and we stunt our growth.
Not only do people not say, “Where is the LORD?” (Jeremiah 2:6), but their leaders likewise. Jeremiah 2:8 presents us with priests who do not truly pray. Professors who have the audacity to handle the word of God but do not know Him. Supposed leaders in both Church and State, Pastors and princes, who transgress against Him. Prophets who prophecy by man-made philosophy and walk after things “that do not profit” (the pun on the word “prophet” is not in the original Hebrew, but it works in English).
“Wherefore I will yet plead with you,” continues the LORD (Jeremiah 2:9). In other words, because of all this I will bring My case against you. The ‘pleading’ is a legal term and is perfectly reasonable: Search high and low in the known world, He says, and will you find a nation which has changed its ‘gods’ (which are not gods at all)? “Yet My people have changed their Glory for that which does not profit” (Jeremiah 2:10-11).
“Be astonished, O heavens, at this, and be horribly afraid,” says the LORD (Jeremiah 2:12). Stand aghast! This is a horrible thing!
“For My people have committed two evils,” explains the LORD (Jeremiah 2:13). Not only have they forsaken “the Fountain of Living Waters”, but they have also sought to replace Him with something of their own making.
In a land of drought, with drought intensified by the oppression of Babylon, this is an apt picture of what was happening. In the physical realm, would man-made cisterns hold out against a siege? Would man-made religion hold out in the face of the spiritual crisis which Israel had brought upon themselves?
Well, this is not just about Israel, but about mankind in general. We have forsaken the true and living God, again and again and again. We have left a God-shape hole in our lives and try to fill it with other things. Whether philosophies or religions, riches or relationships, they are all things of our own devising: we hew them out and it is we who have to maintain them.
However, man-made cisterns so easily break! In the aridity of our spiritual vacuum, they crack, they break, they cannot give the return they promise. Happiness; Peace; Contentment - they all run away. Nothing is permanent, nothing endures.
This is an astonishing statement when we consider Who God is, when we consider That God is! “Me,” says the great ‘I AM’: “The Fountain of Living Waters” (Jeremiah 2:13).
‘How shall WE escape if we neglect so great salvation?’ (Hebrews 2:2-4).