Summary: Even though God is omnipotent, God allows Himself to be hurt. In this sermon, Jeremiah speaks of the irony of substituting the inadequate for the Omnipotent.
Sometimes, even when a pastor is as true to God’s Word as possible and has preached a number of sermons to the text that have elucidated the Truth, God’s Holy Spirit comes back to that same pastor and causes something new to be eliminated, something passed over in previous readings and study. Often, when I have experienced such revelation, the truth that God italicizes for me is something so obvious that I can’t begin to imagine how I missed it before. And such was my encounter with one of my favorite preaching texts as I grappled with what God was teaching me, this week.
Before we look specifically at the text, I want to share a story. There was a certain college student who attending school in a neighboring county would come home to “visit his parents” every weekend. But there was a certain girl living in that place and the college student would come home, drop his bag of dirty laundry in the kitchen, say his perfunctory greetings to his parents, and disappear to spend time with the certain girl. Certainly, the college student said all the right things to his parents about how he loved them and appreciated them, but he unwisely invested all of his time in a girl who would bring him almost nothing but heartbreak and disappointment. Though outward appearances to classmates might have suggested that the college student was “devoted” to his parents, reality suggests that the college student had almost “abandoned” them in his selfish desire to be with this girl.
Such was the horrible thing I did to my parents, a deed that came vividly home to me as I read the words, “BECAUSE my people have done TWO EVILS:  they abandoned ME, a fountain—one of living water  to hew out for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns which are not able to hold water.” You see, I very quickly glossed over the fact of abandoning God, mentioning it briefly as rebellion, and advanced on to speak of God as the fountain of fresh water contrasted with the lime or chalk-tinged stagnant water of a cistern. I was right in what I preached, but I completely missed the incredible significance of that phrase, “They abandoned ME.”
Now, I am perfectly aware of how easy it was for a selfish college student driven by hormones and selfishness to be able to leave his human parents at home, but this week I have been hammered by the immensity of what it means to “abandon,” “forsake,” or “leave alone” the omnipresent God, God who is everywhere. How is that possible? It is ONLY possible if God allows us to leave, allows us to turn our back upon God Himself.
Yes, it is much like the parent playing “Hide and Seek” with a young child that hides herself under the blankets in the middle of mommy’s and daddy’s bed. She thinks she is hidden but the tell-tale lump is always present in the middle of that bed. The loving parent sets aside his or her adult ability to see and sift through the evidence of the child’s presence and allows that child to believe that she is hidden from the parent.
On a more serious scale with more serious consequences, God allows His people to play “Hide and Seek” with their actions. He allows us to delude ourselves into thinking that He can’t see us and that He is unaware of our rebellions and self-destructive behaviors.
But He is only able to do so because He is powerful enough to take the hurt, the pain, and the loneliness of being “abandoned.” How ironic! We who were created for the express purpose of having fellowship with God have a tendency to work incredibly hard at abandoning Him.
If we’re honest with ourselves, it’s as ridiculous to try to abandon God as that wonderful story Christian musician John Fischer told about his experience with the Bluetooth device. He noted that his phone, like my phone, is completely driven by the Bluetooth microphone and earphone whenever that device is turned on. So, the phone itself appears to be dead. You can’t speak in it and you can’t hear anything (except the initial ring tone) unless you use the Bluetooth. Fischer also, like me, said he keeps forgetting where he’s leaving that Bluetooth device and noted that it’s really caused some problems. A phone call would come in while the Bluetooth was activated and, since he couldn’t remember where he had put the Bluetooth, the only way to make the phone work was to get outside the range of the Bluetooth.
One day, he was anticipating an important phone call and his phone rang. He picked it up and couldn’t hear anything because the Bluetooth wasn’t handy. He decided to run down the street to get out of range and be able to use the standard features of the phone, but even a couple of blocks away, he still couldn’t get the phone to work. The Bluetooth was in his pocket and even though he tried to get out of range, it was still with him. Practically, we cannot abandon God. No matter how much we rebel or how far we run, He is with us.