The word of the Lord came to me, saying, “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. Israel was holiness to the Lord, the first-fruits of His increase. All that devour (Israel) will offend; disaster will come upon them,” says the Lord.’”
“Lord, behold I cannot speak, I am but a child”. So spoke Jeremiah on receiving the news that he was to be a prophet (1:6). Like Moses before him, he was aware of his limited communicative abilities, and he certainly didn’t relish the prospect of bringing bad news to his people – the fact that the Babylonians were on their way. Israel had been unfaithful to the laws of the covenant and had forsaken God by worshiping the Baals. The people of Israel had even gone as far as building high altars to Baal in order to burn their children in fire as offerings. However before imparting the bad news, Jeremiah was instructed to remind Jerusalem of Yahweh’s faithful love to her in the past and the fact that she had once been faithful to Him. “I remember you, the kindness (or devotion) of your youth; the love of your betrothal, when you went after Me in the wilderness”. Courtship language again, as with the previous post. The Lord had never considered His chosen people to be morally bankrupt by nature; they were “holiness to the Lord” and “the first-fruits of His increase” (2:3). Their righteousness BECAME as filthy rags when they forsook His ways and prostituted themselves to idols (cf. Is64:6).
The “filthy rags” reference is so frequently taken out of context – God did not require His people to acknowledge their moral ineptitude and trust in His mercy or anticipate a future Saviour fulfilling the Law on their behalf as I once believed. They were simply to continue to do what they had done in the past – be faithful to the requirements of His Law, which as I indicated in an earlier post they were perfectly capable of doing. Reading diligently through the Old Testament one observes that God’s displeasure was aroused by heinous and thoroughly avoidable acts of unfaithfulness by His people, never by the fact that they “fell short of His glory”. Of course they did, He is God and we are not: God is superior to man in every way. Our loving Father knows it and allows for it; that is the nature of Love, as any loving parent or godly potentate well knows.
But Israel was intended to be “the first-fruit of God’s harvest” (2:3); a light to the nations who would come to discern the wisdom of God’s Law, as Moses had earlier indicated:
Look, as Yahweh my God commanded me (Moses), I have taught you laws and customs for you to observe in the country in which you are to take possession. Keep them and put them into practice and other peoples will admire your wisdom and prudence. Once they know what all these laws are, they will exclaim “No other people is as wise and prudent as this great nation (Israel) (Deut4:5,6).
So much for that now that Israel had prostituted herself to Baal. Bring on the weeping prophet.
[Illustration: Jeremiah lamenting the ruins of Jerusalem – Rembrantd van Rijn (1630)]