Where Was the Breakdown?
Jeremiah 2:1 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 “Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem: “‘I remember the devotion of your youth, how as a bride you loved me and followed me through the desert, through a land not sown. 3 Israel was holy to the Lord, the firstfruits of his harvest; all who devoured her were held guilty, and disaster overtook them,'” declares the Lord. 4 Hear the word of the Lord, O house of Jacob, all you clans of the house of Israel.
5 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. 6 They did not ask, ‘Where is the Lord, who brought us up out of Egypt and led us through the barren wilderness, through a land of deserts and rifts, a land of drought and darkness, a land where no one travels and no one lives?’ 7 I brought you into a fertile land to eat its fruit and rich produce. But you came and defiled my land and made my inheritance detestable. 8 The priests did not ask, ‘Where is the Lord?’ Those who deal with the law did not know me; the leaders rebelled against me. The prophets prophesied by Baal, following worthless idols. 9 “Therefore I bring charges against you again,” declares the Lord. “And I will bring charges against your children’s children. 10 Cross over to the coasts of Kittim and look, send to Kedar and observe closely; see if there has ever been anything like this: 11 Has a nation ever changed its gods? (Yet they are not gods at all.) But my people have exchanged their Glory for worthless idols. 12 Be appalled at this, O heavens, and shudder with great horror,” declares the Lord. 13 “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. 14 Is Israel a servant, a slave by birth? Why then has he become plunder?
17 Have you not brought this on yourselves by forsaking the Lord your God when he led you in the way?
19 Your wickedness will punish you; your backsliding will rebuke you. Consider then and realize how evil and bitter it is for you when you forsake the Lord your God and have no awe of me,” declares the Lord, the Lord Almighty. 20 “Long ago you broke off your yoke and tore off your bonds; you said, ‘I will not serve you!’ Indeed, on every high hill and under every spreading tree you lay down as a prostitute. 21 I had planted you like a choice vine of sound and reliable stock. How then did you turn against me into a corrupt, wild vine?
32 Does a maiden forget her jewelry, a bride her wedding ornaments? Yet my people have forgotten me, days without number.
34bYet in spite of all this 35 you say, ‘I am innocent; he is not angry with me.’ But I will pass judgment on you because you say, ‘I have not sinned.’
God’s people were in a heap of trouble. God didn’t hold back, mince words or try to make anything look pretty. In a sense, God was filing for divorce, and He had plenty of reasons for doing so. Verse 13 sums it all up. “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.
Let’s walk through this passage and see in what ways the Israelites had forsaken God Verses one through three talk about a “honeymoon” of sorts between God and His people. It is like God was looking at a picture album of when they first covenanted to be together. He remembers how good it was. There was devotion. There was passion. Israel was willing to follow God anywhere, even on a long walk through the desert. It didn’t matter where they were, so long as they were with God.
God was incredibly passionate about His bride. He said about them in verse 3 that they were holy to Him. They were the firstfruits of His harvest among the nations of the world. God had taken Israel to love and to cherish. Calling Israel “holy” showed He treated her with honor and respect. Israel was God’s best and most valuable possession, the apple of His eye.
God protected His bride. No one else could taste His fruit. Look at verse 3b “All who devoured her were held guilty, and disaster overtook them.” God took it personally when nations came after Israel. It was like He said, “You come after my bride and you are coming after Me!” If anyone threatened Israel or encroached on her territory, God treated it as an attack on his own person. Remember what happened to the Egyptians? Or the Philistines? God saved His “wife” and kept her safe.
God provided in abundance for His bride. He spoke of a fertile land with great food. What happened? Why did things change? Where was the breakdown?
God wants you to know this morning that: Your Devotion Determines Your Destiny
God was remembering how devoted they used to be. They were no longer committed. No longer in love. No longer pursuing God and His presence in a passionate way.
Oh, they didn’t wake up one day and say, “I’m going to be unfaithful to the Lord today.” They didn’t decide all of the sudden that they didn’t want to keep the covenant or that they wanted out of the relationship. They just quit making it a priority to pursue God. Verses 6 and 8 are telling. They quit asking God to show up. They quit asking God to meet with them. They quit seeking the presence of God. And when they did, they forgot about God. Look at verse 32. Does a maiden forget her jewelry, a bride her wedding ornaments? Yet my people have forgotten me, days without number. God was saying, “Here we are. We’re married, and I haven’t seen you for days. I haven’t heard from you for weeks and months.” You know that would never fly in an earthly relationship. Two people who are madly in love get married and then one spouse just checks out for weeks and months at a time? It’s ridiculous, right? How could you defend yourself and say you truly loved your spouse if you did that?
Listen closely. Satan doesn’t have to tempt you, trip you, try you or mess with you in order to create chaos in your life. If he can just distract you long enough to get you to take your eyes off of Jesus and get you busy enough doing even good, wholesome things, in time his job will be done because you will have lost your devotion to God. Once that happens, it’s a downhill slope. If you will look away, you will eventually turn away. It’s downhill from there because once you lose your desire for the things of God, that appetite is quickly replaced by an appetite for the things of the world which will leave you empty, broken, disillusioned, frustrated, and with pain and regret. That’s what God calls BCS or the “Broken Cistern Syndrome.”
I hear people say “I just got out of the habit of reading my Bible.” “I just got out of the habit of going to church.” “I just got out of the habit of praying.” That’s the problem. Knowing Jesus can’t just be a habit or a hobby. It has to be your life. Knowing God can’t be one of many of your life pursuits. It must be your one and only pursuit and as you pursue knowing Him you’ll get to enjoy everything He has for you including relationships, career options, experiences, and material possessions.
Being in a love relationship requires effort, focus, dedication, and intention. You will not grow close to God just because you want to. You have to want to and work at your “want to” every day. Just like two people can grow apart even though they are living in the same house, you can come to this house faithfully and still not really know God. Growing close to earthly people is the same as growing close to God. You have to spend time talking and investing in one another. We often pray with our kids, “Help us, Lord, know you more tomorrow than we did today.” That is the pursuit.
As A.W. Tozer put it, “David’s life was a torrent of spiritual desire.” Listen to the King James Version of Psalm 63:8 1 O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; 2 To see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary. 3 Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee. 4 Thus will I bless thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in thy name. 5 My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips: 6 When I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches. 7 Because thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice. 8 My soul followeth hard after thee.”
Did you hear it? I’m following hard after You, God. I want You, God. I’m going to be relentless in my pursuit of You, God. I can’t get you out of my mind, God. You’re who I want to talk about. You’re the only One who can fill the deepest part of me. I’ll never be satisfied without You. You’re the first person I want to talk to in the morning and the last person I want to think about at night.
In the Message translation, the Apostle Paul, in love and devotion said, “10 I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally, experience his resurrection power, be a partner in his suffering, and go all the way with him to death itself. 11 If there was any way to get in on the resurrection from the dead, I wanted to do it. (Philippians 3:10-11)
I want You, God. Nothing says, “I want to be with you” more than a person’s gaze. I remember days upon days when Thom and I were dating and we would look longingly into each other’s eyes. TMI, Pastor. TMI. Well, it’s true. We were just caught up in gazing at each other.
A.W. Tozer talks about the “Gaze of the soul.” It’s so important if we are going to be devoted to God that our eyes are on Him all of the time.
Hebrews 12:2 “Let us FIX our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” Jesus is writing the script for the development of your character through your faith. Look to Him for the plot. Look to Him for the twists and turns. He knows where the climax and resolution are for each chapter of your life. Gaze upon Him!
In John 1:29, John the Baptist declared, “The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Behold! And never quit beholding Him! You may be a believer, but are you a beholder?
Psalm 123:1 “I lift up my eyes to you, to you whose throne is in heaven.” Psalm 121:1-2 “I lift up my eyes to the hills— where does my help come from? 2 My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”
Why should I behold Him? Why should I focus on seeing Him? He takes away my sin. He lifts me out of my shame. He redeems my life from the pit. He calls me beloved. He tells me I am special. He says I am worth dying for. He satisfies my life with good things. His Spirit indwells my life. His power saturates my circumstances. His peace guards my heart and mind. His presence goes before me. He is always praying for me. Where He leads I can follow. He prepares a table before me in the presence of my enemies. He causes me to triumph in all situations. He restores my soul. He guides me in the path of righteousness. He is my “go to” God when I am in trouble. He sits in heaven above all principalities, powers, and pains. He supplies all of my needs. He gives my life meaning and purpose. Who else would I want to look at? Who else would I want to be with? How devoted is your gaze? How committed are you to looking to Jesus for all of the pieces of your life?
Psalm 27:4 “One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.”
The Psalmist didn’t say, “I want to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD from ages 5-15, and then I want to do my own thing from 15-25. He didn’t say, “I want to wait to gaze upon the LORD until I become an adult, when I get married or when I have children.” He didn’t say, “I will gaze upon the LORD when my children are grown.” He didn’t say, “I’ll develop a closeness to God when I retire.” He didn’t say, “I’ll gaze upon the LORD on Sunday.” No, he knew that his best chance to live his best life would be the result of seeking God EVERY DAY OF HIS LIFE.
We have an obedience problem because we have a devotion problem. We have a sin problem because we have a devotion problem. We have a commitment problem because we have a devotion problem. It’s time to get all in. It’s time to say “I Do” again. It’s time to pursue the love relationship with God with white-hot passion on purpose by focusing our gaze solely upon Him. “Let me see Jesus only. Only He can satisfy!”
Israel’s problem was that their lack of devotion led to “a wandering eye.” As their devotion waned, their ability to be a “one-God” nation waned. A Wandering Eye Will Lead to a Wandering Heart. They started worshiping false idols. What a slap in God’s face. What betrayal. God compares their actions to prostitution. As soon as they obtained the Promised Land, they forgot about the God of Promise. There was no loyalty to their love, only lip service.
Very likely, Jeremiah was referring to Baal worship in this passage. It included ritual prostitution. Details aren’t even appropriate for our audience this morning. That’s how sick and twisted the erotic practices were. Worship services were the free for all practicing of sexual perversion of every kind. This was a deal breaker. This was scandalous. To go from being holy, set apart, special, protected and provided for to what they had become was almost unthinkable.
And they had given their heart to what? Verse 5 says they gave themselves to worthless idols and became what? Worthless themselves. How tragic. From priceless and precious to worthless and a waste. Their false gods couldn’t do anything for them. They couldn’t provide for them or protect them. They couldn’t give them value or worth. God wasn’t going to allow Israel to play both sides of the fence. He said, “When you are in trouble, you’re on your own. Let’s see what your false gods can do for you then.” (2:28a) They learned pretty quickly that their false gods could do nothing for them.
Idols are broken cisterns. They can’t supply what you need. Whatever you elevate in the driver’s seat of your life, if it isn’t God Almighty, it’s a broken cistern. Whatever has your heart, your affection, your passions, your thought life . . . whether work or relationships or material possessions, approval from others, or drugs, pornography, alcohol . . . whatever you are looking to for comfort, peace, or prosperity—if it isn’t God Almighty, it is an idol and a broken cistern. It will leave you thirsty, weak, and unprotected.
Well, after they had given their heart to something other than Almighty God, fear took over. What happens when you give your heart to something other than God, you open the way for fear to run your life. When your heart is fixed on God, your faith will determine your destiny. Once your heart is off course, it will be your fear that dictates your destiny. You see once Judah forsook God for false gods, their protection, their covering, their victory, their security was gone. And what did they do? They started going to other nations to try to forge treaties that would guarantee their safety. They went from Egypt to Assyria to try to form alliances to protect them.
Listen to me. No alliance can protect you from your own sin. Only God can. Alliances with anything other than God won’t be able to protect you, but they will enslave you! That is the nature of sin. Verses 14-19 of our text detail how instead of trusting God and by allying with its pagan neighbors, Judah, (part of the national of Israel) had become a vassal state and was being plundered and enslaved. Instead of drinking from the streams of the pure river that the Lord had given them, the Judahites were forced to drink the polluted waters of the Nile and Euphrates.
Oh, they never woke up and thought, “You know what sounds good? A tall, cold glass of dirty water. Yeah, that will quench my thirst. Bring on a big glass of water with lots of dirty floaters!” J But that’s what happens when your devotion wanes, when your eye wanders, when your heart is compromised and when fear dictates your destiny. You’ll drink anything just hoping it will be good enough to quench your thirst for a minute.
But it doesn’t quench your thirst. Jeremiah’s words are true in verses 36 and 37. He says, “You will be disappointed by Egypt as you were by Assyria. You will also leave that place with your hands on your head, for the Lord has rejected those you trust; You will not be helped by them.”
These prophecies came true, as Israel was later to lament: “I called to my allies but they betrayed me” (Lamentations 1:19a). Their political alliances were broken cisterns. The water wasn’t only yucky, but it left a bitter taste in their mouths. See Jeremiah 2:19.
Israel got to the point where they just flat out told God, “We aren’t going to serve you.” (verse 20) Do you see the hard-hearted attitude that replaced a once passionate and loving one? They weren’t even trying to keep up an appearance of obedience. They just told God what they were and weren’t going to do. Well, that’s not how the covenant relationship worked. That was another deal breaker.
In addition to that, they were completely delusional. Look at verse 35, “I am innocent; he is not angry with me”. . . “I have not sinned.” This attitude concerns me more and more as a pastor. I see and hear it all of the time. People who cop an attitude with God about their sin. . . They have this “It’s my life. I can do as I please. You can’t make me” kind of mentality going on. And for many Christians, it’s a softer, milder form of the same attitude. “I’m not sinning. I’m not doing anything wrong. What I’m doing isn’t THAT bad. What I’m listening to isn’t THAT bad. What I’m watching isn’t THAT bad. I’m not partying THAT often.” Don’t be delusional. The holiness of God is easily offended. Check yourself lest your spiritual arrogance causes God to want to file for divorce! It is a sign you are in spiritual trouble when you know—deep down you KNOW-you have compromised in an area but you get to the point where you say, “It’s not a big deal.” Yes . . . it is.
It gets worse. Not only had Judah told God off and become delusional about their sin, but they had the audacity to bring charges against God according to verse 29! Somehow their predicament was all His fault. It’s a wonder God didn’t slay them on the spot. What restraint! What amazing grace God displayed in that moment!
Though the marriage seemed beyond recovery, it wasn’t. Just half a chapter later Jeremiah wrote, “‘Return, faithless people,’ declares the Lord, ‘for I am your husband'” (Jeremiah 3:14). “I still love you.” “After all you’ve done, I still want you.” What!? God was saying, “You violated our covenant, but you can come home.” “You didn’t love me back, but you can come home.” “You were unfaithful to me, but I will take you back.” “Come home.” Oh my. Oh my. “What wondrous love is this?”
There is a hint of such restoration later in Jeremiah’s book. The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness. I will build you up again and you will be rebuilt, O Virgin Israel.” (Jeremiah 31:3-4; cf. Jeremiah 31:21)
Where did the breakdown occur? It occurred when Israel quit being thirsty for the things of God. As soon as you quit hungering and thirsting for righteousness, you are in trouble. When church attendance, Bible study, prayer, meditating on God’s truth, and obeying whatever God asks become optional they will become occasional. And when they become occasional, they will become obsolete.
If you can’t say this moment, you are 100% devoted to God in every area of your life, if He isn’t who you are living for, Who you trust in, Who you pray to, Who you are trying to please, it’s time to re-up your commitment to this covenant love relationship. Was there a time in your life when you were more passionate about knowing and following Jesus than you are right now? If so, your devotion has waned. You are headed in a dangerous direction. If you are willing to say, “I do” again to God or if you have never said “I do” and you want to enter into that covenant this morning, come in just a minute to take those vows again. Jesus has Living Water to offer. Why drink from a broken cistern when you can drink His pure, life-giving, satisfying Living Water?