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Aug 13 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

Jeremiah chapter 2 – 08/13/2023



Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Welcome to the RefleXion Community.  The Lord is with you!

There are so many examples in the Bible of men and women hearing the Lord’s voice.  For example, Jeremiah says, “The word of the Lord came to me.”  I’ve long been intrigued not only by God speaking to humans, but by our ability to hear and respond to Him.  Really, how marvelous is that.  But how?  Is there an organ in our bodies, a certain radio wave?  I’m sure many of us can say that we’ve had a word from the Lord; where did we sense it?  A thought or insight, our gut, chills, a strong emotion?  I’ve been reading a book on Contemplative Prayer by Hans Urs von Balthasar, who was, by the way, a Swiss 20th century theologian and priest.  He asks, “How can we hear God’s word?  We can because we are in the word.” 

John 1:1 states:  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. In the beginning: Genesis 1:26 reads.  Let us make man in our image after our likeness. Von Balthasar says, “God’s word is himself, his most vital, his innermost self:  his only-begotten Son, of the same nature of himself.  The word need not be apprehended as something alien, something ‘other’:  it can be understood to be what is most our own.  The word of God addressed to us always presupposes a word of God within us, insofar as we have been created in the word and cannot be detached from this context.”

I think this is a marvelous concept and worth pondering. Is every cell in our body designed to hear and respond to the word.  If we are created by the Word and made in His image, then the word is planted deeply in us and indeed is in every cell in our body.  Our various senses would then receive and respond to the word.  When we hear the word, it is our natural instinct to listen, to find a resonance, and then to resound it to the world. This is the way we are made. That’s what I’m thinking about, and you may want to ponder it.  We live by every word that comes from the mouth of God.  Let His word dwell in us richly and be empowered in us by the Holy Spirit .  Can we agree to that in prayer?Lord God, we offer you our mental faculties, that we might have agreement with your ways,  our hearts that they may be awakened to You, and indeed the whole of our physical bodies to become aware and attuned by all our senses to your word to us.  As you have said “Let it be” in our creation, let our response be “Let it be to me according to Your word.”  We ask for you to enliven the word planted in us this morning.  Amen

Morning Talk: chuck smith, jr.

The word of the LORD came to me saying, “Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem, Thus says the LORD,
I remember the devotion of your youth,
your love as a bride,
how you followed me in the wilderness,
in a land not sown.
Israel was holy to the LORD,
the firstfruits of his harvest.
All who ate of it incurred guilt;
disaster came upon them,
declares the LORD.”
Jeremiah 2:1-3

Intro: I always been enchanted with the way this chapter opens

If you look at the text, God’s speech is arranged in a poetic format
– Hebrew poems do not look or sound like English poems
• Hebrew poetry has a different structure and rules
◦ in chapter 1, Jeremiah had expressed his thoughts in prose (the ordinary written form of essays, etc.)
◦ but God’s messages were laid out in poems
(God’s speech is always in greater than the words he uses)
• poetry gives language greater force
◦ it’s primary objective is to communicate experience (rather than bare information)
– this chapter begins with God grieving a failed relationship
• there is more than a hint of emotion here: “I remember”
◦ it’s as if God is brooding over a cherished memory
◦ back when he rescued Israel from Egypt, he was their hero
• Yahweh remembers her youthful devotion and “bridal love”
◦ they followed him into the desert with reckless abandon
◦ they lived in the aura of his holiness
he took care of her – protected and provided for her

Unfortunately, this lovely song lasts no more than a couple of verses
– the reminiscence ends abruptly and shifts from past to present
• v. 4 – the romance died a long time ago
◦ Israel broke their marriage covenant with Yahweh,
◦ and were no longer God’s devoted bride
– we’re going to stay with this story in Jeremiah,
• but I want to comment on what we have witnessed so far
◦ close relationships require maintenance
◦ and the closer the relationship, more maintenance is required
• the fire of romance needs fuel, the life of love needs nourishment
◦ this is as true for our love of God as for family and friends
◦ as Jesus said to the church in Ephesus,
I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at the first (Rev. 2:4)

Israel allowed their love to die by what they did not say
What wrong did you fathers find in me
that they went far from me,
and went after worthlessness, and became worthless?

They did not say, ‘Where is the LORD
who brought us up from the land of Egypt,
who led us in the wilderness,
in a land of deserts and pits,
in a land of drought and deep darkness,
in a land that none passes through,
where no man dwells?’
And I brought yo into a plentiful land
to enjoy its fruits and its good things.
But when you came in, you defiled my land
and made my heritage an abomination.
The priests did not say, ‘Where is the LORD?
Those who handle the law did not know me;
the shepherds transgressed against me;
the prophets prophesied by Baal
and went after things that do not profit
Jeremiah 2:5-8

Love and romance don’t end when people argue
– but when they stop talking to each other, it’s over
• “How was your day?” “How did the interview go?”
◦ personal questions demonstrate interest and concern
• the people stopped asking about God because they stopped caring
– in this instance, the question, “Where is the LORD?” is not negative
• it is not like asking, “Where is God when you need him?”
◦ here it is the ongoing question of faith
◦ where is God at work now? Where is he revealing himself?
• it’s the question we ask when we are still seeking God and his will
Seek the LORD and his strength;
seek his presence continually!
(Psa. 105:4)
◦ they were neglecting God and their relationship with him
◦ so further down, Yahweh will ask,
Can a virgin forget her ornaments,
or a bride her attire?
Yet my people have forgotten me
days without number (v. 32)

Israel broke their relationship with God by what they did

God presents his accusation as a scandal – something unheard of
For cross to the coasts of Cyprus and see,
or send to Kedar and examine with care;
see if there has been such a thing.
Has a nation changed its gods,
even though they are no gods?
But my people have changed their glory
for that which does not profit.
Be appalled, O heavens, at this;
be shocked, be utterly desolate,
declares the LORD,
for my people have committed two evils;
they have forsaken me,
the fountain of living waters,
and hewed out cisterns for themselves,
broken cisterns that can hold no water
Jeremiah 2:10-13
– nations did not abandon their gods
• ancient civilizations are remembered for their gods,
◦ as much as for their language, art, poetry, and myths
◦ their deities were embedded in their culture and minds
• about the time of Moses, a Pharaoh turned Egypt to just one god
◦ but that innovation did not survive his death
– this defection from Yahweh was especially appalling,
• because Israel replaced him with
gods that are no gods and that which does not profit
• God uses a striking analogy to illustrate this poor deal they had made
◦ a cistern is a cave dug underground to collect rain water
◦ it is not a source of fresh water, but a reservoir
◦ if it has any crack or fissure, water drains out, and the cistern becomes useless
• for Israel, Yahweh was the fountain of living waters

Israel abused their relationship with God by what they did say

The first to verses I’ll quote are found in one passage
– but the passage itself deserve attention
How can you say, ‘I am not unclean,
I have not gone after the Baals’?
Look at your way in the valley;
know what you have done —
a restless young camel running here and there,
a wild donkey used to the wilderness,
in her heat sniffing the wind!
Who can restrain her lust?
None who seek her need weary themselves;
in her month they will find her.
Keep your feet from going unshod
and your throat from thirst.
But you said, ‘It is hopeless,
for I have loved foreigners,
and after them I will go
Jeremiah 2:23-25

This analogy is graphic and moving
Robert Alter, “The female wild [donkey] in heat sniffs for the scent of the male.”
– Israel’s lust for other gods is depicted as an animalistic drive
• God, trying to warn them, to protect them, calls to them,
“Don’t go running off barefoot, calling for those foreign gods until your throat is dry and hoarse.”
• I think their reply is the saddest sentence in the Bible
But you said, “It is hopeless,
for I have loved foreigners,
and after them I will go.”
◦ they know they are wearing themselves out,
◦ they know their desperation is harming them,
but they can’t control themselves–they can’t stop
– do you recognize what this is? Our modern term is “addiction”
• the Bible uses the word “slavery”
◦ it is what Paul was addressing in Galatians 4:8,
Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods.
◦ you can be sure of this: addiction destroys relationships
• James Finley is a clinical psychologist,
◦ whose training included AA meetings in a Veterans Assistance hospital
Finley, “The patients in this treatment center had devised an initiation rite [that was] part of the process a person had to go through to be admitted to the unit.”
◦ the newbie is ushered into large room where fifty men sit around perimeter, heads down and silent
◦ two chairs are placed in the center about four feet apart–the newbie is seated in one of them
◦ the member in charge sits in other and asks the newbie, “What do you love the most?”
Finley, “The newcomer . . . would often blurt out something like ‘My wife.’ At which point the silence of the room would be abruptly shattered by all the men lining the four walls loudly yelling in unison, ‘Bullshit!’”
◦ they would then look down again and go perfectly silent
◦ the newbie may say next, “My children,” and the group would react with the same shout
◦ this was repeated until the newbie would answer, “Alcohol”
Finley, “. . . everyone in the room would break into applause. . . . The members of the unit would line up, single file. In complete silence each would approach the newcomer to hold him for a moment in a sincere embrace, welcoming him into their midst.”
• our addictions do not allow us to love our family more than anything else

– in one of my meditations in Jeremiah, I wrote:
“The attractions of other deities had taken such a strong hold on Israel, that even though running after them had reduced them to deprivation and unquenchable thirst, they felt helpless to rein in their passion. This is the worst stage of addiction, when addicts realize their drug is killing them, but their brains and bodies have become so dependent that them they feel helpless against the urge to use.”
Gerald May, “Everyone has addictions. Any ‘bad’ habit which we find ourselves wanting to ‘overcome’ is an addiction. Whether it is to drugs, alcohol, food, tobacco, sex, television, sports, self-importance, power or work, the basic quality is the same. One does something because it makes one feel good now. Later on there may be a price to pay, but now it feels good. And the more we do it, the more desire there is to do it again.”

What was Israel saying that was destroying their rel with God?
Verse 23, “How can you say, ‘I am not unclean’”
and verse 25, “But you said, ‘It is hopeless, for I have loved foreigners.”
– facing our hopelessness is often the first step in recovery
• as long as I tell myself “I can quit any time I want,” I will refuse help
Step 1 in the Alcoholics Anonymous 12 Step program is, “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol — that our lives had become unmanageable”

Other things Israel was saying that had ruined their relationship with God:
who say to a tree, ‘You are my father,’
and to a stone, ‘You gave me birth’” (v. 27)
“Why then do my people say, ‘We are free,
we will come no more to you’?” (v. 31)
you say, ‘I am innocent;
surely his anger has turned from me.’” (v. 35)
– these sayings reveal Israel’s illusions, their dubious liberation from God, and their rationalizations
• and this cost them the best love they had ever known

Conclusion: Thursday I got up early to have blood drawn

Afterward, I decided to walk on the beach – the morning was perfect artistry
A seagull scavenging in the sand caught my eye
I wanted it to be tame, to welcome to me
I was longing for contact with another living creature in God’s world of nature
I desired a St. Francis experience
That wasn’t going to happen and I realized I was the problem
The seagull could only be what it was created to be,
and do only what it was supposed to do
I, on the other hand, was the creature who has a will and who can resist God
I am responsible for whatever alienation I feel in my world

So here is the test I’m recommending:
Let’s ask whether or not we are holding up our side of our relationship with God
We are we not saying that we need to say?
What are we doing what we should not or not doing what we should?
And am I saying that I should not?

And do you know what?
Your success will not be the result of how well you do,
but will come from God working his grace into you body, mind, soul, and spirit
That’s the benefit of being in covenant with God
That’s the miracle

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