A Wayward People
After redeeming and rescuing the people of Israel from their bondage in Egypt, God gave them ten simple rules called the Ten Commandments. But now over 700 years later, the people called by the LORD couldn’t even keep the first one: “You shall have no other gods before Me.”
Throughout the book of Jeremiah, the people of Israel and Judah are called the people of God, the Lord’s heritage, and His beloved. So it’s not unreasonable for the God who called them by His name and made them His inheritance and special people to require fidelity and faithfulness in His covenant relationship with Israel and Judah.
He chose them out of all the peoples of the earth to be special and invited them into a covenant relationship with Him. The Lord promised to do great and mighty things in and through them if they would only listen to His voice, obey His commands, and remain faithful unto Him.
In fact, the Lord gave Jeremiah a vivid picture representing His intentions regarding Israel and Judah’s purpose, future, and position.
“For as the loincloth clings to the waist of a man, so I made the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah cling to me, declares the LORD, that they might be for me a people, a name, a praise, and a glory, but they would not listen.”
Cling. In the context of this verse, this verb gives the sense of holding fast even against the pull of gravity; staying in place in the midst of movement, stress, trials, and hardships. It’s a word that conveys desperation, perseverance, faithfulness, and determination.
The Hebrew word used here literally means to “catch by pursuit, abide fast, cleave, follow close, be joined, keep, overtake, and pursue hard.” Similarly, our English dictionary defines cling to mean adhere or stick firmly or closely to, be hard to part or remove from, remain very close to, remain persistently or stubbornly faithful to something.
So the people of Israel and Judah were to hold fast to, pursue hard, stick to, and remain firmly fixed upon the Lord even through the difficult, hard, and trying circumstances that they may become the people, name, praise, and glory of God.
This was their purpose; their high calling. But they didn’t fulfill it. They chose to reject the LORD Almighty and go their own way. They chose to disobey the very first commandment in their covenant relationship and place before themselves other gods made by their own hands. But how did that go for them? Not well…
“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. … 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 2:11, 13
Israel and Judah’s idolatry and unfaithfulness ignited God’s wrath and brought God’s judgment upon them. They abandoned their high calling, forsook the living God, and broke their covenant with Him. Therefore, God allowed destruction, war, and defeat into their lives, showing them the foolishness of their actions.
The fate of Jeremiah’s people and the account of their shortcoming may seem like ancient history that’s irrelevant and unimportant to us, New Testament Christians. However, through the blood of Jesus Christ, we share in Israel’s high calling, eternal covenant, and relationship with the living God. And we don’t want to make the same mistakes they did!
But be warned!
We don’t need idols to have idolatry. We don’t need bronze images to have false gods. The gods of this age are even more dangerous than those of ancient civilizations in the fact that they are hidden and disguised as good, right, and expected things.
Have we gone and bowed down before the gods of wealth, success, worldly fame, or beauty? Have we sacrificed our lives, relationships, time, and God-given talents on the alters of these false gods?
It doesn’t matter if the thing, substance, or expectation was originally good, it becomes an idol the moment it starts to steal our attention, focus, love, and devotion from the Lord. He wants first place in our hearts, coming second to none—not family, work, marriage, children, fame, success, skill, beauty, etc.
So is there anything vying for the number one spot in your heart? Have you exchanged your eternal glory for that which does not profit? Are you clinging to the Lord with everything you’ve got, not letting the strain of this world’s gravity, allure, or trials pull you away?
Whether we’ve experienced the sorrow of exchanging our precious glory for that which does not profit or have always stayed true to the Lord and clung to Him through life’s circumstances, may we learn from the mistakes and lessons of Israel and Judah and take to heart the warning of the Lord:
“Know and see that it is evil and bitter for you to forsake the LORD your God;
the fear of me is not in you, declares the Lord GOD of hosts.”
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