As we have just returned from a short trip and were not at our prayer meeting on Wednesday. I am sending a short devotional instead. It is a devotional look at Jeremiah chapter two; It is my hope and faith that such a look will inspire your prayers.
It is the scriptures that inspire us to pray. When we see God as He reveals Himself in the Word, we know how to pray. When we hear what He remonstrates with Israel about, we know how to pray for Israel. When we understand His covenantal promises, we know what to pray for. Inspiration and revelation from the Word are vital for prayer; the Word guides our prayers and fuels our faith. Many times when we are at a loss how to pray, just a glimpse of God in His Word is all we need.
Often, Jeremiah sounds like John, the apostle. Through both men, the Lord chose to express His love in ways that are hard to take in, both in their magnitude and beauty. Such are the first three verses of chapter two of Jeremiah.
"I (remember) hold to your account the loving kindness (mercy you showed to me) of thy youth, the love of thy betrothal time, thy following me in the wilderness, in a land unsown. Holy was Israel to the Lord, his first-fruits of the harvest: all who would have devoured him brought guilt upon themselves: evil came upon him, is the saying of Jehovah.” Jeremiah 2:2-3 (translation of verses by K&D, modified slightly to express the Hebrew better, by me -- O.A.)
How unfathomably lowly is our God, to speak to Israel in this way?!
Wasn't it just the opposite? Wasn't the mercy shown, God's mercy to Israel and not the other way? Of course, it was. Yet, in this view, God commends Israel for following Him into the unknown, not just to an unknown physical wilderness, but to an unknown spiritual journey.
And the fact that it is Love speaking makes the heartbreaking rebuke almost unbearable:
“What injustice have your fathers found in Me, That they have gone far from Me, have followed idols, and have become idolaters?" (Jeremiah. 2:5)
In effect, God is asking (can you believe it?) "Where have I done you wrong?, Where have I been unjust to you, that you turned to idols?" God the Righteous One, The Holy One asking sinners who have turned unjustly in betrayal of Him to idols, to prove Him wrong. Of course, anyone who would even begin to consider such things would immediately come up against their own wretched treatment of Him in such a way.
The Lord continues in His loving remonstrance: I brought you out of Egypt, led you (and provided for you) through the desert, brought you to a bountiful land to eat its fruits and goodness. (Jer. 2:6-7) And yet, your priests did not seek me, your teachers did not even know me, your prophets prophesied by an evil spirit (Jer. 2:8)
"Be astonished, O heavens, at this...." (Jer. 2:12) God calls on the hosts of heaven as witnesses! As if in a court of justice, calling on the hosts of heaven to note these things. What nation has changed their gods, even though they are mere idols -- nothing, yet my people have changed their Glory (God Himself) for something utterly worthless. (Jer 2:11)
Yet for all this, Israel's response is: "I haven't sinned, I haven't gone after baals?" (Jer. 2:23)
Sin has a blinding and numbing effect on the heart until it cannot see its own real estate; sin hardens the heart and numbs the conscience. Man is helpless to save himself, man is powerless to turn to God of himself. And as we see in this chapter, it is God who comes after His people to awaken them to their awful condition and to their need for Him. It is God's grace and mercy that supplies us even the power to repent.
Our hope is in God alone
Jeremiah began to prophesy in the 13th year of Josiah, a year after Josiah started to purge Jerusalem and Judah from idolatry. In effect, Jeremiah was preaching at a time of revival. Such preaching and pleading were designed by the Lord to awaken His people and bring them back to Him. It is His turning to us that enables us to turn to Him -- sheer mercy this is. Such love is expressed here in this chapter, but also light is shed upon their real estate - all to make it possible for them to turn back to Him who has come looking for them. So it has been from the beginning; 'Adam where are you?', asked the Lord in the garden.
As we read on in the book of Jeremiah we sadly learn that the revival did not last; the people plunged back into idolatry, the kings who followed Josiah did not heed the call of God, and exile and destruction ensued.
Yet, the book of Jeremiah is full of hope
Jeremiah 3:16 “Then it shall come to pass when you are multiplied and increased in the land in those days,” says the LORD, “that they will say no more, ‘The ark of the covenant of the LORD.’ It shall not come to mind, nor shall they remember it, nor shall they visit it, nor shall it be made anymore. Jeremiah 3:17 “At that time Jerusalem shall be called The Throne of the LORD, and all the nations shall be gathered to it, to the name of the LORD, to Jerusalem. No more shall they follow the dictates of their evil hearts."
How can God make such promises? How can God, in the face of such colossal failure and unfaithfulness, make such a declaration? Does He hope in the improvement of man? Does He believe that Israel will do better if given another chance? Absolutely not! All of God's plans and promises rest on Messiah, and of His victory on the cross. The high point of Jeremiah is the New Covenant - Jeremiah 31:31-34. The New Covenant is about what God will do for and in man, not what man will do by himself.
Israel's hope and future rests on this and only this! Israel's journey and usefulness to God in His plan are not over. Through her, God will complete his plan on the earth. Our prayers should be informed by the Word of God, and rest in the work of Messiah on the cross. No other basis is a firm basis for prayer and intercession.
The Long journey that God has led Israel through till now, will come to fullness in her restoration in Messiah to God, in the Land. And the betrothal of Israel to the Lord will come to fullness in a union, a marriage if you will, whereby He will dwell with His people (Jews and Gentiles) forever in a recreated universe. Revelation 21:1-3
All of this will be done by God Himself, (see the 'I wills' in the New Covenant - Jeremiah 31:31-34), and it will all be done in Mercy and Grace! He will complete what He has begun, and it will come to a glorious fulfillment.
We are called to know God, we are called to know and understand His Word -- His promises, His purposes on the earth --, and we are called to recognize Israel's place in it, and the Church's position in it. In every age, God has had servants who knew Him and understood His purposes and their place in it. They stood in times of significant challenge to the work of God on the earth. God had a Daniel, for example, who understood His purposes in the times he lived through. So too, will God have servants in these days who will understand his purposes, and who will give themselves to seek Him and to pray.
May you be inspired to be this kind of a servant. May you be envisioned to seek the face of God. May you be inspired to devour His Word and pray it to Him.
May God enlarge your vision, refuel your faith and energize your prayers.
Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done, in earth as it is in Heaven....For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
Blessings from Jerusalem,