AN EXPOSITION OF JEREMIAH 2:25-27
25 Withhold thy foot from being unshod, and thy throat from thirst: but thou saidst, There is no hope: no; for I have loved strangers, and after them will I go.
Judah was once under the protection of the Lord. However, the people became spiritually unfaithful. They wandered from the Lord, and left Him, to roam in the world, to their ruin. They unshod their foot. Then, their throat became thirsty. They were in a state of hopeless sublimation because they loved strangers, and willfully went after false idols.
Nevertheless, the Lord called Judah back to Himself saying, “Withhold thy foot from being unshod.” Judah was to exercise their freedom, and obey the Lord, by refraining from going to a false idol and undressing before it. Judah was to deny their thirst for false gods. But Judah was not listening. Judah thought that they could not return to the Lord. The people told one another, “There is no hope.” Then someone acknowledged why there was no hope.
“For I have loved strangers, and after them will I go.” Some of the people of Judah went into the tent of the pagan fertility god, Baal. Some went into the tent of pagan goddess, Ashtoreth. There were many idols, by many names. By worshiping these false idols, the people of Judah experienced hopelessness. Then they became despondent for being a spiritual doxy, or prostitute. A sense of despair is designed by the Lord to call individuals back to Himself.
One means by which the Lord induces despair, is to cause His people to because nauseous with their paramours. Many people discover that what once attracted them, drugs, sex, power, money, in time repels them, for idols are nothing (1 Cor. 8:2).
Despite the nausea, the will is ensnared, and continues to go from one paramour to the next. The pattern is established. Lust, nausea, lust, nausea etc. Self says to self, “I will go”, for the strength of sin is as strong as steel.
Because the will is used to become unfaithful, the will must be used to return to the Lord. Individuals must use their own freed will to break out of slavery. The breakout of spiritual bondage can only be accomplished when there is something, and Someone, greater in the soul than sin. The Someone who is greater than sin in the soul is the Holy Spirit. The something which is greater than sin in the soul, is the Word of God which is “quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4:12).
When the freed will is used, illuminated by the Holly Spirit, and fortified by the Word of God, there is recovery. But in order for there to be full recovery, there must be a renewed love for God, based on the daily intake of His Word. As the Word of God is studied, love for Jesus is enhanced, in so far as the heart mediates on what is studied, and there is a conscious devotional life of praise, prayer, and thanksgiving.
God called Judah to return to Him from their idolatry, and recover their first love. The return and recovery were to be done apart from coercion, inordinate guilt, and self-pity.
The Case of the Mortified Thief
26 As the thief is ashamed when he is found, so is the house of Israel ashamed; they, their kings, their princes, and their priests, and their prophets,
As the Lord uses a sickening feeling to gain the attention of His children who engage in spiritual adultery, so He uses shame. The illustration of the thief being discovered is designed to remind the kings, princes, priests, and prophets of Judah that they should be ashamed for worshipping false gods. Jehoahaz (609 BC), Jehoiakim (609-598 BC), Jehoiachin (598 – 597BC), and Zedekiah (597-586 BC) should be ashamed. The princes, the judges, military rulers and other local dignitaries, should be ashamed. The priests and prophets, the spiritual leaders of Judah should be ashamed. They were without spiritual power to stop sin and lead the people to repentance, and recovery for they too had gone in search of other gods.
27 Saying to a stock, Thou art my father; and to a stone, Thou hast brought me forth: for they have turned their back unto me, and not their face: but in the time of their trouble they will say, Arise, and save us.
The political and spiritual leaders of Judah had been caught talking to a piece of dead wood. They ascribed to idols of their own making attributes that no idol can possess. They said to a piece of wood, “You are my father.”
They said to a lifeless stone, “You have brought me forth.” How foolish! How shameful! Only the living God is to be called, “Father.” “And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven” (Matt. 23:9). Only the Lord God Almighty can deliver a soul from physical or spiritual bondage. “I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage” (Ex. 20:2). Only God can create life in the first place! “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” (Gen. 1:27). How foolish for people to attribute their creation to evolutionary chance, or to a stone.
There is a third way the Lord brings His people to repentance and recovery. He uses a feeling of nausea, shame, and mental confusion. When a thief is caught stealing, the stealer might have a feeling of shame, followed by mental confusion. Mental confusion comes when a sinner is confronted with sin, or a saint is confronted with backsliding, because no matter how hard one tries, there is no way to justify that which is unjustifiable. When the effort is made, the result is mental confusion.
A fourth way the Lord arrests the madness of sinning saints is through disgrace. The thief when he is apprehended is under disgrace. Disgrace adequately describes the Christian who is not honoring the Lord. The lusts that are pursued. and bowed before, only bring nausea, shame, mental confusion, and disgrace. Happiness cannot be found in any other source than God. The body must be for Him. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” (Rom. 12:1)
When nausea, shame, mental confusion, and disgrace are found, or brought forth, when these negative gifts of God’s grace are made to appear, then there is hope for repentance and recovery.
As terrible as these techniques might be experimentally, they are not as terrible as hell. People naturally fear those who can find them out, when they should “fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28).
The house of Israel should have feared God. The house of Israel refers to the southern kingdom of Judah. It is called the house of Israel, for elements of all the tribes dwelt there following the collapse of the northern kingdom in 721 BC. The house of Israel should be ashamed. They have no excuse for their behavior. That is the message of Jeremiah.
In the middle of the verse the Lord speaks, and says, “for they have turned their back unto me, and not their face.” To turn the back towards someone is a display of disrespect. People who pursue false gods, people who ignore the Lord show disrespect. They are signaling they want no fellowship. They do not want to talk. They do not want to listen. They want God to go away “ but in the time of their trouble they will say, Arise, and save us.” Here is the consistency of inconsistency of immature and foolish people. People want nothing to do with God, until they need Him. Then they turn their faces to God, and not their backs. Why? Because they want something from God! They want to bargain with God. They want God to help them in some way. They have defied and ignored Him, but suddenly, in a time of trouble, people want God.
When a nation goes to war, for example, suddenly the churches are full. When there is a national disaster, people are suddenly found praying and asking God to bless. In a time of trouble or pressure, people do not talk to a piece of wood, or a stone, but to the living God.
The prayer that is offered is short and simple, “Arise, and save us!” The implication is that God has been asleep and needs to wake up. But God has not been asleep. God never sleeps. He is eternally watchful over His creation, so that He knows exactly what is happening every moment of every day. In fact, God knows what is going to happen ahead of time! He does not need to “Arise,” but they need to bow before God in humility and repentance.
Rather than display humility and sorrow for being so stupid as to pursue false idols, people demand that God help them. “Arise, and save us!” “Save us now!” But why should God save anyone, especially those who have turned their backs to Him and not their faces? The honest answer is that God is under no obligation to save anyone, no matter how demanding they might be.
The prayer of Jeremiah 2:27 is the arrogant position of the person who has turned his back on God, and then suddenly thinks he wants to be saved. So he demands that God arise and save him, now, at the place and timing of his own choosing, and because of his free will. It is the height of arrogance and presumptuousness.
This prayer of Jeremiah 2:27 is the selfish prayer of the backslider who believes God owes him something, because he remembers the past mercies and grace of God. The one who has suppressed truth, hardened the heart, violated the conscience, is now making demands on God to save in the hour of need.
There is no one more demanding than a foolish person demanding God save him now, or a self-righteous hypocrite, in a desperate situation, demanding God’s help. There is no one who wants more of the grace of God, then the desperate sinner, or the distressed religious hypocrite. Many a person comes to God and says, “Save me now, just as I am.” As if God always wants such a person to return to Him. Esau realized his desperate situation, but found that God was not listening to him. Esau was rejected “for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears” (Heb. 12:17).