Jeremiah 2 The LORD’s Case Against Judah.
Jeremiah was not done writing about his call from the LORD, and the job he was given, as the word of the LORD came to him again (v. 1). His word was a “Thus says the LORD” (v. 2a). He remembered the covenant faithfulness of the nation. They came out of Egypt and a covenant was made with them, but then they would, through unbelief, become desert wanderers (v. 2b). “Israel was holiness to the LORD, the firstfruits of His increase” (v. 3a Cf. Dt. 2:7; 7:6; 14:2; Js. 1:18; Rev. 14:4). Disaster was promised for their enemies (v. 3b Cf. 12:14; Ex. 19:5-6; Is. 41:11). However, despite all this history, the nation once again forgot God (Cf. 30:15-16; 50:7). Beginning with verse four we see a theme which is embedded in what amounts to a call for covenant renewal, and that is the covenant lawsuit.
The LORD gave Jeremiah a word, calling the people to repentance and faith, to return to the LORD of the covenant from the idolatry they are guilty of and charged with (vv. 4-5 Cf. 8:19; Is. 5:4; Jon. 2:8; Rom. 1:21). If they wanted the LORD’s immanence, they could have called out for him (Cf. II Kgs. 17:15; Mic. 6:3). Their forefathers, the next generation in the wilderness, were also delivered and were given victory (v. 6 Cf. Ex. 20:2; Dt. 8:15; 32:10; Is. 63:11). They were blessed greatly, but they defiled the land with their idolatry, making his heritage an abomination (v. 7). This context of the wilderness wanderers associated with the covenant lawsuit genre occurs in other places (Ezekiel 20:34). “Just as I pleaded My case with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so I will plead My case with you” (v. 35).
Ezekiel describes this exercise as passing under the rod of the LORD, bringing his people “into the bond of the covenant” (20:36). This same wilderness context is included in the Letter to the Hebrews, where the lawsuit structure finds expression in the so-called warning passages, within the context of new covenant renewal. Paul would also bring forward the same charge of neglecting the law against the apostates of his day (Rom. 2:20). Not only did the people not call on the LORD, but the priests also led the way in this rebellion. They did not ask for the LORD, so that those who handled the law did not know him. They, like us, have so called ministers, who because they do not know the LORD, they distort the law and are thus guilty of transgression, along with the political leadership (v. 8a).
The prophets prophesied by a false god, so that they “walked after things that do not profit” (v. 8b Cf. 23:13). This is just the beginning of the charges he had against them (v. 9), for his case will be that their biggest sin was in not admitting that they had sinned against him (3:35 Cf. Mic. 6:1ff.). Even the pagan nations around them would not consider abandoning their gods, but this is what Israel and Judah had done, even though those gods were nothing-Yahweh was their Glory, whom they abandoned for what could not profit them (vv. 10-11). To this the heavens bore witness (v. 12). “For My people have committed two evils; they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewn themselves cisterns-broken cisterns that can hold no water” (v. 13).
Idols are the simple expression of manmade religion (Cf. Pss. 106:20; 115:4; Is. 37:19; Rom. 1:23). They turned away from the LORD as the very fountain of living waters, of life itself (Cf. 17:13; Ps. 36:9; Lk. 10:20). They went from serving the LORD to being subjugated by their enemies, because they served their sin (vv. 14-17 Cf. 43:7-9; 50:17; II Kgs. 23:29ff; Is. 1:7). The LORD asks them why they would look to Egypt or Assyria, when he promised defeat for these their enemies (v. 18 Cf. Ex. 4:22-23; Dt. 32:10; Is. 3:9; 30:1-3; Hos. 5:5, 13). It was their own sins that led them into bondage, because they had forsaken the LORD, a bitter pill to swallow (v. 19 Cf. 4:18). From deliverance they declared their commitment to follow the LORD, a commitment which they broke (v. 20a Cf. Josh. 24:18; Jud. 10:16; I Sam. 10:10).
As a result of their rebellion, including their refusal to repent, they became subject to the curses of the covenant (Cf. Ex. 19:8; Lev. 26:13). On every high hill they turned to their idols (v. 20b). The LORD will destroy all nations who commit this crime, all the more for those who are in a covenant relationship with him, especially when they turn and make a covenant with his enemies (Cf. 3:6; Ex. 34:15; Dt. 12:2). They needed to pay heed, recognize their sin, and hope for the promise of redemption (Cf. Is. 57:5-7). They had been planted as a good vine, his word being “a seed of highest quality,” but a word they had abandoned (v. 21 Cf. Ex. 15:17; Dt. 32:15; Pss. 44:2; 80:8; Is. 5:2-4). No amount of external activity could change the corruption within (v. 22).
Despite their objections, their actions proved them wrong (v. 23-24). They were so sold into sin that they could not imagine any other way to live (v. 25 Cf. 3:13). This is the shame of people and leadership – political and religious (v. 26 5:31; Is. 28:7). When things were good they turned from the LORD to the work of their own hands, but when trouble came they expected the LORD to deliver them (v. 27 Cf. 3:9; Jud. 10:10; II Kgs. 17:33; Hos. 5:15). They did not seem to see the worthlessness of their idols to act on their behalf (v. 28 Cf. Dt. 32:37; Jud. 10:14; Is. 45:20). Why would one think to plead with the LORD without repentance and faith? They should have accepted the correction of his word, but instead they sought to execute the prophets through whom the word came (vv. 29-30 Cf. 5:3; 7:28).
Stephen and Paul also laid this same charge in regard to the apostates of the old covenant upon whom the blood of all these prophets also bore witness (Acts 7:52; I Th. 2:15). Instead of looking to the word, their idolatry was to make themselves their own lords, therefore why go to the LORD (v. 31 Cf. 18:12; Dt. 32:15; Pr. 30:12)? They had forgotten the covenant relationship, how the LORD had delivered them that they might serve him without fear (v. 32 Cf. 3:21; 13:25; Ps. 106:21; Is. 17:10). Not only did they practice their evil, but they taught others to follow their ways, and blood was on their hands, even that of their own children (vv. 33-34 Cf. 7:6; 19:4; II Kgs. 21:16; 24:4; Ps. 106:38). Again, their greatest sin was to deny their sin, which was in effect calling the LORD a liar (v. 35).
They condoned evil and called it good, then they had the nerve to ask where was the LORD’s justice (Cf. 2:17)? Also like Malachi, they robbed the temple, and thus the work of the ministers of word and sacrament, by neglecting the tithe (3:8). “He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy” (Pr. 28:13 Cf. I Jn. 1:8-10). They were busy seeking out their own pleasures among the pagans, for which they ought to have been ashamed (v. 36 Cf. 31:22; II Chr. 28:16; Is. 30:3; Hos. 5:13; 12:1). Those whom they had trusted in, the LORD had rejected, so that by them they would not prosper, but rather to turn away from the LORD was to suffer captivity (v. 37). The LORD would not receive back one divorced who had married another (3:1 Cf. Dt. 24:1-4).