“Hear the word of the Lord, O house of Jacob and all the families of the house of Israel. Thus says the Lord:
“What injustice have your fathers found in Me, that they have gone far from Me, have followed idols, and have become idolaters? Neither did they say, ‘Where is the Lord, who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, who led us through the wilderness, through a land of deserts and pits, through a land of drought and the shadow of death, through a land that no one crossed and where no one dwelt?’ I brought you into a bountiful country, to eat its fruit and its goodness. But when you entered, you defiled My land and made My heritage an abomination. The priests did not say, ‘Where is the Lord?’ And those who handle the law did not know Me; the rulers also transgressed against Me; the prophets prophesied by Baal, and walked after things that do not profit. “Therefore I will yet bring charges against you,” says the Lord, “And against your children’s children I will bring charges…But My people have changed their Glory for what does not profit. Be astonished, O heavens, at this, and be horribly afraid; be very desolate,” says the Lord. “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.” Jeremiah 2:4 - 13
In today’s reading Jeremiah records the two reasons God gives for sending the nation of Israel into exile. The first is they had forsaken God who was the One true life-giving source of life (living water) and they followed that sin by fabricating cheap, useless, and unfulfilling ways of trying to hold onto worldly fulfillment - their replacements for God (the self-hewn cisterns).
We can look at this situation from the outside and judge very easily. How could a people who had so greatly seen the hand of God at work in their nation turn their backs on that very same God and search for fulfillment in everything else but God? But before you judge too quickly my American brothers and sisters, have not we done the same?
If you know anything about the early history of the United State of America you know that from the earliest settlers coming here to seek a safe and free place to worship to the formation of our original government documents, God-fearing men and women saw the awesome hand of God come down to create our great nation. But look at what has happened since then. Instead of being a nation that fears God and worships Him as He commands we are a nation characterized by a people looking for fulfillment in all of the empty places of life.
Human nature does not change. Isaiah 53:6a states that “We all like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one, to his own way…” But thankfully this verse also tells us about the only power that is able to save us from ourselves. Isaiah 53:6b goes on to say “…and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” That “Him” in the second part of this verse is Jesus. Jesus has freely taken the sin that binds us, that always pushes us away from God, because we are unable to do it on our own.
Trying to seek God out of our own will or through man-created means will only lead to a life that never holds fulfillment. Only those who continually submit their human nature to God and accept Jesus’ gift of redemption will ever find peace in the life-giving and ever-fulfilling waters God alone can continue to provide to sustain us and heal our broken and thirsty hearts.
Let us pray it will not take an exile (like that which Jeremiah prophesized for Israel and which later came to fruition) for the United States to turn back to God. But if that is what is required to bring our hearts back to the Lord, then truly we are better off in exile than continuing on the slippery slope to destruction we currently find ourselves on.