John T. Willis

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Habit--Jeremiah 2:20-37

Jeremiah 2:1-19 emphasizes that God is about to punish his people for their sins; they have forsaken or abandoned God. NOW, Yahweh declares through Jeremiah that God is NOT going to punish his people because of A FEW SINS which they have committed recently. ON THE CONTRARY--Over many years and decades and centuries, God's people have adopted A HABIT OF SIN. God has WIRED all of us so that whether we like it or not, we gradually become CREATURES OF HABIT. Essentially, we have one of two choices: Do good day by day and one will become better and better like God; OR--Do evil day by day and one will become worse and worse before God. God's people made a negative choice over time. Jeremiah emphasizes this in Jeremiah 2:20-37. One can conveniently divide this paragraph into two parts: 2:20-29 and 2:30-37.

I. Judah's Sin is Long-Lived and Deep-Rooted. Jeremiah 2:20-29. In this brief section, Jeremiah uses SEVEN METAPHORS to emphasize the fact that Judah's sin is long-lived and deep-rooted. Sin has become a HABIT--a WAY OF LIFE--for his people.
a. The Ox that Broke Its Yoke. 2:20a. The Judeans, like many people, think of God's service as a drudgery. They feel like religious living is like being in prison. Sin appears to be enjoyable, so the Judeans "broke their bonds," and cried out: "We will not serve" God any longer. Many of us have the feeling that we MUST serve God out of duty rather than gladly respond to God's love. Matthew 11:28-30 and 1 John 5:3 emphasize this point.
b. The Harlot. 2:20b. It is one thing to commit fornication once or twice. It is an entirely different thing when a person sells himself or herself into harlotry or prostitution. Jeremiah declares that the Judeans follow foreign gods "on every high hill and under every green tree." See also 3:9. Physical harlotry is bad enough. But this passage has in mind spiritual harlotry--following anyone or anything other than the one true God.
c. The Degenerate Wild Vine. 2:21. When Yahweh brought Israel out of Egypt through the wilderness into the land of Canaan, Yahweh transplanted Israel in rich, nourishing soil. But soon, the Judeans turned away from this "pure stock" to become a degenerate wild vine.
d. The Mechanic with Grease in the Creases of his Hands. 2:22. Jeremiah compares the people of Judah with a mechanic who works all day long every day. He works with grease in the motor and on other parts of the car. At the end of each day, the mechanic uses lava soap to try to remove the grease. But when he gets home, his wife looks at his hands, and there is still grease in the creases of his hands. The "stain" of the guilt of Judah's sin cannot remove his real nature.
e. The Camel running around and around through the same Ruts. 2:23. Jeremiah compares the people of God with a restive young camel interlacing her tracks. The picture is that of one walking or running constantly, but in the form of a path that looks like the letter eight. Sinners get into a rut; they are going around in circles; they are spinning their wheels. This the way sin works. God has made us this way.
f. The Wild Ass in Heat. 2:24-25. Jeremiah compares God's people with a wild ass in heat, who cannot restrain her lust. When God attempts to change the life of his people, they declares: "It is hopeless; for I have loved strangers, and after them I will go." After we think and live a certain way for a long time, it is almost impossible to change or transform our hearts and desires and way of life.
g. The Thief. 2:26-27. Jeremiah does not compare the people of God with a person who stole some merchandise from a store one time. NO!!! The people of God have become a THIEF as a way of life over a long period of time. When one thinks of God's people, one thinks of a thief. God's people commit themselves to sin. When they get into trouble, they rush to church, to worship, to devotion and cry out to Yahweh: "Come and save us." But they have no intention of changing their hearts and their lives. They have "turned their backs" to God. Instead of serving Yahweh alone, they have as many gods as they have towns.
The problem is HABIT. When a person or a community or a church or a nation gets into the habit of sinning, in time, that person or that community or that church or that nation BECOMES like he REALLY IS. God has made us creatures of HABIT.

II. The Choice of Trusting in Yahweh or Trusting in Others. Jeremiah 2:30-37.
a. God demonstrates love and mercy and grace to his people. BUT they refuse to accept his love. Judah's response is UNNATURAL of INAPPROPRIATE. In Jeremiah 2:13, Jeremiah used the illustration of the THIRSTY TRAVELER. The traveler is very thirsty. He comes to a fork in the path in the woods. One path leads him to a living fountain; the other path leads him to broken cisterns. EVERYONE would choose the path to the living fountain--EXCEPT the people of God; they choose the broken cisterns. NOW, Jeremiah uses the illustration of a BRIDE WHO FORGOT HER ATTIRE. 2:30-32.
1. Yahweh "spanked" his children, but they "accepted no correction." 2:30. The same figure appears in Proverbs 3:11-12; Hebrew 12:4-11.
2. Yahweh has been a rich land, but they view him as "a wilderness," "a land of thick darkness." So they conclude: "We are free to do whatever we wish, we will come to YOU [Yahweh] no more." 2:31.
3. Yahweh is like ornaments or attire of the new bride. But "MY PEOPLE"--the people of God, the people of Judah, have FORGOTTEN God. 2:32. What bride would appear at the altar to be faithful to her committed groom? NO ONE--except God's people.
b. Instead of being faithful to Yahweh, the true and faithful husband, the people of God have determined to "seek" and go after "other lovers." These "lovers" are the Baals, other gods, rather than Yahweh, the true God. In spite of they, they claim: "I am innocent." God is at blame--he has become angry with me, even though "I have not sinned." 2:33-35. Often, we human beings think and act in just this way. We become unfaithful to God, and when God corrects us and punishes us, we claim, we are innocent, we have not sinned. God is at fault.
c. The fundamental problem is a matter of TRUST. The people of God should TRUST in God. Instead, the people of God turned away from Yahweh, and TRUST in Egypt or in Assyria as new crises emerge. 2:36-37. Throughout the book of Jeremiah, "TRUST" is a primary concern. We all TRUST in something or someone. The REAL QUESTION is: In whom do I really TRUST?

We are creatures of HABIT. God calls us to develop GOOD HABITS. It is very easy for us to turn the other direction and develop BAD HABITS. The people of God did this very thing when they came into the land of Canaan. By the time Jeremiah, SIN had become a HABIT of SIN. Therefore, God announces that he will punish them because of their WAY OF LIFE, the HABIT OF SIN.

Share YOUR thoughts and ideas with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis