“Long ago you broke off your yoke and tore off your bonds; you said, ‘I will not serve you!’ Indeed, on every high hill and under every spreading tree you lay down as a prostitute. I had planted you like a choice vine of sound and reliable stock. How then did you turn against me into a corrupt, wild vine? Although you wash yourself with soap and use an abundance of cleansing powder, the stain of your guilt is still before me,” declares the Sovereign Lord . “How can you say, ‘I am not defiled; I have not run after the Baals’? See how you behaved in the valley; consider what you have done. You are a swift she-camel running here and there, a wild donkey accustomed to the desert, sniffing the wind in her craving— in her heat who can restrain her? Any males that pursue her need not tire themselves; at mating time they will find her. Do not run until your feet are bare and your throat is dry. But you said, ‘It’s no use! I love foreign gods, and I must go after them.’ – Jeremiah 2:20-25
God is not pulling any punches in this passage. He is comparing Israel to a prostitute or a whore that will “lay down” with anyone. God is very angry with the people of Judah and Jerusalem for exchanging their relationship with Him for idols. God planted the people as “a choice vine of sound and reliable stock”, but they are now bearing nothing but bad fruit.
It seems the people of Israel are attempting to “clean themselves” when in fact they need to submit themselves for cleansing by God. In the time of Moses there were elaborate traditions and practices to ensure that people were clean before God. No amount of “cleansing powder” or “soap” can make us clean from our prideful disobedience of God’s call to love and follow Him.
It also sounds like the people of Israel are pointing fingers of blame and responsibility at everything and everyone but themselves, “How can you say, ‘I am not defiled; I have not run after the Baals’?” It is almost like a child caught with their hand in the cookie jar asking their parent “what cookie jar”.
God then continues with more unflattering metaphors: “You are a swift she-camel running here and there, a wild donkey accustomed to the desert, sniffing the wind in her craving”. There is a sense here that the people are unwilling to restrain the urges and drives of their physical bodies at the expense of their souls. The people of Israel are running and they do not know where or why they are running, “Do not run until your feet are bare and your throat is dry”.
This reminds me of the part of the movie Forrest Gump when the main character decides to run across the United States — twice. He even collects a cult following of people who run along with him, apparently because if someone is running they must know where they are headed right? They must have some important purpose for running right? Turns out not so much:
Forrest Gump: [running] I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.
[he stops and turns around]
Young Man Running: Quiet, quiet! He’s gonna say something!
Forrest Gump: [pause] I’m pretty tired… I think I’ll go home now
The people of Israel are running away from God as fast as their feet, and souls, will carry them. They are sniffing at the wind for direction and purpose – trying to find their next “mate” or idol. In the end they appear to give up trying to resist these earthly urges to run from God, “It’s no use! I love foreign gods, and I must go after them”.
It is actually rather sad. It is as if they know what they should be doing but they find themselves unable to overcome the beckoning of their biology. Alas I am guilty of the same thing at times. It is a constant act of will to keep from running at times, sniffing the wind for something more tangible and tantalizing than God. Perhaps that is why God decided to settle the matter in the way He did.
He was pierced for our transgressions because our souls are stuck in a body that beckons us to run. This amazing sacrifice does not let us off trying, but the cleansing has been accomplished for all who are willing to be cleaned in this way. God’s sacrifice, paradoxically, makes me hunger and thirst for God’s Living water even more. The biological urges and drives of our bodies remain, but now we have something much stronger than soap and cleansing powders to make us “clean”.
Prayer: God thank You for helping us overcome the urge to run as our biology and bodies beckon us to replace You with idols and substitutes.