“If a man divorces his wife and she leaves him and marries another man, should he return to her again? Would not the land be completely defiled? But you have lived as a prostitute with many lovers— would you now return to me?” declares the Lord . “Look up to the barren heights and see. Is there any place where you have not been ravished? By the roadside you sat waiting for lovers, sat like a nomad in the desert. You have defiled the land with your prostitution and wickedness. Therefore the showers have been withheld, and no spring rains have fallen. Yet you have the brazen look of a prostitute; you refuse to blush with shame. Have you not just called to me: ‘My Father, my friend from my youth, will you always be angry? Will your wrath continue forever?’ This is how you talk, but you do all the evil you can.” – Jeremiah 3:1-5
God continues his marriage metaphor in rebuking the people of Israel in this passage. The word picture is of an unfaithful wife who has been with many lovers that were not her husband. She has been partaking of “stolen water” rather than the living water that God is offering. The “she” in this passage is clearly God’s people and they are behaving like a “nomad in the desert” with no permanent home. They are wandering without direction or purpose, or perhaps their purpose has become muddled and corrupted by others.
When I think of the term “nomad” it does not conjure up desert Bedouins. I am a little ashamed to admit it, but it conjures up an episode from the original Star Trek series called “The Changeling”. The episode was about a computer probe that was sent out by earth to collect biological samples for research. Through an encounter (collision) with an alien probe it’s original purpose was altered or bent so that it was now on a mission to find and sterilize (destroy) imperfection. Unfortunately Nomad views most of the crew of the enterprise as imperfect and plans to “sterilize” them. Captain Kirk comes to the rescue, of course, when he is mistaken for the probes inventor Dr. Jackson Roykirk. As a result, Captain Kirk is able to convince the probe that it is, in fact, imperfect for making this mistake and should be sterilized by self-destructing.
What, you may ask, does this have to do with the book of Jeremiah? Interesting, I think there is actually quite a lot. God created his covenant with the people of Israel for a purpose. Their original “mission” if you will was to love Him, follow His commands, and share the abundance God was providing with all nations. The people of Israel collided with other cultures as they moved into the promised land and their mission became so corrupted that it is destroying their own souls and leading others away from God. Where is Captain Kirk when you need him :)?
God did not send Captain Kirk, thank goodness, but He decided to settle the matter by coming Himself to reveal how the original “mission” of His people, and us, has become warped, bent, and corrupted. Those that have the eyes to see and ears to hear can understand. Those that do not remain blind and deaf, devoting their energy and lives to completing a mission for which they were not designed or sent. They can cause great destruction along the way, “You have defiled the land with your prostitution and wickedness”.
God removes the source of growth and prosperity to get the people’s attention, “the showers have been withheld, and no spring rains have fallen.” God withholds the rain in order to allow the people to see what life disconnected from the spring looks like. I do not think God does this because he enjoys making life hard for the people of Israel, but He does want them to devote their energy and lives to Him rather than the idols and gods that only serve to bend and warp their original purpose.
It sounds like the people of Israel talk like they want to restore their relationship with God, “My Father, my friend from my youth, will you always be angry”, but their actions speak louder than their words. So what is the take-home message here? I think it is that we should be seeking to know and carry out whatever God has called us to do here on earth, our mission. This mission, or call, should be obvious to others we encounter by our actions. We should be careful that our mission does not become corrupted by the plans and purposes of others that may have a different purpose that is incompatible or inconsistent with God’s plans.
Prayer: God You have a plan and purpose for each one of us. Help us to know your plans and act upon them.