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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Smith :: Portraits of Christ

Don Smith :: Jer 2; Wild Donkeys

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Portraits of Christ
“Wild Donkeys”—Jeremiah 2

Eugene Peterson wrote a commentary on Jeremiah entitled, “Run with the Horses.”

  • He writes about Jeremiah’s day as if it were our own.
  • “The puzzle is why so many people live so badly. Not so wickedly, but so inanely. Not so cruelly, but so stupidly. There is little to admire and less to imitate in the people who are so prominent in our culture. We have celebrities but not saints. Famous entertainers amuse a nation of bored insomniacs. Infamous criminals act out the aggressions of timid conformists. Petulant and spoiled athletes play games vicariously for lazy and apathetic spectators. People, aimless and bored, amuse themselves with trivia and trash. Neither the adventure of goodness nor the pursuit of righteousness gets headlines.”
  • “Modern man is a ‘bleak business,’ says Tom Howard. “To our chagrin we discover that the declaration of autonomy has issued not in a race of free, masterly men, but rather in a race that can be described by its poets and dramatists only as bored, vexed, frantic, embittered, and sniffling.”
  • “This condition has produced an odd phenomenon: individuals who live trivial lives and then engage in evil acts in order to establish significance for themselves. No other culture has been as eager to reward either nonsense or wickedness.” —Eugene Peterson

Jeremiah the “Weeping Prophet” lived from BC 626-580.

  1. Naming our children is another way of hoping for their future.
    • Jeremiah’s name can mean, “Yahweh appoints, exalts, or hurls down.”
    • Considered by some as the “most human prophet.”
    • More is known about him than any other prophet.
    • When people were trying to account for Jesus’ identity and ministry they likened him to Jeremiah. (Matthew 16:14)
    • His father, Hilkiah, who may have been the same priest in 2 Kings 22 who rediscovered the law in the temple in BC 621.
  2. Jeremiah was called by God to be a prophet before his birth.
    • “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5)
    • God’s call upon Jeremiah warns our generation to take seriously the sanctity of life, as well as His eternal purposes for His children.
    • While still a youth, he received his call and commission in the thirteenth year of the reign of Josiah. (BC 627)
    • He was a contemporary of Nahum, Zephaniah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Habakkuk and Obadiah.
    • Jeremiah’s message was to be one of judgment as well as hope.
    • “Then the LORD put forth His hand and touched my mouth, and the LORD said to me: ‘Behold, I have put My words in your mouth. See, I have this day set you over the nations and over the kingdoms, To root out and to pull down, To destroy and to throw down, To build and to plant.’” (Jeremiah 1:9-10)
  3. Jeremiah was the last of the pre-exilic prophets preaching during the last 41 years of the kingdom of Judah until the fall of Jerusalem. (BC 586-7)
    • He virtually stood alone as the prophet of Judah during the reign of five different consecutive kings, warning them of national apostasy.
  4. Jeremiah preached, “Repent! Repent!” False prophets preached, “Peace! Peace!”
    • Judah had not learned from the tragic history of Israel’s national sin and collapse.
    • He was constrained by the Lord to pronounce a solemn, irrevocable message of judgment.
    • “This whole land shall be a desolation, and an astonishment; and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years.” (Jeremiah 25:11)
    • He warned Judah to submit to Babylon’s certain coming invasion.
    • Judah had a serious identity crisis after her spiritual infidelity.
    • She forgot who she was, where she had come from, and to Whom she belonged.
    • Jeremiah therefore accused Judah of being a spiritual nymphomaniac.
    • “…[B]ecause you have forgotten Me and trusted in falsehood. Therefore I will uncover your skirts over your face, That your shame may appear. I have seen your adulteries And your lustful neighings, the lewdness of your harlotry, your abominations on the hills in the fields. Woe to you, O Jerusalem! Will you still not be made clean?” (Jeremiah 13:25-27)
    • Then he asked how she would do when disaster hit?
    • Who would she go to then for help? Her paramours?
    • “And when you are plundered, What will you do? Though you clothe yourself with crimson, Though you adorn yourself with ornaments of gold, Though you enlarge your eyes with paint, In vain you will make yourself fair; Your lovers will despise you; They will seek your life.” (Jeremiah 4:30)
    • “Behold, you trust in lying words that cannot profit. Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, burn incense to Baal, and walk after other gods whom you do not know, and then come and stand before Me in this house which is called by My name, and say, ‘We are delivered to do all these abominations?’ Has this house, which is called by My name, become a den of thieves in your eyes? Behold, I, even I, have seen it, says the LORD.” (Jeremiah 7:8-11)
  5. Jeremiah’s message went to the heart of the matter…the heart.
    • “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt.” (Jeremiah 17:9)
    • He constantly waged battle for the heart of the nation.
    • The false prophets plotted against him.
    • He was beaten and imprisoned, rejected by family and friends, considered a traitor to the nation, despised by the leaders and people and his life was constantly threatened.
    • The prophet not only preached Law (what a holy God requires and the consequences that go with disobedience), but also Gospel (what Christ has accomplished for us).
    • Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”
    • Is there a need for prophetic preaching in our generation? “A prophet lets people know who God is and what He is like, what He says, and what He is doing. A prophet wakes us up from our sleepy complacency so that we see the great and stunning drama that is our experience, and then pushes us onto the stage playing our parts whether we think we are ready or not. A prophet angers us by rejecting our euphemisms and ripping off our disguises, then dragging our heartless attitudes and selfish motives out into the open where everyone sees them for what they are. A prophet makes everything and everyone seem significant and important—important because they are significant to God. A prophet makes it difficult to continue with a sloppy or selfish life.” —Eugene Peterson

Jeremiah’s first oracle was against Judah’s spiritual harlotry. (Jeremiah 2:1-37)

  1. Jeremiah recalls Jerusalem’s former youthful love for God as His new bride. (Jeremiah 2:1-3)
    • She used to be devoted to the Lord as she followed Him through the wilderness.
    • She was holy to the Lord, like a new bride to a bridegroom. (Exodus 19:6)
    • Anyone who troubled her received His wrath, like they would if they took of the first fruits of the harvest that were consecrated to the Lord.
  2. Jeremiah then began to review Jerusalem’s departure from the Lord. (Jeremiah 2:4-8)
    • Their infidelity was not because God failed them.
    • They went after worthlessness and became worthless.
    • They knew God had been faithful in the wilderness to deliver, lead, sustain, provide and protect them.
    • He had given them a land of plenty to enjoy yet when they received their inheritance they defiled themselves with abominations.
  3. Three influential groups within Jerusalem brought about spiritual harlotry.
    • The priests who knew and handled the Scriptures, did not know the Lord.
    • The spiritual shepherds of Jerusalem transgressed against the Lord and led the people astray.
    • The self-proclaimed prophets went after things that don’t “profit” the people, but “profited” themselves by prophesying by Baal.
  4. Jeremiah next challenged Jerusalem to appear in the court for judgment. (Jeremiah 2:9-12)
    • They were to bring all their descendants to hear his accusations against them.
    • He blasted them like a prosecuting attorney representing the faithful spouse in a divorce court of being less faithful to their loving God than even pagans are to their stone-dead gods.
    • They had exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God and their glory in Him, for what would never profit but only destroy them.
  5. He then leveled God’s judgment against two of their horrendous values. (Jeremiah 2:13)
    • They had forsaken God, Who had been their dependable source of living water.
    • They replaced their love and fidelity to God for other things.
    • Instead of drinking life by faith that flows from God, they exchanged the eternal for temporal things.
    • They dug and hewed out cisterns or rock basins to catch run-off rainwater.
    • In this way they didn’t have to rely upon God for life, but themselves and their methods.
    • They settle for so much less—a murky, polluted way of life to secure their independence from faith in God.
  6. Jeremiah recounted God’s displeasure with their rejection of His water. (Jeremiah 2:14-19)
    • There was unparalleled death in the cities.
    • Egypt had come and shorn off the crown of Judah.
    • Jerusalem brought this destruction upon herself when she preferred to drink from the waters of the Nile.
    • She brought about more destruction when she went to drink from the Euphrates.
    • She continued in disobedience and infidelity, by making alliances with foreign powers that would bring about her own destruction.
    • Jerusalem’s apostasy would end up in bitterness and evil because she forsook the Lord and did not fear Him.
  7. Jeremiah reminded Jerusalem that the Lord took her from Egyptian slavery and made her His wife, yet she later went after other suitors. (Jeremiah 2:20-22)
    • The Lord had broken the yoke of their slavery and planted them like choice vines of pure seed in the new land, but they served other gods and became their slaves.
    • Their lives became degenerate and bitter like wild vines and bitter wine.
    • Even though Jerusalem went through the routines of purification in the Temple, their hands and hearts were still contaminated with sin and harlotry.
    • Her guilt was still before the Lord.
  8. Jeremiah describes Jerusalem’s spiritual infidelity in graphic, unflattering terms. (Jeremiah 2:23-25)
    • He likened their misplaced passion to that of female camels strutting around in the desert sand, hoping to attract wandering camels from foreign lands.
    • He also likened their misplaced passion to that of wild stubborn female donkeys indiscriminately sniffing the wind to see if they can smell a suitor coming from afar.
    • Their lust cannot be contained from spiritual and moral perversion.
    • Their excuse was, “It is hopeless, for I have loved foreigners and after them I will go.”
    • This is a pitiful picture of God’s people when their passions turn away from God to the accumulation of material things and the drive for security apart from faith in Him.
  9. Jeremiah tried to show how shameless Jerusalem had become. (Jeremiah 2:26-28)
    • The Lord would bring their shame upon them like that of a thief because they had robbed Him of His glory.
    • These “tree-huggers” and “earth-worshippers” called trees “their Father” and attributed their lives to stones by saying to them, “You gave us birth!”
    • In doing so, they turned their backs on God their Father and Creator.
    • But the key question Jeremiah taunted them with was, “Who will they turn to in crisis,”—all the dead trees or stones that are set up in cities across the nation?
  10. Jeremiah asks like the Lord’s prosecuting attorney, “Why are you, Jerusalem, contending with the Lord? What did He do wrong to you?” (Jeremiah 2:29-30)
    • It is Jerusalem who has committed adultery—not God!
    • She has transgressed against her faithful husband.
    • God therefore had briefly chastened her out of love for her own good, but it didn’t deter her from infidelity. (Hebrews 12:5-11)
    • “My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the LORD loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives.” If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”
    • Jerusalem continued claiming, “We are free, we will come no more to you.”
    • Were they serious? In their darkest hours ahead they will find no comfort in trees and rocks, but only in the Lord.
    • He was the faithful husband standing in the night waiting with open arms for his willful, rebellious, adulterous wife to return back to him. Jeremiah warned Jerusalem that the terrible freedom she so much desired away from the Lord would ultimately become the chains that enslaved her. (Jeremiah 2:31-37)
    • Jerusalem had forgotten she once wore the robe of righteousness when betrothed to the Lord, but now her skirts were stained with the blood of the guiltless poor.
    • The poor were taken advantage of because God’s grace had been forgotten.
    • She brought depravity to such new levels that she could teach street walkers the charms of wickedness, which they never dreamed.
    • Yet when the prophets spoke against her sin, she always claimed to be innocent.
    • Her conscience was seared and her sensitivity to sin was hardened.
    • All her vain pursuits for political alliances and for cultural gods would ultimately leave Jerusalem with her hands on her head in disbelief and in subservience to her foreign lovers.
    • How sad!

Jeremiah gave his concluding accusatory remarks against Jerusalem. (Jeremiah 3:1-5)

  • He points out how she was like an adulterous woman who might someday wish to return to her beloved husband, but what kind of a husband would take her back?
  • Wouldn’t her harlotry with many lovers pollute the land until she wanted her husband to take her back?
  • She was like a spiritual nymphomaniac laying under every idolatrous tree and sitting by the roadside like a pathetic prostitute, hoping a fool will stop and feed her lustful ways.
  • Because she prefers to drink from forbidden waters rather than from Christ’s living water, the Lord explains He has withheld rain showers and spring rains from the land.
  • If Jerusalem didn’t want anything to do with God, the source of living water, then let her see how well she does drinking from her hewn-out cisterns.
  • She no longer has any shame—she no longer knows why or how to blush.
  • Jeremiah tells Jerusalem that she would cry out to the Lord, “My Father, you are the friend of my youth, will you be angry forever in a time of crisis?” But He will not listen because she wasn’t calling out of guilt and repentance, but out of greed and manipulation.

Later in his life, Jeremiah depleted and depressed from the weight of his prophetic message, lamented the day of his birth.

  • The Lord knew he had to learn to trust the Lord even more because the plight of the nation and the weight of the message would only become greater.
  • The Lord asked His troubled prophet a haunting question every faithful saint needs to consider, when living in days of spiritual harlotry.
  • “If you have run with the footmen, and they have wearied you, then how can you contend with horses? And if in the land of peace, in which you trusted, they wearied you, Then how will you do in the floodplain of the Jordan?” (Jeremiah 12:5)
  • Today’s troubles and trials are the things that will enable us to persevere under even greater tribulations.
  • God is faithfully preparing a man for His work by breaking him, so he can later run and contend with horses.
  • May Jeremiah’s tribe increase!
Isa 53; The Lamb ← Prior Section
Eze 16; Streetwalkers Next Section →

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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