As I continue to look at the book of Jeremiah we’re still early on when the Lord is giving the message to Jeremiah. This is what Jeremiah will then carry to the people of Israel, and as we jump in here God’s sort of laying out some of His grievances against the people of Israel. This is one that really jumped out at me.
Jeremiah 2:10-13 For cross to the coasts of Cyprus and see,
or send to Kedar and examine with care;
see if there has been such a thing.
11 Has a nation changed its gods,
even though they are no gods?
But my people have changed their glory
for that which does not profit.
12 Be appalled, O heavens, at this;
be shocked, be utterly desolate,
declares the Lord,
13 for my people have committed two evils:
they have forsaken me,
the fountain of living waters,
and hewed out cisterns for themselves,
broken cisterns that can hold no water.
As you read through the Old Testament you see this happen time and time again. God’s chosen people continually turn away from Him. They’ll wander away and start worshiping idols and false gods and forget all about the one true God who brought them out of Egypt, who led them to the promised land, who provided for them through miracle after miracle along the way.
And so here’s God asking a question. He says go travel a bit, go check with some other places, and see if there’s ever been a nation that gave up a God in exchange for a non-god. Maybe I’m wrong, but I almost feel God saying “how stupid can they really be” here. Standing before you is God. THE GOD. The one who, ya know, used a series of plagues and miracles to spring your ancestors free from slavery, who has shown His power to your people TIME AND TIME AGAIN over the generations, who has given your people favor and blessing and supernatural victory after supernatural victory. THAT GOD is standing before you, and yet you turn away from Him and pick up some other “god” instead.
In verse 12, God shows just how strongly He feels about this. “Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the Lord.” Appalled is a strong word. God’s not saying this is something to be slightly upset over, or that He’s sorta unhappy about it. He’s saying that it’s appalling. The definition of that word means “greatly dismayed or horrified.”
Sometimes I can’t stand it when certain things in the Bible resonate with me, because I wish we were better than we are. But this really just resonates with me. Even those of us who are following Jesus closely, we can have those periods of time when He’s not our main focus, can’t we? Maybe it doesn’t go as far as fully forsaking God (although sometimes that can happen), but we certainly do let ourselves get distracted, don’t we?
I’ll fully admit that I’ve been guilty of this lately. Even though God’s right there in front of me, even though I’ve got a book’s worth of miracles He’s performed in my life, a book’s worth of encounters with Him, (all of it from the last 18 months!), I’ve still been in a period where I’ve struggled with my focus a little bit, where I just wasn’t racing after the heart of God as hard as I was previously. What’s worse is that I just didn’t want to admit it to anyone, because that meant admitting it to myself. But the longer I kept it inside the worse it became, because I was trying to fix myself.
Can I just be real with you guys for a minute? We can’t fix ourselves. Our best isn’t even remotely close enough to fix what goes wrong inside. We break in fascinating ways, and then we’re left to just stare at the pieces and wonder how they ever went together in the first place. In that moment, we have two choices. Only two. Continue to stare at the pieces and fall deeper into despair over just how broken things are, or turn to Jesus and admit that something’s gone wrong, that maybe we got a little off track or maybe we did something that messed us up and we don’t know how to make things right again.
Those are the choices. You look at Israel at this point in history in the book of Jeremiah, and they’re so far off the right path that they don’t even realize they’ve gone wrong. They’re broken, and remaining so. God’s gotta step in at some point, because He loves His people too much to leave them broken. But if it stays broken long enough for God to have to act, we’re not always going to like how He fixes a problem. He can tend to have a heavy hand when we stay broken long enough and bad enough to force Him to move. Had His people had the wisdom to turn away from their idolatry and seek Him, things probably would’ve been much different. But they didn’t, and so sometimes the only way for God to bring us to a place of realization that we’re lost is to really shake us up. He’s gotta wake you up somehow, and that’s not always done with a gentle whisper and a kiss on the cheek. Sometimes it takes some shaking and some shouting. If I ever fall to that place, I guarantee I’m not going to like the wake up call I get from my Lord. I’d much rather stay aware of my spiritual health, of the level of my fire for God. If I catch it burning a little lower, I can ask Jesus to help me.
Forsake is a strong word. It means to renounce, to turn away from, to abandon. I don’t know how long the path is from momentarily losing focus on God and forsaking Him, but I fear it’s probably a much shorter path than any of us realize. So I really just feel it on me today to encourage you to stay so aware of where your focus is and where you’re at in your walk with God. A misspent day can become a misspent month in the blink of an eye. You can go from confidently walking God’s path for your life to lost in the woods before you ever realize you stepped off the path. Stay vigilant. Examine yourself open and honestly, and do it often. And admit to others when you fear you may be faltering. In my recent experiences I think I’ve learned that the first step to regaining your focus and your way is admitting to someone that you lost it in the first place. Trust someone with your heart enough that you can say those things to them. Find a Christian confidant, an accountability partner, whatever you want to call it. Someone who you can say the scary things to, the hard things, and someone who is going to listen and pray for you and with you.
Turn to God. A second spent looking at things other than Him is a second wasted. And that doesn’t mean you can’t ever do anything in life, that’s not at all what that means. It’s about focus. Go watch a movie with friends, go for a hike, God can be in anything and everything we do. But He should be the focus, the ultimate goal, the horizon you’re racing towards. I don’t know how long the path is from momentary loss of focus to forsaking God, and I pray that not I nor any of you will ever learn it.
PRAYER AND CLOSING
Father God, I just ask you tonight to please help us stay aware of where we are with you. The moment you sense our focus weakening, or the moment you sense our steps drifting, please wake us up. Give us the wisdom to stay hyper vigilant over our walk with you. It’s so easy to lose focus these days, it’s like a single blink and we can look back up and be off track, so I’m asking that you help us stay laser focused. The stakes are too high to waste time being off course. I love you Lord, and I thank you that even when I falter you never do. Thank you for always being there for us, and thank you for the deep and absolute way in which you love us. In the precious name of Jesus I pray, amen.
Well, I love you guys. It was a very Monday sorta Monday for me today, but that’s alright. Got through it, had some laughs with friends, played some great music at worship practice, life is good, even on the days that aren’t all sunshine and rainbows.