TODAY’S READING: JEREMIAH 12-14
Jeremiah 14:1 says, “The word of the Lord that came to Jeremiah concerning the drought.”
We all know that a drought is caused by a lack of rain. But, we want to see Jesus in Jeremiah 14. So, we want to go deeper than the obvious meaning. Therefore, what does a drought symbolize?
Amos 8:11 says, “‘Behold, the days are coming,’ declares the Lord God, ‘when I will send a famine on the land – not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.”
Symbolically, a drought is a lack of the word of God. We are famished and thirsty when we lack the word in our lives. And, only the word can quench that hunger and thirst.
In Jeremiah 14, the people do everything they can to find water. But, there was none to be found. Even the animals could not find water.
In verse 7-9, the people acknowledge that their backslidings have been many and that they have sinned against God. So, they ask God why he is like a stranger in the land to them, why is God like one that cannot be found, why is God like a mighty warrior that can’t save the. Even though they have acknowledged their sins, they are putting the blame for the lack of water, for their thirst, on God.
But, in verse 10, God says that he has not wandered. No, it is the people that have wandered from him. They are the ones that have left him, which is the reason for their thirst.
This brings to my mind Jesus’ encounter at the well with the Samaritan woman in John 4.
As a Samaritan, the woman had wandered away from God. Yet, she was seeking something to quench her thirst. This is why she had five husbands and was living with a sixth man. Ultimately, she knew the Messiah was coming, but she had no idea when or where.
So, she went to the well to get water to quench her thirst. But, the water she was going to get could quench her physical thirst. It would do nothing for her spiritual thirst.
The woman had been wandering everywhere, living with man after man, trying to get the thirst of her soul met. She was probably wondering why God left her. Why was she so despised. Why had she been married to five men who had either died or divorced her. Why was she with a sixth. Why did she have to come get water from the well at a time when no else would be there because her shame was so great. Surely, God has wandered off from her.
But, at the well, Jesus was there waiting for her. It was as if Jesus had always been there waiting for. He had not wandered off. Rather the woman simply was not ready or willing to see Jesus and what he had to offer. But, as soon as Jesus made the offer of living water that would quench the thirst of her soul, the woman asked, “Where do you get that living water?”
Jesus told the woman, “Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman asked Jesus for this water so that she would never be thirsty again.
Interestingly, it was at this point that Jesus told her to get her husband. It wa only after she asked for living water that she was ready and willing to truly acknowledge how she sought to quench her thirst apart from God. And, it was here that she told Jesus her fathers worshiped on this mountain.
But, Jesus told her about the true worship that was coming, “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
So, the woman left the well and went back to the town to tell everyone that what had happened. Notice that John doesn’t say she told the people about Jesus’ living water. Rather, she said, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did.” In effect, I think she was saying, “Come, see this man who knows my hurt. And, when I truly acknowledged it, he showed me how to quench it.” She was ready and willing for true worship
I think that is the case because of what we see back in Jeremiah 14. God tells Jeremiah not to pray for the people. Why would God do that?
God says that even though the people fast and offer burnt offerings and grain offerings he will not accept them. The people acknowledged their sin, but they were still trying to reach God through religious practice. They weren’t ready to worship in spirit and truth. They wanted God on their own terms.
Therefore, God told Jeremiah not to pray for them. The people still needed the drought, the lack of the word of God, to increase their thirst to the point that they would drop their religious practices and truly seek out God to quench their thirst.
After God says he will not accept them based on their religious practices of fasting and sacrificing, he says “I will consume them by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence.”
This is interesting to me because the sword, famine, and pestilence all have some relation to the word.
God’s sword is of the Holy Spirit, the word of God (Ephesians 6:17). It is sharper than any two-edged sword and can be pierce to division of soul and spirit (Hebrews 4:12). God’s sword, the word of God, separates in us the carnal, or the natural, from the spiritual. This is just what Jesus means when he says came not to bring peace but a sword. He came to separate us from everything of the flesh so that we could worship God in spirit and truth. This is how God consumes by the sword.
Famine is a lack of food, a lack of bread. In Matthew 4, Jesus experienced his own famine, his own hunger. He had fasted 40 days and 40 nights and was tempted by the devil. Satan tempted Jesus to turn stones into bread to end his hunger. But, Jesus responded, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”
The famine consumes us in that it consumes our desire to meet our own hunger. The famine eats away everything in us that would seek to provide for ourselves on our own terms. This is what Jesus revealed. In his own famine, Jesus did not attempt to provide for his own hunger, even though it would have been quite easy for him to do. Instead, Jesus declared that he truly lived by the word of God.
Jesus tells us that he doesn’t cause famine. Rather, Jesus is the bread of life. In John 6:48-51, Jesus says, “I am the bread of the life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.”
A famine is external, but a pestilence is internal. For, a pestilence, is a wasting disease, a plague.
The Hebrew word pestilence is deber. It comes from a root word meaning to turn one’s back, turn aside; to drive away, to pursue. It is very similar to the Hebrew word, dabar, that means a word, a matter, a thing. (Remember Hebrew has no vowels so both words would be written dbr. I would think this is what allows for so many word plays in Hebrew.) Dabar can mean a spoken word or a command.
Perhaps we can see the pestilence as an internal plague that will not leave us. Perhaps it is a word from God that just gnaws at us, plagues us, until our hearts and minds are so sick that we turn the word of God, Jesus, for help.
This is what I’m thinking because we know that Jesus never put a plague on anyone. Rather, Acts 10:38 says, “How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.” And Matthew 4:24 says, “So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, those having seizures, and paralytics, and he healed them.” It was when people were so sick, so plagued, that they would do anything to get into Jesus’ presence (the paralytic man lowered through the roof, the woman with the issue of blood for 12 years that went through the crowd), touch him, or hear a word from him, that they were healed. In other words, God consumed them by pestilence.
I believe this is what Jesus, the word of the Lord, came to Jeremiah to say about the drought.