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Lowell Brueckner

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Living Water and a Broken Cistern



Chapter 2

 Israel’s youth

Not everything that happened to Israel up to this point was bad. As Moses poured out the Lord’s plagues upon Egypt, Israel enjoyed wonderful protection in Goshen. The first Passover was a profound, spiritual celebration, and on the next day in the middle of March, the 15th of Abib, they left Egypt from Ramases. They departed before the eyes of the Egyptians, who were burying their firstborn. From a place called Hahiroth, they experienced a glorious, supernatural crossing of the Red Sea, followed by Miriam, tambourine in hand, leading the ladies in a joyous dance and song composed for the occasion. It was sung by all:

 I will sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously;

The horse and rider He has thrown into the sea.

The Lord is my strength and my song, and He has become my salvation;

This is my God and I will praise Him, my father´s God and I will exalt Him.

In the wilderness, they camped at Elim and were refreshed by twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees. At the desert of Sinai, the people began to gather and eat manna, which the Lord provided for them. The manna had a pleasant taste, like wafers of honey, and a variety of uses. It could be ground or beaten with a mortar, baked in pans and made into cakes, boiled, or prepared with oil like pastry.

 They saw the might of the Lord, when they gained a military victory over the Amalekites. Spiritual forces were at work, as the army of Israel battled in Rephidim. Moses sat on top of the hill, Aaron and Hur supporting his hands, because Israel gained victory with the upraised hands of Moses. He built an altar there and called it Jehovahnissi  The Lord is My Banner.

 Israel lived under the glory of God, manifested in a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night. The pillars led them, wherever they were to go. Besides, there was a glorious, life-or-death manifestation of God on Mt. Horeb or Sinai. The people purified themselves and met with the Lord at the base of the mountain. They heard the loud blast of God´s trumpet, felt the mountain quake, while Sinai smoked and thunder and lightnings filled the atmosphere. They received his incomparable law and covenanted, “All the words which the Lord has said we will do.” Civilized nations around the world have patterned their justice systems, according to this law. 


 These are some of the holy experiences of the Israelites with their God and He remembered those times. It was time for Jeremiah to begin his ministry, to go from his home in Anathoth to Jerusalem and cry to the people, I remember you, the kindness of your youth, the love of your betrothal, when you went after Me in the wilderness. He remembered the love relationship between Himself and the people, during their youth as a nation, and His intimate, constant care for them.

 Although God was perfectly faithful in keeping the covenant, it is perfectly obvious that Israel was not. We are to understand in the opening statements that Israel, early in its history, experienced kindness from God. On the other hand, their reaction to Him was sporadic, while He loved as a bridegroom and led them faithfully through the wilderness. The Lord is declaring His love, His leading, His defense and His election of Israel. Knowing this, He can ask them the reason for having abandoned Him and gone after idols (5). There is no love like His and He reaches out with passionate grief to them: What injustice have your fathers found in Me, that they have gone far from Me?

 He has called Jeremiah to speak on His behalf, because He is willing, at this late hour, to come to terms with them. Before Jeremiah, God gave Isaiah the same mission and in the very first chapter, He pours out His great heart to them: “‘Come now, and let us reason together,’ says the Lord, ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.’” But their hearts had become so unfeeling and twisted that they did not take Him into account, looking back to His wonders in Egypt and the wilderness (6). There is no gratitude for the bountiful country that He has given them (7). Read His words to them; they far exceed my poor comments (especially 5-13).

 The priests did not know Him

 His representatives, the priests, did not challenge the people for the breach in their relationship. Without the rebuke of the priests, the people broke the covenant and He had withdrawn from them. The priests themselves no longer had a living relationship with the Lord. Now it was all dead religion, empty rules and rites. Israel was designed to be an example to the nations, a theocracy under God’s blessing, but the political leaders were walking in sin. The prophets came under the deception of Baal, to their own spiritual poverty, to the extent that there was no reality in their office (8). It was a dreadfully sad, lifeless situation.

 God was about to pass sentence against them that would reach into the future for three generations (9). He argues the case of the pagans with the example of the island of Cyprus to the north and Kedar, a barbarous land to the south (10). They were faithful to their false gods! How can it be that people can reject the very best, the essence of reality and spiritual life? It is a depravity, no… an insanity… in which the entire creation still walks and lives today to their own eternal damnation. Would to God, I could better make the point! I can only lay the truth before you: My people have changed their Glory for what does not profit. Study the history of Israel to see that the most blessed among nations, gave clear testimony to the world, of man’s rebellious, fallen nature (11).

 This is a travesty of universal significance; nothing can surpass it. All of nature and every beast, bird and fish should live in fear of its consequences. It will shake the heavens and destroy the earth in flames (12). Here is the essence of their crime on two counts: 1) They are not ignorant pagans. They have turned away from the source of life, Whom they have known and experienced. He is compared to fresh, clean, spring water. 2) They have chosen to drink stale, collected rain water from man-made tanks, bound to leak and crack over time. Look around the globe and see the poor, pitiful mentality of mankind. They have rejected their Creator, preferring the imperfect things made with their mortal hands (13). The truth is more traumatic, than any example can illustrate.

 Israel was born free, from Abraham to Jeremiah’s time, created to live and commune with their almighty, loving God. Her state is now worse than that of a slave, for the nations around her are exploiting her calamity, taking advantage of her broken walls and ruined houses (14). The Promised Land has become a wasteland (15). Memphis is modern Cairo and Tahpanhes is probably named from Queen Taphanes. (They) have broken the crown of your head, meaning that Pharaoh-necho of Egypt is on his way to remove Israel’s king Jehoahaz and tax the people heavily. Good king Josiah died in battle against this Pharaoh (16).

 These are all self-inflicted wounds, because Israel has rejected its Protector and Guide (17). For that reason, they are conquered and dominated by Egypt and Assyria (18), (Because of its prominence, the Euphrates in the Bible is often simply referred to as the river. Sihor, meaning dark waters, probably refers to the Nile) and they have come to depend on these world powers. They will have to learn from their own fatal errors. God is teaching his young student, Jeremiah, from Israel’s history and current events. I have always insisted that we must learn from history and, especially by studying the Old Testament, and be very aware of the spiritual significance of what is happening in our day (19). God said here, the fear of Me is not in you, and Jesus said, “You do not have the love of God in you (Jn.5:42). Fear and love of God are not conflicting forces, but complementary ones. Those who truly love God, also fear Him. 

 The Lord had given Israel freedom from Egyptian slavery, and they promised to be true to Him. We have already made reference to Israel’s confession in Exodus 24:7, and now He points to the obvious fact that they haven’t kept their word (20). Idolatry is rampant. God uses one illustration after another to show His people their sin, here giving the example of a high-quality grapevine, degraded to an alien, or wild, vine (21). There is idolatry in the church today, because many leaders and members have formed an alien god in their minds and hearts, ignoring or treating lightly the biblical revelation.  The apostle Paul spoke of “another Jesus, whom we have not preached” (2 Co.11:4).

Idolatry cannot be easily erased before the eyes of an omniscient God. He looks underneath the attempt to hide it and He sees it clearly (22). He looks to the Valley of Hinnom, which King Ahaz of Judah made infamous with human sacrifices. They have only deceived themselves, which He shows by another illustration, a swift dromedary breaking loose in her ways.  Although swift, when breaking loose from her restraints, she wanders aimlessly, back and forth.


 Yet another illustration: Israel is like a wild female donkey in heat, sniffing the air for a male. Every vile custom of the animal world is used as an example, and still, it does not describe the inherent passion of man in pursuing false gods. Today, let us beware of man’s fallen nature with a heart that is described by this same prophet later, which above all things “is deceitful and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer.17:9). The writer of Hebrews knew its deception. Listen to his extreme precaution to believers: “But exhort one another daily… lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin(He.3:13).

 Turning from sin, once and for all

I wonder how many continue in the ways of the world, because of hopelessness, who cannot see a way out of their sin. I have developed a deep hatred for doctrines, which weigh heavily upon people, even believers, and contribute to a sad, depressing outlook. You can see it on their faces. Having said all that needs to be said, concerning sin and deception, the gospel preacher must be even more insistent, concerning the doctrine of grace. One of the root differences between the devil’s lies and Holy Spirit conviction, is that the devil seeks to leave people in despair, while the Holy Spirit always offers a way of escape. God is the God of Hope and hope is offered with every reproof. Jeremiah certainly demonstrates the principle. Paraphrasing this verse 25: “Seeing there is no way out, we will endure parched thirst and walk barefoot in our sin. We give up!” I have seen Christians resigned to fate; God have mercy!

 Shame that comes only after the public disclosure of sin is of little value. Shame should come to the Christian upon sinning, even though no one is aware of it (26). May all those who are caught after sinning find true repentance, but it is much easier and genuine, when a Christian mourns over sin that only he knows exists. There is good reason to be ashamed for making and calling a tree, “father”, and saying to a stone, “You have given birth to me.” What idiocy is revealed in the sin of idolatry! Of course, a tree can take on a very sophisticated form in furniture and art, and stones and metals can be turned into complicated technology and beautiful jewels, but they are still idols in this 21st Century, if they become the goals in life (27).

 Idols may be fascinating and enchanting, but there is no real salvation in any man-made materials. There was a god or goddess for every city in Israel, and we observed patron saints in every town and city in Mexico. No, idols have not become old-fashioned, nor have they become extinct in modern civilizations. They are more numerous than ever, but my point is that they have become very sophisticated (28). Can we plead for the good blessings and deliverance of God, while we live for idols (29)?

 Every reproof is met with opposition. I hope that I am mistaken about the sincerity of people requesting prayer, who have lived in sin for decades and are now experiencing the consequences. Children and grandchildren follow in their footsteps and finally horrible tragedy strikes (30). “Please pray!” they beg and, of course, Christians will, but I am also praying for deep repentance and a total surrender and sell-out to God. Do Christians read these words in Jeremiah? It seems doubtful.

 Look carefully into the promises of God and you will see nothing but the best intentions: “The Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace and glory: No good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly” (Ps.84:11) “The living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy” (1 T.6:17). God does not leave His people in a wasteland… His government is a kingdom of light. The arrogant ego of man is at the heart of his ungratefulness and he thinks he can do better for himself than God can: We are lords; we will come no more to You (31).

 A young girl treasures her jewels and a bride puts her whole heart into her wedding. That may be legitimate but again, the Lord raises the question: How can My people forget the highest treasure and the greatest privilege? It is the insanity of arrogant ego (32). Jeremiah is a prophet for our day; it seems that he is living among us. If it was true in Israel, it is even truer today, that society teaches their citizens immoral sex. It is in their advertisements, movies and styles (33). Perhaps abortion was not common in Israel, but offering children in sacrifice certainly was, so that verse 34 can easily apply to abortion. I will quote it: “On your skirts is found the blood of the lives of the poor innocents. I have not found it by secret search, but plainly on all things.” Legal, open abortion! It is blasphemously being claimed, as a Christian virtue. I repeat, modern society is insane! I think it was Vance Havner, who said, “The world is an insane asylum and the inmates are running the show.”

 In spite of it all, a deceived mentality claims, I am innocent… I have not sinned. Surely His anger shall turn from me. “I’m getting a bad deal and God hasn’t been fair with me.” Worse yet, they will not admit that they have been deceived, even though a sinful lifestyle gives testimony to the fact (35). There is an arrogant denial of God’s appraisal, concerning their state.  

 Why do you gad about so much to change your way? After having been humbled by Assyria, there is a new effort in Judah to look in another direction for help. Egypt waits at the door to shame Israel again (36). People are always trying a different way to solve their problems, but nothing short of deep, heartfelt remorse, followed by a once-for-all death to the devil, the world, self and sin, will be effective. New birth is a glorious provision, but it is a birth that only God can conceive and achieve. “As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: Who were born, not of blood, or of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (Jn.1:12-13). In the past, preachers spoke of spurious “conversions”… of superficial change.

 All the effort of taking the journey to Egypt will fail; they will leave the negotiation table holding their heads, not having received any benefit. The Lord has left Israel to be defeated by Babylon and no better fate awaits the Egyptians (37). How awful it is to see every opportunity vanish and to find oneself alone in the world! However, all of this is being prophesied with purpose, especially for the individual, and God specializes in dealing with every person uniquely. The road to total failure, or as we say, to be “at the end of our rope”, can work towards a glorious new beginning. Christ alone is the answer for Israel and for a lonely, forgotten man or woman, left to the consequences of failure in life. Don’t fail to get into the last life boat!
























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