God Abandons the Pious
Shepherd God, when I am weak You lift me up. I turn to You for strength, hope, and direction.
Consider: Like Judah, we can have "stubborn inclinations" (24) and be "stiff-necked" (26) toward God. Rather, we should be walking in all the ways he commands us (23)!
It seems as if it is always easier to be religious than to be obedient to God. The focus on ritual and burnt sacrifices seems to be a preoccupation of the people of Judah, yet they follow ritual with complete indifference to what God has actually asked of them. As covenant people, they have been shown ways of obedience so they can enjoy closeness with God and know peaceful lives (23). But for generation after generation the people have debased their relationship with God, following their own inclinations, while still expecting God's blessing. Even when prophets are sent to warn them, they do not listen. Jeremiah is not the first prophet to reproach them. Their shallowness and hypocrisy had already been attested by Isaiah (Isa. 58).
Jeremiah's frustration is evident. God tells him that he will be ignored by the people (27,28). They are no longer capable of even speaking truth. So now Jeremiah's message is not just one of warning, but of lament. The rituals they really need are rituals of mourning ("cut off your hair," 29), returning to the place where they consulted and worshiped pagan gods ("the barren heights") so they can bemoan what they have done. Their blatant, impenitent sin has caused God to withdraw from his people.
The abandonment that Judah is about to experience has been brought on by themselves. Sin always distances us from God. We know this in our own lives. When Jesus experienced being forsaken on the cross (Matt. 27:46) he was taking on himself the sins of the world (2 Cor. 5:21). Yet the abandonment that Christ faced means we never have to, and this can bring encouragement when we feel down and God seems absent. When sin no longer separates us, God is always with us and can at any time draw us into new hope and peace.
What message do you feel God is trying to get to you? What are you doing about it (22,23)?
Patient One, forgive me for my self-will. Sensitize me to Your Holy Spirit and Your guidance and grant me a new heart for obedience to You.