God the Accuser
Reflecting on the Third Sunday in Lent: Three Days after Sunday (Year A)
Psalter: Psalm 81
Old Testament: Jeremiah 2:4-13
Gospel: John 7:14-31, 37-39
Enduring Presence, goal and guide, you go before and await our coming. Only our thirst compels us beyond complaint to conversation, beyond rejection to relationship. Pour your love into our hearts, that, refreshed and renewed, we may invite others to the living water given to us in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Jeremiah 2:4-13 is a powerful indictment of the people of Judah for their unfaithfulness and disobedience to God.
The passage begins with God recalling how he had chosen the people of Judah as his own and had brought them out of slavery in Egypt, leading them through the wilderness and into the land of Canaan. God had made a covenant with the people, promising to be their God and to bless them if they remained faithful and obedient. However, the people of Judah had not kept their end of the covenant, and God accuses them of betraying him with six accusations.
The first accusation is that the people of Judah had abandoned God, the source of living water, and had instead turned to broken cisterns, which can hold no water. This metaphorical image speaks to the people’s idolatry and faithlessness. Just as a broken cistern cannot hold water, so too the idols that the people had turned to cannot provide them with the blessings and sustenance they need.
Secondly, God accuses the people of Judah of defiling the land that God had given them by following after foreign gods and engaging in pagan practices. God had given the people a holy land, but they had made it unholy through their disobedience.
The third accusation is that the people of Judah had forgotten the Lord and had instead turned to worshiping other gods. This is a particularly grievous offense, as it violates the first commandment, which states, “You shall have no other gods before me.”
Fourth, God’s people had trusted in their own strength and power, rather than relying on God. They had become arrogant and self-sufficient, thinking that they could handle things on their own, without God’s help.
The fifth charge is that the people of Judah had turned to the nations around them for help, rather than trusting in God. They had made alliances with foreign powers, hoping to gain protection and security, but had neglected to turn to God for help.
The sixth accusation is that the people of Judah had become so entrenched in their sin that they were beyond correction. God had sent prophets to warn them and call them to repentance, but they had not listened. They had become so set in their ways that they could not see the error of their actions.
The significance of Jeremiah’s words lies in its message of warning and admonition to the people of Judah, and to all people, to remain faithful to God and to honor the covenant that God has made with the people. The passage shows that God takes faithfulness and obedience seriously.
The consequences of disobedience are also highlighted. God warns that the people of Judah will suffer for their disobedience, as they will be taken into exile by foreign powers, which is precisely what happened in 586 BC/BCE.
Yet, as so often happens in prophetic pronouncements there is offered words of hope. Despite the people’s disobedience, God still holds out the possibility of restoration if the people will repent and turn back to him. This message of hope is a recurring theme throughout the book of Jeremiah and points to God’s mercy and grace, even in the face of human sinfulness.
In this season of Lent, if God could speak to us directly what sins would God accuse us of committing? Would there be six accusations? Less? More?
PRAYER: God of wilderness and water, your Son was baptized and tempted as we are. Guide us through this season, that we may not avoid struggle, but open ourselves to blessing, through the cleansing depths of repentance and the heaven-rending words of the Spirit. Amen.
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