Reading the other day in Jeremiah (a book, I’ll confess, that has seldom been a focus of study for me”“though the Lord has been leading me in a “œrenaissance” of the OT of late) and came across a passage I’d never noticed before: “œHow can you say, “˜I am not defiled, I have not gone after the Baals’? Look at your way in the valley! Know what you have done! You are a swift young camel, entangling in all her ways, a wild donkey accustomed to the wilderness, that sniffs the wind in her passion. In the time of her heat, who can turn her away? All who seek her will not become weary; in her month they will find her“ (Jer. 2:23-24).
Scripture is filled to overflowing with creative turns of phrase and vivid word pictures. I’m quite familiar with the prophets’ descriptions of Israel as a prostitute or adulteress for their unfaithfulness to God, but this one goes a step further, equating them with a wild donkey in heat. The difference is one of degree more than kind”“a prostitute or adulteress does what she does for selfish reasons, standing to gain something (temporally) by her wiles; a wild animal does not reason through her actions, driven into a frenzy by chemistry and exercising no control whatsoever. In other words, the Lord is saying through Jeremiah that Israel worshipped whatever false gods came her way with no rhyme or reason, blindly following any and every path presented to her.
This is final stage of their degeneration before judgment”“they didn’t get to this point overnight. In the historical books, there seems to be a progression from casually disengaging from God and distrusting His provision and plan to willful disobedience to God and turning to false gods for political, social, or economic gain (prostitution) to devoutly worshipping false gods our of spite for the Lord (adultery) to the utter degradation described here.
There is a clear lesson here for us, and not just in terms of our personal sin and wandering from the Lord’s presence. When we begin to drift from God, forsaking prayer and the fellowship of the saints, we open our hearts to deception. We are then tempted to accept false teachings (even, or especially, the subtle ones) because they are “œhip” or “œthe new way to do things”. Eventually we come to hold falsehood more closely than truth and are in danger of completely sliding off our foundation stone. Just as the whole nation of Israel slid down this slope, so whole churches and denominations can and do take the spill.
We do well to guard our hearts and take the “œdry spells” of spirituality as a call from the Lord to search our hearts and commit ourselves ever deeper to obedience to His will. As Peter cried out in John 6:68, “œLord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life.” He is enough. Whenever we forget that, we demote Him in our hearts from God of the universe to “œpersonal assistant” and begin looking elsewhere for gratification.
”œOh to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be.
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wand’ring heart to thee.
Prone to wander, Lord I feel it!
Prone to leave the God I love!
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it.
Seal it for Thy courts above.”