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The incalcitrance of the people of God
One of the hardest responses of God for us to handle is God’s disappointment with us. It is somehow easier to accept God being angry with us when we mess up. But when God is disappointed and feels let down by us, that’s hard to handle.
Jeremiah 2:4-13 reflects this disappointment. God had brought the people of Israel out of generations of slavery in Egypt, across the Red Sea, through the desert and into the promised land. But they seemed ungrateful and discontent. God says,
I brought you into a fertile land to eat its fruit and rich produce. But you came and defiled my land and made my inheritance detestable. The priests did not ask, ‘Where is the LORD?’ Those who deal with the law did not know me.
And so God continues:
My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.
God gives his people such a precious gift – freedom, a land of their own, a God who loves them – but they turn away from this God and seek to dig their own cisterns. They have at their disposal the water of life, which God offers, but they spurn it for fractured cisterns of their own.
Psalm 81 provides a similar sentiment. God reminds his people of what he has done for them and of his generosity:
I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of Egypt. Open wide your mouth and I will fill it.
This image of God filling our wide-open mouths, like baby birds, is so evocative of the generosity and willingness of God to take care of us. But, alas, his people are not interested:
But my people would not listen to me; So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own devices. … If my people would only listen to me, if Israel would only follow my ways, … you would be fed with the finest of wheat; with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.
Here again, there is a stubbornness in the people of Israel to follow their own ways, to spurn the God who had already demonstrated himself to be faithful, and as a result to lose out on all the good things God had in store for them.
One of the ways that we let God down is through neglecting our marriages (or other intimate relationships). Hebrews 13:4 says,
Marriage should be honoured by all, and the marriage bed kept pure.
Marriage is of central importance because, as we read in Genesis 1:27-28, God created a couple, not an individual. And it is this couple who is created in the Image of God. We thus most closely reflect the character and nature of God, when we have good, healthy, mutual, respectful relations with our partner or spouse. Marriage is a great gift from God – the first gift given to humanity, according to Genesis.
Yet, we so easily squander and waste it, as the people of Israel did in their relationship with God in Jeremiah 2 and Psalm 81. I am dismayed at the numbers of Christian couples whose marriages are broken, damaged, abandoned. When we neglect, belittle, criticise, abandon, assault, betray or in other ways harm our partner, we are profoundly harming our relationship with God and desecrating a sacred thing that he has entrusted to us.
Marriage is not easy – it takes work and often we may fail. But let us hold central and sacred this most precious gift and make every effort to make things work. Let us not throw in the towel easily and head for divorce or separation. Let us invest our everything to make this gift of God something that God can be proud of.