JEREMIAH, Part 6

Times of Drought, Times of Intercession, Part 1

Dust storm approaching Stratford, Texas

Jeremiah 14:1—9

A devastating drought in Judah gave the prophet Jeremiah an opportunity to teach his people some much-needed lessons of morality. Precisely when this drought happened is unknown to us, but it must have been absolutely horrible.

Times of drought are times of testing. Maybe you have had droughts in your life; maybe you are experiencing one right now. God has every right to withhold His blessings whenever He thinks He should. We are all familiar with the drought where crops wither up and the topsoil blows away because there’s no rain. But there are other kinds of droughts you may experience:  droughts…

of peace;
of joy;
of spiritual power and fruitfulness;
of God’s presence.

God may be behind these droughts for a single salutary purpose for the sufferers.  And what the purpose is may not always be evident!

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. (Isaiah 55:8)

This “drought chapter” is also the most intercessory character of Jeremiah. God allowed this terrible environmental event for a purpose, but He didn’t just leave His people high and dry. He had his man on the scene and on his knees praying for the people.

1. Evidence of the drought

We may not know from history when the drought seized the land, but it’s effects were obvious.

Mournful perplexity

Judah mourns, her cities languish; they wail for the land, and a cry goes up from Jerusalem. (verse 2)

From the richest to the poorest, from the highest to the lowest, this drought brought mourning and languish to all in the land. The lives of everybody had been disrupted. The whole nation was distressed, depressed, and in despair. What’s worse, the people “wailed for the land.” That’s a curious phrase; it means they remembered what it used to be like, when it rained, when the ground was green and could be tilled, the wells were full, animals roamed healthy and well-fed, and life was good because the land was blessed.

But that was then. Now there was nothing; no water, no food, and no hope. This is what happens when the Lord holds back His blessings, and we are the ones that make that happen when we stubbornly refuse to live in obedience and submission to Him. God will do whatever it takes to bring us back in line.

Empty water pots

The nobles send their servants for water; they go to the cisterns but find no water. They return with their jars unfilled; dismayed and despairing, they cover their heads. (verse 3)

They went everywhere looking for water, but none could be found. Again we see the word “cisterns.” This is highly suggestive of times of spiritual drought, when God’s refreshing and reviving Spirit is withheld from His people, when there is “languishing” in the pews and a longing for the moves of the Spirit as in years past.

It’s possible for God’s people to long for His presence, desperately cry out for Him yet remain disappointed. God’s doesn’t play games with His people; if it seems as though He is distant; if it seems like it’s been a long time since you were spiritually satisfied, there is something wrong with you, not Him. It’s possible for some believers to want more of God, but not at the expense of wanting more of the world. You can’t have both.

Dismay

…the farmers are dismayed and cover their heads. (verse 4b)

The land, the animals, and the farmers all reeled under the weight of this terrible drought. The farmers were “dismayed”; they were confused and ashamed. When the well of God’s Word becomes dry and personal experience with God chapt, empty wells and dismayed church members are in plentiful supply.

2. Cause of the drought

Although our sins testify against us, O Lord, do something for the sake of your name. For our backsliding is great; we have sinned against you. (verse 7)

Notice the use of “our” in this verse. Like all the prophets of God, Jeremiah identified himself with his people. He himself was not guilty of his people’s sins, any more than Jesus was guilty of our sins, yet both identified themselves with the people they loved.

The people brought this drought on themselves by their reckless, sinful living. It wasn’t just their sins—we all sin—it was their backsliding. That is, it was their sinful state; these people literally never stopped sinning. They felt no remorse, or if they did, they didn’t do anything about it.

Shame and emptiness are the consequences of backsliding hearts. But there are other consequences to backsliding:

Even the doe in the field deserts her newborn fawn because there is no grass. Wild donkeys stand on the barren heights and pant like jackals; their eyes fail for lack of food. (verses 5, 6)

Just like when Adam and Eve sinned and the earth was cursed as part of their punishment, so when God’s people backslide even irrational creatures have to suffer because God is displeased. The doe, that traditionally cares for her young, was no longer able to do so. The wild donkeys, known for their strength, hardiness, and uncanny ability to survive on so little, were dying.  Sin carries serious consequences! It’s not just the backslidden believer who incurs the Lord’s anger, but the world around him.

3. The remedy

Can this kind of drought ever end? There is a remedy. There is a cure for the backslidden heart. It lies in our attitude toward the Lord Himself:

O Hope of Israel, its Savior in times of distress, why are you like a stranger in the land, like a traveler who stays only a night? (verse 8)

This is the attitude God wants His people to have. He is our only hope in times of distress. Yet, it must be more than words. From the people of Judah, unfortunately, we have a here a great example of those who cry out to the Lord using all the right words, but without a hint of repentance. They rush through their confession, but it isn’t from their hearts.

Their attitude of the first half of the verse is good: God is the only hope and Savior of Israel. But that second phrase is just awful because it shows the tendency of all believers. Underneath their nice sounding words is the tendency to blame God for all their suffering. The words were right, but in reality, they were demanding that God get them out of where they were. There is no repentance here:

Why are you like a man taken by surprise, like a warrior powerless to save? You are among us, O Lord, and we bear your name; do not forsake us! (verse 9)

Talk about arrogance! This was their perception of God. The statements of this verse couldn’t be more wrong. Is God ever taken by surprise? NO! Is God ever powerless to save? NO! Would God ever forsake His people? NO! Sin has this effect on believers; it causes them to see God in the wrong light. It’s already hard enough for the devoted Christian to keep his thoughts straight about God, imagine how difficult it would become if your mind was full of sin!

The people of Judah, some of them, at least, seemed to long for God. They could tell that He had become distant, but instead of taking responsibility for their spiritual drought, they blamed God. They could not see their role in their state.

Modern believers have the same problem. From time to time, we should all pause and take a step back and examine our spiritual lives. Do we seem to be moving closer to God or does it seem like He is afar off? Does His Word no longer interest us? Have other pursuits overtaken your desire to grow in the faith? It’s easy to become complacent and  to take our faith for granted. It’s easy to blame God for our spiritual failures. It takes guts to walk by faith. It takes guts to acknowledge when you’ve strayed off the straight and narrow. But it is part of being a child of God. Are you up to it?

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