Sunday, May 01, 2022

“I Bring Charges Against You” [Matt's Messages]

“I Bring Charges Against You”
Uprooted - The Words of Jeremiah
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
May 1, 2022 :: Jeremiah 2:1-3:5 

We learned last week that Jeremiah was not a bullfrog but a prophet of the LORD in the southern kingdom of Judah for the last forty years before Judah was sent into exile.

Last week, we also learned about Jeremiah’s inescapable call to unflinching prophetic ministry–faithfully speaking God’s words, patiently waiting for God’s words to be fulfilled for good or ill, and resolutely standing with God’s words no matter how unpopular he became.

Today, in chapter 2 and the beginning of chapter 3, we begin to hear more of Jeremiah’s message of judgment for the nation of Judah.

Before I read any of this chapter to you, I have to warn you that it’s not pretty. The language here is actually very jolting. It’s scorching, really! 

There are parts of the Bible where the language is sweet, and beautiful, and heartening. But there are other parts of the Bible where the language has to be, because of its essential message, more stunning, more painful, more harrowing, harder to hear, harder to listen to.

And a lot of the Words of Jeremiah are like that, including this section. Chapters 2 through 6, really. Jeremiah can be like a broken record stuck on a really mad and sad song. Remember, it’s a prophecy of a tragedy.

There are a lot of strong accusations leveled in this section at the people of Judah, and he really presses them home.

The prophets of the LORD in the Old Testament often had to act as the prosecuting attorneys of the covenant.  Often the prophets were like lawyers.

Have you spent any time in a courtroom? I have spent a little time there, not very much, thankfully. Mostly supporting somebody else who had to be there for some court case or another.

But I have watched a lot of “Perry Mason.” We watched one last night! And some “Matlock.” And some “Law & Order.” And, as I love murder mysteries, I have read about thousands of court cases.

What is the scariest seat to sit in in a courtroom?

Is it the judge's? No, though I’m sure they feel a kind of pressure.

It’s the defendant's, right? In a criminal case, the person who is being tried. That person, even if they are innocent, are the ones who are squirming the most (unless they are Jesus!). And if they are guilty, then they are really squirming!

The prophets of the LORD in the Old Testament were often called upon to be the prosecuting attorneys for the LORD against the people of Israel as the defendants.

Often the prophecies of the prophets were less about fore-telling what was going to happen some day in the far future, and more about forth-telling, bringing charges against the nation for their disobedience to the covenant that the LORD had made with them in the past.

And that’s the focus of Jeremiah chapter 2.

It is un-dated, unlike last week’s, so we don’t really know when it was originally delivered, but most scholars assume that it was early on in Jeremiah’s ministry.

It’s actually more like a sampler. More like a “mixtape” of Jeremiah’s greatest hits as a prosecuting attorney–pointing out the awfulness of Judah’s sin. 

I’m sure that listening to it was painful for the defendants. Because the picture that Yahweh paints through Jeremiah is not pretty. And it would be easy, I think, to distance ourselves from it while we read it. To shake our heads at those foolish Israelites. “What were they thinking?” “Go get ‘em, Jeremiah! You tell ‘em!”

But I believe that one of the major reasons why these words are in our Bibles is to help us to see ourselves and our sin. Their sins give us insight into our sins. And what God says about their sin gives us insight into how God thinks about our sin.

So let’s listen in to Jeremiah the prosecuting attorney bringing some charges against Judah.

He begins, strangely enough, with describing a honeymoon.

Jeremiah chapter 2, verse 1.

“The word of the LORD came to me: ‘Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem: ‘'I remember the devotion of your youth, how as a bride you loved me and followed me through the desert, through a land not sown. Israel was holy to the LORD, the firstfruits of his harvest; all who devoured her were held guilty, and disaster overtook them,'’ declares the LORD.”

Those are the nicest words that you are going to hear from Jeremiah today. He was hit with the word of the LORD again. Bam! “The word of the LORD came to me:” And Yahweh told him to walk up to Jerusalem [remember that’s about an hour’s walk from Anathoth. Here to Kylertown.] and deliver these words: “I remember our honeymoon.”

The LORD uses this metaphor of the covenant of marriage again and again in the Bible, both testaments. The LORD as husband, and the people of God as bride. United in a covenant of love.

And so full of promise at first. Holy, firstfruits. Idyllic. Devotion. Love. Loyalty.

Yes, there were problems in their marriage from the git-go. They struggled some in the wilderness. But there were no other parties in the picture. No other gods. It was just Israel and Yahweh on their honeymoon.

And the LORD was completely faithful. He provided for His bride. He protected His bride. He was a great husband. “Declares the LORD.” Mic drop. That’s the way it was. Nobody can argue.

So what happened?! What happened? How did they get here?

Remember last week that boiling pot that Jeremiah saw? Tilting towards Judah. There was a scalding judgment going to come down from the north. Why? Because Judah has been unfaithful to the covenant.

How did they get here? How did they get to this place? Verse 4.

“Hear the word of the LORD, O house of Jacob, all you clans of the house of Israel. This is what the LORD says: ‘What fault did your fathers find in me, that they strayed so far from me? They followed worthless idols and became worthless themselves. [They went from holy to worthless! Why? How? What happened? What did I do wrong? V.6] They did not ask, 'Where is the LORD, who brought us up out of Egypt and led us through the barren wilderness, through a land of deserts and rifts, a land of drought and darkness, a land where no one travels and no one lives?' [“They should have. I have taken care of them, and I would have taken care of them still.” V.7] 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 leaders were no help. V.8] The priests did not ask, 'Where is the LORD?' Those who deal with the law did not know me; the leaders rebelled against me. The prophets prophesied by Baal[!], following worthless idols. ‘Therefore I bring charges against you again,’ declares the LORD. ‘And I will bring charges against your children's children.”

That’s where we get our title for today, in verse 9, “I Bring Charges Against You.” And if your kids and your grandkids keep it up, I’ll bring charges against them, too.

It’s worse because they had been so close, right? This courtcase is kind of like a divorce case. And the LORD is the offended spouse suing for divorce.  And this is scary: He is also the judge. And He is the One speaking through the prosecuting attorney.

There is almost no Jeremiah in here. Just Yahweh speaking through Jeremiah. “Therefore I bring charges against you again,’ declares the LORD.” 

What are the charges? Look at verse 10.

“Cross over to the coasts of Kittim and look [that’s Cyprus in the West], send to Kedar [that’s a desert in the East] and observe closely; see if there has ever been anything like this: Has a nation ever changed its gods? (Yet they are not gods at all.) But my people have exchanged their Glory for worthless idols.”

I have three points to make this morning from this chapter, and they are all about what sin is like just from listening to the LORD talk about the sin of Judah. Here’s point number one:


Do you hear how astonished the LORD sounds about this? “Check from East to West, have you ever heard anything like this before? It’s unheard of. Has a nation ever changed its gods?”

What’s the answer to that one? Only if they were made to.

If somebody came in and conquered you, then you might switch over to their gods, because you had to though you probably snuck around with your gods when nobody was watching. But Judah as decided to change its Real God Who was perfectly faithful to false gods that aren’t even real! “But my people have exchanged their Glory for worthless idols.”

How shocking is that?! What was Yahweh’s sin? How had He failed them? He had not!

And yet, they exchanged Him for worthless idols. “I’d like to turn in this Glorious God and take one of those defective models, please.” 

What?! V.12 “Be appalled at this, O heavens, and shudder with great horror,’ declares the LORD.”

The heavens here are like the spectators in the courtroom. They don’t have any role except to witness the proceedings and react to them. The murmur, the sensation in the  courtroom when some amazing thing is brought out in evidence. The whole universe shakes at this thought.

“Be appalled at this, O heavens, and shudder with great horror,’ declares the LORD.”

The enormity of this crime!

Is that how you see your sin?

Because it’s not just Judah that has done this dark exchange.

All sin is like this. Read Romans chapter 1. “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images...” (Romans 1:18-23a.). 

Sound familiar? Paul ends all of that description of the shocking nature of sin with, “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

Why would we ever sin?! Just this description of the appalling horror of sin should make us hate our sin and repent. How evil it is to exchange the Glorious for the worthless. And not just evil but dumb.


It’s not just shocking. It’s shockingly stupid. Verse 13.

“‘My people have committed two sins: [Here are the charges laid out in two counts.] They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”

How dumb is that?!

Do you get the picture? There is a lot of artistry in the language here. Here are the charges. Their first offense is to forsake the LORD. He is like a spring of living water.

If you a farmer, and you find a spring on your property, are you happy or sad? You are very happy. Especially in a dry place like Israel. If you have water, you have life. But Judah has backed up a cement truck to that the spring and stopped it up. Instead of figuring out how to irrigate their whole field with it, they have figured out how to pretend the spring isn’t there and block the water from getting to crops.

And instead, [and this is their second offence, they have come up with their own watering system.] they have a dug a big cistern to collect muddy rain water and have not even bothered (or can’t figure out how) to keep it from leaking. It’s broken!

And they’re like, “Yeah, I like it. I like the broken cistern. I hated that spring.”

What?! That’s ridiculous. That’s crazy. That’s foolish. That’s illogical.

That’s sin for you.

Sin is stupid.
Sin is absurd.
Sin is a bad deal.

And yet we keep choosing it.

I’ve got a deal for you. I know you have a Lamborghini Veneno Roadster and a McLaren P1 LM in your garage right now. But I have a broken bicycle that I’d like to trade you for. It only has one wheel. No chain. It’s rusty. The steering is off. But it’s handmade by me, myself, and I! What do you say? 

No, I didn’t think you’d go for it. But every day we all do something more shockingly stupid than that, we sin against the Lord our God.

I think one of these reasons this passage is here in holy Scripture is to cause us to rethink our daily proclivity to give in to temptation.

I don’t care what the sin is, it’s stupid.

Because sin never pays off in the long run.

“False gods never fail to fail.” - Christopher J.H. Wright

They are unreliable. They are useless. They worthless. They are broken cisterns. 

When God is the spring of living water.

Remember what Jesus told the woman at the well? “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13-14).

Sin is fundamentally unsatisfying. But Jesus said, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him” (John 7:37-38).

Have you come to Jesus for salvation and soul satisfaction? Do you continue to come to Him and drink from Him? That is smart.

Anything else is stupid. And it is shameful. 


In verse 14, Jeremiah picks up steam and begins to lay into the people of Judah about the shamefulness of their sin and the shameful consequences coming because of their sin.

He does it by laying on a bunch of rhetorical questions. You know, lawyer questions. Unanswerable questions. They are damning questions. And he also does it through laying out these damning images and piling them one on top of another. Look at verse 14.

“Is Israel a servant, a slave by birth? [No.] Why then has he become plunder? Lions have roared; they have growled at him. They have laid waste his land; his towns are burned and deserted. [Why did that happen?] Also, the men of Memphis and Tahpanhes have shaved the crown of your head. [Those are key cities in Egypt. Judah has been defeated by them. The Lord has let them be shamed and treated as prisoners of war, shaved heads. Why? V.17] Have you not brought this on yourselves by forsaking the LORD your God when he led you in the way? [Yes, you have.]

Now why go to Egypt to drink water from the Shihor? And why go to Assyria to drink water from the River? [They are tempted to form alliances with other nations, even the ones who had just shamed them, to try to get Judah out of its trouble. Instead of just trusting the Lord and repenting. V.19] Your wickedness will punish you; your backsliding will rebuke you. Consider then and realize how evil and bitter it is for you when you forsake the LORD your God and have no awe of me,’ declares the Lord, the LORD Almighty.”

More. In verse 20, the prosecution begins to bring out, into evidence, statements made by the defendant. Verse 20.

“‘Long ago you broke off your yoke and tore off your bonds; you said, 'I will not serve you!' Indeed, on every high hill and under every spreading tree you lay down as a prostitute.”

I told you it wasn’t pretty.

Not only is the honeymoon over, but the bride is pimping herself out. She’s not just adulterous–idolatry is spiritual adultery–but she is promiscuous.

That could actually be literal, as well as metaphorical. Because the Canaanite gods were gods of fertility that included acts of sexual immorality in their worship. 

Judah was tempted to worship many other gods. And so are we!

What are the gods that our culture lays out before us?

All kinds of sexual immoralities make the list.

Sex is a major god in our culture. It’s funny. They culture says that Christians are fixated on sexuality. And, of course, some Christians are. But the culture is fixated on sexuality! Sexual satisfaction is seen as the greatest, most important thing. And you gotta have it how you want it.

Do you know what we call that? Worship.

But it’s not just sex that we worship.

We worship money.
We worship sports.
We worship politics.
We worship family.
We worship popularity.

We worship...what are you tempted to worship?

I often worship my stomach (Philippians 3:19). I have recently fallen back into old worship patterns of gluttony. And I told Heather Joy just last night, “I need to get back to eating right. And I’m sorry.” I know it because I feel bad. I hide how many servings I ate instead of bringing it out into the open. I’m ashamed of it. Because sin is shameful.

It’s shocking, and it’s stupid, and it’s shameful. Verse 21.

“I had planted you like a choice vine of sound and reliable stock. How then did you turn against me into a corrupt, wild vine? [Another ugly metaphor.] Although you wash yourself with soda and use an abundance of soap, the stain of your guilt is still before me,’ declares the Sovereign LORD.”

Here’s how shameful this sin is, it puts an stain on Judah that they can’t get rid of. All of the lye and the bleach they can find. Scrub, scrub, scrub. And it’s still there. Like Lady Macbeth trying unendingly to wash the blood off her hands. The stain is there.

“The stain of your guilt is still before me...”

You think it’s gone, but I can still see it. Deny it all you want. Verse 23.

“‘How can you say, 'I am not defiled; I have not run after the Baals'? [Ha!] See how you behaved in the valley; consider what you have done. You are a swift she-camel running here and there, a wild donkey accustomed to the desert, sniffing the wind in her craving–  in her heat who can restrain her? Any males that pursue her need not tire themselves; at mating time they will find her.”

I told you it wasn’t pretty.

Yahweh is pulling no punches. He says that Judah is like a camel or a donkey in heat, reckless, unrestrained, frantic, dangerously, desperately running to copulate. Running to false worship. V.25

“Do not run until your feet are bare and your throat is dry. But you said, 'It's no use! I love foreign gods, and I must go after them.'” Sin is shamefully addictive.

Here’s a phrase I don’t want you to miss. Look back up at verse 23. “Consider what you have done.”

Look at yourself.

Some of you have tender consciences, and this chapter is really hard for you. Just hearing these words, you feel the shame cling to you. Hang on, stay with me, I have some good news to share with you in just a couple of minutes. Hold on.

But the rest of us, we probably need to take a moment and take a good long look at ourselves. Look back over our lives, or maybe just the last week, and take a good hard look at ourselves and consider what we have done. And think for a minute about how shameful it is. 

Don’t just say, “Nah, I’m good."

V.26 “‘As a thief is disgraced when he is caught, so the house of Israel is disgraced–they, their kings and their officials, their priests and their prophets. They say to wood, 'You are my father,' and to stone, 'You gave me birth.' They have turned their backs to me and not their faces; yet when they are in trouble, they say, 'Come and save us!'

How shameful is that? When things are going good, they are forsaking God. When things are going bad, they cry out to Him for help once again. V.28

“Where then are the gods you made for yourselves? Let them come if they can save you when you are in trouble! For you have as many gods as you have towns, O Judah.”

And here is the height of shameful shamlessness. Verse 29.

“‘Why do you bring charges against me? You have all rebelled against me,’ declares the LORD. [They are complaining about Yahweh! They think they can bring a countersuit against Yahweh because He let them stay in trouble. Because He brought discipline to them. V.30] ‘In vain I punished your people; they did not respond to correction. Your sword has devoured your prophets like a ravening lion. 

‘You of this generation, consider the word of the LORD: ‘Have I been a desert to Israel or a land of great darkness? [No.] Why do my people say, 'We are free to roam; we will come to you no more'? Does a maiden forget her jewelry, a bride her wedding ornaments? Yet my people have forgotten me, days without number. [Imagine a bride who forgot to put on her wedding dress on her wedding day! That’s the kind of spiritual amnesia we’re dealing with here. Shameful. V.33]  How skilled you are at pursuing love! Even the worst of women can learn from your ways. On your clothes men find the lifeblood of the innocent poor, though you did not catch them breaking in. 

Yet in spite of all this you say, 'I am innocent; he is not angry with me.' But I will pass judgment on you because you say, 'I have not sinned.' Why do you go about so much, changing your ways? You will be disappointed by Egypt as you were by Assyria. You will also leave that place with your hands on your head, for the LORD has rejected those you trust; you will not be helped by them.”

Do you see their defense? 

They have no defense. There is no Perry Mason going to get them out of this one. He wouldn’t have taken their case. Perry only defended innocent people. 

Judah is as guilty as the day is long. And their only defense is denying it. “I am innocent. He’s not angry with me. I have not sinned.” Shameful. 

Chapter 3, verse 1.

“‘If a man divorces his wife and she leaves him and marries another man, should he return to her again? [We’ve gone from honeymoon to impending divorce.] Would not the land be completely defiled? [They weren’t allowed to do that. Husbands weren’t allowed to basically lend out their wives through divorce and remarriage after the second husband divorced her. That would be defiling.] But you have lived as a prostitute with many lovers [not just one other husband!]–would you now return to me?’ declares the LORD.

You’re just going to try to walk back in as if nothing has happened? V.2

“‘Look up to the barren heights and see. Is there any place where you have not been ravished? [Any place where you didn’t do it?] By the roadside you sat waiting for lovers, sat like a nomad in the desert. You have defiled the land with your prostitution and wickedness. Therefore the showers have been withheld, and no spring rains have fallen. [Ironically, it hasn’t even worked. All of that fertility worship has not yielded fertility. All the worship of the storm god has brought no rain. But has that stopped you?] Yet you have the brazen look of a prostitute; you refuse to blush with shame. Have you not just called to me: 'My Father, my friend from my youth, will you always be angry? Will your wrath continue forever?' This is how you talk, but you do all the evil you can.’”

In other words, “You are guilty as charged.”

Now, next time, we’ll see what LORD says about the possibility of repentance for Judah. But right now, I want to just focus on us:

Have you gotten a sense of your sin this morning?

How shocking it is? Exchanging the glory of God for worthlessness. Has that helped you to see how appalling your sin is and hate it and repent?

Have you gotten a fresh sense of how stupid your sin is? Forsaking the satisfying spring of living water for the disappointing broken cistern of sin. Has that helped you to rethink the temptations lying before you?

Have you gotten a new sense of how shameful your sin is? How “not pretty” it is. How very ugly? A stain you cannot remove from yourself.

Whatever you do. Whatever soap you apply. No matter how you scrub.


What if I were to tell you that there is a way to get that stain out?
What if I were to tell you that there is forgiveness for your shocking, stupid, shameful sins?
What if I were to tell you that this God Who has every reason to pour out the boiling pot of judgment on you, has instead put forward His own Son to be scorched in your place?

That’s what this table represents.

This meal--the bread and the cup--symbolizes the body and blood of Jesus Christ which was broken and poured out for you and me.
The Nicene Creed says, “For our sake He was crucified.” He died for all of our shocking, stupid, shameful sin. He died for all the ugliness in my heart and in my words and in my deeds.

A couple of weeks ago, I was reading a book on the theology of Jeremiah (by John Goldingay), and I read out the subject headings of a chapter on “Wrongdoing” to one of my sons. The headings were “Unfaithfulness, rebellion, waywardness, transgression, heedlessness, taint, corruption, profanation, shamefulness, mystery and stupidity, self-interest, greed, stubbornness.”

And my son said snarkily to me, “Is that your autobiography you’re reading?” (Playful snark is one of our love languages at our house.)

And, I said, “Sadly, yes. Thank God for the blood of Jesus Christ.”


Previous Messages in This Series: