Devotional Commentary on Jeremiah 2


The word of the Lord is coming to Jeremiah in this chapter but Jeremiah mirrored the message by using extensively from “his” Bible available up to that time: Deuteronomy, Isaiah, Proverbs, Exodus, Psalms, 2 Samuel, Hosea, Job. What is available to us and what are we using for our messages today? Twitter feelings? What is our sources of authority, CNN, Fox TV, local newspapers, this journalist that modern book? “Thus says the Lord”. Did He? Yes. Through His prophets and writers up to Jeremiah’s time.


The audience is the faithful in Israel (verse 3). “[Spiritual] Israel is holy to the Lord, the first of His grain”. The Lord’s harvest is big and intended to cover all nations on earth and all people-groups.


Again, Israel should listen to the Word of the Lord (verse 4). It is true that they went through hard terrain but He was with them. He led them (verse 6).


They defiled His land and His inheritance was made an abomination (verse 7). The Promise land of the Lord is where everyone is perfect. But they were not. So that promise land is heaven not on earth, only after glorification can one taste the reality of the Promise land. Palestine or Israel? It was never the promise land in God’s plan. It was an open space between nations for them to prepare for the real Promise land up above. Priests did not look for the Lord (verse 8); lawyers did not know the Lord; rulers transgressed against the Lord; prophets prophesied for Baal; prophets walk after things that did not profit.


“Therefore I will yet contend [investigative judge = rib (since 1844 with the spiritual house of God first as 1 Peter 4:17 says)] with you and with your children’s children will I contend” (verse 9).


Did the Kittim or Greeks exchange their gods for other gods or at Kedar? (verse 10-11). Israel took Glory and exchanged it for nihilism. They took Protestant beginnings and exchange it for criticism as religious racism, and thus shelved it as Harvard University did this year in 2017 in several speeches in June.


This is an investigative court scene here and the Lord calls the unfallen heavens as His jury to observe: “Oh Heavens, be astonished about this, and storm, become very desolate” (verse 12). The jury cannot witness such disgrace and rather leave the court like congress-people who do not want to vote. They cannot behold the pain in the eyes of Christ when faithful people go on sinning like this.


“My people have committed two evils” (verse 13a). Rejection (verse 13b) and substitution (verse 13c).


Punishments: slavery (verse 14a); become a prey (verse 14b); surrounding nations roared at spiritual Israel (verse 15a); the land was made waste (verse 15c); cities are without inhabitants (verse 15d).


More problems (gam = also) (verse 16): punk style fashion for haircuts were done to them by Memphis in Thebes. They forsook the Lord and were led away and this happened.


Migrations started to Egypt, next to the Nile, to Assyria, next to the Euphrates (verse 18).


To forsake the Lord who is the source of life brings automatic results of wickedness, apostasies, evil and bitter experiences (verse 19).


In 1450 BCE (“For of old… verse 20) He rescued them from slavery but now in 629 BCE “on every hill and under every green tree [the symbol of Asherah is a green tree] you have lain down as a harlot”. The Kuntillet `Ajrud syndrome.


God as Gardener of Isaiah 5 planted them as a vine but they have become degenerate shoots of a foreign vine. Jeremiah speaks but through Old Testament prophets. He says what they already said. Isaiah 5 is also an Investigative Judgment court scene of God with Spiritual Israel or the House of God that 1 Peter 4:17 is talking about.


Soap and shampoo is not going to take away the iniquities (verse 22). They also suffer from denial of wrongdoings [that they follow Baals] (verse 23). They are like young camels and donkeys full of heat and passion (verse 24). They put themselves out for temptations and they are careless (verse 25). “Lead us not into temptation” should we pray but they go out to seek temptation and tempt themselves others.


Israel was already in exile and they were ashamed for their sins. Ten tribes were already gone since 723 BCE (verse 26). Kings, princes, priests and prophets were ashamed. They said to a tree that the tree is their father and to stones that they are their mother (verse 27). Idolatry and icon worship is the same thing. Even if it is an image of Christ or Christ on the cross, there cannot be any passion on the onlooker side for this lifeless object of art. Isaiah said the same in Isaiah 26.


The crucial problem here is that between the role of Symbol versus reality.


The whole problem with Israel is that they made symbols of reality and treated the symbols as reality. God hates this situation. Hench His prohibition against images for worship.


Some think if they carry the Christian cross around their neck, that it would make them more "holy" than others. It certainly does not affect the non-religious buddhist young generations of Japan and South Korea who swing drunk out of a disco, cigarette in the hand, earring of the cross, swearing as far as they are walking at two o' clock in the morning in Seoul or Tokyo. Christian? The symbol is not a carrier of the reality.

To imprint an image of Christ on a condom will not make the condom more "holy" or Christ more sacrilegious. The fact that Mary held Jesus in her arms, in her womb, on her breasts, kissed him, hugged him, does not make her any holier than any other mother. Unless she believed that He was indeed the Messiah that came to be atonement for all, she is no better off than any other woman.


In modern evangelical meetings some attempt to control the environment: the volume level of the speakers, the rhythm, speed and tunes of the songs and music to "carry people into God's arms". This is not the way God works although there is not anything wrong with this fever of them to be assisting in the conversion of souls. This enthusiasm should be there, but it is human. Some speakers say that they can feel the Holy Spirit is moving around in the meeting at a certain point, but how do they feel it? The people who start to cry? People cried when Kim, Jung-il, the chief of staff of South Korea's father died. People cried when Hitler spoke some of his public speeches. The list can go on. It becomes very difficult to distinguish mass-hysteria from the working of the Spirit of God. The Spirit can work in a quiet environment as well, and these phenomena at public meetings are too hastily connected to reality and even replaced as the reality itself. Despite the fact that it is human, a lot of good come from these meetings. They do not guarantee a lasting Christian but they certainly evidenced it in some. And this is the point of the prophet Hosea and Isaiah: all works of man are fragile, artistically only copying, acting out, dramatizing, but God is the one who does the actual work, completing it.

In his book: The Icon Road (Japan: Kawade Shoboushingsha, 1997), Sanjiro Minamikawa visited places in the Mediterranean and brought together photos of as many icons as he could see. He visited places on the Red Sea, Greece, Italy, Paris, off the coast of the Black sea and at least three places in Russia.

The book is filled with examples that would have made Hosea and Isaiah very uncomfortable. On every page is an icon of Christ portraying his face: a Beatle face (1), dressed like a Scottish pipe player dated to 494 (5), a long elongated face and hands similar to that of Buddha (6), a face that looks like one of my cousins (7), a death portrayal of Christ from the 15th century comparing to the death of Buddha on page 15 of the book by Giro Sugiyama, Shape of Buddha (Tokyo: Kashiwa Shobou Kabushikigaisha, 1984) (9 also 76), angry face (12), whitened face like a ghost (13), angry face (34 also 124), two old men on thrones probably portraying God and Jesus (46-7), long elongated face (53 bottom), a face similar to one of my Portuguese friends (56 on the ceiling), a face like an Australian friend who was my neighbor during my studies in the USA (61), a face similar to one of the famous black movie stars (62), dark Arabic face (73), feministic portrayal of Christ on a donkey entering Jerusalem (77), Christ's baptism with His private parts shown (81), face with blond hair (97), face like an old man of 75 with white hair and beard.


It is no better with Buddha. There are angry buddhas, smiling buddhas, naked buddhas, fully dressed buddhas, reclining buddhas, overweight buddhas, well-shaped buddhas, Greek/Roman and Indian and Oriental Buddhas.


The similarities between the sculptures of Christ and Buddha make one wonder which came first, the chicken or the egg?


What can we make of all this? It simply means that no-one knew how Christ was or how Buddha was. All the artists portrayed their own friends and loved ones as these figures and the sculptures do not become any holier than the hand who shaped them. It does not matter whether it is Buddha in the shape of Jesus or Jesus in the position of Buddha - there is no merit in them and they are only to be perceived as a well-designed or poorly designed piece of art, worth preserving to demonstrate the trends in art.


The priests of one of these orthodox churches (104-5) are walking through the street with their white robes and golden decorations and soldiers in white uniforms are carrying a silver and gold plated domelike shrine on a pedestal while people are anxious to see or touch it. In similar vein the buddhist festivals are celebrated with the same effect upon the people here in the orient. A lady is kissing a silverplated box in an orthodox church while others are waiting in line.


The orthodox church on page 110 is so overdecorated that to be blind would be a blessing if one has to worship in that church every week. There is no difference between the inside of this church and some of the buddhist temples here in the orient. On 117 the pulpit is turned around to face the icons instead of the people.


In a wedding ceremony (129) the brides are holding in their hands icons of Maria and the child while the men are holding icons of Jesus. They do not touch it directly since it is wrapped in a white cloth.


Men with long white beards and dressed in long over-decorated garments are walking outside the church while the public are in the background watching the spectacular (137). The garments reminded me of Harry Anderson's Bible Story pictures that I used to read as a child portraying the high priest of Israel. Here nearly every priest is a high priest. Their headwear has round and oval shaped icons of Jesus in them. On both sides one, and one in front. Their long garments are embroidered with crosses, flowers to the extreme. Long white beards are the fashion. Around their necks they are wearing over-decorated scarfs. The three domes of the church each have a cross on it and the little dome outside the front door also has a cross. It is as if one cross is not enough. Every leg of the cross has its own cross. Crosses in multiplication. The cross is meant to be a concept in the mind of the believer, not a wooden, golden, silver, object on a roof, or on your clothes or around your neck. Orthodox Jewish movements have also misunderstood the same principle regarding the Law that was and is supposed to be engraved upon the mind of the worshipper not on a piece of leather, metal, paper in a small box bound around your head and your arms. There is no difference in the misunderstanding here between some Jewish religious groups and the Law of God and some Christian groups and the cross.


They are outside but they are walking on embroidered carpets. The public is not standing on embroidered carpets, they are not wearing any of these embroided garments so the focus is over there in the theater of religious display. The priests are getting a "kick" out of this "lime light" episode but this catharsis is no different than the craving of a modern movie star or stage performer in the arts for the cameras of the mass media. When religion separates itself from the public it becomes a frenzy only for the initiated. A cult.


There are more than 14 ways or gestures in which the hands of Buddha are portrayed by artists through the centuries. At times the gestures compares with that of Christ and at other times only with a different finger in a particular position. The positions of Buddha's hands can be seen in the book: Kasuo Nagakaka, Japanese Sculptures of Buddha (Tokyo: Sekibutsjiteng, 1975), 360-361 on page