In what’s often referred to as ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ (or ‘The Disciples’ Prayer’) Jesus taught His disciples to pray: “Give us this day our daily bread” (Mt. 6:11). It’s something that we should pray regularly as well; but, from what I gather, most do not. And yet, in our refrigerators and on our kitchen tables, there it is – daily bread. The simple recitation of that reality ought to help spur appreciation for what we might otherwise take for granted. In a similar vein, I think the opening verses of Jeremiah 14 should help us appreciate ‘daily water.’
Knowing what had happened not to too long before in the days of Ahab (cf. 1 Ki. 18:1; Lk. 4:25; Jas. 5:17) should have made rebellious Judah sensitive to the possibility that even as their sister, Israel, suffered through a widespread drought so would they. Yet, despite what they saw, Judah only returned in pretense not in reality (Jer. 3:10). So “the word of the Lord … came to Jeremiah concerning the droughts” (vs.1), a promised result of covenant disobedience and an outworking of the LORD’s anger (Deut. 11:17). While we cannot pinpoint the exact times of these droughts, we do see their effects described in the forthcoming verses. I suggest that as you read the descriptions that follow that you do not read them as simply an historical account but as a punitive sentence that God has graciously spared many in the modern world from even though we do not deserve such mercy.
Jeremiah wrote: “Judah mourns, and her gates languish; they mourn for the land, and the cry of Jerusalem has gone up” (vs.2). The pain was pervasive. Even the gates, the prominent concourses of business and government, were filled with those who languished from the droughts’ effects. But as though that were too general, Jeremiah provides some ‘for instances’: Their nobles have sent their lads for water; they went to the cisterns and found no water. They returned with their vessels empty; they were ashamed and confounded and covered their heads (vs.3). Hard to imagine isn’t it? Nobles sent their servants to search wells and cisterns for water but to no avail. We know the feeling of going to the supermarket in search of a particular food item perhaps, only to find that they ran out; but in modern North America we have been so temporally blessed that we know nothing of this depiction – looking high and low for water, only to find none. Whatever reserves they had, ran out. Every search came up dry. As an aside, this is also a good illustration of trying to find fulfillment outside of God. Sadly people will run from cistern to cistern, well to well, relationship to relationship, job to job, and so on, all in the hopes of finding something to quench the thirst of their fallen hearts, but all the wells of the world will ultimately come up dry; there is only one fountain of living water (Jer. 2:13).
Well, even the nobles couldn’t weather this weather. Why? “Because the ground is parched, for there was no rain in the land” (vs.4a). So like the lads who bore the utmost signs of grief (vs.3b) so did the plowmen – they “were ashamed” and “they covered their heads” (vs.4b). The situation was so bad that even the deer that gave birth in the field…left because there was no grass (vs.5). Nature’s drought overcame natural affections. Likewise, the wild donkeys stood in the desolate heights and they sniffed at the wind like jackals, meaning that either they were looking desperately for food or they were panting due to the oppressive heat hoping to take in whatever cool air they could, but whatever looking they were doing eventually stopped because their eyes failed…because there was no grass (vs.6). This is just one depiction of the devastating consequences of rebellion against God – more follow. The grass is not greener on the side of disobedience. The land is parched and the consequences are deadly. And when we think of how many of us have been graciously and undeservinglyspared from such experiences, perhaps green grass along our roads and sidewalks have never looked so compassionate to us.
But as gracious as that is – namely, how little those of us in the western world experientially know of the horrible consequences of drought, we should be even more amazed that our Savior, the Lord of glory, humbled Himself to the point of death, even death on a cross where He would say, “I thirst” (Jn. 19:28). Jesus, who was the antithesis of the rebels in Judah, suffered thirst and the utter degradation associated with crucifixion for rebels like us. Let us, then, not only marvel of how little we know of thirst and drought, but let us appreciate afresh ‘daily water’ and a once thirsty Savior.