Having seen the prophet’s call in chapter one, our attention is now directed towards the prophet’s message in chapter two. Jeremiah began by writing, “Moreover the word of the LORD came to me, saying…” (vs.1). The message that follows, the first prophetic utterance that we read of Jeremiah receiving, continues all the way through the beginning of the following chapter (2:1-3:5). But before Jeremiah received the words he was to speak, the LORD told him what to do and where to do it: “Go and cry in the hearing of Jerusalem, saying…” (vs.2a). Not Anathoth, but Jerusalem. Not a small village, but a capital city. Whatever reticence of public speaking and preaching that Jeremiah had (cf. Jer. 1:6), it was about to be confronted head-on. This message was meant to be heard by the Jewish masses; hence the expression: “… cry in the hearing of Jerusalem.” The good news for Jeremiah was – he not only had an imperative but a promise of God’s presence – “speak to them all that I command you…for I am with you…” (vs.17a, 19b). The Christian can relate, he or she has just about the same imperative and promise (Mt. 28:19,20), but with a far greater announcement.
When Jeremiah arrived in Jerusalem, having likely traveled from Anathoth, he was to proclaim, “Thus says the LORD: ‘I remember you, the kindness of your youth, the love of your betrothal, when you went after Me in the wilderness, in a land not sown” (vs.2b). The imagery and language is startling because it is so noticeably heartfelt. Like a heartbroken husband recalling the past affection of his unfaithful wife so the LORD recalled, if you will, what He and Israel once had. “The kindness of your youth” likely refers to Israel’s coming up out of Egypt (Hos. 2:15). “The love of your betrothal” likely refers to the giving of the Mosaic Law at Mount Sinai (Ex. 24:8). And the description that Israel “went after [the LORD] in the wilderness, in a land not sown” likely refers to the way in which Israel followed the LORD into, in, and despite the barren wilderness (Deut. 32:10). The point being: God remembered those times; He hadn’t forgotten them. And although a simple read through Exodus and Numbers would quickly remind the reader that the relationship was far from perfect, the idea is – it was much better than what was happening in Jeremiah’s time and it had not been jettisoned from God’s memory.
Those ‘better days’ are further depicted when the LORD said: “Israel was holiness to the LORD” (vs.3a). Just as the high priest wore that inscription (“holiness to the LORD”) on the gold plate placed on the forehead area of his turban as an emblematic declaration of His consecration (Ex. 28:36), so Israel was especially consecrated to the service of the LORD. Israel was also described as “the first fruits of His increase” (vs.3b). Salvifically-speaking, Israel was to be the first fruits of a much greater harvest; namely, gentiles from every kindred, tribe, and tongue. Such precious privileges extended further still. The LORD said, “All that devour him will offend; disaster will come upon them” (vs.3c). The Egyptians, the Amorites, and the Amalekites could all say “amen” to that. They knew that reality firsthand. They offended and the LORD zealously protected and avenged His people. What a privileged position Israel enjoyed. What privileged position the people had since left behind and laid aside – a point that is developed further in the following verses.
Perhaps one of the best applications from these verses would be something like this: (reflecting back to verse two) wouldn’t you hate it if God could say such a thing about you? If He could say to you, “I remember how things used to be between us…” May it not be. Yes, as a Christian, presuming you are, you and I enjoy New Covenant assurance of our union with Christ, and we can rest in having peace with God and the forgiveness of our sins, but that positional reality should not lead to relational complacency. Drawing near is the best guard against drifting away. Keeping your eyes on the text of Scripture day-in and day-out is a great way to combat the forgetfulness of fallenness. We have such short memories and we need continuous reminders of God’s love, Christ’s cross, and the insanity of drifting from it.
Let us, then, esteem the relationship we enjoy and the memories we make with our God, seeing how He doesn’t forget such moments (cf. Jer. 2:2). How amazing it is for a human being to be able to say the following concerning the Gospel-relationship he or she enjoys with their God – even if we become forgetful He remains mindful.