The words are pointed and harsh. Jeremiah comes out of his corner swinging. The God who has called him to be a prophet to the nations from before his birth (Jer. 1:5), has put words in his mouth “to pluck up and break down, to destroy and overthrow,” before they can “build and plant” (1:9-10). And the indictments hit their mark.
No one is exempt, not priest, not scribe, not shepherd, not prophet, and certainly not the guy on the street. Though they had once shown the devotion of a young bride madly in love (2:2), they now had “changed their glory for that which does not profit” (2:11). They had forsaken God, “the fountain of living waters,” and had instead sought to hew out their own cisterns, “broken cisterns that can hold no water” (2:13). Unfaithful to the LORD, the people of God who had been planted as a “choice vine, wholly of pure seed,” had “turned degenerate and become a wild vine” (2:21). The fear of God was not in them. Instead they forsook the LORD, saying to a chunk of wood, “You are my father,” and to a stone, “You gave me birth” (2:27).
And here’s the indictment that trumps all indictments for me . . .
For they have turned their back to Me,
and not their face. (Jeremiah 2:27b ESV)
Might seem somewhat innocuous at first. Little harm from allowing other things to avert the glance from the God of heaven to the things of earth. Not that big of deal if, once in awhile, God takes second place to other pursuits. How much can it hurt if we periodically turn our gaze from the Glory and give Him but a partial ear to hear what He would desire of us? But eventually, the head does a full 180 . . . and God gets the back of our heads, the neck . . . and the longer the back is given to God, the stiffer the neck becomes.
As I once heard someone point out, how we position our face communicates tons. Giving someone the back of our head says, “I stand opposed to you.” Giving someone the side of your face says, “I’m interested in something or someone else. I’m indifferent to you.” But giving someone your face says, “I’m in to you.”
O, that I might not half attend to the face and voice of God and indicate my indifference. Might I beware of ever giving my back to God as something else tries to convince me that it will satisfy my thirst beyond the living water from heaven . . . that it, above God, is worthy of the firstfruits of my time and energy and provide greater returns than the One who sent His Son to redeem me. But might I always turn to Him my face.
Enamored with Him beyond the things of this earth . . . fixed upon Him more than the blessings that I have received from Him.
The Bride eyes not her garment,
But her dear Bridegroom’s face;
I will not gaze at glory,
But on my King of grace:
Not at the crown He giveth,
But on His pierced hand;
The Lamb is all the glory,
And my eternal stand! (The Sands of Time Are Sinking by Anne R. Cousin, 1857)
My face . . . not my back. By His grace . . . for His glory.