Imagine a wedding, with the bride standing at the doors in the back about to enter the worship hall for the ceremony. She’s dressed in her gown, and her friend Jerry is standing by one of the doors, ready to fling it open when the moment comes.
Just at that moment a well dressed older man pulls up in a limousine. He goes straight to the bride and begins to speak to her in smooth, lyrical, poetic words. She is mesmerized. Jerry is horrified. He can see her subtly moving closer to the man, as if she will leave with him. He realizes the man is trying to lure her away.
The man offers her a gold ring. Jerry protests that she’s about to receive a wedding ring from the groom she’s about to marry.
When she looks at Jerry, her beautiful face is twisted into a snarl as she declares: this man promises me provision and protection; he promises me intimacy and affection.
When Jerry looks at the man he realizes what the man is. A pimp.
Jerry takes the bride by the shoulders and looks her full in the face: in place of a husband this man will give you customers; in place of a home this man will give you a prison; in place of freedom this man will make you a slave; in place of honor, shame; in place of hope, despair; in place of purity, defilement.
She slaps him in the face. Puts her hand in the pimp’s. And leaves in the limousine that will take her to the brothel instead of the one that would take her to the honeymoon.
In Jeremiah 2:1–3:5, Jeremiah proclaims that the devoted bride has become a harlot and faces the consequences.
Israel has forsaken Yahweh, the fountain of living waters, and gone to broken cisterns that hold no water (Jer 2:13). They have chosen to drink sludge instead of living water.
Just as Yahweh’s covenant with Israel is treated as a marriage, so the new covenant relationship between Christ and the church is what marriages illustrate.
This is meant to make us feel the cosmic theological woe of sin.
When we sin against Christ the bridegroom, we are committing spiritual adultery. When we look to other lovers to do for us what only Christ can do for us, we are like a wife who sells herself into prostitution.
Trusting money instead of trusting God in Christ is like trusting the money earned from turning tricks instead of believing that the bridegroom will meet the needs of his bride.
Seeking pleasure by breaking God’s commandments is like leaving the sacred marriage bed, or refusing to wait until the bridegroom takes you there, for a cheap thrill on a stained mattress in a dirty motel.
Not believing the Bible is like believing the pimp’s lies instead of the solemn oaths of the bridegroom.
Will you choose shame or honor?
Will you live in pain or comfort?
Will you sell what should not be sold or be the exclusive bride of your husband?
Will you be filthy or pure?
Will you be defiled or clean?
Will you be slave or free?
Will you be sold or redeemed?
Will you be used or loved?
Will Satan be your hard master or Christ your loving Lord?
Will you have remorse or joy?
Will you be a whore or a bride?
The world’s true story is a thrilling romance. The bride was lured away. She became defiled. She believed the pimp. She lived in filth and stench and stain. But the bridegroom came for her. He left safety and security, risked everything in a daring attempt to rescue his beloved, and he was killed in the effort.
Death, however, could not hold our hero. Jesus rose from the dead. His death cleanses his bride of all her sin and stain. He has now gone to prepare a place for us, and he will come for us.
When he comes, the bride will have made herself ready, clothing herself with fine linen, bright and pure, which is the righteous deeds of the saints (Rev 19:7–8).
–From the sermon it was my privilege to preach at Kenwood on Sunday, September 18, 2011:
Jeremiah 2:1–3:5, “Will You Drink Sludge or Living Water?”