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God’s Word for You

Jeremiah 14:1-6

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Drought
14 This is the word of the LORD that came to Jeremiah concerning the drought.

Chapters 14-15 contain a series of oracles during an exceptionally difficult drought. Jeremiah mentions drought four of the eight times that the word occurs in the Bible (Jeremiah 2:6, 14:1, 17:8 and 50:38). Droughts were and are commonplace in the Middle East. A drought was almost certainly part of the trouble that caused the famine that drove Abram and Sarai into Egypt (Genesis 12:10-20) and that may also have been partly the cause of the war of the Canaanite kings in Genesis 14:1-12, when Abram’s nephew Lot was captured and carried away.

Here in chapter 14, Jeremiah’s description of the drought will be followed by alternating prayers from the prophet (Jeremiah 14:7-9, 13, 19-22) and oracles of the Lord’s response (Jeremiah 14:10-12, 14-18, 15:1-9).

2 Judah mourns.
     Her gates are weak.
They mourn for the land,
   and a cry of grief rises from Jerusalem.
3 The mighty send the meek for water.
     They go to the cisterns
     but find no water.
They return with empty containers.
  Ashamed and humiliated,
  they cover their heads.

In the exceptionally hot summer of 1977, I was part of a small group of backpackers in the Porcupine Mountains in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It was July, and on one rough day we came to stream after stream that was dry. Our water bottles were empty, and there was no water to be found. In the end, after quite a few hours of hard walking and obsessing over whether we could possibly find water, we drank the awful water of a lake mixed with some purification tablets. We weren’t quite thirsty enough to be happy about it. Here the people of Jerusalem had nothing, and would probably have rejoiced over the green water of Michigan’s Lake of the Clouds. But the mighty sent the meek, and the meek found nothing.

If the gates of the city are weak, then either they are in disrepair, or the men who guard them are weak—or both. The city is full of thirsty people and empty containers.

4 The ground is cracked
      because there has been no rain in the land.
The farmers are ashamed.
  They cover their heads.

Just as the servants sent for water covered their heads in shame (Jeremiah 14:3), the farmers now do the same thing. It isn’t just that the crops are dead. Nothing at all will grow. The land is so parched that it stands cracked like a hideous desert.

5 Even the doe in the field gives birth and then abandons it
     because there is no grass.
6 Wild donkeys stand on the barren heights.
     They pant for air like jackals.
Their eyes fail
  because there are no plants to eat.

The animals, too, suffer in the drought. The mother doe abandons her baby because she can’t care for it; she is starving, too. The wild donkeys climb to where there is sometimes a little more moisture in the air, on the mountain tops, but there is nothing there. Their eyes are no longer bright and attentive, but they just stare, unseeing, because death is so near.

God promised (Leviticus 26:19,20) that drought would be a punishment for disobedience and idolatry. The sins of the people had invited this troubled time from the Lord. He allowed it to happen so that they would see that they were sinful, turn from their sins and repent, and listen once again to the gospel of forgiveness.

Troubles don’t always come into our lives because of specific sins the way this drought came because of Judah’s idolatry. But that shouldn’t stop us from wanting to consider our lives and our sins whenever any difficulty comes our way. The Lord wants us to come to him for forgiveness. He wants us to rely on him for our welfare, our health, and every blessing. He invites us to turn to him in prayer every single day. He even taught us how to pray. And prayer is what Jeremiah turns to next.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.