Lord, you are the hope of Israel;
all who forsake you will be put to shame.
Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust
because they have forsaken the Lord,
the spring of living water.
Heal me, Lord, and I will be healed;
save me and I will be saved,
for you are the one I praise.
Jeremiah 17:13-14 (NIV)
As we watch COVID-19-related death tolls rise day by day, and as we grapple with the fragility of life, Jeremiah’s words here should both challenge and comfort us. God is indeed the HOPE of Israel, since His lovingkindness is everlasting, and He is always good.
The concept here of being ‘written in the earth’ literally means ‘written in the dust’—the idea being that the wind would blow, the writing would disappear, and the memory of what had been written would vanish away. God warns Israel that those who abandon Him to serve other gods, or to serve themselves, shall not be remembered. Their lives, like writing in the dirt, shall vanish away.
Amidst the uncertainty, business closures, ‘shelter-in-place’ orders, and myriad of other restrictions throwing off our well-established routines, most of us have found ourselves cuing up outside grocery stores, wholesale markets, or shopping unceasingly online. Storing up food and supplies, buying what we need to survive in case we should we find ourselves suddenly in survival mode. We have scurried around our towns grabbing what we can, always asking ‘how many weeks until I run out? Could I make it on this much? Do I have what I/my family needs to make it to the end of this disaster? Or do I need more?’ We think so, but we’re just not sure… And we wrestle with the questions, ‘how much is enough’ and ‘what if I run out?’
Yeshua, revealing in Himself the same character and provisions of God as revealed in this passage in Jeremiah, cuts right to the heart of the matter in John 4:13-14. The Samaritan woman, despised by many around her for her ethnic identity, had to risk the trip to the well in the heat of the day, after all others had taken their share. And she would have to come back, blistering day after blistering day. And Yeshua reminds her that the water she was drinking would indeed never be enough. She would thirst again. But that if she would turn to Him, rivers (fountains) of living waters would flow from within her. She would not only have enough, she would have more than enough and waters would flow out of her life into the lives of those around her. God exhorts Israel not to turn away from Him to things which can never satisfy—only to find their names erased in the fragility of life. He exhorts them to return to Him—'the fountain of living waters’ and to have their names written in the Book of Life which shall never be erased—though heaven and earth should pass away.
Jeremiah, though chosen by God and full of faith, recognized that he too had, at times and in part, forsaken those living waters with which the Lord wanted to fill and satisfy him. He too, like each of us, though committed to the Lord, was a sinful man with the incurable wound of a fallen nature and the need for a touch from heaven. But in the face of this stark realization in a time of crisis, Jeremiah makes an amazing declaration of faith. Not ‘heal me that I may be healed,’ or ‘heal me, that I might be healed.’ But, ‘heal me, and I shall be healed.’ Like Jeremiah, we can know and find hope that, though life is fragile, though the conveniences of life may run out, and though we struggle with sin and brokenness which we feel all the more acutely in times of crisis, we serve a God who, through faith in His Son Yeshua, is filling us today with overflowing rivers of life and who, if we ask Him, can and will heal us from all our diseases. We shall be healed! Hallelujah!