For we did not heed the voice of the Lord, our God, in all the words of the prophets whom he sent us,
but each one of us went off after the devices of his own wicked heart, served other gods, and did evil in the sight of the Lord, our God. (Baruch 1:21-22)
The national confession of guilt in Baruch 1:15-2:10 attributes the fall of Jerusalem to the sin and disobedience of Judah. The theme of the confession is similar to the words of denunciation of the prophet Jeremiah and the warnings found in Deuteronomy. The curses of the covenant have fallen on Judah and continue to cling to it even during the exile. The shame and disgrace that they experience is due to the curses uttered centuries before when Israel made its covenant with God, a covenant it did not keep.
Evil is not from God. Evil comes from wicked hearts, hearts that choose death rather than life. “I set before you today life and death”, Moses once said. If the nation is faithful to the covenant then it will live and have long days in the land of promise. But if they don’t, they will suffer the consequence of rejecting the security offered by God, to fall into darkness and chaos.
Formlessness and void — the Tohu-wa-bohu at the beginning of creation — the good which should be there but is not, is something that one chooses over the good that is God when one sins. The return to chaos is a fall from grace.
One of the strong images of God’s relationship with his people is found at the beginning of Deut. 32, an ancient poem declaring how the Lord found his inheritance in the midst of a howling desert. He took Israel under his protection and brought his people across the desert. He only had one command: cling to me; otherwise you’d fall and disappear in the chaos around you. But Israel didn’t cling to Him…
Fidelity to God is not so much about obedience as living in security in the midst of a threatened existence. God took Israel away from such an existence offering His security. But Israel did not want it.
When I was a kid, I remember my father teaching me how to cross a wide street with a lot of passing cars. He recited a litany of commands and warnings while holding my small hand. God had his own litany of Ten Words. To obey them is to cling to Him. And to cling to Him is to cross a wide street with speeding cars and reaching the other side unscathed.
Lord, give me stronger hands that I may always cling to you.