Russell and Duenes

We Were Better Off Serving Idols

with 2 comments

When God brings judgment upon the nation of Judah around 600 B.C., it’s easy to forget that for over 400 years he had pleaded with them to turn their hearts back to him. He had given them plenty, and stripped them of their plenty, all in the hopes of regaining their allegiance. To no avail. When finally God judged them by bringing the Babylonians against them, many fled to Egypt in the hopes of sparing themselves. And here we see how strong is the human desire to avoid suffering for God’s sake. We will abandon obedience to God in the hopes that some other path will bring us into prosperity and well-being. Yet God said this would be futile. Egypt would provide no protection:

7 “Now this is what the LORD God Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Why bring such great disaster on yourselves by cutting off from Judah the men and women, the children and infants, and so leave yourselves without a remnant? 8 Why arouse my anger with what your hands have made, burning incense to other gods in Egypt, where you have come to live? You will destroy yourselves and make yourselves a curse[a] and an object of reproach among all the nations on earth. 9 Have you forgotten the wickedness committed by your ancestors and by the kings and queens of Judah and the wickedness committed by you and your wives in the land of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem? 10 To this day they have not humbled themselves or shown reverence, nor have they followed my law and the decrees I set before you and your ancestors.

11 “Therefore this is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: I am determined to bring disaster on you and to destroy all Judah. 12 I will take away the remnant of Judah who were determined to go to Egypt to settle there. They will all perish in Egypt; they will fall by the sword or die from famine. From the least to the greatest, they will die by sword or famine. They will become a curse and an object of horror, a curse and an object of reproach. 13 I will punish those who live in Egypt with the sword, famine and plague, as I punished Jerusalem. 14 None of the remnant of Judah who have gone to live in Egypt will escape or survive to return to the land of Judah, to which they long to return and live; none will return except a few fugitives.”

15 Then all the men who knew that their wives were burning incense to other gods, along with all the women who were present—a large assembly—and all the people living in Lower and Upper Egypt, said to Jeremiah, 16 “We will not listen to the message you have spoken to us in the name of the LORD! 17 We will certainly do everything we said we would: We will burn incense to the Queen of Heaven and will pour out drink offerings to her just as we and our ancestors, our kings and our officials did in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. At that time we had plenty of food and were well off and suffered no harm. 18 But ever since we stopped burning incense to the Queen of Heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, we have had nothing and have been perishing by sword and famine.”

Ah yes, we know this story well, for it is often our story. In the epistle to the Hebrews, the author pleads with the Jewish converts to Christ not to revert back to their Judaism, not to try and escape suffering by going back to what’s safe and known. He warns,

32 Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. 33 Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. 34 You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. 35 So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. 36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. 37 For,

“In just a little while,
he who is coming will come
and will not delay.”[f]

38 And,

“But my righteous[g] one will live by faith.
And I take no pleasure
in the one who shrinks back.”[h]

39 But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.

I am tempted here in my wealthy American life to think that all will go well with me if I don’t follow Jesus too closely. It is all too easy for me to deem the cost of allegiance to Christ to be too high in the short run, and to say, “I was well off and suffered no harm when I was going my own way in idolatry.” Of course, those Jews who said this found out in the long run how wrong they were. Let us learn from them, rather than from hard experience.

-D

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Written by Michael Duenes

February 6, 2011 at 12:18 pm

Posted in Duenes, Reflections

2 Responses

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  1. When God brings judgment upon the nation of Judah around 600 B.C., it’s easy to forget that for over 400 years he had pleaded with them to turn their hearts back to him.

    400 years! That never ceases to amaze me, and it’s a statistic that I think is much under-appreciated (probably because the Old Testament in general is under-studied by Western Christians today).

    God doesn’t judge societies overnight; he takes centuries. Is that encouraging, or sobering? Maybe both.

    Samson

    February 7, 2011 at 6:58 pm

    • Both, no doubt. Something we Yanks over here do well to remember.

      -D

      russell and duenes

      February 7, 2011 at 9:34 pm


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