Russell and Duenes

Why Has the Lord Pronounced All This Great Evil Against Us?

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I’ve been reading Jeremiah lately. It came to my mind to do so awhile back, and as I read, it seems quite appropriate to our times. In the very first chapter, God says:

And I will declare my judgments against them, for all their evil in forsaking me. They have made offerings to other gods and worshiped the works of their own hands. (v. 16).

“Offerings to other gods.” That struck me as quite an accurate diagnosis of us. I suppose our worship of other gods is not a recent development, but we seem to be more bold, and deceived, in our false offerings.

Jeremiah speaks much about God’s people having “forsaken” God. The famous text in 2:13 tells the story:

For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and dug out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.

What’s more . . .

How can I pardon you? Your children have forsaken me and have sworn by those who are no gods. (5:7).

And when your people say, ‘Why has the Lord our God done all these things to us?’ you shall say to them, ‘As you have forsaken me and served foreign gods in your land, so you shall serve foreigners in a land that is not yours.’ (5:19).

[Y]our fathers have forsaken me, declares the Lord, and have gone after other gods and have served and worshiped them, and have forsaken me and have not kept my law. (16:11). 

Behold, I am bringing such disaster upon this place that the ears of everyone who hears of it will tingle. Because the people have forsaken me and have profaned this place by making offerings in it to other gods whom neither they nor their fathers nor the kings of Judah have known; and because they have filled this place with the blood of innocents, and have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, which I did not command or decree, nor did it come into my mind.” (19:3-5).

So God tells Jeremiah to not even pray for His people, nor to weep or grieve for them. Such is their sin. Such has it been for centuries. God has indeed been patient. Yet he finally says: You have rejected me, declares the Lord; you keep going backward, so I have stretched out my hand against you and destroyed you— I am weary of relenting. (15:6).

In spite of this, idolatry seems to be sparse in our vocabulary today. We acknowledge it as a biblical notion, but we do not see its subtlety or pervasiveness. Idolatry is not really a “psychological” or “therapeutic” category, so we don’t have much use for it in our current reflections on our individual, communal or national lives. Or, perhaps, it’s a transgression for “those out there” who are not a part of the church. It’s easy to think in my heart that somehow idolatry resides elsewhere. So we, so I, cast aside the truth for what is convenient to me. As Jeremiah says:

O Lord, do not your eyes look for truth? You have struck them down, but they felt no anguish; you have consumed them, but they refused to take correction. They have made their faces harder than rock; they have refused to repent. (5:3).

And you shall say to them, ‘This is the nation that did not obey the voice of the Lord their God, and did not accept discipline; truth has perished; it is cut off from their lips. (7:28).

They bend their tongue like a bow; falsehood and not truth has grown strong in the land; for they proceed from evil to evil, and they do not know me, declares the Lord(9:3).

Everyone deceives his neighbor, and no one speaks the truth; they have taught their tongue to speak lies; they weary themselves committing iniquity. (9:5).

Judge for yourself whether you think this speaks to us in this hour. Have we not taught our tongues to speak lies? I do not leave out that the prophet’s words were spoken to God’s chosen people living under his law given specifically to them. Yet I do not either take this to mean the words are devoid of application for us. Idolatry is not a sin relegated to God’s people. The later chapters of Jeremiah speak of God’s judgment against the nations. I may have some thoughts on that when I get there.




Written by Michael Duenes

May 29, 2016 at 1:56 pm

Posted in Duenes, Jeremiah

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