Jeremiah is known as the weeping prophet. His ministry lasted well over 40 years and he ministered during the dark days of Judah’s history. His ministry culminated in the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians and the exile of its inhabitants in 587 BC.
The LORD addresses His people with this question: “What fault did your fathers find me, that they strayed so far from me?” (Jeremiah 2:5a). He then follows up with this declaration: “They followed worthless idols and became worthless themselves” (Jer. 2:5b). And then: “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns that cannot hold water” (Jer.2:13).
This was a perpetual struggle for the Israelites in Canaan. They continually fell into a syncretistic worship of Yahweh. They would worship their covenant LORD, but they would also worship the fertility gods and goddesses of the surrounding people groups. Many in Israel saw nothing wrong with this, but Jeremiah let them know that the LORD was not willing to share His covenantal relationship with idols that are not gods at all. The Hebrews needed to learn that their relationship with Yahweh was like a relationship between a husband and wife whose exclusivity needed to be protected.
Some of Jeremiah’s prophetic preaching occurs right at the Jerusalem Temple where people are going to worship Yahweh. The LORD declares these words: “Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, burn incense to Baal and follow other gods you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which bears my Name, and say, “We are safe” – safe to do all these detestable things?” (Jer. 7:9,10). It took the Babylonian exile to wean the Israelites from their idolatry and syncretistic worship. They needed to learn that the Jerusalem Temple was not a magic charm. This building didn’t ward off judgment but repentance and covenantal obedience brought God’s protection and presence into their lives.
In our own day and in our own culture, idolatry is a little more subtle than it was Jeremiah’s day. Nonetheless, it is still something that God’s people need to deal with on a daily basis. I think we always need to ask the LORD to examine our hearts and to ask ourselves some hard questions. For example, where does my ultimate security and identity rest? In material goods and consumerism? Do I look for a church home solely thinking of my own needs and not where I could serve best? These are hard questions we need to ask of ourselves if we want to walk faithfully with our LORD. In Christ’s love and service, Pastor John