Marriage is the most explicit metaphor Jeremiah uses in his wake up call for Judah. This is his message: the people and leaders claimed to worship God in the temple. In reality, they had long gone off in search of other gods. Jeremiah describes Judah’s sins in such graphic detail that this book may seem irrelevant to us. If we scratch beyond the surface, however, we’ll realize we need this wake up call too.
Jeremiah, speaking for God, describes the single minded love the nation of Judah had had toward Him:
“I remember your youthful loyalty, our love as newlyweds.
You stayed with me through the wilderness years, stuck with me through all the hard places.”
Jeremiah 2:2b (The Message)
When Jeremiah arrived on the scene, Judah had become corrupted by the worship of Baal. God was the perfect spouse, yet Judah had grown bored of worshiping Him:
“Have I let you down, Israel? Am I nothing but a dead-end street?
Why do my people say, ‘Good riddance! From now on we’re on our own?’” Jeremiah 2:31 The Message
The prophet doesn’t mince words. The people and leaders of Judah have become shameless in their search for new gods to worship:
“A long time ago you broke out of the harness.
You shook off all restraints.
You said, ‘I will not serve!’ and off you went,
Visiting every sex-and-religion shrine on the way, like a common whore.”
Jeremiah 2:20 The Message
What’s worse, they deny any wrongdoing:
“How dare you tell me, ‘I’m not stained by sin.
I’ve never chased after the Baal sex gods!’”
Jeremiah 2:23 The Message
Rather than listening to the prophet and changing their ways, the nation dooms itself to exile in Babylon.
Judah’s root-sins are idolatry (which Jeremiah describes as neglecting their first love for God), and their unrepentance. Judah seems so much more sinful than we could imagine being. If we are honest, however, we also commit the sin of idolatry and have unrepentant hearts.
Are there ways that you’ve stopped loving God? Do other ways of living seem more attractive? There are so many idols that can take first place in our lives-–busyness, self importance, material success, comfort and security, pleasing others, career, family,… In fact anything, even good things, can become idols when we make them all-important. Take a moment to reflect on where your thoughts routinely lead you. Confess any thoughts and actions that detract from loving God. Then, keep it up! He will welcome us with open arms when we repent.
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In 1969, my maternal grandmother(Granny), was able to get a “Books for the Blind” record player and some talking books from the organization for the blind. Granny could see to get around but could no longer see to read, which was a deep grief for her. My sister’s family and mine went together to buy Granny a King James Bible of her own. It was on, as I recall, 60 LP, 16 speed records. She was thrilled.
Granny lived with her daughter, my Aunt Carol, in Las Cruces, New Mexico. When I went to visit them, Granny and I would sit in her bedroom and listen to various books and usually at least one of the Bible chapters she was currently in. The sewing machine was in her room, and I could sew while we listened.
I missed listening to books when I got back home and was a bit envious because there wasn’t any way to get them for me. Then a year or so later I read about an audio lending organization in Norman, Oklahoma where I could get Bible study cassettes. It was great—they came in the mail, I listened, and sent them back in exchange for others. My favorite teacher was Howard (Howie) Hendricks. I enjoyed his voice and his ability to make comments stick. One talk I treasure is a conversation he’d had with Dr. Harry Ironside who said, ”The hundredth time I read this verse, God brought this to mind.” Howard said, ”A HUNDRED TIMES?!!!!” At that time, I guess, Howie couldn’t imagine doing that.
I don’t know how many times I’ve read various parts of the Bible, but there are certain favorite scriptures where the Lord has shown me something I hadn’t thought about before. For instance: “Delight yourself also in the Lord and He shall give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4) NKJV. He brought to mind, “If I really am, ‘delighting myself in the Lord’, He IS the desire of my heart and I can ask Him what his heart’s desires are for me.”
About 12 years ago, South Fellowship did the “Ninety Day Through the Bible” program. I did much of my reading via audio, because I had a business finishing quilts for people, and I could do the sewing while listening. There were things I heard and remembered better than when I would read the same sections. Later, I would go through and mark my Bible so that I could go back to those verses and ponder them.
I am grateful these days for various Bible apps that contain multiple versions that I can move back and forth in. Some have audio and study tools, as well as access to suggested teachers and videos. I’ll be praying that your Bible reading/listening becomes a desire of your heart and a delight to you.