“No wonder I am so angry! Watch how the children gather wood and the fathers build sacrificial fires. See how the women knead dough and make cakes to offer to the Queen of Heaven. And they pour out liquid offerings to their other idol gods!” (Jeremiah 7:18, NLT).
Speaking through Jeremiah, God laments the utter corruption of his people. They practice their idolatry openly (v.7). They reject the prophets (v.25). Truth has vanished from them (v.28). Their idolatrous practices involve the whole family (v.18). Their sin is so great, God tells Jeremiah not to pray for them (v.16). Yet God points out that their sin does not harm him, but rather them (v.19). Although he expects no response from his people, God still orders Jeremiah to shout out his warnings (v.27).
Sin corrupts more than the individual sinner. Children see what their parents do and observe their true values. When adults engage in spiritual rituals yet live without personal transformation, they transmit rebellion against God. In essence they proclaim themselves lord of their lives and teach that God’s word can be ignored. Children imbibe this model of following their own desires. As time goes on, truth vanishes, drowned out by the clamor of sinful pursuits. Oral instruction of truth and godliness finds no fertile ground in hearts hardened by selfishness.
Father, thank you for sending your Truth into the world. Thank you that your word continues to warn us of the harm sin brings to our lives. Forgive our rebellion and refusal to turn away from selfish desires. Give us strength to truly repent. Teach us to embrace truth and live holy lives of integrity. May our children and those we encounter see in us your Son who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
“But I will be merciful only if you stop your evil thoughts and deeds and start treating each other with justice” (Jeremiah 7:5, NLT).
This passage shows the progression of once faithful people to apostate evil-doers. It begins with evil thoughts (v.5). Greed demands more. Envy sees others as obstacles to getting more or something to be exploited in order to obtain more. The poor are despised, and their needs and rights ignored (v.6). The call for justice is ignored (v.13). Instead those whose lives are impoverished, disadvantaged, alone, or different are seen as not deserving of consideration. Contempt replaces compassion; exploitation becomes the privilege of those who are safely “blessed” (v.10). Lies replace truth, and what is idolized and desired supplants God himself.
How I think matters greatly to God. God’s merciful pardon of my sins begins with my showing mercy. Common wisdom says, “If you can’t say something nice about someone, don’t say anything.” Yet God’s justice requires more than refraining from verbalizing hurtful remarks. His justice begins with my responding to his message (v.13). I must allow Christ to change the way I think (Romans 12:2). What I think about others directly influences how I will treat them. I cut myself off from God’s mercy when I fail to show mercy to others for whom Christ has died. Without mercy, I will be left, like the people in Jeremiah, with a hollow, religious observance that God will eventually destroy.
Father, thank you for great mercy toward me. Forgive my evil thoughts about others. Change how I think; give me the mind of Christ. Fill me with consideration and compassion for those whose lives intersect my own. Teach me how to live out your justice. In Jesus’ name, Amen.