An Unhappy Ending
Lord, I worship You, the almighty God whom the heavens cannot contain. How truly great You are!
Read Jeremiah 44:1-30
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society.
“You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below” (Exod. 20:4).
We come to the last narrative about Jeremiah. Just as he was consistently ignored in his ministry prior to the fall of Jerusalem, so he has been ignored since then. He has been taken to Egypt against his will, and there is not the slightest hint that the Judeans who have taken him are becoming any more receptive to his words. Humanly, Jeremiah’s life and ministry are failures. Yet the preservation of his words and actions in Scripture represents vindication. Faithfulness is what matters most; success means remaining faithful to the Lord amid hostility, misrepresentation and indifference.
A kind of discernment is at stake in Jeremiah’s warnings in Egypt. The Judeans shared their allegiance to the Lord with other deities, perhaps on the principle of “when in Egypt do as the Egyptians do” (8). Similarly, they can see nothing wrong with acknowledging the “Queen of Heaven,” and indeed they can rationalize their problems in terms of failure to give allegiance to her (18). Yet exclusive allegiance to the Lord is at the heart of the Old Testament, perhaps most famously expressed in the Shema (Deut. 6:4-9). Why? Because this exclusive allegiance is bound up with practices of justice and mercy, recognition of accountability, active remembrance of all that the Lord has done for Israel, and Israel’s very identity as a chosen people. All this is lost when they treat as God that which is not God, and the consequence is further disasters of the sort they had hoped to escape when they fled to Egypt.
Today idolatry is perhaps most likely to be focused on what Jesus calls “Mammon,” which takes the form of giving allegiance to money, sex and power as guarantors of fullness of life. Jeremiah’s faithful integrity in God’s service shows the true path to life.
It can happen subtly and slowly but money, sex, or power can steal our heart’s allegiance. Is this a word from the Lord to you?
Mighty God, on this Thanksgiving Day, I join with the peoples of this land to declare that You are the source of the manifold blessings we experience. Thank You, Father.