August 29, 2019
"You have as many gods as you have towns, Judah, and you have as many shameful altars for worshipping Baal as you have streets in Jerusalem."
by Cindy Stulce
Laity of First-Centenary UMC (Chattanooga, TN)
Scenic South District
(Jeremiah 11:13, CEB)
My husband and I drive more than 20 miles to our church, and I joke that we probably pass 150 churches along the way. No surprise there: after all, this part of the country is right in the middle of the Bible Belt. I mean, we are religious!
The people of Judah and Jerusalem, whom God was addressing here, they were religious, too. The problem was, they were worshipping the wrong gods, and God was seriously ticked off!
After all, it was God who had led them out of captivity in Egypt; it was God who favored them and chose them out of all the races on earth to be His own special people. God even made a covenant with them--to which they agreed--and if they would only abide by its rules, God would destroy all their enemies and bless them above all nations.
One rule was first and foremost: God was the only God, and they were to worship no other.
By the time of Jeremiah, the people of Judah had broken virtually every one of these rules. Worst of all, they had forsaken the worship of God in favor of the popular local deity, Baal, serving and sacrificing to him. Finally God said, in essence, "That's it; I've had enough."
Now, our Heavenly Father loves us; He will never stop loving us. But like any father, when we his children wander too far from His pathways, He has to punish us. Now God won't necessarily cause us to be overrun by our enemies and carried off into slavery, as happened in Jeremiah's day. God likely won't destroy us in a hail of fire and brimstone, as He did the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. And He certainly won't wipe mankind out in a worldwide flood, as He did in the days of Noah.
No, God often punishes us by stepping back and leaving us to our own devices, letting us reap the harvest we have sown with our own hands. "When trouble comes," He tells us, "you can pray to these other gods of yours, but they won't be able to save you."
That's tough love, and it's something that many a sorrowing parent knows only too well. You can love a child, you can "train him up in the way he should go" (Proverbs 22:6), but sometimes you can only stand back and watch as he pursues his own "false gods."
We claim to be children of God, erecting our temples--supposedly to worship God--on every street and street corner. But what idols do we truly worship there? Power and prestige? Wealth? Popularity? Personal success? What sacrifices do we offer up in service to these "gods"? Our time, our money, our compassion, our Christian principles? And lastly, when these false gods fail us--as they will--who will we turn to?
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we confess we sometimes put other gods before You. Please forgive us. Help us to tear down these idols and give You your rightful place in our hearts and lives. Amen.