Repeatedly the children of Israel would try to hold on to the security of their idols while at the same time claim that God was their God. They wanted to make sure that all of their bases were covered. They did not want to choose the wrong god and end up without protection.
When we traveled in China, we visited a Buddhist temple. We watched as worshipers bowed at one Buddha and then the next. As they moved from station to station they hoped that they were bowing at the Buddha that would satisfy their needs and desires. The plaques told what each Buddha had to offer.
We may exclaim, “What futility!” But how often do we flit from bloom to bloom looking for the sweetest nectar to satisfy our cravings? We shop in one store and then the next looking for peace in our souls. We load our shopping carts with overflowing choices of foods that will calm us or excite us depending on our perceived need. Does this indicate that we too are trying to choose both the true and living God and idols that hold only empty promises?
The book of Jeremiah is filled with numerous accusations that the LORD prompted the prophet to convey.
“How you plot and scheme to win your lovers.
Even an experienced prostitute could learn from you!
Your clothing is stained with the blood of the innocent and the poor,
though you didn’t catch them breaking into your houses!
And yet you say,
‘I have done nothing wrong.
Surely God isn’t angry with me!’
But now I will punish you severely
because you claim you have not sinned.
First here, then there—
you flit from one ally to another asking for help.
But your new friends in Egypt will let you down,
just as Assyria did before.
In despair, you will be led into exile
with your hands on your heads,
for the LORD has rejected the nations you trust.
They will not help you at all.
“…But you have prostituted yourself with many lovers,
so why are you trying to come back to me?”
says the LORD.
“Look at the shrines on every hilltop.
Is there any place you have not been defiled
by your adultery with other gods?
You sit like a prostitute beside the road waiting for a customer.
You sit alone like a nomad in the desert.
You have polluted the land with your prostitution
and your wickedness.
That’s why even the spring rains have failed.
For you are a brazen prostitute and completely shameless.
Yet you say to me,
‘Father, you have been my guide since my youth.
Surely you won’t be angry forever!
Surely you can forget about it!’
So you talk,
but you keep on doing all the evil you can.” (Jer. 2:33–3:5 NLT)
“O Israel,” says the LORD,
“if you wanted to return to me, you could.
You could throw away your detestable idols
and stray away no more.
Then when you swear by my name, saying,
‘As surely as the LORD lives,’
you could do so
with truth, justice, and righteousness.
Then you would be a blessing to the nations of the world,
and all people would come and praise my name.”
This is what the LORD says to the people of Judah and Jerusalem:
“Plow up the hard ground of your hearts!
Do not waste your good seed among thorns.
O people of Judah and Jerusalem,
surrender your pride and power.
Change your hearts before the LORD,
or my anger will burn like an unquenchable fire
because of all your sins. (Jer. 4:1–4 NLT)
The Wiersbe Study Bible added this note regarding Jeremiah 4:1-3:
The problem with the people was their dishonesty; they would use the right language, but they wouldn’t mean it from their hearts. They would pray to the true God, but not forsake the false gods. Saying, “As surely as the LORD lives,” was easy, but they didn’t say it in truth, justice, and righteousness. Their hearts were hard and crowded with thorns like a neglected, unplowed field. Hosea used this image (Hos 10:12) and so did Jesus in his parable of the sower (Matt 13:1-9, 18:23).
Jeremiah 4:14 (NLT)
O Jerusalem, cleanse your heart
that you may be saved.
How long will you harbor
your evil thoughts?
Jeremiah 4:22 (NLT)
“My people are foolish
and do not know me,” says the LORD.
“They are stupid children
who have no understanding.
They are clever enough at doing wrong,
but they have no idea how to do right!”
Consider the adjectives God used as descriptors in all the passages above. Do they describe you? What is God saying to you right now?