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‘You shall have no other gods before me’ (Exodus 20:3). Acknowledge the Lord of all; your only hope and second to none.


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Bible passage: Jeremiah 44:1–30


Disaster Because of Idolatry

44 This word came to Jeremiah concerning all the Jews living in Lower Egypt(A)—in Migdol,(B) Tahpanhes(C) and Memphis(D)—and in Upper Egypt:(E) “This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: You saw the great disaster(F) I brought on Jerusalem and on all the towns of Judah.(G) Today they lie deserted and in ruins(H) because of the evil(I) they have done. They aroused my anger(J) by burning incense(K) to and worshiping other gods(L) that neither they nor you nor your ancestors(M) ever knew. Again and again(N) I sent my servants the prophets,(O) who said, ‘Do not do this detestable(P) thing that I hate!’ But they did not listen or pay attention;(Q) they did not turn from their wickedness(R) or stop burning incense(S) to other gods.(T) Therefore, my fierce anger was poured out;(U) it raged against the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem and made them the desolate ruins(V) they are today.

“Now this is what the Lord God Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Why bring such great disaster(W) on yourselves by cutting off from Judah the men and women,(X) the children and infants, and so leave yourselves without a remnant?(Y) Why arouse my anger with what your hands have made,(Z) burning incense(AA) to other gods in Egypt,(AB) where you have come to live?(AC) You will destroy yourselves and make yourselves a curse[a] and an object of reproach(AD) among all the nations on earth. Have you forgotten the wickedness committed by your ancestors(AE) and by the kings(AF) and queens(AG) of Judah and the wickedness committed by you and your wives(AH) in the land of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem?(AI) 10 To this day they have not humbled(AJ) themselves or shown reverence,(AK) nor have they followed my law(AL) and the decrees(AM) I set before you and your ancestors.(AN)

11 “Therefore this is what the Lord Almighty,(AO) the God of Israel, says: I am determined to bring disaster(AP) on you and to destroy all Judah. 12 I will take away the remnant(AQ) of Judah who were determined to go to Egypt to settle there. They will all perish in Egypt; they will fall by the sword or die from famine. From the least to the greatest,(AR) they will die by sword or famine.(AS) They will become a curse and an object of horror, a curse and an object of reproach.(AT) 13 I will punish(AU) those who live in Egypt with the sword,(AV) famine and plague,(AW) as I punished Jerusalem. 14 None of the remnant of Judah who have gone to live in Egypt will escape or survive to return to the land of Judah, to which they long to return and live; none will return except a few fugitives.”(AX)

15 Then all the men who knew that their wives(AY) were burning incense(AZ) to other gods, along with all the women(BA) who were present—a large assembly—and all the people living in Lower and Upper Egypt,(BB) said to Jeremiah, 16 “We will not listen(BC) to the message you have spoken to us in the name of the Lord!(BD) 17 We will certainly do everything we said we would:(BE) We will burn incense(BF) to the Queen of Heaven(BG) and will pour out drink offerings to her just as we and our ancestors, our kings and our officials(BH) did in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem.(BI) At that time we had plenty of food(BJ) and were well off and suffered no harm.(BK) 18 But ever since we stopped burning incense to the Queen of Heaven and pouring out drink offerings(BL) to her, we have had nothing and have been perishing by sword and famine.(BM)

19 The women added, “When we burned incense(BN) to the Queen of Heaven(BO) and poured out drink offerings to her, did not our husbands(BP) know that we were making cakes(BQ) impressed with her image(BR) and pouring out drink offerings to her?”

20 Then Jeremiah said to all the people, both men and women, who were answering him, 21 “Did not the Lord remember(BS) and call to mind the incense(BT) burned in the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem(BU) by you and your ancestors,(BV) your kings and your officials and the people of the land?(BW) 22 When the Lord could no longer endure(BX) your wicked actions and the detestable things you did, your land became a curse(BY) and a desolate waste(BZ) without inhabitants, as it is today.(CA) 23 Because you have burned incense and have sinned against the Lord and have not obeyed him or followed(CB) his law or his decrees(CC) or his stipulations, this disaster(CD) has come upon you, as you now see.”(CE)

24 Then Jeremiah said to all the people, including the women,(CF) “Hear the word of the Lord, all you people of Judah in Egypt.(CG) 25 This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: You and your wives(CH) have done what you said you would do when you promised, ‘We will certainly carry out the vows we made to burn incense and pour out drink offerings to the Queen of Heaven.’(CI)

“Go ahead then, do what you promised! Keep your vows!(CJ) 26 But hear the word of the Lord, all you Jews living in Egypt:(CK) ‘I swear(CL) by my great name,’ says the Lord, ‘that no one from Judah living anywhere in Egypt will ever again invoke my name or swear, “As surely as the Sovereign(CM) Lord lives.”(CN) 27 For I am watching(CO) over them for harm,(CP) not for good; the Jews in Egypt will perish(CQ) by sword and famine(CR) until they are all destroyed.(CS) 28 Those who escape the sword(CT) and return to the land of Judah from Egypt will be very few.(CU) Then the whole remnant(CV) of Judah who came to live in Egypt will know whose word will stand(CW)—mine or theirs.(CX)

29 “‘This will be the sign(CY) to you that I will punish(CZ) you in this place,’ declares the Lord, ‘so that you will know that my threats of harm against you will surely stand.’(DA) 30 This is what the Lord says: ‘I am going to deliver Pharaoh(DB) Hophra king of Egypt into the hands of his enemies who want to kill him, just as I gave Zedekiah(DC) king of Judah into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, the enemy who wanted to kill him.’”(DD)



New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society


Audio Bible passage


The audio version of the passage is taken from the Contemporary English Version (CEV).

Explore


Root of disobedience
Idolatry lies at the root of disobedience. For the Jews seeking refuge in Egypt, idol worship produced a breathtaking arrogance, severing dependence on God and resulting in flagrant disobedience (vs 15–17).

It’s inherent to our humanity to worship something. But when we squander our worship on things other than God it disfigures us (v 8) and displaces the only one who can give us purpose.

Deadly effect
We convince ourselves that idols are fundamental to true happiness and prosperity (v 18). It’s why we crave success, desire more and flashier possessions, seek sexual satisfaction and the perfect family. We think that these can afford us security (v 17) when seeking them can bring down divine retribution (vs 27,28).

Could this passage be any more pointed about the effect of idolatry on the Lord? When he is displaced from his rightful position it provokes a huge reaction. It’s not just a pity we set up our idols, it is deadly (v 26). We are well warned. Yet, even here there is hope. Idolatry brings complete destruction, almost! The phrases ‘except a few fugitives’ (v 14) and the ‘very few’ (who return to Judah) (v 28) underscore that God is not finished with his people. He still has a gracious purpose.

Andy Bathgate

Respond


What steps do you need to take to ensure idolatry does not displace God and lead to arrogant disobedience in your life?


Deeper Bible study


After forty years, Jeremiah’s message is the same (v 4). Tragically, the response of the Jews is also the same (v 16). God’s patience is staggering. The Jews who have come to Egypt have spread out – they are a scattered community (v 1). For the last recorded time, God’s word for them comes to Jeremiah. The consequences of their rebellion and disobedience are all around them (vs 2,6). The reason? Idolatry. The Jews, God’s chosen people, have worshipped gods previously unknown within Israel (v 3). Over and over again, God warned them (v 4) (see Matt 21:33–46) but nothing changed.

Yet even now, God says, Why? Why do this to yourselves (vs 7,8)? Haven’t you learnt from the past (v 10)? Their disobedient escape to Egypt was apparently an attempt to save themselves from the king of Babylon, even though God had promised safety and deliverance if they remained in Judea (Jer 42:11,12). With no change of heart, no obedience, they would suffer as God had declared (vs 11–14).

At last, the elephant in the room is named. The Queen of Heaven is the real object of their devotion. They don’t really care about the Lord (vs 16,17). That, says Jeremiah, is the reason for the disaster that has fallen and will fall (vs 20–23), despite what they say (vs 17b,18). In a reverse of his promises to the exiles in Babylon (Jer 24:6; 29:11), God’s chilling words are, ‘I am watching over them for harm, not for good’ (v 27). Perhaps it’s too easy for us to see idolatry as someone else’s problem. Maybe we don’t burn incense to carved idols, but who or what receives our affection and comes between us and God? People? Work? Sport and interests? Family, even? As Judah showed, it’s possible to test God’s patience a step too far.

Emlyn and 'Tricia Williams


Me and my misconceptions


Misconceptions about God
By attacking and ridiculing idol worship, Jeremiah is attacking one of the major incorrect perceptions of God from his time.

What misconceptions are there in the present day?

• God does not care about suffering.

• Tolerance is the greatest human virtue.

• God sanctions violence.

• The crucifixion was an act of child abuse.

• God is unable to prevent suffering and evil.
 
• What’s true for you isn’t necessarily true for me. 

Misconceptions about God are often to blame for people not believing in the God of the Bible. When we hear the misconceptions others have of Christians and Jesus, we want to react by saying, ‘Well, I don’t believe that either!’

New positive images of God
Just as Jeremiah included positive statements about the greatness of God (vs 6,10,12,13,16), so we also need to pepper our challenges with declarations of God’s greatness and love. But to merely repeat biblical phrases runs the risk of seeming antiquated. We need new images for a new society.

Evangelistic satire?
Jeremiah is speaking to Israelites who ought to know better than to worship idols. I’m not convinced that satire is our best tool for convincing non-Christians of the greatness of God.

John Wilks


Bible in a year


Read the Bible in a year.

Ezekiel 30,31

Psalms 123–125
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Lord reign in me
Brenton Brown
Copyright© 1998 Vineyard Records (UK/Eire)
Buy this and other great worship songs at www.vineyardrecords.co.uk



Jesus is Lord
Stuart Townend and Keith Getty
Copyright © 2003 Thankyou Music/Adm by worshiptogether.com songs
Buy this and other great worship songs at www.integritymusic.com




Comments
  • Oakley Bookworm | Wednesday, 14 November 2018

    THE DOXOLOGY: Praise God from whom all blessings flow; praise Him, all creatures here below; praise Him above, ye heav'nly host; praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost! WORDS & MUSIC(OLD 100th) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yqBnzM1JBWM

  • Alan Pang | Wednesday, 14 November 2018

    "We need new images for a new society" (Wilks). Can someone suggest something? Challenging people re modern idolatry does not work.

  • Sue Hanson | Wednesday, 14 November 2018

    The only image we ever need is the cross. It will always be a stumbling block to those who turn from God. What else is there that demonstrates the love of God.

  • Rachael Hampton | Wednesday, 14 November 2018

    Jesus used familiar images of His day to teach about the Kingdom of God. Can we not do the same, while keeping the cross central? Idolatry is indeed deadly, killing our relationship with God and preventing Him from pouring His love and abundance into our lives. Lord keep me from putting my trust in anything or anyone more than I put it in You. Absolutely, Oakley. Thanks for expressing it so clearly, and David for illustrating it.

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