“‘Am I the one they are hurting?’ asks the LORD.
‘Most of all they hurt themselves, to their shame.’”
Idolatry… yes, once again we are confronted with the people of Judah who committed the act of idolatry. They were making sacrificial fires and cakes to Ishtar, the Mesopotamian goddess of love, war, and fertility (Jeremiah 7:18); and they poured out liquid offerings before this false god.
Is it any wonder why God was infuriated? God was so infuriated He had told Jeremiah, “Pray no more for these people, Jeremiah. Do not weep or pray for them, and don’t beg me to help them, for I will not listen to you,” (Jeremiah 7:16). God was not looking the other way. He saw they were breaking His commandment not to have any other gods before Him. They were to love God with all their heart. Instead, the people of Judah had hearts filled with unfaithfulness towards God. In other words, they were being disloyal towards God.
In sinning against God, disregarding His commands, and turning away from Him, they were hurting themselves. Isaiah 59:2 says this: “It’s your sins that have cut you off from God. Because of your sins, he has turned away and will not listen anymore.” By committing the act of idolatry, they had committed spiritual suicide. They had cut themselves off from the Wellspring of Life, the Source of Strength, their Deliverer. They turned away from the Almighty Everlasting God.
Before we judge the people of Judah harshly, we need to look at ourselves. Are we being unfaithful to God in any way that would cause Him to look away from us?
Let’s go further. The purpose of the sacrificial system God put in place was not to please Him. The purpose of the sacrifices to be made would make the people recognize their sin, cause them to repent, and to refocus them back to living for God. The purpose of the sacrificial system was to spur the people on, to encourage them to take joy in obeying God.
In this passage of Scripture, the sacrifices the people of Judah were doing before God dishonored Him because they were doing the sacrifices out of duty and obligation, not out of love or wholehearted devotion to Him. They were making sacrifices to the goddess Ishtar while they were also making sacrifices to God. They had turned away from God, disregarding His command not to have any other gods before Him.
Remember this: God DOES NOT conform to our will and our ways. We MUST conform to what God wills and desires. God is to have first place in our lives. He will not share His glory with another, and He is not sharing first place in our lives with anything or anyone else. Either God is God in our life, or He is not.
Let's choose Life by choosing God because He is life. He is the Giver of Life. He is the One who sustains us, and He alone is worthy of all the glory and praise. Think of all that He has done for You. Let's bring honor to His name by walking in obedience after Him. Let's walk uprightly with undivided hearts, giving Him first place in our lives. Whatever it is that we need to remove to progress in our relationship with Him, then let's remove it and press on. "Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need," Matthew 6:33.
Heavenly Father, You are still on the throne, and You are still sovereign. You are Lord, and You are Master. You are faithful and true. You know all things from beginning to the end. Nothing is hidden from Your sight, and everything is exposed before You. You, O God, truly know the depths of our heart. Father, when we walk away from You, we are only hurting ourselves. We are sorry for our wrongful ways and sinful attitudes before You. Lord, forgive us for our sins, and we ask that You cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Let us not be as the people of Judah but let us remember that You alone must have first place in our lives and that You will not share Your glory with another. Remind us that we are to conform to Your will and to Your ways. Give us the wisdom and the insight to understand that sin separates us from You. Help us to understand that You do not tolerate sin, that we are to be holy as You are holy. Give us the strength to remain steadfast in You. Time is short, Father God, and the return of Christ is nearer than it ever has been. There is no time to straddle the fence, and You do not play games. Lord, let us be living sacrifices before You that are pleasing and honorable in Your sight. Use us to bring glory to Your name. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Linda A. Knowles
Executive Director Thread of Hope