Jeremiah 44.15-19 – Willful idolatry.
Posted: 7 October 2014 in Jeremiah

Then all the men which knew that their wives had burned incense unto other gods, and all the women that stood by….. answered Jeremiah, saying, As for the word that thou hast spoken unto us in the name of the Lord, we will not hearken unto thee. But we will certainly do whatsoever thing goeth forth out of our own mouth, to burn incense unto the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her, as we have done, we, and our fathers, our kings, and our princes, in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem: for then had we plenty of victuals, and were well, and saw no evil. But since we left off to burn incense to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her, we have wanted all things, and have been consumed by the sword and by the famine.

The above is perhaps one of the most blatant examples of willful idolatry in the Bible. The motive for which is the exaltation of their own well being, over against the worship God. God is not here regarded as their sovereign Lord, who has the right to their unconditional worship, but is instead somebody who has to earn their worship. Were it not a matter of common experience that such a thing is only too common, and that we ourselves can be guilty of the same sin, such an impertinent attitude of the creature towards his creator would be almost unbelievable. But it is the lamentable result of original sin.

As Jeremiah points out to his interlocutors, in the verses immediately following those quoted, in this particular case they have cause and effect the wrong way round. The misfortune they had suffered was God’s punishment for the idolatry and disobedience which is here on full display.

Also involved in the attitude of Johanan, and that of his colleagues, is an implicit assumption that God can be put to the test, even though Deuteronomy 6.16 explicitly forbids any such attempt:

Ye shall not tempt the Lord your God, as ye tempted him in Massah.

God is under no obligation to prove anything to us. He will, of course, reveal himself to the humble petitioner, who desires to worship and serve him, but an arrogant,

“Okay, God, here’s what we want. Let’s see if you are up to the job of providing it,”

will only draw forth his wrath. In our own day it is an attitude very often heard from atheists, who want to “prove” (to their own satisfaction) that God doesn’t exist.

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