“Dumped” – Jeremiah 2

May 5th, 2019

Jeremiah 2


Aux. Text: 1 Corinthians 10:1-13

Call to Worship: Selected verses from Psalm 106

For much more information on our marriage relationship with God  see Pastor Keith’s April 6th, 2014 message entitled “Cosmic Implications” on the HFM web-site.


Service Orientation: We confirm our depravity when we dump the God of the Universe as our lover to pursue anything or anyone else.


Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. — Colossians 3:5


Background Information:

  • Jeremiah is preeminently the prophet of the heart, for he used the word over sixty times. (Warren Wiersbe, Be Decisive, 34)
  • The overall thrust of the oracles is to paint God’s people in their totality as rebellious against the Lord, who brought them into existence. (J. Andrew Dearman, The NIV Application Commentary: Jeremiah, 61)
  • (v. 2) The word rendered devotion is a very rich word which primarily means faithfulness to the obligations imposed by the covenant, and which may be used either of God or of the people. Here it refers to the loyalty of Israel to her God during the life of Moses and the desert sojourn.  Hosea believed that this was the ideal period in Israel’s history (Hos 2:15; 9:10; 11:1-2), and Jeremiah apparently derived the idea from him, for this chapter contains a number of verbal parallels with Hosea.  (George Arthur Buttrick, Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 5, 812)
  • (v. 3) Israel is the firstfruits of the harvest. According to Pentateuchal legislation (Ex 23:19; Lv 23:10-14; Nm 18:12-13; Dt 26:1-11), the firstfruits belong to God for use by the priests.  They are not to be eaten by non-priests, but rather given to God as a gift. . . . Like the firstfruits, therefore, Israel was holy to God.  To be holy meant to be set apart.  Israel was special among the nations of the world in that they had an intimate relationship with God.  This intimate relationship meant that any other nation who disturbed Israel would feel divine displeasure.  Continuing the firstfruit metaphor, the text claims that anyone who devoured the Israelites would be declared guilty and disaster would overtake them.  In other words, Israel was the recipient of God’s special protection.  (Tremper Longman III, Understanding the Bible: Jeremiah, Lamentations, 27-8)
  • (v. 4) It is interesting to note that the audience is called house of Jacob with the parallel all the clans of the house of Israel. This language does not specify the southern tribes, but is language that calls to mind a united Israel, or perhaps the northern tribes.  (Tremper Longman III, Understanding the Bible: Jeremiah, Lamentations, 29)
  • (v. 7) Now the laws have been broken, and God has sent in his covenant lawyer, Jeremiah, to present his case against his people. Lurking in the background are the curses (see Dt 27-28) that followed the law as a consequence of breaking the covenant.  (Tremper Longman III, Understanding the Bible: Jeremiah, Lamentations, 30)
  • (v. 7) At the beginning of this covenant relationship, the Jews were devoted to the lord and loved Him, but once they conquered the Promised Land, their hearts lusted after the gods of the nations around them and they sank into idolatry (Jdg 1-3). (Warren Wiersbe, Be Decisive, 32)
  • (v. 8) In Hebrew, the leaders are the “shepherds” of the people. This is a common metaphor for leaders (Jer 23:1-3; Ezek 34).  God is the ultimate shepherd of his people (Ps 23), but he appointed human leaders who were to take care of his people.  However, at this time his shepherds were leading his people astray.  (Tremper Longman III, Understanding the Bible: Jeremiah, Lamentations, 31)
  • (v. 10) A century before this, Hosea had warned the northern kingdom against these frantic overtures to east and west; and now in Jeremiah’s lifetime Judah would play the same dangerous games with them, only to lose two kings to Egypt and a final two to Assyria’s successor, Babylon. (Derek Kidner, OT Series:  Jeremiah, 34-5)
  • (v. 13) A cistern was a reservoir into which rainwater could drain from a roof, tunnel, or courtyard. Cistern water was less than satisfactory.  Jeremiah contrasted the cisterns with the springs that produced clear, pure water.  Anyone living in the Middle East would recognize this exchange of a spring for a cistern as a bad deal.  (Max Anders, Holman OT Commentary: Jeremiah, 33)
  • (v. 14) People in the ancient world, including the Israelites, usually became slaves in one of three ways. Either they were born in that state, or they suffered financial adversity and sold themselves or their children into slavery, or they were captured by a foreign power and enslaved by their conquerors.  Jeremiah’s rhetorical question begs for a negative answer.  Of course, they weren’t born slaves.  Why, then, had they become plunder?  (Max Anders, Holman OT Commentary: Jeremiah, 33)
  • (v. 16) Memphis was an early capital of Egypt that was located relatively near modern Cairo, while Tahpanhes was in the eastern Delta region near Sinai and en route to Palestine. The point of the verse is that Israel and Judah have entered into alliances with Egypt with the result that they have been hurt, not helped.  Ironically, the defeated and rebellious remnant of Judah will flee to Egypt and end up at Tahpanhes, Memphis, and other Egyptian locations (see 43:1-44:6).  (Tremper Longman III, Understanding the Bible: Jeremiah, Lamentations, 33)
  • (vss. 16-18) By allying with its pagan neighbors–Egypt and Assyria–instead of trusting the Lord, Judah had become a vassal state and was being plundered and enslaved. Instead of drinking at the pure river that the Lord gave them, the Judahites drank the polluted waters of the Nile and the Euphrates.  Memphis (Noph) and Tahpanhes were Egyptian cities, and Shihor was a branch of the Nile River.  (Warren Wiersbe, Be Decisive, 32-3)
  • (v. 20) A stubborn animal. Jeremiah often used animals to picture the behavior of people, and here he compared the Jews to an unruly animal that won’t wear the yoke.  One of his recurring phrases is the stubbornness of their evil hearts (3:17; 7:24; 9:14; 11:8; 13:10; 16:12; 18:12; 23:17).  When people, made in the image of God, refuse to obey God, they become like animals (see Ps 32:9; Prv 7:21-23; Hos 4:16).  (Warren Wiersbe, Be Decisive, 33)
  • (v. 20) The NIV translates the verb used with “whore” as lay down as a prostitute. However, the verb, though rare and somewhat ambiguous in meaning, seems to have a more specific meaning, referring to spreading one’s legs or bending over backwards.  (Lundbom, Jeremiah 1-20, 277)
  • (v. 20) We return here to the basic theme of Israel as the truant wife, pictured now in one unflattering guise after another: from avid prostitute to unmanageable child, from wild vine to wild ass, each with the instant impact and penetration of a cartoonist’s line-drawing. (Derek Kidner, OT Series:  Jeremiah, 32)
  • (v. 20) That Jeremiah understands the sexual act as analogous to spiritual betrayal is clear from the references to high hill and spreading tree (Dt 12:2; 1 Kgs 14:13; 2 Kgs 17:10; Isa 57:5; 65:7; Ezek 6:13; 20:28; Hos 4:13). These refer to the locations of pagan shrines in ancient Palestine.  God’s people would go to these places and worship the idols of the Canaanites.  (Tremper Longman III, Understanding the Bible: Jeremiah, Lamentations, 35)
  • (v. 21) A degenerate vine. Israel as a vine is a familiar image in the OT (Ps 80:8-16; Isa 5:1-7; Ezek 17:1-10; Hos 10:1-2).  God planted His people in the good land He gave them, but they didn’t produce the harvest of righteousness He desired.  “So He expected it to bring forth good grapes, but it brought forth wild grapes” (Isa 5:2).  Because they worshiped false gods, they became like their degenerate neighbors.  How could dead idols ever produce living fruit in their nation?
  • (v. 23) The habits of the female [donkey] in heat are dramatic and vulgar. She sniffs the path in front of her, trying to pick up her scent of a male (from his urine).  When she finds it, she rubs her nose in the dust and then straightens her neck, and with head high, closes her nostrils and “sniffs the wind.”  What she is really doing is sniffing the dust which is soaked with the urine of a male [donkey].  With her neck stretched to the utmost, she slowly draws in a long, deep breath, then lets out an earthshaking bray and doubles her pace, racing down the road in search of the male.  (K. E. Bailey and W. L. Holladay, “The ‘Young Camel’ and ‘Wild Ass’ in Jeremiah 2:23-25,” Vetus Testamentum 18, 259)
  • (v. 23) Literally, this camel is criss-crossing her tracks. The young camel is the perfect illustration for all that is “skittery” and unreliable.  It is ungainly in the extreme and runs off in any direction at the slightest provocation, much to the fury of the camel-driver.  To sit in a village courtyard and watch such a young camel go scooting through, with some alarmed peasant dashing madly after it, is an unforgettable experience; such a young camel never takes more than about three steps in any direction.  To this day the young camel provides a dramatic illustration for anything unreliable.  Thus “interlacing her paths” is an accurate description of a young camel–it provides Jeremiah a perfect illustration for the fickleness of Israel.  (K. E. Bailey and W. L. Holladay, “The ‘Young Camel’ and ‘Wild Ass’ in Jeremiah 2:23-25,” Vetus Testamentum 18, 258-9)
  • (v. 24) Changing figures of speech, Jeremiah compared Judah to animals in heat. This language is brutally frank and may be offensive to some people today, especially if read in public.  The OT prophets and other writers were graphic and earthy in their dealing with the matter of sexual relationships.  (Max Anders, Holman OT Commentary: Jeremiah, 34)
  • (v. 27) The people of Judah were so confused that they were “cross-worshiping.” “They say to wood, ‘You are my father,’ and to stone, ‘You gave me birth’” (v. 27).  That is, they call the feminine goddess (represented by the wood) “Father” and tell the masculine god (represented by the stone) that he gave them birth!  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 41)
  • (v. 30) Often in the OT the image of the lion is used to denote the ruthless, ravenous enemies of God and his people (Ps 7:2; 10:9; Isa 5:29). (Tremper Longman III, Understanding the Bible: Jeremiah, Lamentations, 38)
  • (v. 37) The final image is that of personified Jerusalem walking away with her hands on her head. This is the posture of mourning and resignation, and it probably refers to the posture used by captives who are being led away.  (J. Andrew Dearman, The NIV Application Commentary: Jeremiah, 61)


The Bible is replete with examples showing that the closest earthly example of God’s intimate relationship to mankind is demonstrated in an ideal marriage. (Mt Sinai marriage covenant; Dt 7:9; Bk of Sng of Sol.; Isa 50:1; 54:4-6; 61:10; 62:5; Jer 2:20; ch 3; Ezek ch 16; ch 23; bk of Hosea; 2 Cor 11:1-6; Eph 5:21-33)


BRIDE (OF CHRIST): A term used in the NT to refer metaphorically to the Church, with Christ as the bridegroom (2 Cor 11:2; Rv 19:7; 21:2, 9; 22:17).  In the OT Israel is sometimes referred to as the wife of Jehovah (Isa 54:6; Ezek 16:8; Hos 2:19, 20).  The figure is used to show how close God intends the relationship between Him and His people to be.  Disloyalty to Him is called harlotry.  (Merrill C. Tenny, The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible–Volume One, 655)


The OT pictures Yahweh as the husband of Israel.  For example, Israel and Judah are depicted as faithless sisters who play the harlot, being unfaithful to their beloved (see esp. Jer 3:1-3 and Ezek 23).  The deep religious significance of such a figure is apparent when we see the close connection between idolatry and religious prostitution.  To demonstrate the faithlessness of Israel, Yahweh commanded the prophet Hosea to take a wife who had been a harlot.  Unable to break the habit of her former life, she became a living representation of Israel’s faithlessness to Yahweh.  Hosea filled the role of God, who was always willing to forgive.  (Geoffrey W. Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia–Volume Two, 617)


As Israel’s sovereign, Yahweh had a right to demand His people’s exclusive loyalty.  This was the first and most basic stipulation of the covenant (cf. the first commandment: “You shall have no other gods before me,” Ex 20:3).  Nonetheless, the OT records Israel’s perpetual lapses into idolatry, and it was this unfaithfulness that provoked Yahweh’s jealous wrath (cf. Nm 25:3, 11; Dt 29:18-20; 32:16, 21; 1 Kgs 14:22f.; Zeph 1:18; 3:8; cf. also Ezk 8:3, 5, where the idol in Ezekiel’s vision is called “the image of jealousy” because it provoked Yahweh to jealousy.  Frequently the metaphor of a marriage was used to describe the relationship between Yahweh and His people, with Yahweh depicted as the jealous husband and Israel as the adulterous wife (cf. Ezk 36:41f.).  There is another side, however, to Yahweh’s qinhâ, namely, His jealousy for His covenant people, which is expressed in pity and zeal for Israel’s renewal and results in judgment upon Israel’s enemies and the restoration of Jerusalem (e.g., Ezk 36:5-7; 38:18f.; 39:25; Joel 2:18f.; Zec 1:14-17; 8:2f.).  (3) Yahweh’s claim to the exclusive allegiance of His people arises out of His unique nature as the only true God, the sovereign Lord of all creation.  No other gods can rival Him; thus Yahweh alone is deserving of His creatures’ exclusive and wholehearted devotion (cf. Ps 95-97, etc.; Dt 6:4f.).  Yahweh’s jealousy is an expression of His holiness (cf. Josh 24:19; Ezk 39:25).  His very name is Jealous (Ex 34:14).  (Geoffrey W. Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia–Volume One, 972)


It is this spiritual intercourse with God that is the ecstasy that is imagined and hinted at in all earthly intercourse; physical or spiritual.   And I think that is the ultimate reason why sexual passion is so strong and so different from other passion; so heavy with suggestions of profound meanings that always just elude our grasp.  I don’t think any practical need can account for it.  I don’t think any animal drive can explain it.  No animal falls in love or writes profound romantic poetry or sees sex as a symbol of ultimate meaning of life because no animal is made in the image of God.  Not just sexuality, but human sexuality is that image.   And human sexuality is a foretaste of that self-giving, losing and finding the whole self, a foretaste of that oneness and manyness that is the very life of the Trinity and the joy of the Trinity.   And that is why we long for it without knowing it.  That is why we tremble to stand outside of ourselves in the other.  That is why we long to give our whole selves, body and soul, because we are images of God the sexual being. We love the other sex because God loves God.  And this early love is so passionate because heaven is full of passion, of energy, and dynamism.  That is one of the reasons God invented families.  You can’t love or hate anybody as much as your own family.  Families are full of passion.  Heaven is not boring or blasaise.  It is passionate because God is passionate.  Jesus Christ who is our window to God was not a stoic or a Scribe or a Scholar.  He was a lover.  I think we correctly deny that God has passions in a passive sense. He is not moved or driven or conditioned by them as we are.  He cannot fall in love for the same reason the ocean cannot get wet.  He is love.  (Peter Kreeft lecture “Sex in Heaven”)


The question to be answered is . . . What is Jeremiah trying to communicate in Jeremiah 2?


Answer: That unless we stop and think about Who God is and all He has done for us, we may unthinkingly default to our senses and sinful nature and dump our relationship with God.


God did not leave his people–they dumped him.  God’s people were the ones who walked out on the marriage.  They used to love him, but it’s all over now.  This is worth remembering whenever God seems distant.  “Have you not brought this on yourselves by forsaking the LORD your God when he led you in the way?” (v. 17).  As the saying goes, “If God does not seem as close as he used to, who moved?”  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 39)


What other gods could we have besides the Lord? Plenty. For Israel there were the Canaanite Baals, those jolly nature gods whose worship was a rampage of gluttony, drunkenness, and ritual prostitution. For us there are still the great gods Sex, Shekels, and Stomach (an unholy trinity constituting one god: self), and the other enslaving trio, Pleasure, Possessions, and Position, whose worship is described as “The lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life” (1 Jn 2:16). Football, the Firm, and Family are also gods for some. Indeed the list of other gods is endless, for anything that anyone allows to run his life becomes his god and the claimants for this prerogative are legion. In the matter of life’s basic loyalty, temptation is a many-headed monster. (James Packer, Your Father Loves You)


CALVIN – “The heart is an idol factory.”


A wife who is 85% faithful to her husband is not faithful at all. There is no such thing as part-time loyalty to Jesus Christ.   We are the bride of Christ.  —Vance Havner


The Word for the Day is . . . Dump


What can we learn from Jeremiah 2?:

I-  We, like Israel, can be like an ungrateful, stupid, sensual hooker who dumps our husband because we did not take time to think about Who God is and all He has done for us. (Jer 2: see also: Ex 20:5; 34:14-16; Num 15:39; Dt 5:9; 32:16-21; 1 Kngs 14:22; Psa 50:18; 78:58; Jer 2:20; ch 3; 5:1-11; 9:2; 13:27; ch 23; Ezek ch 16; ch 23; Bk of Hosea; Joel 2:18; Nah 3:4; Zech 8:2; Mt 5:27-28; 12:39; 16:4; Lk 7:40-50; Jam 4:4; 2 Pt 2:1-22; Rev 2:20-25; 14:8; 17:2-4; 18:3)


I’m amazed at the number of people who divorce God because He doesn’t give them what they want.  — Ted Landel


In verse 32, the prophet stated an irrefutable fact about young ladies: They love tokens of affection from their sweetheart, groom, or husband.  Symbolically, Yahweh had been Israel’s groom, but she had forgotten every blessing he had sent as a proof of his love.  The expression days without number means her ingratitude had existed almost continuously since he had given them to her.  How could she be so selfish and presumptuous!  (Max Anders, Holman OT Commentary: Jeremiah, 36)


Why would a bride leave a perfect husband?  Why would she abandon a spouse who fulfilled all his vows to her?  There is no explanation, no excuse.  God’s bride separated from her husband without the slightest provocation.

God is the one who has been wronged.  He is the plaintiff, and this is his accusation: “They followed worthless idols and became worthless themselves” (v. 5b).  This is the only legitimate ground for divorce–adultery (cf. Mt 5:32).  In this case the adultery is spiritual.  God’s people have been having affairs with “worthless” idols.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 39-40)


Though they have forgotten their marriage to God, they are still adept at love.  However, the love in which they excel is illicit love.  They can even teach the worst of women, presumably whores, how to improve their trade.  (Tremper Longman III, Understanding the Bible: Jeremiah, Lamentations, 38-9)


God is a Jealous God – Ex 20:5: 34:14; Dt 4:24; Josh 24:19:   God created—therefore He is jealous of His creation that it be and remain what He created it to be.   God’s jealousy is a emotional response to a perversion of what is right in His relationship to His creation.   NOTE: Ex 20:1-12.  “It was I that brought you out of the house of slavery.  I am jealous of you because I am the one who rescued you so you owe me.  For me to save you and love you and liberate you and then you turn your back on me but to serve other gods, makes me jealous.  I am jealous for the people that I created, saved, liberated and called, to be mine and not another’s.”


Israel is compared to: an animal that has broken its yoke (vs. 20a); a harlot (vs. 20b); a vineyard that was planted with choice vines, but produced only wild ones (vs. 21; cf. Isa 5:1-7); away from the herd, perhaps in heat (vs. 23); a wild ass in heat (vs 24); and finally a thief (vs. 26).  (George Arthur Buttrick, Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 5, 819)


God’s people are in denial.  “When they are in trouble, they say, ‘Come and save us!’” (v. 27c), as if nothing is wrong.  Worse still, they are starting to play the blame game, as often happens when marriages start to fall apart.  Each spouse refuses to take responsibility for his or her own actions.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 47)


Imagine living in the desert.  It is always dry.  The thing you always need and can never find is water.  Then imagine finding a desert spring that continuously bubbles up fresh from the ground.  Would you leave a never-ending supply of water behind?  Never!  Only a lunatic would abandon a desert spring.

Now imagine leaving the spring behind and digging a cistern to catch rainwater.  If you went to such trouble, would you then leave cracks in the limestone seal?  Yet God testifies, “My people. . . have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water” (2:13).  If leaving a spring is dumb, building a cracked cistern is dumber.  It would be like shutting off your water supply and then digging a trench to get water from the nearest industrial canal.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 42)


Defense treaties with Egypt and Assyria are like broken cisterns.  They cannot hold water the way God can.  Worse still, their water turns out to have a bitter aftertaste compared to the sweet living water from God’s eternal wellspring.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 43)


A wild donkey does not have to work hard to have sexual intercourse with another wild donkey in heat, so Baal and his devotees don’t have to work hard at promoting Baal’s interests among God’s people.  They will come running.  Note for instance the implied large following of Baal among Israelites during the time of Ahab and Jezebel (1 Kgs 17-18).  God’s people cannot help themselves; they have loved strangers (i.e., foreign idols, Dt 32:16) and cannot resist the temptation.  (Tremper Longman III, Understanding the Bible: Jeremiah, Lamentations, 36)


II-  A relationship with God brings significance (5), security (6), provision (7), life (13), freedom (14), fruitfulness (21), and keeps you from disaster (19), prostitution (20), guilt (22), and bondage (37).


God is more intimate to me than I am to myself.  (David Schindler; Mars Hill Audio, Vol. 112 track #3).


This image is reminiscent of the “Song of the Vineyard” in Isa 5:1-7.  Isaiah there speaks of God’s special care and concern for his vineyard where he planted the “choicest vines.”  But while expecting good fruit, “it yielded only bad fruit” (5:2).  God did everything necessary for God’s people to turn out for the better, but they willfully turned degenerate.  (Tremper Longman III, Understanding the Bible: Jeremiah, Lamentations, 35)


She found fault with God because she could not manipulate him to her pleasure.  She murmured at his judgments and chastisements, though the fault was hers.  God’s visitations were unavailing (v. 30).  Those who sought to lead her back to godliness were slain, as in Manasseh’s reign and also in Jehoiakim’s (2 Kgs 21:16; Jer 26:20-23).  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 6, 395)


God is jealous.   God doesn’t want to lose to another what He possesses.  He knows He is the best for us and so He is jealous when we give our time, resources, money, or our affections to anything other than Him.  Why is God jealous?  Because He loves you so much He wants you to have the best.  And the best is God.


He loves Thee too little who loves anything together with Thee, which he loves not for Thy sake.  —Augustine.  In other words, if created things are seen and handled as gifts of God and as mirrors of his glory, they need not be occasions of idolatry—if our delight in them is always also a delight in their Maker.  (John Piper; Desiring God, 143)


Freed from Egyptian bondage, Israel has enslaved herself by her sins, this time to Assyria and Egypt.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 6, 391)


Because the nation at that time was enjoying a measure of political and economic prosperity, they concluded that God’s blessing was proof of their innocence!  They didn’t realize that God can bless the wicked (Ps 27; 73; Mt 5:45) and that the goodness of God should instead lead them to repentance (Lk 15:17-18; Rom 2:4-5).  (Warren Wiersbe, Be Decisive, 35)


The earliest bond between God and Israel was not only a fragrant remembrance to him but also a sad contrast to her deep plunge into apostasy.  In those early favored days, Israel was set apart as sacred to God, his very firstfruits, because she was the first nation to worship the true God (cf. Ex 19:5-6; Amos 6:1).  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol 6, 388)



Worship Point:  You can’t worship God when you worship an idol.  (Josh 24:15; 1Kgs 18:21; Mt 6:24; Lk 16:13; Gal 5:16-16; 6:7-8; Jam 4:4)


Every time a church family gathers for worship, we come as idolaters or recovering idolaters.  We all fight allegiances to someone or something other than God that make a claim on our lives.  To pretend otherwise is to be naive and unprepared for the serious work of realignment we need.  (Mark Labberton, The Dangerous Act of Worship, 62)


WHEN WE sin, we are in essence saying to God: I love what this other thing does for me more than what YOU do for me, God.   We are like a spouse who is found in adultery with another lover.  Repentance can only be seen properly when we see ourselves as an adulterer going back to our faithful mate when we have sought the arms of another.


When your loyalty is to God on weekends but only to the bottom line on weekdays, you’re driving a wedge between yourself and God.  It would be like saying to your spouse, “As long as I’m home, I’m committed to you.  But when I go off to work, well, I might fool around a little.”  That would create a rift in your relationship, wouldn’t it?  Similarly, if you’re living a fragmented faith, you’re saying to God, “I’m committed to you in certain areas of my life.  But you need to know that when I’m at work, I’ve got a mistress called my career.”  Doesn’t it make sense that this would stymie your relationship with him?  (Lee Strobel; God’s Outrageous Claims, 52)


God is several times described as jealous for His honor, His holy name.  He desires fervently that His due status and honor be preserved, that the worship that belongs to Him should be given to Him.  The analogy frequently used is a husband’s concern for the love of his wife.  This is an expression of the holiness of God, which cannot endure any unfaithfulness.  Just as a husband cannot be indulgent of adultery on the part of his wife, so no infidelity is endured by God.  It was this exclusiveness of concern that underlay the strong emphasis upon monotheistic worship among the Jews.  Because Yahweh is the only true God, He alone is deserving of man’s worship and devotion.  It motivated the prohibition of intermarriage with the heathen nations around Israel, lest they should depart from the exclusive worship of the one true God.  An OT example of God’s jealousy is found in Ex 32, where God was angered by the Israelites’ worshiping the golden calf.  Herod was struck dead because he did not disavow the attribution of deity to himself (Acts 12:21-23).  Similarly, the exclusiveness is reflected to the teachings of Jesus: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no man comes to the Father, but by me” (Jn 14:6).  “He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me” (Mt 10:37).  To determine that a potential follower really was giving to Him his supremacy, Jesus would put such a person to a test, as when He asked the rich young man to sell all that he had, and come and follow Him.  Because Jesus, like the Father, is the only true God, and because He is the only mediator, He could rightfully exercise this jealousy.   (Merrill C. Tenny, The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible–Volume Three, 410)

They believe the Bible about certain things, but not everything. They start thinking they can be a Christian but live the way they want to live instead of following the Bible. That kind of self-will and stubbornness is what the Bible calls idolatry.  (Jentezen Franklin, The Spirit of Python, 47)


Why do Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego choose fire over idolatry?  They know where the real danger lies.  They understand that God brooks no rivals.  It is better to die than to bow down before anyone or anything but Yahweh.  (Mark Labberton, The Dangerous Act of Worship, 61)


God is not only bigger than you thinking, He is bigger than you can think.  And if you’ve never stood before God and been totally confused; then you’re worshiping an idol.  (Steve Brown; Who Is in Control, “1. A Solid Place to Stand”)


Idolatry is worshiping anything that ought to be used, or using anything that ought to be worshiped.  —Augustine.


Most of us instinctively turn to government to solve our social problems.  It’s a habit reinforced from the time we’re young.

Listen to these quotations from the teachers’ edition of a fifth-grade social studies textbook.  “Today, when people lose their jobs,” the textbook says, “they can get some money from the government.”  A few pages later the book says, “Today, families who do not have enough money for food can get money from the government.”  A few pages later we read, “Today families who cannot afford to pay their rent can get help from the government.”

The message is obvious: Government is the solution to every social need.

Here’s a remarkable quotation that sums it all up.  Explaining why the national government has grown so large, a junior-high civics textbook says that over time, “people were no longer content to live as their forefather had lived.  They wanted richer, fuller lives.  They wanted the government to help make their lives rich and full.”  

This goes far beyond the traditional philosophy of limited government, in which the state is given only certain specified tasks, such as operating a police force and regulating traffic.  And it shows that Americans have fallen prey to what political writer Jacques Ellul calls “the political illusion”: the idea that government is actually capable of creating the good life, the good society.

This is nothing short of idolatry, treating the state as a god.

But like all idols, the state inevitably disappoints those who worship at its shrine.  A government that can’t even manage the simple accounting task of balancing its budget is certainly not capable of making people’s lives “rich and full”–not by turning to government but by turning to God.  The kingdoms of this world rise and fall, but the kingdom of God will rule in human hearts for eternity.  (Charles Colson, A Dangerous Grace, 125-6)


By partner-swapping, Israel bartered away the living God.  This was a religious crime without precedent in the ancient world.  The pagans never abandoned their dead gods, but God’s people abandoned the living God.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 41)


God’s people were guilty of religious prostitution.  They were shacking up with gods they hardly knew.  Very likely Jeremiah was referring to Baal worship, which included ritual prostitution at leafy hilltop shrines.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 44)


Our coins read, “In God we trust.”  But someone has suggested that we should alter today’s inscription to read, “In this god we trust.”  Job wisely said, “If I have put my trust in gold or aid to pure gold, ‘You are my security,’ if I have rejoiced over my great wealth, the fortune my hands had gained…then these also would be sins to be judged, for I would have been unfaithful to God on high” (Job 31:24, 25, 28) This is idolatry!  Jesus put it with supreme simplicity: “You cannot serve both God and Money” (Mt 6:24).  In what, then, do we really trust?  (R. Kent Hughes;  Disciplines of Grace, 37)


We have all been tempted to twist Jesus into a shape fit for our own cause.  We do not support his program; he supports his program; he supports ours.  The plastic Jesus, the silly-putty Jesus, is the convertible idol of modern culture.  He can be hitched to any chassis, packaged for any market, elected charter member of any group.  We have all seen this sort of thing done with dismal regularity in our own day. (Cornelius Plantinga, Jr.; Assurances of the Heart, 154)


What the OT calls idolatry, enlightened Westerners call addictions. (Philip Yancey; Finding God in Unexpected Places, 15)


On the other hand there are those for whom work has become the alpha and omega of their existence.  Only in their work do they find meaning.  Only in the things that their work provides do they discover personal significance.  For them work is not an act of worship unto the Lord.  Rather, work is what they worship, and the products of that work are the idols before which they bow.  They are not working out of any sense of being created in the divine image or of producing something that will glorify God and benefit the community.  They’re working because work is their only reason for being, and the money their work provides gives them the things that they crave—the symbols of prestige, the status, the preferential treatment, the shortcuts to where they want to go, the shields against life’s unpleasantness.  The “best” of everything.  It is purely self-oriented, and it often leads them to neglect spouse and family and leisure and worship and voluntary service. (Stuart Briscoe; Choices for a Lifetime, 138)


The idolatrous heart assumes that God is other than He is—in itself a monstrous sin—and substitutes for the true God one made after its own likeness.  Always this God will conform to the image of the one who created it and will be base or pure, cruel or kind, according to the moral state of the mind from which it emerges. (A. W. Tozer; The Knowledge of the Holy, 3)


Their worship digressed to highly charged eroticism.  Somehow an offering was made to these fertility gods through illicit orgasm.  But Baal and Ashteroth weren’t real gods at all.  Both were satanic counterfeits that snatched away the sexuality given by the Creator, reduced it to eroticism, and propped up that eroticism as an object of worship.  Submission to these gods meant bowing the knee to the demonic principalities of sexual perversion.  In effect, idealized, eroticized images of the creature were being worshiped, and worship degenerated into nothing more than orgies.  The collision of body parts between faceless, nameless people marked the depths of Israel’s idolatry.  (Andrew Comiskey, Pursuing Sexual Wholeness: How Jesus Heals the Homosexual, 100)


A regular churchgoer who does not worship God from the heart is more wicked than an unbeliever who has never heard the gospel.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 44)


Polytheism in contemporary Western life may manifest itself in subtle ways, as when people compartmentalize fundamental issues, look to experts (theological and otherwise) who advise on their specialties, and refuse to see their lives as interconnected wholes before a sovereign God.  Christians are not immune either from the temptations of self-help, which may lead them astray from devotion to their true Lord.  (J. Andrew Dearman, The NIV Application Commentary: Jeremiah, 64)


Gospel Application: Through Christ, we can become and stay the Bride of Christ and enjoy all the benefits of a relationship with God by being “In Christ”.


Sin is not simply a cosmetic problem.  Even after the detergent, the exotic cleansers, the turpentine, and the tomato juice, the stain of sin remains.  What soap can wash away sin from the soul?  There is no home remedy to take away guilt.  Only the blood of Jesus Christ can purify us from all sin (1 Jn 1:7).  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 45)


The opposite of covet is contentment.  —Tim Keller


God is most glorified in us when we are  most satisfied in Him.  (John Piper, Desiring God)


We must be constantly in the process of repenting, allowing the Holy Spirit to have our faith renewed to more and more obedience of God’s Law.  When we repent of our sin and idols in our life, we are able to see our sinfulness more and more and we are forced to confess our sinfulness which in turn allows us to see God’s grace and love for us more and more which creates more and more faith in our lives which allows us the strength and fortitude to pursue obedience to new and more sanctified levels. (Steven Childer’s Personal Renewal Cycle)


The dirty face that can’t be washed clean” indicates the depth of the apostasy.  It is not something discoloring the surface life of the people.  The rebellion of the people is likened (d) to the stain of. . . guilt which cannot be washed away with soap or lye: the stain is too deep.  The cleansing must come from within.  (George Arthur Buttrick, Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 5, 819-20)


Spiritual Challenge: Avoid ungodly influences and be alert of any indication that your affections are drifting from God to idols.  Take measures to insure that you are always fixing your eyes on Jesus.  (Heb 12:2)


If I cry out against God because of a great loss, I have just revealed my idol; that thing or person he blessed me with, rather than He who blesses me.  —Buddy Briggs


I don’t think being mature Christians means getting to a place where we never deal with idolatry.  Rather, maturity comes when we become aware that this is going to be a lifelong battle…and we make up our minds to engage in it on a daily basis.  (Pete Wilson, Empty Promises, 196)

Covetousness is desiring something so much that you lose your contentment in God.

The opposite of covetousness is contentment in God.  When contentment in God decreases, covetousness for gain increases.  That’s why Paul says in Col 3:5 (RSV) that covetousness is idolatry.  “Put to death what is earthly in you; fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.  It’s idolatry because the contentment that the heart should be getting from God, it starts to get from something else.”  (John Piper, Future Grace, 221)


Both Assyria and Egypt were detrimental to Judah because they led not only to political slavery but religious disobedience as well.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 6,  391-2)


One of the saddest instances of false hope occurs when people trust in what God has worked in them instead of trusting God himself.  For example, God says, “When I say to the righteous he will surely live, and he so trusts in his righteousness that he commits iniquity, none of his righteous deeds will be remembered” (Ezk 33:13).  It is possible to trust in your own goodness in such a way that it produces iniquity.  Any trust, except in God, brings about sin.  “You trusted in your beauty and played the harlot because of your fame” (Ezk 16;15).  God had made Israel beautiful.  But when she because satisfied with her beauty, instead of her Beautifier, the result was harlotries.  (John Piper, Future Grace, 325)


That is infidelity that takes a believer in the hour of his need first to the arm of flesh, rather than in prayer to God.  To go to the creature first, is to “go down into Egypt” for help,–a sin which God has signalized with his severest displeasure.  (Octavius Winslow, Personal Declension and Revival of Religion in the Soul, 94)


The greatest adversary of love to God is not his enemies but his gifts.  And the most deadly appetites are not for the poison of evil, but for the simple pleasures of earth.  For when these replace an appetite for God himself, the idolatry is scarcely recognizable, and almost incurable.  (John Piper, A Hunger for God: Desiring God Through Fasting and Prayer, 14)


Politics is a broken cistern.  When Christians trust in political solutions to save the nation, they bring judgment on themselves.  One reason for the precipitous decline of the mainline church in America has been its engagement in liberal politics.  And by aligning itself with the right-wing agenda, the conservative church has fallen into the same trap.  The quest for political power destroys the spiritual influence of the church.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 43)


Verse 23 understands the prostitution as more than a defection from the worship of the Lord.  The image is that of blood spattered on a garment, blood from innocent people whose lives have been consumed by the adulterous activities of Jerusalem.  This adds the element of what can be called social criticism.  Injustice and unrighteousness also flow from a defective understanding of who the Lord is and what he desires from his covenant partner.  (J. Andrew Dearman, The NIV Application Commentary: Jeremiah, 60-1)


The first article was an interview with economist Jim Gilmore who presented the latest approach in retailing and marketing–providing “an experience.”  He pointed out that what shoppers are seeking (and smart retailers are providing) when they venture out to the stores is not a particular item, but a pleasurable or meaningful experience.  The obvious question was then asked, “So how does all this ‘experience providing’ apply to the church?”  Note his perceptive response:

It doesn’t.  When the church gets into the business of staging experiences, that quickly becomes idolatry…Increasingly you find people talking about the worship experience rather than the worship service.  That reflects what’s happening in the outside world.  I’m dismayed to see churches abandon the means of grace that God ordains simply to conform to the patterns of the world.  (Interview with Jim Gilmore, “No Experience Necessary,” Leadership 22, 31)  (Philip Graham Ryken, Give Praise to God A Vision for Reforming Worship, 185)


We think that idols are bad things, but that is almost never the case.  The greater the good, the more likely we are to expect that it can satisfy our deepest needs and hopes.  Anything can serve as a counterfeit god, especially the very best things in life.  (Timothy Keller, Counterfeit Gods, xvii)


In Jeremiah’s day there were two chief political parties, a pro-Egyptian one and a pro-Assyrian one.  Of what help would godless nations be to Judah?  Ultimately, her doom would be sealed, not by the presence or absence of treaties with allies, but by her defection from the Lord (v. 19).  The final cause of her calamity would be the hand of God, not the nations he used to punish her.  Her great lack was the reverential fear of the Lord.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 6, 392)


Like Hosea (7:11-12) and Isaiah (30:1-5), Jeremiah opposed foreign alliances, partly because they usually brought with them religious influences from the other nation.  (George Arthur Buttrick, Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 5, 817)


The only way I know how to fight back against allowing money to become an idol, the only way I know how to break the greedy pattern of get, get, get in my life, is the one Jesus taught us and modeled for us again and again.

The healthy way to handle money–and any other potential idol in our lives–is to give, give, give, trusting God to provide what we really need.  (Pete Wilson, Empty Promises, 105)


The prophets, priests, and kings were not part of the solution–they were part of the problem.  “As a thief is disgraced when he is caught, so the house of Israel is disgraced–they, their kings and their officials, their priests and their prophets” (v. 26).  The leaders got caught with their hands in the cookie jar.  They were committing secret sins.  Like everyone else, they were sleeping around with idols.

The middle of verse 8 ought to keep ministers and other spiritual leaders awake at night: “Those who deal with the law did not know me.”  A holy calling does not make a holy man.  The priests of Jeremiah’s day were handling the Scriptures, studying the Bible, and teaching God’s Word, but they did not know God himself (cf. Jn 5:39-40).  Their ministry was a dead ritual rather than a living relationship.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 40)


Raymond Ortlund, Jr., imagines what the evangelical church would look like without the gospel:  What might our evangelicalism, without the evangel, look like?  We would have to replace the centrality of the gospel with something else, naturally.  So what might take the place of the gospel in our sermons and books and cassette tapes and Sunday school classes and home Bible studies, and above all, in our hearts?  (Raymond Ortlund, Jr., A Passion for God, 205)

Ortlund suggests a number of substitutes for the gospel: A “drive toward church growth.”  Or “sympathetic, empathetic, thickly-honeyed cultivation of interpersonal relationships.”  Or “a determination to take America back to its Christian roots through political power.”  Or, one might add, any number of otherwise good things that now usurp the throne of a forgotten God. (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 48)


Spiritual Challenge Questions:

  1. What idols are most prevalent in 21st century America? How much influence do these idols have in your life?
  2. What activities, desires, people or perspectives are you currently flirting with that could become a real destructive force against your faith if they took seed in your heart and mind? What steps do you need to take to rid yourself of these potentially destructive forces?
  3. What safeguards can you place in your life to prevent you from falling prey to one of Satan’s schemes to undermine your faith in God? Does the Pete Wilson quote (p. 196) help?


So What?: Fallen humanity will default towards ungratefulness, stupidity, and whoreific, sensual behavior that seduces us to dump God.  Without Christ, sinful man will pursue that which is meaningless, enslaving and deadly.  (Hos 5:4; Jn 10:10)


The marriage between God and his people is dying to neglect.  God’s people no longer seek after God.  They no longer say, “Where is the LORD?” (Jer 2:6a).  They no longer recount and recite the mighty acts of salvation.  They forget the love that saved them.  They suffer from self-induced spiritual amnesia.

This is a reminder for Christians to thank God daily for salvation in Jesus Christ.  Recount and recite the saving acts of God in history.  Remember what God has done in your life.  The road to spiritual adultery begins when you stop reveling in the love of God.  Few Christians plan to fall into grievous sin.  It is only after falling that they realize they have drifted away from the God of love.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 40)


God’s people are supposed to be fruitful branches of the true vine, Jesus Christ (Jn 15:1-8).  But when they forsake their first love, they go back to their wild natural state and yield sour fruit.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 45)

If you have already entered the romance of redemption, consider whether you love God the way you did when you first “got married.”  If not, do not try to dance around this betrayal.  If you are not passionately in love with God, then you have been behaving like a floozy, spiritually speaking.  But your divine husband still wants you back.  More amazing still, he can restore the passion and purity of your love for him.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 49)


The important question to ask is this: What verdict would God render about the contemporary church?  The dominant sin of Jerusalem–forgetting God–has become a predominant sin in the American church.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 48)


A basic principle is enunciated in verse 19: God punishes us by allowing our own sins to bring pain and discipline to our lives.  “Your own conduct and actions have brought this upon you.  This is your punishment.  How bitter it is!” (4:18).  “Your wrongdoings have kept these [rains] away: your sins have deprived you of good” (5:25).  The greatest judgment God can send to disobedient people is to let them have their own way and reap the sad, painful consequences of their sins.  (Warren Wiersbe, Be Decisive, 33)


The marriage seemed to be beyond recovery.  But it wasn’t.  Just half a chapter later Jeremiah writes, “Return, faithless people,’ declares the LORD, ‘for I am your husband’” (3:14).  It is a breathtaking command.  It is God’s grace for the ungracious, his faithfulness to the unfaithful.  Even when God’s love goes unrequited, he does not cease to love.  Although his marriage is violated, he does not break covenant.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 48)


Idols subvert what precious revelation we have of God through nature, conscience, and Scripture, thereby effectively burgling the knowledge of God from our very souls! (R. Kent Hughes;  Disciplines of Grace, 48)


The people of Jerusalem had blood on their hands and sleeves.  They practiced both child sacrifice and the wanton abuse of the urban poor.  When God is forbidden, everything is permissible, as abortion and the lack of concern for the poor in the pagan West now confirm.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 46)


Those who are compulsive gamblers or drug-addicts or habitual sex-offenders can hardly help themselves.  They crave their addictions so much that they feel incapable of giving them up.  “It’s no use,” they say.  “I must have my sins.”  They run after them until they wear out their shoes.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 47)


God says to Hosea, “Hosea, you see this woman over here name Gomer?  Marry her.”

So Hosea says, “Sure.  I‘m a prophet.  You’re God.  You spoke to me.  I’ll marry her.”

And it is not long after he is married to her that he realizes that she has wayward feet.  That she is not being faithful to him, that she is being sexually unfaithful to him.

And as she begins to have children, he realizes that they are not his children. In fact, he names one of them not mine.

And finally her unfaithfulness gets worse and worse and worse, until eventually she leaves him and leaves the kids, and goes off to one man and goes off to another man and goes off to another man.  And finally that last man, because she is so faithless, she is breaking every promise, she is lying) and finally he sells her into slavery.

Hosea turns to God and says, “Remind me why you asked me to marry her”.

And God basically says, “So you will know something about my relationship to you.  Now you will know what it is like for me. So you will know what it is like to be me.  And here is what I want you to do, Hosea.  I want you to go where she is being bid on and I want you to purchase her freedom and I want you to take her back and then you will know what it is like to be me.”

And so there is poor  Gomer. From what we can tell she is probably being bid on as a slave and she is probably stripped naked as they were so that the buyers could see what they were buying.  And she is standing there and  suddenly to her shock she hears her husband’s voice bidding and he purchases her freedom.  And he walks up to her and instead of berating her, he takes his cloak off and covers her nakedness and says, “Now you will come home and be my wife.”

This story is nothing compared to what God has done for you. Hosea had to go to the next city but God had to come to earth from heaven to find you. Jesus didn’t purchase you back with money, but went to the cross and paid with his life blood. Jesus was stripped naked in order for us to be covered with the robe of righteousness.  (Tim Keller sermon No One Seeks God)





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