Day 211 (July 30): Israel was drowning in idol worship, Judah follows in Israel’s footsteps, God calls his faithless Israelites back to him, the foretelling of Jerusalem’s destruction, Jeremiah is sorrowful for Israelites, Jerusalem filled with sinners, Israel and Judah filled with thankless people, mighty nation will conquer Jerusalem

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

Jeremiah 2:23-5:19

Questions & Observations

Q. (Jeremiah 3:9): Worshiping idols made of wood and stone is mentioned here.  Don’t some Christians, like Catholics, bow or pray to statues? If so, how does this fit into God’s idea of bowing to something man-made?  I understand that the statues represent Jesus, Mary, the Saints — I hope we get into that subject — but, when they are worshipped, I question whether people are directing their thoughts to the statues or are they thinking of the actual divinity?

A. A faithful Catholic will, or should, tell you that they do not worship the statues, and there is a long and complex history regarding the subject.  Various controversies have broken out over the centuries by Church leaders who have tried to deal with the subject of images — sometimes called icons — of religious figures.  Where the line is between offering people — don’t forget many of them could not read! — a beautiful image of the works of the Gospels or the actions of the saints, and making the icon an idol?  It’s a tough question, and frankly there has never been a consensual answer.  But to its own credit, the two oldest branches of Christianity — Catholicism and Orthodoxy — have done their best to walk that line so as to keep the figures of the Bible accessible to the masses while trying to prevent idol worship.  Don’t forget, by the way, that the idols the people were worshipping in this story were the “wrong” ones: they were not God, but false gods.

Q. (Jeremiah 4:4): Pride and power are being blamed here for causing Judah to sin.  I think that is the hardest thing to give up.  We are raised to do our best.  So, we take charge and try to attain success ourselves.  So, I need to teach my kids to “seek ye first the kingdom of God and its righteousness.  And all these thing will be added unto you!”  I don’t know where that comes from except a hymn I grew up with.  But, it’s true.  It’s just such a non-human concept, which makes it really hard to do.

A. It’s from Matthew 6:33 (part the Sermon on the Mount).  As I’ve mentioned in response to similar questions throughout our journey, human pride can be more easily brought into line (in theory anyway) with the proper understanding that all we have we owe to God.  But as soon as we see our blessings as somehow having been earned by our own achievement, we are on dangerous ground.  God blesses hard work, and desires that we use the gifts that He has given us, but as soon as we start to take credit for the things we have — i.e. as soon as we forget God, as the people Jeremiah is talking to did — we have moved into sin.

O. (4:22c): I like the line “They are clever enough at doing wrong, but they have no idea how to do right!”

Q. (4:23-31): This sounds like a volcano!

A. There’s an eruption coming, no doubt about it.

Q. Today’s reading is all about Judah’s impending doom because of their worship of idols and denouncing God.  Sure, there are other religions that have their idols.  But, I believe Christians have their fair share of idols — houses, cars, TV, fashion, gambling, you name it.  Even on a “smaller” scale — I don’t think there is such a thing as a small idol — too much computer time, food (mine is snacking why I do this blog), bargain shopping (it’s OK to buy if it’s 75% off and I will use it J), soda.  Basically, if something is constantly taking away our focus from God, it’s considered idolatry, right?

A. I would say that you have given a fair description.  Don’t forget our work, consumer culture, video games (guilty!), and other distractions.  Idols are everywhere in our society, and also our hearts, but God’s love and power can allow us to see them for what they truly are and conquer them.

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