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Disaster Because of Idolatry July 26, 2017

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on Jeremiah 44.

Summary: In this passage, God speaks through Jeremiah, declaring that He has destroyed Judah in response to the idolatry of His people. He then condemns the Jews who have fled to Egypt, as they have also engaged in idolatry during their sojourn in that pagan nation. Thus, He will cause them to perish in Egypt – just as He punished their compatriots in Judah – and so they will never return to their homeland.

Yet the Jews in Egypt assert that they will continue to engage in idolatry; in particular, they will continue to worship the Queen of Heaven. Moreover, they assert that their current predicament stems from their failure to worship that deity.

Jeremiah responds by asserting that their current predicament stems from their failure to worship God Himself. He then repeats his declaration that God will cause them to perish in Egypt – demonstrating the true cause of their current predicament. He concludes by assuring them that God will cause the downfall of the current ruler of Egypt, just as He caused the downfall of King Zedekiah; that event will presage their downfall in Egypt.

Thoughts: In verse 1, we see that the Jews settled throughout Egypt after their flight from Judah. In light of the fact that immigration continues to dominate the headlines, I am curious as to how this influx of Jews impacted Egypt. Did the Egyptians recall the time in their nation’s history when the Jews dwelt among their ancestors? Did they warmly greet these refugees from King Nebuchadnezzar? Did these refugees place a significant strain on the resources of Egypt? What did these Jews offer the Egyptians in exchange for allowing them to stay in their country? Did the Egyptians compel at least some of these Jews to serve them as slaves?

We also see that the Jews in Egypt rejected God’s condemnation of their idolatry. I was taken aback by their response, as I am accustomed to Biblical accounts of the Jews responding to a warning from God with an initial declaration of repentance – before resuming their sinful ways. Here, though, the Jews skip the step of repentance. Now I am curious: were they embittered by their exile in Egypt? Did they suspend their worship of the Queen of Heaven during the siege of Jerusalem? Note that the siege would have put a crimp in their food supply – including the raw materials that were necessary for baking cakes and preparing drink offerings for that deity.

Here, we see that the Jews in Egypt declared that their troubles began when they suspended their worship of the Queen of Heaven. Calvin offers some insights on this point:

Here he emphasizes their ingratitude in blaming God for all their calamities. These punishments should have restored them to their right minds, but they only made them more and more obstinate.

This incident reminds me of the old adage that correlation does not imply causation. In particular, God rebukes His people for asserting a causal relationship between 1) not worshiping the Queen of Heaven and 2) their current predicament. This leads me to a larger point: it seems that causal relationships between events were more obvious during Biblical times. For example, we see that:

  • God caused the death of King David’s first child with Bathsheba in response to his acts of adultery, murder and deception in relation to her
  • God punished the people of Judah during the ministry of Jeremiah in response to their rampant idolatry and mistreatment of the disadvantaged members of their society
  • God struck down Ananias and Sapphira in response to their attempt to deceive Him regarding the money that they obtained by selling their land.

Yet it seems that nowadays, causal relationships between events are more difficult to establish. For example, when a calamitous event occurs, we cannot assert that it was caused by a specific sinful deed. God does not inform modern-day believers that, “human action X has directly caused awful event Y.” This lack of information may be difficult for us to accept, as we naturally seek an explanation for every shocking news story. At those times, we must return to the fact that God is still sovereign over all things – and He will direct them for our ultimate good and for His ultimate glory.

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