I suspect it’s generally true that we commit sin when we think we are out of sight or when we have become so blind and deaf to the truth that we consider our life choices are okay with the LORD God even though they are not. This is what we see in the Jeremiah reading today. As the prophet is at pains to point out, Israel, the people of God have stopped listening and paying attention to God’s word (7:13, 24, 26-27). They have stopped listening to God’s many true prophets (7:25) and have listened to the lies of the false prophets (7:8) embracing the worship practices of the surrounding nations (7:9) even allowing their gods to be worshipped in the LORD’s Temple (7:30). They even engaged in the most despicable and unthinkable practices of offering their children as sacrifices (7:31). But nothing was hidden from the LORD God. As the sobering and disturbing words of 7:11 state, ‘But I have been watching! declares the Lord.’ The result: The people of God are now under the LORD’s personal wrath (7:29, 8:3) and their current places of idol worship will be renamed ‘The Valley of Slaughter’ (7:32-34). Israel: people, kings and officials, priests and prophets will all be humiliated and banished, longing for death over life (8:3).
It would be easy for us to think how foolish this ancient people of God were for failing to remain faithful to God and to walk in obedience (7:23). But we would do well to search our own hearts for as John Calvin, the great Swiss reformer wrote: ‘the human heart is a factory of idols’. A stroll through a large Westfield or Stockland Shopping Centre would quickly confirm Calvin’s statement. We westerners worship clothes, personal grooming (from pedicures to hairstyles), food, gadgets of all shapes and sizes, footwear, entertainment, coffee and cakes, ‘health’ drinks, massages, holidays, etc etc. Maybe we could say today that the human heart is a perpetual factory of idols! We who claim to follow Jesus are not immune to the allurements of these many and varied idols. Take a moment right now and ask the LORD to show you the idol or idols, which have your attention and distract from your undivided loyalty and obedience to the LORD’s call on your life echoed in Jeremiah 7:23 ‘Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people. Walk in obedience to all I command you, that it may go well with you.’
My personal idols are: ……………………………
Ask the LORD to forgive you for worshipping the false gods of our generation and to empower you by His Spirit to walk in step with the Lord Jesus, who declared in the wilderness of temptation ‘It is written: Worship the Lord your God and serve him alone.’ (Luke 4:8).
We can confidently pray in such a way because of the teaching of the final prophet in the line of prophets like Jeremiah. John the Baptist provides us with the powerful sacrificial identity of Jesus Christ: ‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’ (John 1:29, and again in 1:36). Jesus would become sin for us so that the wrath of God could be exhausted at the cross and forgiveness and pardon could flow down to us. We see in this grace filled declaration just how serious idolatry is. It requires that the very Son of God (John 1:34) be banished on our behalf so we could be brought back into fellowship with the Father. And even more, it is through this Jesus, the Lamb of God, that we can now receive the very same Holy Spirit that rested on Him (John 1:33). All this so that we might be empowered to walk in fellowship and resist the constant temptations to worship the multitude of contemporary idols. Take some time to thank God for the Lord Jesus and his personal sacrifice that ‘takes away the sin of the world!’, even yours and mine.