We are exploring Jeremiah, and how his words from God as are relevant today as they were back in his time. Let's look at some interesting verses from chapter 3:
During the reign of King Josiah, the Lord said to me, “Have you seen what faithless Israel has done? She has gone up on every high hill and under every spreading tree and has committed adultery there. I thought that after she had done all this she would return to me but she did not, and her unfaithful sister Judah saw it. I gave faithless Israel her certificate of divorce and sent her away because of all her adulteries. Yet I saw that her unfaithful sister Judah had no fear; she also went out and committed adultery. Because Israel’s immorality mattered so little to her, she defiled the land and committed adultery with stone and wood. In spite of all this, her unfaithful sister Judah did not return to me with all her heart, but only in pretense,” declares the Lord. (3:6-10)
I begin with these verses, but walk with me for awhile. We shall land on them again.
With human beings, you really have only two choices: We are inherently either good or bad.
If we are good, then all we need is a the kind of society that brings out the full potential in everyone. If we are not engaged in the good, then we must improve the society, or remove it altogether, for it clearly it is hindering us more than it is helping us.
The problem, then, is out THERE, for in our hearts, we believe are good.
It's the HEART that needs reformation, in God's economy.
If we are fundamentally bad, then the society will reflect that. It will confirm on the outside the bad we possess on the inside. We will arrange, change or destroy what we build, always hoping for improvement, finding that, given enough time, even the most well thought-out societies will fall prey to our base nature.
It is either an inside problem (we are bad) or it's an outside problem (society is bad and is impeding our good).
So, how do we create a profile of human behavior? What have been the consequences of what we think, believe and then go out and do?
It's in the verses right here. Judah had to only look at what Israel had done and how God reacted to the Israel's idolatry. Israel fell prey to the same world view that we can control our world through human action and thus we are in charge of the outcome. It's a pride-centered, humans-are-basically-good way of living.
How so? Israel's mindset was, If we want to keep our Promised Land fertile, flush with crops, abundant water and weather that we can plant and harvest crops around, we will sacrifice to the gods, have sex with their prostitutes and then live the way we please, having gotten the gods to do our bidding with our obedience. All those Canaanites can't be all wrong. Compared to the desert our ancestors were in, this is a paradise. The locals must have gotten something right!
Israel allowed the world view of the Canaanites to permeate their God-centered-people-need-to-be-obedient-to-His-Word-if-they-are-to-live-in-a-moral-society. Israel compromised. Generation after generation, the compromises worked their poison and the inherently bad nature of human beings was allowed a freer and freer rein.
Israel was corrupted by what she believed and then by what she did.
God reminded the people through Jeremiah that Israel was judged and destroyed by doing the very things that Judah was doing now.
Judah, despite what had happened in and to Israel, decided that idolatry fit her best. It catered to the base nature in human beings. It's funny how the rituals idolatry demands amplifies what is already in human beings. No one has to be coaxed to go up and unite with a temple prostitute. Yes, sacrificing a child would have been painful, but the gods will give that mother more children and the whole society will be happier. So, a woman would overcome her mothering instinct and sacrifice her child. The whole society would become the very one that Jeremiah is denouncing as he warns Judah.
Learn from history, Judah!
Jeremiah is warning everyone that human beings need God, otherwise the weak and the infirm are cast aside, justice is served to keep the rich, rich and the poor, poor. Human beings have no value--they are to be used, abused and exploited by those who have the wealth and power to do so. Greed permeates every area of human interaction: Do undo others and then split. Compassion, mercy and grace sound really nice until they interfere with worldly pursuits of those who feel entitled to do what they want. The "I Want" list is endless, so is the abuse and wickedness human being will use to fulfill it.
But does Judah learn from history?
A society will no restraints on human nature will allow for that very nature to rule supreme, because human being without a changed heart will not have it any other way. Look at what Ezekiel says,
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. (36:26)
Jesus is very clear what human-nature infused heart believes and what actions result from it:
But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. (Matt. 15:18-19)
Judah would come under God's heavy hand if they ignored the warning of His prophet. And sadly, we know from history, they did.
We also know from history that human societies where the corrupted human heart reigns will result in collapse, with devastating and long-lasting results.
But we have to know history.
We have to know His Word.
And we have to know God and receive the new heart He promises us by receiving His Son into our corrupted hearts.
Society is only as good as the hearts that inhabit it.
America: We are in trouble.