Sunday, March 21, 2010

Jeremiah 50-52: Created Images

I'm not sorry we're done with the book of Jeremiah. Yeah, we already had that conversation where I outed my frustration with prophecy books. Nevertheless, I love that God speaks to me through this book, despite my limited understanding.

These people in the book of Jeremiah, the people of Israel and Judah, they pretty much hear what they want to hear. They choose the prophets they want to believe. They interpret the world according to their own preconceived ideas.

Think of the men in chapter 42—they go to Jeremiah and ask him to seek the Lord on their behalf. They say, “Please pray that the Lord your God will tell us where we should go and what we should do.” They promise that they will follow God’s advice, “whether it is favorable or unfavorable,” and they will obey God so that “it will go well with us . . .”

God once again shows his compassion and says, “If you stay in this land, I will build you up and not tear you down; I will plan you and not uproot you, for I am grieved over the disaster I have inflicted on you. Do not be afraid of the king of Babylon, whom you now fear. Do not be afraid of him, for I am with you and will save you.”

Sounds good. God will protect them. Strengthen them. They just have to trust God and stay right where they are.

But what they really want is to leave. They want to go to Egypt. And God knows exactly what they are thinking. So he adds:

“However, if you say, We will not stay in this land, and so disobey the Lord your God, and if you say, No, we will go and live in Egypt . . .” then you will die.

And these men, who promised to obey God, tell Jeremiah he is lying. And they leave for Egypt anyway.

They have their own version of the world.
They have forgotten the power of the Living God.
They have forgotten his goodness to the people.
In their version of the world, blessings come from worshipping the gods they have created.

In chapter 44, the men declare their allegiance to the “Queen of Heaven,” one of their gods. They say, “We will burn incense to her if we want to. When we did that, before we started listening to Jeremiah, we had plenty of food and were well off and suffered no harm. But ever since we stopped, we’ve had nothing but trouble.”

Hmmm. Mistaken interpretation of cause and effect.
The story they tell about their world is pretty skewed.

So I was reading Thursday morning, and something stood out to me in Jeremiah 51:17.

"Every man is senseless and without knowledge; every goldsmith is shamed by his idols. His images are a fraud; they have no breath in them."

The word "image" caught my attention because it denotes a representation of an idea. Of course, Jeremiah is talking about idols, but those idols represent a story the people want to believe about the world. These idols, these graven images, are a way of telling a story that says they can control the world. Our sacrifices, our ceremonies, our customs can create rain, defeat armies, grow crops, bring prosperity.

I don't know about you, but I'm not bowing to any idols in my home, and I'm not burning incense to grow crops in my backyard. I'm pretty sure none of us are doing those things.

The thing is, though, we all create images that shape our understanding of the world. Those images are the stories we tell about our past, our present, and our future, that help us understand the world we live in.

And we believe what we want to believe. Whatever fits best with the story

We are senseless and without knowledge. Our understanding is limited. We create images, stories by which we understand the world. And our images have no breath in them.

I want to see Jesus.

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