Jeremiah is written when the nation was split into two Kingdoms. The Northern Kingdom called Israel and the southern, Judah. Jeremiah was directly warning Judah but it was also a warning for every nation. God expected His people to be following Him and they were not. They let a lot of other worldly things creep in and become a part of everyday life. Some blamed this on the poor leadership of the kings. Few were good but a lot were bad. Through the mouth of Jeremiah, Judah is given a warning to not follow human made images, like other nations, but to follow the Worthy One.
Turn your Bibles to Jeremiah 10:1-10. And read the text. I will wait here :)
In the NIV it is nations (vs 2) but in the King James it is the word Heathen… how can the same word translate to both nations and heathen? So, I looked it up and the same word is used (goy). Our English language does not let it express the true meaning which is “people, nation; and people in contrast to Israel: the Gentiles, pagan, heathen, uncultured”. So it is safe in our verse “Do not learn the ways of the nations…” it is talking about all peoples who do not follow the true God.
In ancient times, it was true that people would look to the stars. And the “heathen” nations would look to the stars. We have seen this line of thinking in a popular kid’s video that many of us have watched, my husband has memorized, and my kids sing along to. The Lion King, has a part where Mufasa is talking to Simba how the past kings are the stars.
" Believing that the positions of the stars and planets revealed the will of the gods, astronomers in this time did not examine the heavens to find what we call cause-and-effect connections between phenomena. Rather, they sought to discover what the gods wanted. With this knowledge, people thought they could organize their political, social, and moral lives in accordance with divine commands and escape the terrible consequences that they believed resulted from ignoring the god’s wishes" (Perry 2013). So, they looked at the heavens for signs, warnings, almost like we watch the news. I am not saying watching the news is a bad thing but it can sometimes be crippling to watch. When we hear about ISIS and the evil that occurring it is sometimes difficult to not worry. But we, Kingdom people, are not to look at the stars for signs but trust the one who made the stars. We Kingdom people are to also not be afraid. “But, Bobbi, how can we not be afraid when it comes to ISIS…” I just want to state, Allah and the Prophet Muhammad have NOTHING on Yahweh and Jesus. They can hurt our bodies but the body is temporary any way. Our eternity is set when we know Jesus. Whom shall we fear? They can kill or bodies but they can’t kill our soul. And that Church, is the kind of courageous Christians the people in ISIS need us to be because I will tell you that God is jealous for their soul. He took that cross for them too. We need fight for the weak ones. They are lost and need us to put the good fight for them. Even if they do not realize it. Because at one time we too didn’t know Jesus and He still took the cross for us before we would admit our need.
Now back on track, military families have been told to remain quite because ISIS could be targeting family members. To remove all content from social media that hints they are family members of military. It is scary. Safeguards are in place and soldiers are to not wear uniforms home so neighbors will not know either. I believe that safeguards are important. For instance, you need to wear a helmet when riding a bike and a seat belt while in a motorized vehicle. I believe these safeguards are important.
In Deuteronomy 22:8 it states this, “When you build a new house, make a parapet around your roof so that you may not bring guilt of bloodshed on your house if someone falls from the roof.”
A parapet is a short wall around the upper level of a house. These were typically used in military days. Israel had times of peace but it has many enemies and these tops of the house were made to be a high point in-case they were attacked but also dueled as protection for kids playing on the flat roof and other such instances. It was a safeguard. But yet, even these sturdy walls could be broken. We are to trust God above the safeguards. He is even the one who gave use the ability to use our brains to think and to make safeguards. We need to trust Him more than the human made safeguard. For instance if your hope is in the seat belt and not God, you might not want to get in the car. So point one, if you are taking notes, is Trust the Creator Not the Creation. Trust the Creator not the Creation.
The stars are a wonderful reminder of blessing, remember the LORD told Abraham to “Look up at the heavens and count the stars- if indeed you can count them,” Then he said to him, so shall your offspring be”. But we also need to remember that the stars are not more than just “balls of gas burning billions of miles away” and yes, that was Pumbaa from the Lion King’s quote not mine. But the lesson still stands to trust the creator and not the creation.
“For the customs of the people are worthless; they cut a tree out of the forest, and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel. They adorn it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so that it will not totter. Like a scarecrow in a melon patch, their idols cannot speak; they must be carried because they cannot walk. Do not fear them; they can do no harm nor can they do any good”.
This is the verses that gets the anti-Christmas treers at rage. But let us talk about the history behind this. In Genesis 31:19, when Jacob and his wives Leah and Rachel were leaving Laban, Jacob’s father-in-law, scripture tells us, “Rachel stole the household idols that were her father’s”. This is the first biblical account of a little wooden idol. Though it is the first mention, does not mean that this is the first idol. In fact, many people kept small wooden or metal idols “gods” in their homes. These idols were called teraphim. And they were used to protect the home or offer advice in times of need. They also had legal stand. For who inherited the family idols would be the greatest part of the family inheritance. It is also thought that Rachel stole them because their idol was the god (small g) of fertility. She struggled with fertility. She worried about giving her husband an heir. So she stole a little wooden image that she thought would grant her a child and the continuous giving of children. This wooden image could do nothing to help her. She had to carry it around. It could not hold her, could not carry her… It could not care for her every need. And yet she did not trust the God of her husband to care for her. I assume that Jacob told her the story of his Grandparents, Abraham and Sarah. I assume that Rachel was told that Sarah in her old age finally gave birth to a son because of God’s promise. But yet she lacked faith in the True God and carried away a useless wooden idol. Sometimes fear, makes us hold on to sin or idols because we think we can figure out a way without God. Because walking with the True God seems like hard work and we try and take a path that is easier. I mean to be honest…. We are told that we are to pick up our cross and follow him. That doesn't sound easy does it? I want an easier way. Rachel wanted to take the easy path here. She also, perhaps, just wanted to take it in case God failed her and said no to her prayers to have kids and keep to having kids.
I asked Evy (my now 5 year old) what she thought was her idol in her life. Now, little back story in case you do not know Evy. She was drawing a picture and I asked her, “What are you drawing”. She said, “God the Father”. I looked at her and said, “But nobody has seen the Father… so we don’t know what He looks like”. She looks at me and says… “well they will when I am done”. Yes, that is what I live with folks. But anyway, I asked her what her idol was. And it was after me teaching her what idols were and she thought about it and about an hour after I asked her she came back to me and said, toys. My idols are toys. I said to her, why do you think they are idols. She answered, “I pray for more toys more than I pray to talk with Jesus”. And we talked a little more and we prayed together. She puts toys first when it comes to anything in life. Granted she is 5. Frozen… oh Frozen, she has an obsession. One her grandparent’s gladly feed. But I loved her honesty and her point blank statement of “I put toys before Jesus, mommy”. And the look of sadness on her face. The look of seeing her sin and needing repentance. I am so proud of that kid!
Point two is to put Nothing in the way. Nothing in the Way. I want to have nothing in the way of my God. I want Evy to have nothing in the way before God in her life. And I want you to have nothing in the way of God in your life. Nothing in the way.
What idols do we have that are in his way? Or what idols are in our way of us getting to Him? Idols are a form of sin and sin separates us from God. Now, remember Rachel stealing her father’s wooden idols? I want you to know what Jacob did with them. The patriarch, Jacob, had idols in his home and this is what happened to them. In Genesis 35:2 “Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Get rid of the foreign gods you have with you, and purify yourselves and change your clothes”. There Jacob built an altar and burned the idols. Nothing in the Way. If a patriarch had to fight idols… we have to fight idols.
The idol of self is a huge one for me, I fight it constantly. The title pastor has become an idol to me. I fight it constantly. In school, I hear the phrase from classmates, “when I am pastor”… like just because you finally have a title you can do something, like you have to have the title to truly start serving. Which is wrong. The title alone does nothing it is if the Pastor is relying on the power of the Holy Spirit not the Title Pastor before their name. I don’t know if Jesus is calling me to be a pastor or not. I really don’t know. I know He is calling me to school. To become knowledgeable in the Word. He is calling me to be a witness but we are all called to be a witness. He is calling me to teach. And He called me to pen a book. Now, that book is publishing and my publishers are walking me through books sales and the fight of self is real. I am constantly looking in the mirror and telling myself, “It is not my work that got me here it is God’s work. I do not deserve this but God does.” I say it to myself daily now. The Title Pastor and Author are scary to me. It is scary because if we follow a worldly line of thinking we aren't good until we have a title. Simply being ourselves isn't good enough to the world. When simply being ourselves was probably when God called us to do something. I didn't have a title before I penned my book. I didn't have a title when God called me to go to school. All I had was a love for Him and that was good enough. Because I want people to remember that this woman is imperfect. I am far from being something worth following. In fact, if you follow me to long, I will let you down. I am human. But the God I write about and speak about, He is Worthy of all following! He does not fail. He will never fail you. May, I never think that I've done anything because He has done it all! Do you too, struggle with the idol of self or titles? Does your happiness at work depend on the job title and description? The pay grade? Now, this is something that humbles me a bit. I am replaceable. Being the Women’s Team lead at New Hope Community Church of the Nazarene has been an honor and I’ve enjoyed it! I love working at the women’s center and doing bible studies and helping women to serve their world. But I am replaceable. Everyone in ministry is. In fact, I can only think of one job that isn’t replaceable… God’s job and yet we try and replace him daily with idols.
What gets in the way of you and God? What would you have to remove to have nothing in the way? For some people it is money. They do not want to give up their wealth and find more pleasure in their status quo. Like the Rich young ruler in Mark 10:17-27. He was not willing to leave the title “Rich” to gain the title “Christian”. His idol was money or the title that came from money. For he did not want to trade it for the Jesus. Do you have to get a brand new car every other year or the latest technology just to prove you are something. Some people worship food. Food is an idol. When your day is going wrong do you have the need to dive into a cheesecake instead of diving into prayer? Now, coffee is different…. It is a gift from God!!!! It should be cherished. Yes, I am kidding… but seriously. Entertainment is another big one in our modern day. For instance, do you have to have your smart phone more than you do your Bible? "But my Bible is on my smart phone…", that could start a long debate that I am going to let you and Jesus discuss together. Jesus called me out on my phone addiction.
Then there is sex. We have photo shopped celebrities that give us an unrealistic image of what humans, real humans look like. The movies fascinate fake love stories that make real life love look boring. From pornography to “the Bold and Beautiful” of Hollywood, real people can’t compare and so we start trying to be them. We go on extreme diets and spend money trying to get the latest Kim Kardashian wardrobe. Just to appear sexy enough.
Now, This is sexy, a man baby wearing his youngest and taking his oldest for a bike ride. A good dad… a very good husband. That folks is sexy! That is a godly sexy! It is the sexy that God created!
Now, let us get back to the book of Jeremiah. Read vs 6-10
In class, we are told to not be legalistic about the Old Testament scripture. To remember grace in the law. We do not often like to think about his wrath. His anger. But God was angry that His people were not following Him. The people who saw the sea part for them so they could escape Egypt, the ones who saw His hand provide for them and put all other false gods to shame. They forgot or decided He wasn't worthy of following anymore. But I would like to take a minute to tell you why He is worthy to have nothing else before Him. You see, the book of Jeremiah is telling a story of a warning that the land of Judah was receiving. God was mad that His chosen people were putting other gods before Him, that they were going through the motions. They may have “looked” good but their hearts were not. They had let idols take over. God, through the prophet Jeremiah, was telling the people that Nothing goes before Him. Nothing can stand before Him. They did not change. Despite the warnings from Jeremiah. They kept their idols where they were and this led to a 70 year Babylonian captivity for the nation. It was deadly to them. The Jeremiah verse that is often misused comes as a promise after this captivity. You know the verse, Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”. This promise was stated to a nation going into 70 years of captivity because of idols and other sin. But it is hugely mentioned in Jeremiah it is because of putting idols, false gods before Yahweh. Some that heard that promise never saw it come to be because He was saying it to a nation. If we want to live in His goodness, we have to have nothing before Him. Nothing in His way. Nothing in the way.
I want to share with you what made me realize that Jesus needs to be the first thing, to be the most important in my life. And I want you to know I am not perfect. I do fail at this but this was what made me realize I need to try with everything in me to have Him where he belongs in my heart. Four years ago on April 20th, which was Monday, our son saw Jesus face to face!
Heaven rejoiced and we …. We grieved. But what happy day that I can stand and know that is the day Jesus embraced my son. Jonathan then knew no more pain. No more want. For Him, everything that God wants for Him is complete. And He is serving God in his fullness. But this woke me up. This is the day that I realized Jesus needs to be my everything. For the God that climbed on the cross for this sinner to be able to say “see you later” to my son other than “Goodbye”. He deserves to be first. To the God who blessed us with a child after such loss…. Deserves to be more than just a Sunday Morning moment. To the God that healed a broken marriage and continues to heal us and uphold us with His firm hand… He deserves all glory and honor and praise. God has proven time and time again that He is there for me. How could I follow anything, anyone more? He needs to be my everything and that includes everything I do, everything I say, and everything I think. Nothing in the way.
What is in the way for you? We need to wake up everyday asking ourselves that question. “What is in the way?” This is not a once and done exercise it is every day choosing to live our faith. To let our God be our God.
In our small group in session 2 video of Nehemiah by Kelly Minter was talking about entertainment, and how we will justify what we are watching with lines like “it is funny”…. And Jesus said to her, “If it put me on the cross… it is not funny”. “If it put Him on the cross… it is NOT funny!”
So, I am going to tell you that if it put Jesus on the cross… it has no place in our lives. Idols and false gods and false teaching and following the wrong paths put Jesus on the cross. Our God is worthy and deserves more of our attention. Our actions, our thoughts need to be chasing after Him more than the things that put Him on the cross. So point 3, If it put Him on the Cross we need to run from it. Run from it.
I then asked the church to come and "nail" their idols to the cross because it grieves, it hurts Jesus when we put idols before Him.
What Idols Do You Need To Remove?
Perry. 2013. Western Civilization- Ideas, Politics, and Society 10th ED. Boston, MA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.