September 1, 2019
Twelfth Sunday After Pentecost
Pastor SeokCheol Shin
Cry of My Heart
The Prophecy of Jeremiah
We see Jeremiah again this Sunday. How much do you know about Jeremiah? In the first chapter, we learned that God appeared to him when he was a little boy and appointed him as a prophet to the nations. He was God’s spokesman, called to deliver God’s words to his people.
In the second chapter, we see Jeremiah begin his prophecy by recalling the Israelites’ journey during their forty years in the wilderness after the Exodus. God gave the Israelites the Ten Commandments during their 40-year journey. The first and second commandments are “do not have any idols before God.”
However, when they entered the Promised Land after all their disciplines in the wilderness, the Israelites quickly abandoned their faith in God and lived a life that God forbade. They became friends with the local people in the land; they began to interact with their culture. The Israelites began to assimilate the customs of the locals, and they ended up worshiping their idols of wood and stone. God sent his servants multiple times to call the Israelites to repent and return to God. Jeremiah was one of God’s prophets.
In his prophecy, Jeremiah rebuked their unfaithfulness. He said, “Has a nation changed its gods, even though they are no gods?” (v. 11). The Canaanites or Pagans, whom the Israelites despised, were faithful to their gods, although they were only chunks of wood and stone. But the Israelites, who boasted themselves as God’s chosen people, had abandoned their God for those chunks of wood and stone.
The Israelites were enmeshed in two evils: they abandoned God, “the fountain of living water,” and they worshiped idolatry, “cracked cisterns that can hold water” (v. 13). Through Jeremiah’s prophesy, God revealed their sinfulness; God punished their idolatry; God punished them for their unfaithfulness.
Idolatry of today
When I read this Scripture, I understood Jeremiah was talking about God’s warning of their idolatry. I thought, “What does this have to do with us today?” We don’t worship gods of wood and stone today. However, when I kept meditating on verse 7, I realized that it has everything to do with us today: “I brought you into a plentiful land, to eat its fruit and its goodness; but when you entered, you defiled my land, and made my heritage an abomination” (v. 7).
What is idolatry? We know it is putting something else in God’s place! Defined that way, don’t you see idolatry all around us? Don’t you think that our land is full of idol worship? Don’t you also have some idols although you didn’t mean it?
What are our idols of today? They are so many! Let me point out some of them. Sex is the goddess of our century. It is a favorite subject of movies. It pervades our media and our entertainment. It is now an industry. Not many people consider it as God’s divine gift. It sickens the souls of young people. What about alcohol or drugs? They now one of the biggest crimes in our society. We know how harmful they are not only to one’s own body but to the whole family. And you wouldn’t be surprised if I say money is one of the things that we love more than God. The Bible tells us that the love of money is the root of all evil. It does not condemn money itself but the love of money. The problem is when we begin to put money in God’s place. We spend all our lives making money, and so we have to live as money slaves. That is idolatry.
Recently, I come to think that health is the most modern idolatry. Personally, I go to a boxing gym where I see all the classes are full of people of varied ages. I wish our worship on Sunday morning, our bible class/prayer meeting, and our Sunday School were full of people like my boxing gym. Our ancestors talked about how to keep the soul healthy, but modern people only talk about how to keep the body healthy. We care so much about the health of our bodies and very little about the health of our souls. Health is the most modern idolatry.
Sadly, the church is not exempt from idolatry. It is all too easy for the church to become captive to the idolatries of tradition, politics, attendance, money, and the beauty of our buildings. We are much more concerned about how to make more money, how to grow more membership, how to maintain our building than how to serve each other, how to get more committee to Jesus’ salvation ministry, and how to reach out to people in need. Even if we don’t aim at those in our worship, we are tempted to make those things more important than serving God.
Idolatry is putting something other than God in first place in our lives and beliefs. We no longer worship the gods of wood and stone today, but we still have lots of idols that defile our land, our church, and our life. Even if they give us temporary pleasure, these idols will betray us, they will destroy us. God gave us a strong and clear warning to keep all the idols away because they make us abandon our faithfulness in God and eventually lead us to ruin.
Come to the Fountain of Living Water
In Jeremiah’s prophesy, God rebuked the Israelites for they abandoned their faith in God and worshipped worthless idols, which only destroyed their lives. I can hear God still say today, “My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, and dug out cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that can hold no water.”
The cistern is supposed to hold water in it. If it doesn’t hold water, then what is in there? Perhaps it is full of weeds, or frogs or snakes, or cigarette butts that people threw away… Whatever is in it, it is not much good for drinking. If the cistern can’t hold water, it needs to be repaired.
Let us look into the spiritual cistern in our hearts. What is in it? If our spiritual cistern is not holding living water, what is it holding? If our community of faith is not holding living water, what is it holding? What can we do? The answer is, Come to “the fountain of living water” and repair our spiritual life as we submit ourselves to God.
This morning, Jeremiah called the people of Israel to love God and to put him in first place in their lives. Today, I call you and call myself to love God and to put him in first place in our life. God alone is worthy. God alone is the “fountain of living water” that can satisfy our thirst, heal our brokenness, and strengthen our faith journey in the world. Amen.