Because something is popular, a religious tradition, or “the way we’ve always done it,” doesn’t make it biblical. In today’s Old Testament passage, God condemns the nation of Israel for their false religion and idolatry. Centuries later, when a Samaritan woman met Jesus and pointed out what was popular in her religious tradition, He told her, “… those who worship [God] must worship in spirit and truth” (Jn. 4.24)—spirit, with the right heart attitude, and truth, according to His commands. Let’s not be among those who have itching ears, wishing to hear only what we want to hear.
Jeremiah 7 & 8
I know I run the risk of offending some today. I pray that I don’t, but even more, I pray that those who are offended will dig into God’s Word and prayerfully seek the truth for themselves.
Itching Ears, False Worship & the Queen of Heaven
The prophet continues along the same lines as yesterday’s reading, even repeating some of the same phrases.
In chapter 8 Jeremiah again speaks specifically to false teachers, priests and prophets:
10 … Everyone is given to covetousness;
From the prophet even to the priest
Everyone deals falsely.
11 For they have healed the hurt of the daughter of My people slightly,
Saying, ‘Peace, peace!’
When there is no peace.
Once again he condemns them for giving a false assurance of peace in their relationship with God.
He also condemns the people themselves because they were listening to falsehood. Even though our leaders are responsible for what they teach, we are responsible to make sure what we’re hearing and learning lines up with God’s Word! Because something is popular or “the way we’ve always done it” does not make it biblically sound.
Many people form their theological views by listening to preachers and teachers whose style or messages they like without going to God’s Word for themselves. Paul told Timothy in 2 Timothy:
2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables (2 Tim. 4.2-4).
Some things that are being taught by very popular teachers are not biblically sound; they are fables. God is not some genie in a bottle waiting to give us everything we want or keep us from going through difficulties.
It’s been said before, but He is more concerned with our character than our comfort and more concerned with our holiness than our happiness. This is not your best life now; this is where He is growing and maturing you into the likeness of His Son. As believers our best life is to come. This world is not our home. Our home is in heaven and the best is yet to come!
It’s not that God wants us beaten down and miserable, but He wants us to find our happiness, our peace, our contentment, and our satisfaction in Him. We will never find happiness in the things of creation, only in our wonderful Creator! As the psalmist invites us in Psalm 34:
8 Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good;
Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!
9 Oh, fear the Lord, you His saints!
There is no want to those who fear Him.
10 The young lions lack and suffer hunger;
But those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing.
The Queen of Heaven & False Worship
Jeremiah 7 also addresses false religious practices:
16 “Therefore do not pray for this people, nor lift up a cry or prayer for them, nor make intercession to Me; for I will not hear you. 17 Do you not see what they do in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? 18 The children gather wood, the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead dough, to make cakes for the queen of heaven; and they pour out drink offerings to other gods, that they may provoke Me to anger.
God said have no other gods before Me (Ex. 20.3), that includes the worship of saints and even the Virgin Mary. Jesus honored His mother as a faithful son should. He saw to it that she would be cared for after His death (Jn. 19.24-27), but He did not honor her as someone to be worshiped or who was greater than other believers. Luke 8.20-21:
20 And it was told Him by some, who said, “Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see You.”
21 But He answered and said to them, “My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it.”
She was not sinless. She needed a Savior just like you and me.
Neither are we to pray to anyone but God Himself through His Son Jesus Christ. Romans 8.34:
34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.
The Wise Men Are Ashamed
And what about people who think they are too highly educated to take the Bible at face value—those who think it’s a book of nice stories or that it is full of “spiritual truths” with little direct application to life and who refuse to recognize it as authority in their lives. Jeremiah 8.8-9:
8 “ How can you say, ‘We are wise,
And the law of the LORD is with us’?
Look, the false pen of the scribe certainly works falsehood.
9 The wise men are ashamed,
They are dismayed and taken.
Behold, they have rejected the word of the LORD;
So what wisdom do they have?
Again, I pray that you will study the Bible for yourself and not just accept what others say—me or anyone else.
Today’s Other Readings:
And Yet …
And yet, even with all our foolishness, our vanity, our pride, our turning from God, if we will repent and turn to Him, we will find that “His mercy endures forever” (vss. 1, 2, 3, 4).
Open Rebuke or Love Concealed
“Open rebuke is better than love carefully concealed. Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.”
People who tell us what we want to hear rather than what we need to hear are not genuine friends.
Don’t be deceived with persuasive words!
Like Jeremiah, Paul frequently wrote to the various churches to address false teaching. Here in the Colossian church there were teachers who rejected the simplicity of the gospel and claimed some higher knowledge or special enlightenment.
Dr. MacArthur says in his Daily Bible endnotes, “Far from being advanced, profound knowledge, the false teachers’ beliefs were simplistic and immature like all the rest of the speculations, ideologies, philosophies, and psychologies the fallen satanic and human system invents.”
Or as Paul said in Colossians 2.4, 6-8:
4 Now this I say lest anyone should deceive you with persuasive words … 6 As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, 7 rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. 8 Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.
There are so many things out there trying to pull us away from the simplicity of the gospel and our faith in God: scientific theories that contradict God’s truth, ungodly secular world views, false religion, political correctness, popular culture, and more. We must stand fast and build our lives on God’s Word.
That requires a genuine relationship with God through faith in Christ and what He did for us on the cross. But if we are going to grow and have the spiritual stamina to finish well and have peace and joy in the midst of modern life, we need a steady intake of His Word through the Bible. That requires: reading it, hearing it preached, studying it, meditating on it, and memorizing it. If we think we can survive on a sampling here and there, we will find ourselves weak, discouraged, joyless Christians.
Getting ready for 2017
The holidays are just around the corner and the new year will be on us before we know it. What will you do to make Bible reading an ongoing habit in the coming year? I’d like to encourage you to set a goal to read through the Bible.
And I hope you’ll sign up for my daily email. It can serve as a gentle reminder to stay on track. I try to make comments that are relevant to the daily struggles and questions that I hear in my counseling and discipleship ministries.
Start today so you can begin the habit and it will be a regular part of your day come January.
You can also follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, or Google+. Just click on the social media icons. But nothing replaces having the daily devotion pop up in your inbox each day. It, usually (once in a while life gets in the way), goes out at 3 a.m. MST, so it’s there for early risers no matter what time zone you’re in. As an incentive, I’ll be giving away one daily Bible to someone who signs up between now and October 31st and another one to someone who leaves a comment between now and then.
So will you join me and, possibly, encourage someone else to do the same. (Why not email or call them right now?) Let’s get ready and grow in our relationship with Him together.
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