They didn’t want to listen. They argued and refused to obey the Lord or believe what Jeremiah said. They wanted to do things their way. They felt they were right. They weren’t doing things in shame or secret. They were living out loud.
19 “Besides,” the women added, “do you suppose that we were burning incense and pouring out liquid offerings to the Queen of Heaven, and making cakes marked with her image, without our husbands knowing it and helping us? Of course not!”
20 Then Jeremiah said to all of them, men and women alike, who had given him that answer, 21 “Do you think the Lord did not know that you and your ancestors, your kings and officials, and all the people were burning incense to idols in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem?” Jeremiah 44:19-21, NLT. (emphasis mine)
It was about idols and turning back to Egypt. It was about pride and slavery and old ways and better days. It was about being right. Knowing better than God.
He saw it as destruction.
7 “And now the Lord God of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, asks you: Why are you destroying yourselves?” Jeremiah 44:7, NLT.
They saw it as strength.
16 “We will not listen to your messages from the Lord! 17 We will do whatever we want. We will burn incense and pour out liquid offerings to the Queen of Heaven just as much as we like—just as we, and our ancestors, and our kings and officials have always done in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. For in those days we had plenty to eat, and we were well off and had no troubles! 18 But ever since we quit burning incense to the Queen of Heaven and stopped worshiping her with liquid offerings, we have been in great trouble and have been dying from war and famine.” Jeremiah 44:16-18, NLT. (emphasis mine)
Sometimes the becoming of obedience comes at a cost of the ugly. Sorrow, repentance, humility, obedience … these can look like defeat to an untrained eye. But not to God.
Hebrews 3:12-15, NLT:
12 Be careful then, dear brothers and sisters. Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God. 13 You must warn each other every day, while it is still “today,” so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God. 14 For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ. 15 Remember what it says:
“Today when you hear his voice,
don’t harden your hearts
as Israel did when they rebelled.”
How many people does God send to warn “watch out”, while it is still today? Can one love God and hate his neighbor, brother, stranger? Can one worship the Lord at the altar, and hold unforgiveness in his heart? Is this how hearts harden against Him? Sometimes it’s as obvious as incense burning for another being, and other times an oversight of Sunday living on Sunday, and Monday living the rest of the week–the divide between kingdom and earth.
Lord, the becoming is messy and ugly. Help me to hold tightly to you, to guard my heart, to listen for your warnings while I still have today.