Today: [Jeremiah 44] Jeremiah Just Won’t Stop. In this chapter, we find Jeremiah with the refugees in Egypt. Despite Jeremiah’s warnings not to take refuge in Egypt – a large contingency of people from Jerusalem and Judah have done so. Once arrived in Egypt the people promptly adopt the pagan deities of the Egyptians. Jeremiah speaks strongly against these idolatries and in the process, provokes the ire of 1000’s of women and wives who are now burning incense to Asherah. The husbands to a man stand with their spouses against the words of Jeremiah condemning these new pagan practices. What can we learn from this? Can a prophet of God go too far in meddling by his words in our personal lives? The answer can be one upon which the fate of our families and our nation hangs.
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[Jer 44:1-30 KJV] 1 The word that came to Jeremiah concerning all the Jews which dwell in the land of Egypt, which dwell at Migdol, and at Tahpanhes, and at Noph, and in the country of Pathros, saying, 2 Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Ye have seen all the evil that I have brought upon Jerusalem, and upon all the cities of Judah; and, behold, this day they [are] a desolation, and no man dwelleth therein, 3 Because of their wickedness which they have committed to provoke me to anger, in that they went to burn incense, [and] to serve other gods, whom they knew not, [neither] they, ye, nor your fathers. 4 Howbeit I sent unto you all my servants the prophets, rising early and sending [them], saying, Oh, do not this abominable thing that I hate. 5 But they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear to turn from their wickedness, to burn no incense unto other gods. 6 Wherefore my fury and mine anger was poured forth, and was kindled in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem; and they are wasted [and] desolate, as at this day. 7 Therefore now thus saith the LORD, the God of hosts, the God of Israel; Wherefore commit ye [this] great evil against your souls, to cut off from you man and woman, child and suckling, out of Judah, to leave you none to remain; 8 In that ye provoke me unto wrath with the works of your hands, burning incense unto other gods in the land of Egypt, whither ye be gone to dwell, that ye might cut yourselves off, and that ye might be a curse and a reproach among all the nations of the earth? 9 Have ye forgotten the wickedness of your fathers, and the wickedness of the kings of Judah, and the wickedness of their wives, and your own wickedness, and the wickedness of your wives, which they have committed in the land of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem? 10 They are not humbled [even] unto this day, neither have they feared, nor walked in my law, nor in my statutes, that I set before you and before your fathers. 11 Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will set my face against you for evil, and to cut off all Judah. 12 And I will take the remnant of Judah, that have set their faces to go into the land of Egypt to sojourn there, and they shall all be consumed, [and] fall in the land of Egypt; they shall [even] be consumed by the sword [and] by the famine: they shall die, from the least even unto the greatest, by the sword and by the famine: and they shall be an execration, [and] an astonishment, and a curse, and a reproach. 13 For I will punish them that dwell in the land of Egypt, as I have punished Jerusalem, by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence: 14 So that none of the remnant of Judah, which are gone into the land of Egypt to sojourn there, shall escape or remain, that they should return into the land of Judah, to the which they have a desire to return to dwell there: for none shall return but such as shall escape.
Chapter 44 of Jeremiah apparently marks the time when we find Jeremiah in Egypt – prophesying against the fresh idolatries of the Judean refugees who have fled Jerusalem and the southern kingdom to seek protection in Egypt. Ultimately this is a fool’s gambit because Egypt itself will shortly fall to the might of Babylon, and the people of Jerusalem and Judah who have fled here will be put to flight and to the sword. This was why Jeremiah had previously prophesied to the people that they should willingly surrender to Babylon or suffer what will now be a worse fate.
Having fled to Egypt you would think that the people of Judah and Jerusalem, now displaced would give themselves over in repentance and contrition to the renewed worship of the one, true God. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Having arrived in Egypt the people immediately begin to worship and to burn incense to the queen of heaven, an Egyptian deity. At this point most evangelicals would equate the worship of the “queen of heaven” with the Catholic church, that venerates and encourages prayers to Mary. Unfortunately, it goes much, much deeper than this. The Queen of Heaven that the Egyptians and now the displaced citizens of Judah and Jerusalem now worship is connected with the Greek goddess of wisdom. Part of the worship of this pagan deity was to erect Ashera Poles as a symbolic phallus to which the wives of those honoring her would burn incense. This deity was considered to be the wife of Yahweh or Elohim, to whom one could pray to receive special favors. The influence of this polluted worship is seen in the suggestion that God can be coerced, or seduced as it were to answer prayer by approaching Him from a certain religious posture or with begging or soothing words. The influence of this spirit is so deep in Christian thinking about prayer and petition to God that is could scarcely be over exaggerated.
15 Then all the men which knew that their wives had burned incense unto other gods, and all the women that stood by, a great multitude, even all the people that dwelt in the land of Egypt, in Pathros, answered Jeremiah, saying, 16 [As for] the word that thou hast spoken unto us in the name of the LORD, we will not hearken unto thee. 17 But we will certainly do whatsoever thing goeth forth out of our own mouth, to burn incense unto the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her, as we have done, we, and our fathers, our kings, and our princes, in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem: for [then] had we plenty of victuals, and were well, and saw no evil. 18 But since we left off to burn incense to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her, we have wanted all [things], and have been consumed by the sword and by the famine. 19 And when we burned incense to the queen of heaven, and poured out drink offerings unto her, did we make her cakes to worship her, and pour out drink offerings unto her, without our men? 20 Then Jeremiah said unto all the people, to the men, and to the women, and to all the people which had given him [that] answer, saying, 21 The incense that ye burned in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem, ye, and your fathers, your kings, and your princes, and the people of the land, did not the LORD remember them, and came it [not] into his mind? 22 So that the LORD could no longer bear, because of the evil of your doings, [and] because of the abominations which ye have committed; therefore is your land a desolation, and an astonishment, and a curse, without an inhabitant, as at this day. 23 Because ye have burned incense, and because ye have sinned against the LORD, and have not obeyed the voice of the LORD, nor walked in his law, nor in his statutes, nor in his testimonies; therefore this evil is happened unto you, as at this day. 24 Moreover Jeremiah said unto all the people, and to all the women, Hear the word of the LORD, all Judah that [are] in the land of Egypt: 25 Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, saying; Ye and your wives have both spoken with your mouths, and fulfilled with your hand, saying, We will surely perform our vows that we have vowed, to burn incense to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her: ye will surely accomplish your vows, and surely perform your vows. 26 Therefore hear ye the word of the LORD, all Judah that dwell in the land of Egypt; Behold, I have sworn by my great name, saith the LORD, that my name shall no more be named in the mouth of any man of Judah in all the land of Egypt, saying, The Lord GOD liveth. 27 Behold, I will watch over them for evil, and not for good: and all the men of Judah that [are] in the land of Egypt shall be consumed by the sword and by the famine, until there be an end of them. 28 Yet a small number that escape the sword shall return out of the land of Egypt into the land of Judah, and all the remnant of Judah, that are gone into the land of Egypt to sojourn there, shall know whose words shall stand, mine, or theirs. 29 And this [shall be] a sign unto you, saith the LORD, that I will punish you in this place, that ye may know that my words shall surely stand against you for evil: 30 Thus saith the LORD; Behold, I will give Pharaohhophra king of Egypt into the hand of his enemies, and into the hand of them that seek his life; as I gave Zedekiah king of Judah into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, his enemy, and that sought his life.
After Jeremiah speaks against the new-found idolatries of the people in Egypt – the husbands of the wives who initiated the worship of Asherah speak up and reject Jeremiah’s words altogether. Basically, they tell Jeremiah that what happens in their homes is none of his business, or for that matter God’s business. They will do what they want to do and they recognized no right of Jeremiah, or the God of their Fathers to speak into their family situations in such a rude and intimate matter. Is this not much reflected in our day? When messages are preached in our pulpits just how personal and direct are we prepared for them to get? As a husband if your wife was in sin how tolerant would you be of one such as Jeremiah claiming that your wife’s lifestyle is the very basis of a brutal judgment of God against the nation? As a wife, or a woman how affronted would you be if a prophet intruded into your personal life in the manner that Jeremiah has done in this chapter? The burning of incense to Asherah was a sacred, feminine and very intimate, personal act. We would do well to measure our own willingness to take the word of God or the words of God’s representatives in the earth and ask ourselves whether we have set up boundaries to insulate ourselves from the words of God that are spoken by his servants. What is weighing in the balance could be the fate of our very nation.
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