by Julia M. Bruce, MSPC, Mental Health Coach,
Keynote Speaker, CEO, Wellspring Christian Ministries
Defiance: They didn’t listen then, and we do not listen now!
If you did not know that I was quoting a verse from the Bible in the book of Jeremiah, would not these words adequately describe the average person today? People filled with defiance against God? People filled with anger, bitterness, unforgiveness, pride, idolatry, and a right to their own agenda. Forget about God’s way of life. I will live my life the way I want to and to make sure I can, I will toss out any laws that prohibit it so that I can live guilt free. Does this not seem to be the attitude of our nation today?
God’s laws stand forever and do not change to suit our defiance against God
They can remove the 10 Commandments form the courtroom – but God’s laws will stand forever. They can change the laws of our nation and say same-sex marriage is acceptable – but God will never accept it. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever and His Word will not change. And so, if their way of life doesn’t measure up to God’s way, they become angry at God or say, “There is no god.” Or, the will say “God is dead.” Or they will choose to make up their “god” who will play by their rules. The nations of Israel and Judah thought the same thing in Jeremiah’s day. Let’s see how it turned out for them.
God’s covenant with His chosen people broken out of defiance
The majority of the Old Testament tells us about God’s chosen people and his covenant with them – that if they would forsake the false gods worshiped by other nations and would love Him with all their heart, soul, and mind, then He would be their God and they would be His people. He would bless them in the land of promise. Doesn’t sound too difficult. Worship only the one true God – the one who had parted the Red Sea so they could escape the Egyptians (this is important and we’ll get to why in a minute).
The one who had done all the signs and wonders to Pharaoh before Pharaoh finally let them leave. The same God who had fed them with Manna when they complained of a lack of food and sent them quail when they complained there was no meat. And the same God who brought water out of a rock. The same God who saw to their every need for 40 years of wandering around in the desert. The same God they met at the mountain and heard His voice and trembled. And the same God who caused the walls to fall at Jericho.
You might could argue that yes, all that happened, but the events of the book of Jeremiah were many generations later. And you would be correct. But even as Moses was on top of the mountain with God writing the 10 Commandments with his own finger, the people were down at the bottom of the mountain worshiping a golden calf they had Moses’ brother, Aaron make for them.
Defiance problem #1: Idolatry
Idol worship was their weakness. Or maybe it was wanting to be like the other nations around them. Maybe they wanted a tangible god they could see. What they could not say is they didn’t know there was a true God. Their entire history has God woven into their lives. It doesn’t really matter why they kept returning to idol worship over and over again. What matters is that they did and in doing so, they kindled the wrath of God.
Time and again God sent prophets to warn them and to call them back to Him. Sometimes, a king would listen and he would repent and lead the people back to worshiping God. Their fault always was in the fact that they didn’t totally wipe out the idol worship. They might would remove the carved images, but they left the “high places” and did not tear those down. When the next king came to the throne, the people went right back to idol worship – doing it their way instead of God’s way.
In the book of Ezekiel, chapter 8, God gave him visions that showed the extent of the idol worship:
“Son of man, do you see what they are doing – the utterly detestable things the Israelites are doing here, things that will drive me far from my sanctuary?”
Defiance problem #2: Pride
They also had a problem with pride. When the temple was built, they took the promise of God that we find in 2 Samuel 7:13 and believed it would protect them from God’s wrath. This verse says, “He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever.” Verse 16 says, “And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure for ever before me; your throne shall be established for ever.” They thought they could live any way they wanted and avoid retribution from God based on this covenant.
God fulfilled this covenant through Jesus Christ, who was born of the “house and lineage of David” and will eternally sit on the throne at the right hand of God. But God’s promise was not that one of David’s descendants would always be on the throne of Israel. They had pride in the idea of being God’s chosen people, but did not take the responsibility of the covenant they made with God seriously.
The result of defiance and breaking the Covenant with God
In Jeremiah’s day, God called Jeremiah out to be a prophet and warn the nation of the coming judgment but they refused to believe or repent. As a result, God sent the Assyrians and the Babylonians. The nations were destroyed, as was the temple the people took so much pride in. The majority of the nation was carried off into captivity and a small remnant remained, just as God has promised.
This small remnant decided they were going to pick up and move to Egypt (remember where God had brought them out of? Now there they were going back!) However, through the prophet Jeremiah, God told them not to go. Their response to Jeremiah was flat out defiance saying, “We will not listen to you! We are going to do what we want to do and nobody is going to stop us.” And off to Egypt they went. As a result, God punished them and none of the remnant of Judah that went to Egypt escaped or survived due to famine and sword.
What can we lean from Israel and Judah’s defiance of idolatry and pride?
What implication can we learn from Israel and Judah’s sin of idolatry and pride? If God would punish His chosen people so severely, would he not do the same to a Gentile nation?
We may not bow down or sacrifice to carved images, but most of us have created some kind of idol in our lives – something that is more important to us than God. What is it that keeps you out of church on Sunday? What is it that keeps you from tithing or serving God within your local body of believers? Or what is it that stops you from having a daily, personal Bible study time and prayer time with God?
Whatever it is that you put before God, that’s your idol. Maybe it’s social media. Maybe it’s work. And maybe its your children. Or going fishing or hunting. Maybe its a sport or hobby. Maybe its just some extra hours of sleep on Sunday. When you choose anything over God and make it more important than God, you are turning your fist up at God just as sure as Israel and Judah did and say “I’m going to do it my way!”
God gave Judah and Israel plenty of chances to repent and return to Him. He sought them out over and over. He called them back to Himself. And God does the same with us today. If God has not had the place of honor in your life or you have been defiantly disobedient to Him – Hebrews 3:15 says, “Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your heart.” Instead, fall to your knees in repentance and return to Him today.
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God, Love and Marshmallow Wars by Julia M. Bruce
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