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God’s Word for You

Jeremiah 11:9-13

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, October 6, 2014

9 The LORD said to me, “A conspiracy as been uncovered among the men of Judah and those who live in Jerusalem. 10They have returned to the sins of their ancestors who refused to obey my words. They are following other gods and serving them. The house of Israel and the house of Judah have broken the covenant I made with their ancestors.”

God isn’t just describing the sins of Judah as a conspiracy. There actually was a conspiracy going on—but we will hear more of that a little later in the chapter. For now, the Lord uses the term qesher “plot, mutiny, conspiracy” to describe what Judah had done by turning away from God their Captain and King. They rebelled and followed other gods.

11 Therefore this is what the LORD says: I am going to bring a disaster on them that they will not be able to escape. They will cry out to me, but I will not listen to them. 12 Then the cities of Judah and those who live in Jerusalem will cry out to the gods, those to whom they have been burning offerings, but they cannot save them at all in the time of trouble. 13 Judah, you have as many gods as you have towns. You have set up as many altars to burn offerings to shame—to Baal—as there are streets in Jerusalem.

The details of Judah’s mutiny condemn the people. And their mutiny is worse than any human mutiny or rebellion. A mutinous group might at least have a leader and some weapons; even a chance of actually taking command of the vessel or army or country. But Judah was crying out to gods made of rocks and old boards. No help was going to come from Baal. In fact, there wasn’t just one false god for the people. Jeremiah says it perfectly: “You have as may gods as you have towns.”

The prophet also teaches us something about Baal worshipers and the people who rejected Baal. They used two different words for the same god. While Baal worshipers would say “Baal,” people like Jeremiah who trusted in the true God wouldn’t use Baal’s name. They would say Bosheth instead. Bosheth is the word for “shame.” So they would say something like what Jeremiah says here: “You have burned offerings to shame.”

Jeremiah talks a lot about the sin of idolatry. With every passage, with every sermon, he brings the deadliness of that sin into sharper focus. He takes the seriousness of First Commandment sins and makes more of them than just an object lesson. He makes it into a vast, sprawling epic tale of judgment, unforgettable in its vividness. He makes us want to fall to our knees and beg God’s forgiveness for our petty sins. But don’t forget that his words spoke to the people of his own time, and not just to those of us who live in his future. There was something heartbreaking about this sin in Jeremiah’s time. And we’re about to hear just how heartbreaking it was in the next verse.

For now, thank God you have a Savior who loves you and who intercedes on your behalf even now. Although we have sinned, we have God’s forgiveness and an advocate who prays to the Father for us. Thank him for that.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.