Jeremiah 3:23The ancient Israelites rubbed up against the Canaanites and their fertility religion. Part of this religion involved sexual rites on mountains and hilltops, often under sacred trees. Many of the Israelites, including national leaders, were drawn into Canaanite worship.
Jeremiah 3 features God’s rebuke of his faithless people, but also his invitation to return to him. “My wayward children,” says the LORD, “come back to me, and I will heal your wayward hearts” (3:22). This chapter also foresees the time when the people will return to the Lord in repentance. In that day, they will confess, “Our worship of idols on the hills and our religious orgies on the mountains are a delusion. Only in the LORD our God will Israel ever find salvation” (3:23). The Hebrew word translated here as “delusion” can mean “lie” or “deception” (sheqer). It points to the fact that the lewd worship of the Canaanite deities is not only wrong and contrary to God’s instruction, but also based on a falsehood. The gods who are “worshiped” on the mountains through sexual immorality are not really gods. They are not able to make the land and people fertile because they are not real.
Today we are not tempted to worship Canaanite gods on the mountains. But we can still be drawn into false worship. Our culture, for example, can lure us into believing that God exists primarily to meet our needs. Religion becomes a matter of self-help and self-improvement, rather than a self-surrendering relationship with the King of kings and Lord of lords. Or we might be led to believe that real worship is primarily a matter of emotions, rather than an investment of our whole selves as we love the Lord with heart, soul, mind, and strength. Or we might be tempted to think that our relationship with God can be based on our good works and intentions, rather than upon God’s grace in Jesus Christ.
Christian faith is a trustful relationship with the God who seeks to be worshiped in Spirit and in truth (John 4:21-24). Thus we are not free to make up God on our own terms, to create “God” in our own image, if we want to know the one, true God. Rather, we seek to know God as he really is by receiving his revelation in history, in his people, in Scripture, and, above all, in Jesus Christ. When our relationship with God is founded on God’s revelation, when it is centered in Jesus Christ, then our worship will never be a delusion.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: Which cultural delusions tempt you as you seek to worship God? What helps you to worship God in truth?PRAYER: Gracious Lord, thank you for making yourself known to us in so many ways. Thank you for your actions throughout history that reveal your character. Thank you for inspiring your people to speak and live your truth. Thank you for your written Word which enables us to read, study, and meditate upon your truth. And thank you most of all for Jesus Christ, who is the way, the truth, and the life.
Help me, dear Lord, to know and to worship you in truth. Where I have bought into the delusions of my culture, show me my errors and guide me into what is real. May my relationship with you be in Spirit and in truth. May I grow each day in true knowledge of you.
In the name of Jesus I pray, Amen.