The Path to Worthlessness

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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This is what the LORD says:“What did your ancestors find wrong with me that led them to stray so far from me? They worshiped worthless idols, only to become worthless themselves."

Jeremiah 2:5

In Jeremiah 2, the Lord speaks through the prophet to indict Jerusalem for rejecting God and his ways. The people started well, “eager to please” the Lord (2:2). They were “holy” before him, and he protected them from harm (2:3). Yet they strayed far from the Lord (2:5). “They worshiped worthless idols, only to become worthless themselves” (2:5).

To be sure, the worship of “worthless idols” was central to Israel’s wandering away from the Lord. But the original language of Jeremiah 2:5 suggests a broader offense. The phrase translated in the NLT as “They worshiped worthless idols” could be more literally rendered, “They went after worthlessness and became worthless.” The word translated as “worthlessness” is hevel, and the verb “become worthless” comes from the same root. Hevel is a word we often associate with Ecclesiastes, where the Teacher laments, “Everything is meaningless . . . completely meaningless!” (Eccles. 1:2). Other translations use the phrase “vanity” to capture the meaning of hevel. This Hebrew word literally means “vapor” or “breath,” and is often used in Scripture for that which is worthless, meaningless, vain, or short-lived.

Thus, the Israelites wandered away from God by seeking that which had no ultimate meaning of value. They were, to borrow an incisive image from Ecclesiastes, “chasing after wind” (Eccles. 1:17). This resulted, not only in an empty life and not only in being far from God, but also in becoming worthless, empty, and meaningless. The Israelites became what they sought.

And so do we. What we seek most in life will shape our character, personality, and relationships. If we live for our possessions, social standing, or security, then we too will become empty shells, people with no substance. But if we seek the Lord, then we will become more and more like him. We will be people of solidness . . . truth, love, and grace.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: Have you known people like those described in Jeremiah 2:5? What parts of “worthlessness” do you find most enticing? What helps you to seek the Lord and his kingdom first and foremost?

PRAYER: O Lord, how easy it is for me to become enamored by worthless and empty things. I can desire the latest electronic toy or the approval of the masses or self-made security. I can invest my life in temporary pleasures, and then wonder why I’m depleted and unfulfilled.

Gracious Lord, help me not to seek after hevel. May I live my life for what truly matters. May I seek first your kingdom and your righteousness. May my life have meaning . . . and may I be a meaning-full person because I have sought you most of all. Amen.