I ended yesterday’s devotion with a quote from Philip Ryken’s commentary on Jeremiah. He asks, “Why would anyone ever move away from God? It makes no sense! Why would a bride leave a perfect husband? Why would she abandon a spouse who fulfilled all his vows to 20 chasing godher? There is no explanation, no excuse. God’s bride separated from her husband without the slightest provocation.”[1] Indeed there was no provocation on the part of God but there was a reason. Jeremiah gives that to us at the end of Jeremiah 2:5. The whole verse says, “Thus says the LORD: What wrong did your fathers find in me that they went far from me, and went after worthlessness, and became worthless?” Their prosperity in the land of plenty migrated to a sense of boredom for the children of God. They began to lose their appreciation for the wonderful blessings He had bestowed upon them and began to look for the thrills that the pagan nations around them openly indulged in.

Like us, the enticements of the world around us often lure us from an overly bountiful life to seek excitement and adventure in something “different.” But whatever lures us away from God is nothing more than “emptiness.” The Hebrew word for “worthless” is a rich study. Davidson reports, “There is heavy sarcasm here and a play on the Hebrew word hebel, the word which occurs frequently in the book of Ecclesiastes where it is traditionally translated ‘vanity’. It points to something insubstantial like a puff of wind, or as we might say ‘mere hot air’ or ‘a will o’ the wisp’. But this word hebel sounds something like the name of the Canaanite fertility god Baal (pronounced with two syllables), and baal is also one of the Hebrew words for husband.”[2]

You’ve heard it said that you are what you eat. But Jeremiah says you are what you want. Desiring worthless things, the Israelites became worthless themselves. In Hosea, a book devoted to the illustration of unfaithfulness of a spouse, we read in Hosea 9:10 a similar concept. God speaks and says of his unfaithful wife, the children of Israel, “…they came to Baal-peor and consecrated themselves to the thing of shame, and became detestable like the thing they loved.” Guest puts it this way, “What a dreadful price they had paid for their waywardness! They had become what they worshiped. Here is a principle for all Christians to watch. What we give our imaginations to, our personalities to—that is what we become. The investment of our time, our energy, and our money will result in something, either emptiness or glory. Which it will be depends on what it is we have been worshiping.”[3]

[1] Philip Graham Ryken, Jeremiah and Lamentations: From Sorrow to Hope, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2001), 39.

[2] Robert Davidson, Jeremiah, vol. 1, The Daily Study Bible Series (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1983), 25.

[3] John Guest and Lloyd J. Ogilvie, Jeremiah, Lamentations, vol. 19, The Preacher’s Commentary Series (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1988), 34.