“And the word of the LORD came unto me the second time, saying, What seest thou? And I said, I see a seething pot; and the face thereof is toward the north. Then the LORD said unto me, Out of the north an evil shall break forth upon all the inhabitants of the land. For, lo, I will call all the families of the kingdoms of the north, saith the LORD; and they shall come, and they shall set every one his throne at the entering of the gates of Jerusalem, and against all the walls thereof round about, and against all the cities of Judah. And I will utter my judgments against them touching all their wickedness, who have forsaken me, and have burned incense unto other gods, and worshipped the works of their own hands.” ~ Jeremiah 1:13-16
The second vision Jeremiah is shown is of a seething (intensely hot, boiling) pot in the north. God makes it plain to Jeremiah that the vision meant that Judah would be defeated (decimated) by a kingdom from the north (Babylon).
Nevertheless, the focus of these four verses is God’s reason for Judah’s punishment (vs. 16): God would chastise Judah because of their rejection of Him and idol worship. To be clear, there are many reasons given in Scripture for the rebuke of Judah (e.g., Nehemiah 13:17-18; Zechariah 7:8-14). However, this is the first reason given to Jeremiah and, perhaps, the most fundamental reason for God’s judgment of His people. Interestingly, verse 16 identifies two forms of wickedness: forsaking (totally rejecting) God and worshipping idols (without formally “forsaking” God).
The wicked are those who reject God completely, AND the wicked are those who try to have it both ways (worshipping both idols and God). In other words, it is just as evil to embrace God and idols, as it is to reject God totally. Indeed, to embrace God and idols is not to embrace God at all.
The application for us is equally plain. Though most people who claim to be believers in God do not practice mythological rites to serve “other gods”, we are often tempted by the modern idols of prosperity (materialism), power, pleasure (hedonism) and popularity. Therefore, the challenge from vs. 16 to us today is that:
- To love God and love things is not to love God at all (Luke 8:14; 1 John 2:15-16).
- To love God and to love power is not to love God at all (Mark 10:42-45).
- To love God and to love pleasure is not to love God at all (Luke 8:14; 2 Timothy 3:4).
- To love God and to love the “praise of men” (popularity) is not to love God at all (John 12:42-44).
Jesus, put it this way:
No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. ~ Matthew 6:24
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it. ~ Matthew 13:44-46
True salvation is everything or it is nothing. To be a believer, a faithful follower of God, in Jeremiah’s day, in Jesus’ day and in our day means that God is at the center of our attention: that God alone is our motivation: God alone is our driving force: that He alone orders every step of our life.
To be a believer, a faithful follower of God, means that things/material/stuff have no hold on us: that the value of any thing is determined by its usefulness to God for the accomplishment of His purpose (Matthew 22:19-21; 1 Corinthians 6:12; 10:23); that the only power we seek is the power of the resurrected Christ working through us (Philippians 3:10).
To be a believer, a faithful follower of God, means that the pleasures we seek are the pleasures of heaven (Psalm 16:11; John 4:34); that we are sustained by the approval of God and not the approval of men (Matthew 25:21; 2 Timothy 4:6-8).
To be clear, temptation is a problem for all believers (1 Corinthians 10:13); we can all be distracted by the idols of life and sometimes, sadly, we fall. However, for believers, idols are only a distraction, at worst a stumbling block, but not a way of life. A believer doesn’t hold onto God with one hand and worldliness with the other. A believer doesn’t put one foot on the narrow way of Christ and the other foot on the broad way of the world (Matthew 7:13-14).
Some of the Hebrews had tried to serve both God and false idols and it was accounted to them as wickedness. If we likewise try to serve both God and mammon we will likewise receive the judgment of the wicked.