Lent Devotional: Jeremiah 1:15-16
by Jonathan Haefs
Today’s devotional is authored by Brad Brown
Jeremiah 1:13-19 (click here to read the entire passage)
For behold, I am calling all the tribes of the kingdoms of the north, declares the Lord, and they shall come, and every one shall set his throne at the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem, against all its walls all around and against all the cities of Judah. And I will declare my judgments against them, for all their evil in forsaking me. They have made offerings to other gods and worshiped the works of their own hands. (Jeremiah 1:15-16)
At the beginning of our passage for today God asks Jeremiah “What do you see?” Jeremiah says he sees a boiling pot, tilting away from the north. God then reveals to him that this vision means that disaster will be poured out over the land, like the hot water from the north. Not good…
As the book of Jeremiah will go on to make clear, that hot water from the north is Babylon. The picture of kings setting their thrones in Jerusalem’s gates is a metaphor for a foreign takeover of the city. Disaster is on its way. Why?
The text makes it clear: Idolatry. Idolatry is the primary means by which God’s chosen people betrayed their covenantal commitments, and it is a topic that is returned to often in the book of Jeremiah.
In the book of Exodus, Yahweh freed his son Israel from the thousands of Egyptian idols. Exodus 20:2-3 says,  “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.  “You shall have no other gods before me. (ESV)
Israel has been freed to serve Yahweh and yet its history shows a continual return to serve deadly idols. God will not have this…Israel’s exile is not a history lesson revealing the power of Babylon. Rather, it is a testimony to the worth of Yahweh and his great affection for his people. Their hearts were made for him alone and so is yours.
Peter Leithart in his little book on the Ten Commandments writes,
The Lord is our Judge, Savior and Lawgiver. He blesses and curses, bears our sins, speaks a trustworthy word. When we tremble before other judges or hope in other saviors, when we pile up our sins on anyone but Jesus, idols occupy our hearts and take control.
Do you fear the opinions of others? Are you paralyzed by worry about how your father or mother will evaluate you? You’ve set up an idol, a substitute judge—public opinion, a perfectionist father, a hypercritical mother. Have you ever thought: “If we only had a bit more money, our lives would be happy. If only I could get a better job or enjoy a flawlessly decorated home, life would be good.” You’re looking to a counterfeit savior—money success, velvety comforts.
When you’re cornered, do you lash out and blame others? Do you have so much trouble admitting your sins that you scapegoat your wife or husband, your parents or children? Or do you flagellate yourself for your failures or perceived failures? You’re an idolater, dumping sins on scapegoats or treating yourself as a gimcrack Jesus.
Lent is a season of repentance. A season where we once again stare at the idols we look at to be our judge and savior. We do this knowing that the last word for Gods people is not exile or idolatry…it’s Jesus. He is the true Son who lives in total devotion to the Father. He comes to do what we could not…destroy our idols. He comes so that our restless hearts may find their rest in him. Thanks be to God. Amen.