Sermon: Idolatry and Its Remedy (Jeremiah 2)

Idolatry and Its Remedy

Jeremiah 2

As one reads through the Old Testament, it doesn’t take very long until Idolatry shows itself.  One of the early examples of idolatry is when Moses is up on the mountain receiving the 10 Commandments and the people below begin to get impatient and decide they’ve gone on long enough without something to bow down to and worship.  They collect the jewelry that they had taken from Egypt and melt it down and form a calf to worship.  No doubt this was something they had seen in Egypt.  Never mind that God had led them out of bondage, never mind that He had been providing for them, never mind that He had set Moses in place as their leader, never mind that they had witness amazing miraculous life saving events…they were tired of waiting on Moses and most of all, tired of following God.  They liked the way things were before while they were slaves in Egypt.  So they decided to do it themselves.  They thought, since God isn’t here and neither is Moses, we need to do it ourselves.  Let’s make a god.  They were a pragmatic bunch.

They thought that a god they could manipulate was much better than a God they can’t.  We can make our own decisions and go where we please and do what we please and we’ll just bring this calf and set it up and bow down to it.  At least we can keep track of it and it won’t turn up missing like God does.

This is a classic case of idolatry.

1.  What is Idolatry?

Idolatry is the universal human tendency to love or value something or someone in a way that hinders the love and trust we should have for God.

Idolatry is also man’s attempt to grab God’s glory for himself by working in order to accomplish something only God can do.

Idolatry is loving and cherishing the wrong things.  In our fallen nature we have affections that were meant to be expressed toward God but because of sin they are twisted affections and are drawn to lesser things.  It’s like a heat guided torpedo that is shot underwater at a submarine.  If it misses its intended target, it will travel through the ocean until it acquires another target.  That’s how our affections are.  If they miss their intended target which is God they will land on just about anything else.

That’s why John Calvin wrote that the human heart is a perpetual idol factory.

If our affections miss God, they will land on something else.  Usually what they land on is fairly predictable.  This is good for us because it’s easier to diagnose and treat.  Here are some common modern day idols…

-Pleasure– This idol takes in drugs, pornography, over eating, and activities that take time away from your time with God.

-Self image– This idol takes in fear of man, slander and gossip, uncontrolled spending, and coveting.

-Family or Children– This idol takes in placing people in the place of God, excessive grieving.

-Money and Possessions– Finding security in things such as a large bank accounts, large wallets, large homes, cars etc.

Satan’s tactics are very subtle.  Many of these things are good if they’re in the right amount.

If you find yourself being obsessively drawn to something and spending way too much time with it or if there is something that if it was taken from you, your life would be meaningless and not worth living then this may indicate an idol.

2. Warnings Against Idolatry

A. God the Father warns us-

Exodus 20:2-3 (ESV)

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

[3] “You shall have no other gods before me.

Did you ever stop to think that at the same time God was giving this command to Moses on top of the mountain, the Hebrews were at the bottom breaking it?  Humans tend toward Idolatry so much that God made this the very first of the Ten Commandments.  We should also understand the idolatry is lurking behind every sin committed on the face of the earth.

B. God the Son warns us-

Matthew 22:36-38 (ESV)

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”  [37] And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  [38] This is the great and first commandment.

C. The Apostles warn us-

John-

1 John 5:21 (ESV)

Little children, keep yourselves from idols.

Paul-

1 Cor. 10:14 (ESV)

Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.

Paul even goes so far as to say do not practice keeping company with those who call themselves Christians and practice idolatry…

1 Cor. 5:11 (ESV)

But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.

3. God’s Assessment of Idolatry

Jeremiah 2:4-13 (ESV)

Hear the word of the Lord, O house of Jacob, and all the clans of the house of Israel.  [5] 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?

[6] They did not say, ‘Where is the Lord

who brought us up from the land of Egypt,

who led us in the wilderness,

in a land of deserts and pits,

in a land of drought and deep darkness,

in a land that none passes through,

where no man dwells?’

[7] And I brought you into a plentiful land

to enjoy its fruits and its good things.

But when you came in, you defiled my land

and made my heritage an abomination.

[8] The priests did not say, ‘Where is the Lord?’

Those who handle the law did not know me;

the shepherds transgressed against me;

the prophets prophesied by Baal

and went after things that do not profit.

[9] “Therefore I still contend with you,

declares the Lord,

and with your children’s children I will contend.

[10] For cross to the coasts of Cyprus and see,

or send to Kedar and examine with care;

see if there has been such a thing.

[11] Has a nation changed its gods,

even though they are no gods?

But my people have changed their glory

for that which does not profit.

[12] Be appalled, O heavens, at this;

be shocked, be utterly desolate,

declares the Lord,

[13] for my people have committed two evils:

they have forsaken me,

the fountain of living waters,

and hewed out cisterns for themselves,

broken cisterns that can hold no water.

A. Idolatry Doesn’t Make Sense

[10] For cross to the coasts of Cyprus and see,

or send to Kedar and examine with care;

see if there has been such a thing.

[11] Has a nation changed its gods,

even though they are no gods?

But my people have changed their glory

for that which does not profit.

Notice what the Lord says here: It’s never been recorded that a nation had switched their traditional worship practices and their gods.  It’s not heard of.  He challenges anyone to travel all across the world to see if there is ever a case where a nation has switched deities.  God makes one more point.  He says, those deities are not Gods at all.

Nations worship idols or false gods and never switch.  But God’s people, who have the real God, who had done miracles right before their eyes, they are forsaking Him for idols.  You can search the whole earth and find only one people who have switched Gods and it was the Israelites.  It just doesn’t make sense.

B. Idolatry Exalts Man

[12] Be appalled, O heavens, at this;

be shocked, be utterly desolate,

declares the Lord,

[13] for my people have committed two evils:

they have forsaken me,

the fountain of living waters,

and hewed out cisterns for themselves,

broken cisterns that can hold no water.

It’s as if the prophet Jeremiah realizes that his words are falling on deaf ears.  The Israelites have basically lost their sanity, and turns to look up in the heavens and speak.

Be appalled, O heavens

C. Idolatry is the Opposite of Repentance

In repentance we turn from our sin to God.  In idolatry we turn from God to sin.

Notice the two great evils committed by God’s people:

First, they have forsaken Him

God says that he is a fountain of living water.  He is the source of fresh cool clear drinking water.  This water is provided free.  This water quenches the thirst like no other water can.  This is divine water.  The Israelites have turned away from this true God and in our metaphor, the fountain of free living water.

Second, they have turned to their own efforts-

Notice the stupidity of sin.  They had free crystal clear living water and would rather dig in the dust and try to build a cistern.  They get it built and it’s cracked.  It will not hold water.  So they dig and dig in the mud and drink from filth rather than drink pure water.

Normally, this would not be too attractive.  But you add a fallen sinful nature and you faulty thinking.

Rather than drinking the pure living water God provides, we would rather drink the mud that we provide.  Rather than drinking pure water and praising God for it, we drink polluted water and praise ourselves.

Idolatry is man’s way of getting the glory for himself.

Do you see how idolatry is insanity?  Do you see just how it says, I will do anything in order to be credited with accomplishing something on my own, no matter if it’s drinking mud.

Do you see how far the fall has taken us?

What’s the remedy for Idolatry?

If idolatry is turning from God to something else then repentance is the remedy.

If Idolatry is man’s attempt to grab God’s glory for himself by working in order to accomplish something only God can do.  Then, it logically stands to reason that the remedy must not be something we do apart from God.  If we attempt to remedy this great evil, then we’re right back where we started.  What I mean is that it was our futile attempts at trying to accomplish something without God in the first place that got us into trouble.  The answer is not to try to remedy it ourselves.

Satan is so deceptive, he would even have us repent without God, thereby, keeping us in idolatry.

We must understand that genuine repentance does not come from within us or by our power.  Only God can grant it.

Acts 11:1-18 (ESV)

Now the apostles and the brothers who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God…[18] When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.”

Who was glorified because of the repentance of the Gentiles?

2 Tim. 2:23-26 (ESV)

Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels.  [24] And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil,  [25] correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth,  [26] and they may escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

We must pray that true repentance will be granted or given to us by God.  He’s the source.  It’s like the living water that He provides.

True repentance is a gift from God.  If you truly seek it, He will grant it.  How do I know that He will grant it?

Repentance is the will of God for His people.  It’s the message John the Baptist preached.  It’s the message Jesus preached.  God will grant His will to His people.

Let’s Pray…

Lord help us to turn from those idols we’ve grown so used to.  Help us repent and turn to You in every area of our lives.  Forgive us for desiring muddy water when we could have had pure clear living water that You provide freely.  Our thinking is fallen and sinful.  Our logic is illogical.  Satan deceives us so easily.  Grant us repentance from finding security and hope in things other than You.  Remind us continually that we are extremely susceptible to chasing after other things rather than chasing after You.

Amen

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