Without a Prayer

And the LORD said to me: Proclaim all these words in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem: Hear the words of this covenant and do them. For I solemnly warned your ancestors when I brought them up out of the land of Egypt, warning them persistently, even to this day, saying, Obey my voice. Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but everyone walked in the stubbornness of an evil will. So I brought upon them all the words of this covenant, which I commanded them to do, but they did not.

And the LORD said to me: Conspiracy exists among the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. They have turned back to the iniquities of their ancestors of old, who refused to heed my words; they have gone after other gods to serve them; the house of Israel and the house of Judah have broken the covenant that I made with their ancestors. Therefore, thus says the LORD, assuredly I am going to bring disaster upon them that they cannot escape; though they cry out to me, I will not listen to them. Then the cities of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem will go and cry out to the gods to whom they make offerings, but they will never save them in the time of their trouble. For your gods have become as many as your towns, O Judah; and as many as the streets of Jerusalem are the altars to shame you have set up, altars to make offerings to Baal.

As for you, do not pray for this people, or lift up a cry or prayer on their behalf, for I will not listen when they call to me in the time of their trouble. (Jeremiah 11:6-14)

Sometimes it is simply too late. The ship has sailed. The ice cream is on the floor.

Israel’s idolatry was endemic. Every town had its own gods. Shrines to deities dotted the hillsides. They no longer knew who God was. Yahweh was simply one of many gods worshipped by the Israelites.

Their relationship with God was entirely superstitious. They thought in terms of ritual, sacrifice, incense, lucky charms and sacred objects. The god of one town was useless in the town next door. Their reach, their capabilities, were small. They were not much to be feared, but likewise, they were not much help in trouble, either: which is why they had so many. Strength in numbers.

God told Jeremiah that it was too late. There was no solution to the problem but exile. No one listened. No one even understood any longer. There was no prayer left for these people. Only judgment.

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm a deacon at Quartz Hill Community Church. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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