Returning Evil for Good

Listen to the word of the LORD, people of Jacob—all you families of Israel! This is what the LORD says:
“What did your ancestors find wrong with me
that led them to stray so far from me?
They worshiped worthless idols,
only to become worthless themselves.
They did not ask, ‘Where is the LORD
who brought us safely out of Egypt
and led us through the barren wilderness—
a land of deserts and pits,
a land of drought and death,
where no one lives or even travels?’
“And when I brought you into a fruitful land
to enjoy its bounty and goodness,
you defiled my land and
corrupted the possession I had promised you.
The priests did not ask,
‘Where is the LORD?’
Those who taught my word ignored me,
the rulers turned against me,
and the prophets spoke in the name of Baal,
wasting their time on worthless idols.
Therefore, I will bring my case against you,”
says the LORD.
“I will even bring charges against your children’s children
in the years to come. (Jeremiah 2:4-9)

People just take God for granted during the good times. He’s easy to ignore. Jeremiah began prophesying to the Israelites in the few years left before they would go into captivity in Babylon. God dares his people to try to justify their behavior. What, exactly, he wonders, can they say against him?

But no. They continued with the same behavior, ignoring everything Jeremiah said. God told them how they were mistreating him. He told them that how they were acting made no sense. When someone is kind and helpful, when someone gives gifts, the normal human response is gratitude. Even the worst of human beings are usually nice to those who are nice to them, if for no other reason than a selfish desire to keep the gravy flowing.

Loving regardless of how someone treats you is rare. But tit-for-tat is common. But God’s people can’t even muster that. In the face of God’s goodness, they respond by chasing after other gods instead. Like a wife inexplicably cheating on a good and loving husband, heaping insults upon him even as she throws herself at her lovers. Those entrusted with leading the people: the priests and the rulers—they were first in the line leading away from God.

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm the interim pastor at Quartz Hill Community Church. I have written several books. 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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