13 The word of the Lord came to me again: “What do you see?”
“I see a pot that is boiling,” I answered. “It is tilting toward us from the north.”
14 The Lord said to me, “From the north disaster will be poured out on all who live in the land. 15 I am about to summon all the peoples of the northern kingdoms,” declares the Lord.
“Their kings will come and set up their thrones
in the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem;
they will come against all her surrounding walls
and against all the towns of Judah.
16 I will pronounce my judgments on my people
because of their wickedness in forsaking me,
in burning incense to other gods
and in worshiping what their hands have made.
(Jeremiah 1:13-16 NIV)
Previously, we looked at Jeremiah’s first word from the Lord. This vision was Jeremiah’s test as a prophet, to see if he would report what he saw to the Lord.
Today we take a look at the second word from the Lord. Again, the Lord uses a common, everyday sight and attaches a deeper meaning to it. The sight was a pot of boiling liquid on a fire.
A little explanation is needed here. In Jeremiah’s day, there were no modern-day conveniences like stoves and ovens. Any cooking was done over an open flame such as a campfire. If someone wanted to heat up a liquid (for example, some soup), they would make a fire and let the fire die down to hot coals, then set the clay pot of soup directly on the hot embers. As the fire continued to burn down, the coals would settle and shift, and the pot would lean one way or another. The person cooking would have to continually adjust the pot to keep it level and prevent it from spilling its contents into the fire.
What Jeremiah reported seeing was a pot that was cooking on the fire, and was tilted from the north toward the south, spilling some of its contents into the fire.
In verses 14 – 15 the Lord implies agreement with Jeremiah’s observations and then provides the spiritual meaning to this lesson. Israel was about to be invaded by its northern neighbors again. The Lord said the invasion was not from just one neighbor to the north (for example, the Assyrians or the Babylonians), but all its northern neighbors.
Verse 16 tells of the Lord’s indictment against Israel:
- burning incense to other gods
- worshipping what their hands had made (man-made idols)
The Lord’s charges against Israel were due to their direct violation of the first two commandments He gave their ancestors and them:
- “You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3)
- “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.” (Exodus 20:4)
The consequences of disobedience to God’s directives were clear: the curses and wrath of God would be upon the nation of Israel (Deuteronomy 27:9-26).
When God gave the Ten Commandments to the nation of Israel, He gave them both the what and the why: He would share His glory with no one and nothing else. Read it for yourself:
5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
(Exodus 20:5-6 NIV)
The Israelites thought they could do no wrong in God’s sight since they were God’s chosen people. Use whatever metaphor you want: they felt they had a “get out of jail free” card, they had some sort of spiritual diplomatic immunity, the rules did not apply to them.
In reality, the opposite was true: the Israelites were held to a higher standard. God had chosen Abraham and his descendants to tell the rest of the world about Himself, to show the world that there is only one true God.
As each of us look at the nation where we live, what is its overall pattern of behavior? Is it one of honoring the Lord and Him only, or are there other “gods” that are worshiped (fame, power, pride, etc.) or created for worship (money, material things, relationships, etc)?
As we look even closer to home, what about our individual lives? Is God first, or are there other gods that come before Him?
Notice God’s promise in the Exodus 20:5-6 passage above. God loves us and disciplines those and their children to the third or fourth generations when they don’t put Him first. When they do follow Him, He promises to love and bless them for a thousand generations.
May we seek after God and God alone, putting Him first in every aspect of our lives.
May we beg God’s help to break any generational sins that are passed down from our forebearers to us, or that we have passed down to our children.
May we fully grasp the Lord’s short time of loving discipline in our lives when we don’t put Him first compared to the abundant beauty, joy, and love we can have when we put Him above all.