Jeremiah 7:16-20

16 “So do not pray for this people nor offer any plea or petition for them; do not plead with me, for I will not listen to you. 17 Do you not see what they are doing in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem?18 The children gather wood, the fathers light the fire, and the women knead the dough and make cakes to offer to the Queen of Heaven. They pour out drink offerings to other gods to arouse my anger. 19 But am I the one they are provoking? declares the Lord. Are they not rather harming themselves, to their own shame?

20 “‘Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: My anger and my wrath will be poured out on this place—on man and beast, on the trees of the field and on the crops of your land—and it will burn and not be quenched.
(Jeremiah 7:16-20 NIV)

In yesterday’s passage, the Lord told Jeremiah to go specifically to the temple in Jerusalem and preach the words He would give Jeremiah.  Jeremiah preached what God laid on his heart.  His temple sermon warned those gathered that the temple was not a “safe house” for them or the country that would protect them from invaders or God Himself.  The Lord then reminded the people what happened at Shiloh.

When Jeremiah finished preaching the words God gave him, what would be the next logical thing?  Most likely, the Prophet would pray on behalf of and for the people.  However, the Lord tells Jeremiah not to pray for them in any way, shape, or form (v. 16).

Verses 17 – 18 gives the reason for the Lord’s unwillingness to hear Jeremiah’s prayers.  Throughout the country, and even in the holy city of Jerusalem, the people were engaged in the worship of the false deity known as the “Queen of Heaven”.  This goddess was a feminine deity, typically associated with fertility and childbearing.

While Josiah may have removed the prominent public places of pagan worship from Judah, his reforms did not reach the heart and soul of the people.  The worship of the Queen of Heaven was practiced in the home.  The Lord points out that this was not just a worship practice reserved for the woman of the home – it involved the entire family.

The worship of this goddess was an all-family ritual.  The children gathered the wood; the fathers made the fire, and the wives cooked the bread in a form of a star, a crescent, or a woman, all symbolic forms related to this goddess.  The entire family knew what this worship was about – it was not some secret feminine ritual.  On top of that, the Lord says, the family was making drink-offerings to other gods.

When the Lord pointed out this deeply rooted pagan worship in the home, this was yet another example of how far God’s people had wandered away from Him.  Truly there was not one righteous person left in Judah or Jerusalem.  No prayers could fix this, even from a holy and upright man of God like Jeremiah.

Verse 19 shows the consequences of their deliberate rebellion.  Yes, the Lord was angry at them (v. 18).  But the real issue is that they are harming themselves.  Whether they realized it or not, the people were on a path of self-destruction.

Verse 20 is the Lord’s judgment against the nation of Judah – the land, the people, the animals, even the vegetation.  This sin was beyond what even the prayers of the prophets could fix.  This required severe supernatural intervention.

While there is a lot of bad news in today’s text, may we remember God’s earlier promises to Jeremiah and His people that He loves them and will go to any length to bring them back to Himself.  Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection is an incredible promise of God’s love and sacrifice for us, even while we were sinners and enemies of Him, pursuing our self-centered way of life before coming to Christ.

12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
(Hebrews 12:1-3 NIV)

Be encouraged, dear friends.