Jeremiah 17:1-4

17 “Judah’s sin is engraved with an iron tool,
    inscribed with a flint point,
on the tablets of their hearts
    and on the horns of their altars.
Even their children remember
    their altars and Asherah poles
beside the spreading trees
    and on the high hills.
My mountain in the land
    and your wealth and all your treasures
I will give away as plunder,
    together with your high places,
    because of sin throughout your country.
Through your own fault you will lose
    the inheritance I gave you.
I will enslave you to your enemies
    in a land you do not know,
for you have kindled my anger,
    and it will burn forever.”
(Jeremiah 17:1-4 NIV)

As we finished Chapter 16 yesterday, the Lord promised that even the pagan nations would come to Him and know Him by name, not just by title or third-party reference.

As we begin Chapter 17 today, the Lord returns to address the people of Judah.  Unlike the pagan nations that will one day repent, believe, and come to the Lord and know Him by name, the sin of Judah is deeply embedded in their hearts.  In fact, the Lord uses the words “engraved” and “inscribed” (etched) to point out the permanence of their sin and the hardness of their hearts.

In verse 2, the worship of the false gods is so prevalent in the Judean culture that even the children know and celebrate the festivities.  Why are the parents not teaching their children the Hebrew festivals and solemn remembrances like as the Lord commanded, so the children have those top of mind instead of the celebrations of the false gods?

The Lord reiterates the consequences of the people of Judah not keeping their worship exclusively to Him.  The exile is the price of worshipping the other gods.  Gone will be the abundance of the Promised Land, a land flowing with milk and honey and abundant food for its flocks and herds.  Gone will be the freedoms they enjoyed as a sovereign nation and the blessings of God Almighty.

Remember how the people of Judah used to claim bragging rights on God as their God and exclusive favorite child status among the nations?  The Lord says that family inheritance, the family name of God and “favored child” status is now gone as well.

Comparing yesterday’s passage (especially 16:21) to our text today, we see the roles of the pagan nations and Judah reversed.  The Lord had called Abraham and all his descendants to be God’s light and testimony to the rest of the world (i.e., the pagan nations around Judah).  Now, the pagan nations will come to the Lord while Judah is outside.

May we be careful to teach our children the ways of the Lord, and all His celebrations and remembrances.  While the world celebrates Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, may we celebrate the birth of our Savior and his resurrection from the dead to give us eternal life.

May we never take our relationship with the Lord for granted.  Jesus addressed this same attitude and presumption when He was here on earth:

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
(Matthew 7:21-23 NIV, Jesus speaking)