Summary: This passage contains one of the most tragic but repeated statements in all Scripture: "We will not listen to God..." Why did the Jews say it and how can we avoid the same error in our lives and in our churches?
OPEN: A young boy, about eight years old, was at the corner "Mom & Pop" grocery store picking out a pretty good size box of laundry detergent. The grocer walked over and, trying to be friendly, asked the boy if he had a lot of laundry to do.
"Oh, no laundry," the boy said. "I’m going to wash my dog."
"But you shouldn’t use this to wash your dog. It’s very powerful and if you wash your dog in this, he’ll get sick. In fact, it might even kill him."
But the boy was not to be stopped (he was one of those kids that you couldn’t tell anything) and carried the detergent to the counter and paid for it, even as the grocer still tried to talk him out of washing his dog.
About a week later the boy was back in the store to buy some candy. The grocer asked the boy how his dog was doing.
With a tear in his eye the boy said: "Oh, he died."
The grocer, trying not to be an I-told-you-so, said he was sorry the dog died but added,
"I tried to tell you not to use that detergent on your dog."
"Well," the boy replied, "I don’t think it was the detergent that killed him."
"Oh? What was it then?"
"I think it was the spin cycle."
APPLY: There’s just some people you can’t tell anything. Their minds are like steel traps – tightly shut and difficult to open. They have their mind made up and they’re not going to change for you, or me… or even God.
I. That’s pretty much the situation we discover here in Jeremiah 44.
Jeremiah warns the people that God is upset with their behavior… and they respond: "We will not listen to the message you have spoken to us in the name of the LORD!” (Jeremiah 44:16)
They’ve made up their minds.
They LIKE what they’re doing.
And they have no intention of stopping for Jeremiah or God… or anyone
Now, it helps to know a little background:
The Babylonians had just destroyed the nation of Judah, and Jerusalem is in ruins. The survivors of that tragedy have followed Jeremiah down into Egypt - looking for sanctuary.
It appears they’ve been in Egypt for awhile - and they’ve forgotten the lessons they’d learned from God’s punishment of their nation. They’ve fallen back into their old evil ways and God has called them on it.
SO… God’s upset with something they’re doing AND the Jews have no intention of changing their behavior. What exactly are they doing that God didn’t like?
II. Well, I’m going to introduce you to a $10 word: syncretism
The Jews were practicing syncretism. Syncretism is the attempt to combine 2 or more religions in your life. It’s a smorgasbord faith. A little bit of the God here… a little bit of paganism there.
It’s not a pure faith… but rather a mixture of two or more religious disciplines.
Now, look with me to Jeremiah 44:17-18. Part of Judah’s rational for offering incense and drink offerings to pagan gods was this:
“We will certainly do everything we said we would: We will burn incense to the Queen of Heaven and will pour out drink offerings to her just as we and our fathers, our kings and our officials did in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. At that time we had plenty of food and were well off and suffered no harm. But ever since we stopped burning incense to the Queen of Heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, we have had nothing and have been perishing by sword and famine."
The Jews were using Syncretism as a kind of religious home owners policy.
If one God was good… several gods had to be better.
I don’t believe they had totally abandoned the idea of being the people of Jehovah… I suspect they practiced that part of their faith as well. But they wanted to buy a little extra religious insurance so that their homes would be protected. So that they’re lives would be better.
III. Obviously, God isn’t pleased with this idea (pause…)
Now, at first glance you might think this is no big deal.
I mean… so what if they offered a little incense and poured out a few drink offerings to a pagan goddess. What’s the big deal? It’s not like they were stealing or robbing or killing anybody. This seems basically to be a victimless crime.
Well, actually, their sin was not a “victimless” offense. What they were doing was even worse than all than stealing, or robbing someone… or even killing someone.
In the New Testament, we read about Jesus meeting a Samaritan woman at a well and having a conversation with her. In the midst of the little talk, Jesus tells the Samaritan woman “salvation is from the Jews.” John 4:22