The historical context for today’s scripture in Jeremiah chapter 5 is Jeremiah’s prophesy about impending judgment to the tribe of Judah because of their sinful, idolatrous ways. God’s chosen people being disobedient to his ways is not a new storyline. We have seen it over and over as we’ve journeyed through the first five books of the Old Testament these past six months. But as I studied Jeremiah 5 this week, the words of verses 5:30-31 are heavy on my heart.
A horrible and shocking thing has happened in the land: The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way. But what will you do in the end (Jeremiah 5:30-31)?
Does the phrase “and my people love it this way” create a pit in your stomach like it does mine? Does prophesying lies, ruling by their own authority and LOVING IT sound exactly like 21st century America?
Remember in early 2015 when Brian Williams, trusted NBC news anchor, admitted he lied about being shot at in a helicopter over Iraq in order to boost his credibility and importance?
What about Lance Armstrong’s heroic story of winning seven consecutive Tour de France races after beating cancer, only to find out he had lied about using performance enhancing drugs? In 2012, after being stripped of his titles and receiving a lifetime ban from competing in all sports that follow the World Anti-Doping Agency guidelines, Armstrong FINALLY admitted that some of the allegations were true.
Both of these scandals ended with an element of justice, as the heroic figures were never really able to recover from their downfall. But this isn’t how things always turn out in 21st century America. How quickly can you come up with American “heroes” that are flourishing in spite of their deceitful actions? It isn’t too hard. Does our country sound similar to the tribe of Judah in Jeremiah’s time? Do we really LOVE it this way?
Kobe Bryant, star basketball player for the Los Angeles Lakers, was accused of rape in 2003. While never convicted of the crime, he eventually admitted to adultery and lost his sponsors for a time. But do you remember the media hype when he retired from the NBA this past season? It was crazy. Despite the Lakers finishing the season at the bottom of the Western Conference, Kobe Bryant was all over SportsCenter for days. He was heralded as one of the best NBA players of all time. The Staples Center went on to sell $1.2 million of Kobe gear, including a piece of the court he played his last game on for a whopping $179k, during that final night. Does this sounds like Americans LOVE it this way?
In 1998 President Bill Clinton was impeached for obstruction of justice and perjury due to an extra marital affair. For weeks, he denied the allegations, twisted words and attempted to marginalize his sinful actions. In 1999 he became the first American President to be found not guilty after he had already been impeached. In spite of this scandal, Bill Clinton is still regarded as one of America’s most loved presidents. He is so popular that, today, he is earning an estimated $250,000 per speaking engagement. Does this sounds like Americans LOVE it this way?
Please don’t mistake my message. As Christ followers, we are called to forgive. My focus here is not on forgiveness for sin, it is on a destructive cultural pattern. Elevating celebrities/sports figures/politicians to iconic status, and worshipping them instead of the one true God, is so natural it rarely causes concern in 21st century America. The Bible is clear – this behavior leads to destruction and separation from God. Very scary. As Christ followers, do we have the courage to be different?
God would you help us see the idols in our lives that take our focus off of you? Would you replace them with an irresistible desire for you and you alone?