Jeremiah 31:1–40, Romans 6:15–7:6, Proverbs 21:1–12
An evidence of unbelief is a desire for evil. Evil has no mercy on other people. Solomon said, “The soul of the wicked desires evil; his neighbor finds no mercy in his eyes.” (Proverbs 21:10)
Even as a Christian, I can be guilty of this in two ways. I can be terribly unkind to my neighbor, or I can put my neighbor on a pedestal and rely on him or her to the point of idolatry. As has been said, the human heart is an idol-making factory.
Relying on anything or anyone to the exclusion of the Lord is not only evil, but puts those who do this in the path of severe divine chastening. When God sent His people into exile, it was mainly for idolatry. They were captured by the Babylonians, a nation given over to idolatry, and had to live there for seventy years. When that time was up, they were totally sick of idols and had learned their lesson.
God gave them promises of what would happen after that. He said, “At that time . . . I will be the God of all the clans of Israel, and they shall be my people . . . .”
Jeremiah continued His prophecy, “Those who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness . . . and sought rest; the Lord appeared from far away, saying, ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you. Again I will build you, and you shall be built, O virgin Israel! Again you shall adorn yourself with tambourines and shall go forth in the dance of the merrymakers.‘” (Jeremiah 31:1–4)
He told them: “Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob, and raise shouts for the chief of the nations; proclaim, give praise, and say, ‘O Lord, save your people, the remnant of Israel.’”
God also said, “I will bring them from the north country and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, the pregnant woman and she who is in labor, together; a great company, they shall return here. With weeping they shall come, and with pleas for mercy I will lead them back, I will make them walk by brooks of water, in a straight path in which they shall not stumble, for I am a father to Israel . . . .” (Jeremiah 31:7–9)
He also spoke of rejoicing, dancing, merriment, comfort, gladness for sorrow, a feast of abundance, and satisfaction with His goodness. (Jeremiah 31:13–14) Then He made the greatest promise: “Behold, the days are coming . . . when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband . . . . For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days . . . I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest . . . . For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Jeremiah 31:31–34)
These promises must have brought great joy to the hearts of those people in Babylon. They also bring great joy to my heart. Even as God has bestowed on me that new heart that Jeremiah predicted, I still fight that old nature that is prone to sinful ways. When that idol-making factory runs amok, I fight back, but find it (like any other sin) to be too much for me. I need the Savior to save me. Hearing His promises to “bring me back” is a joy and delight. Knowing that one day the “building” will be finished and I will be “built” gives me hope.
In Romans 7, Paul wrote about his struggle with sin. He begins by saying, “For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.” (Romans 7:5–6)
This is the key to control of that idol-making place. Instead of trying to keep rules and laws, I’m to consider myself dead to sin and law, and alive to Christ. When I am filled and controlled by the Holy Spirit, idolatry has no appeal — because the Lord is so immense and wonderful that there is no room and no desire for anything else.