Jeremiah 16:19-20 O Lord, my strength and my fortress,
my refuge in time of distress,
to you the nations will come
from the ends of the earth and say,
“Our fathers possessed nothing but false gods,
worthless idols that did them no good.
Do men make their own gods?
Yes, but they are not gods!”
This passage should be an enormous encouragement to any missionary who ministers in an actively pagan country. That said, people today in “Christian” countries create gods as well. Probably the biggest “idols” are Pleasure and Man. The devil has used those two ever since the Garden of Eden. Both of them are originally good, since God created them, but when they become objects of worship they become horrible lies. Pleasure as an idol is obvious all around us, with things like opioids and pornography. The pleasure there is strictly on the surface, and quickly rots the soul. Man as an idol is somewhat more subtle, but only by a little bit. We quite accurately use the term, idol, in speaking of entertainers who seek and receive adulation from their fans. Another face of that is simply thinking that man is or has the answer to everything. The foolishness of that becomes obvious with a quick look at history to see how many times “scientific consensus” has turned out to be completely wrong. We are experts at making “gods” of anything and everything! The good news is, this passage says that people will wake up to what they have been doing and repent of it. That is good news indeed!
Though the idolatry of all sorts around me is easy for me to recognize, I’ve got to be careful I don’t overlook those same tendencies in myself. I am to be grateful for the various pleasures in my life, but not seek them for their own sake. Likewise, I am to be grateful for the various abilities the Lord has given me, but not rely on them apart from the One who gave them to me. In terms of my ministry, the average Japanese has no personal faith in the idols that surround them, but they are trapped by tradition and feel that renouncing such gods would be disloyal to their ancestors, and loyalty is one of the highest values in Japanese society. We have had people tell us flat out that they can’t become Christians because when they die, they’re supposed to go to be with their ancestors, even if their ancestors are in hell. That’s a heartbreaking bondage! I am not to give up, but keep speaking the truth in love and praying that the Holy Spirit will take the words He speaks through me to shatter the lies that bind people, so that their eyes may be opened just as this passage says, for their salvation.
Father, thank You for having Jeremiah write this. Thank You for being God, whatever things look like right around me. Thank You for those who have renounced the gods of their ancestors – and their ancestors as gods – to turn to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. I pray that You would give each one courage and anointing to share the Gospel with those around them, far more effectively than I ever could when I am seen as an outsider. May there indeed be a mighty harvest for Your kingdom in this nation, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!