The Jeremiah Paradigm

By: Carl Teichrib; ©2005
Which of us cannot connect, in some way, with the old Frank Sinatra song, “My Way”? Regardless of mankind’s creed or color, we all have an inherited problem that compels us to do it our own way—and the Bible calls this prideful behavior “sin.” The ultimate form of pride is displayed when we intentionally thumb our noses at God by proclaiming that we’re following our own path—whatever that path may be.

The Jeremiah Paradigm

The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?—Jeremiah 17:9

Remember the old Frank Sinatra song, “My Way”? In this little tune Frankie swooned about his life, what he did, his travels and triumphs, and the continual boast that “I did it my way.”

No doubt all of us can connect, to some degree, with this song. Who hasn’t pursued his or her own path? Is there a single person alive today who can claim that in doing it “my way,” the motives and/or outcome has always been altruistic? Of course not. Regardless of mankind’s creed or color, we all have an inherited problem that compels us to do it our own way—and the Bible calls this prideful behavior “sin.”

The ultimate form of pride is displayed when we intentionally thumb our noses at God by proclaiming that we’re following our own path—whatever that path may be. Regardless of who we are or what our claim may be, our actions will be followed by consequences. Furthermore, there is an axiom at work here that encompasses more than just the individual. Consider this: as individuals are held to account for their actions, so too nations and/or the predominant element of society are also deemed responsible for their deeds and direction. This principle is woven throughout Scripture, and the annals of history are replete with ex­amples.

Jeremiah, an Old Testament prophet, encountered this societal reality when he faced his own countrymen regarding the national sin of Judah—the tribal nation that rested between the Mediterranean and the Dead Sea. Interestingly, this national sin was comprised of two main components which strongly correlate to today’s modern global society, the cry of “my way” and the willful embracing of alternative deities.

Here’s what happened: As written in the book of Jeremiah, the people of Judah—having collectively turned their back on the living God—were dynamically engaged in the worship of a multitude of other gods. This situation is amply demonstrated in Jeremiah 2:27-28, where Yahweh exclaims,

They say to wood, “You are my father,” and to stone, “You gave me birth.” They have turned their backs to me and not their faces; yet when they are in trouble, they say, “Come and save us!” Where then are the gods you made for yourselves? Let them come if they can save you when you are in trouble! For you have as many gods as you have towns, O Judah.

If this passages seems sarcastic, that’s because it is, and rightly so. The history of Israel, which incorporated the tribe of Judah, is one in which God continually displayed his mercy, power, and guiding hand. Now, during the time of Jeremiah, this nation which had received God’s rich favor, intentionally and collectively displayed utter contempt at Yahweh’s words of warning.

How so? The book of Jeremiah documents that Judah burned incense to other gods, intentionally embraced and worshiped the “Queen of Heaven”—the Babylonian goddess known as Ishtar, and even sacrificed their sons to the flames of Baal.

In chapter 44 of the book of Jeremiah, it details an incredible scene. Jeremiah, the unpopular prophet of God, had constantly warned the people that they would suffer horrific consequences for their actions, including his countrymen in Egypt and abroad.

Then all the men who knew that their wives had burned incense to other god, with all the women who stood by, a great multitude, and all the people who dwelt in the land of Egypt, in Pathros, answered Jeremiah, saying: “As for the word that you have spoken to us in the name of the Lord, we will not listen to you! But we will certainly do whatever has gone out of our own mouth, to burn incense to the queen of heaven and pour out drink offerings to her….” (vs. 15-17)

This is reminiscent of chapter 18, where God specifically told the people to return to Him. “Return now every one from his evil way, and make your ways and your doings good.” And the people answered, “That is hopeless! So we will walk according to our own plans, and we will every one do the imagination of his evil heart” (vs. 11-12).

History bears out what happened to Judah and Jerusalem; the Babylonians invaded and annihilated Jerusalem. Those in Judah who fled to into the hands of their conquerors were led into exile, while those who fought against the invaders were utterly crushed. Jerusalem was ravished, and the nation was scattered.

God, through Jeremiah, had warned that this would be the consequence of refusing to turn back to Him. In fact, God told the people of Judah that “I Myself will fight against you with an outstretched hand and with a strong arm, even in anger and fury and great wrath” (Jer. 21:5).

This type of reaction, it’s been argued by certain critics, proves that the God of the Bible is a selfish, vengeful deity. The author has heard this line on numerous occasions; that because Yahweh dealt so harshly with what appeared to be a minor issue (especially viewed in light of today’s popular culture of political correctness), it proves that the God of the Bible is petty and mean-spirited.

Essentially, this argument places the blame on God, and not man. However, in accepting this line of thinking, a vital truism has been missed: our world operates under historically understood laws of cause and effect (no, this is not the Karma version of cause and effect) that transcend spirit, matter, and time. One of those spiritual laws is that when man consistently and intentionally turns from God, life­-and-death consequences are incurred.

It’s like a person standing on the edge of a great precipice. He knows that the law of gravity will result in his death if he jumped. He’s been told by others, “stay away from the edge,” and he knows from history and personal experience that gravity is immutable. However, in an act of contempt and defiance, he jumps. Shocked and dismayed that gravity was so intolerant, and that his demise is now sealed, he blames and curses gravity all the way to bottom of the cliff.

In Jeremiah’s time, the nation of Judah was no different than the man courting death on the edge of the precipice. And like the man in our little illustration, Judah intentionally jumped.

Today it’s not much different than in Jeremiah’s time. We proudly proclaim that we’ll do it our own way. And God, who are you to tell us what’s right or wrong, what’s acceptable or not, and how to define life, sin, and death?

Beyond this persona of ultimate pride, our global society is not only turning its collective back against the Living God, but it’s embracing every alternative deity it can; the old gods and whatever new ones we can dream up. Moreover, it doesn’t seem to matter where you physically are—be it in the Western or Eastern world, the Global North or the Global South—the quest for alternative spiritual paths knows no bounds.

All of this raises an interesting rhetorical question; knowing that our paradigm is rapidly becoming similar to the one in which the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah operated in, what does our future hold?

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