23 “How can you say, ‘I am not defiled; I have not run after the Baals’? See how you behaved in the valley; consider what you have done. You are a swift she-camel running here and there, 24 a wild donkey accustomed to the desert, sniffing the wind in her craving—in her heat who can restrain her? Any males that pursue her need not tire themselves; at mating time they will find her.” Jeremiah 2:23-24 NIV
Dear Church Family,
Perhaps I should have warned you that this week’s letter is rated PG-13. We’ve been studying Jeremiah on Wednesday nights. One of the central themes of Jeremiah’s preaching is Judah’s idolatry, and chapter 2 uses a variety of images to characterize Israel’s propensity for idolatry. They are like a farmer who abandons a reliable source of water (God) to dig leaky cisterns (2:9-13), like a child who chooses to live as a slave (2:14-19), and they could teach prostitutes how to be promiscuous (2:33). One of the most poignant of these images, however, is 2:23-24. In Israel’s passion to commit spiritual adultery (idolatry), she is like a wild animal in heat. Prospective suitors will not have to chase her down; she chases them down!
Skipping ahead several centuries, this passage reminds me a lot of, well, America. In a “secular” society, idolatry is not literally worshiping or bowing down to statues. Rather, it is giving allegiance to anything in the world that belongs only to God. These worldly seductions are listed in 1 John 2:16 (NIV): “For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.”
Now, I want to clarify something here. First Corinthians 10:13 asserts, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (ESV). In other words, when it comes to temptations, “there is nothing new under the sun;” nobody is tempted today with any passion or excess that has not been experienced by humans since the creation.
ON THE OTHER HAND: We live in the age of instant gratification, of entertainment, of sensory stimuli. In other words, SEDUCTIONS. The sensory indulgences and attractions of the present age are unique to this moment in history. Enticements to, say, pornography are absurdly available to anyone, regardless of age, who has access to the internet, and this has done immeasurable damage to society. So what about 1 Corinthians 10:13? Well, the avenue through which temptations come has become more sophisticated, and more available, and might even be more pernicious. But I don’t think you can say that this generation is more “driven by lust” than other generations. The things that seduce humans today—pleasure, prestige, greed, power—are the same, but we have the promise of 1 Corinthians 10:13 that God will provide a way of escape. If you want to know more about that way of escape, come to our worship service this Sunday.