A publication of St. George Orthodox Christian Cathedral
Jeremiah 51:15-23 (11/27-12/10) Forty-second Reading in Kellia from Jeremiah’s Prophecies
Jeremiah’s Later Ministry VI ~ Interpreting History: Jeremiah 51:15-23 SAAS, especially vs. 17: “For we will certainly do every word which proceeds from our mouth to burn incense to the queen of heaven and to pour our drink offerings to her, as we and our fathers, our kings and our princes have done in the cities of Judah and outside Jerusalem. For we were full of bread, and we were well-off and saw no calamities.” How fiercely the refugees in Egypt refused the word of the Lord! They called Jeremiah a liar, rationalized their worship of a pagan goddess, and misrepresented their flight into Egypt. Do you see? People deceive not only with statistics, as is done today, but also distort the factual data of history in support their own desires, preferences, behaviors, and lifestyles. Today’s reading asks, How are we to interpret history and events? How should we read unfolding events and people’s actions, and draw sound conclusions?
The Scriptural basis for interpreting history is stated plainly in the Book of Chronicles. It matches Jeremiah’s rebuttal of the pagan worship he rejected; it speaks to the idol worship of today. Compare the Chronicler’s summary of the reign of King Hezekiah of Judah (716-687 BC) with his description of the reign of Hezekiah’s son, Manasseh, who followed him on the throne (687-643 BC). Of Hezekiah, the Chronicler says, “...he did what was right in the sight of the Lord, according to everything his father David had done” (2 Ch. 29:2); but of Manasseh, the Chronicler says, “He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to the abominations of the Gentiles [pagan nations]...” (2 Ch. 33:2). To rightly evaluate the epochs and turns of history, as well as people’s approach to life, always ask, “What is right in the eyes of the Lord?”
Jeremiah’s basis for discerning what is right in God’s eyes was grounded on “...the voice of the Lord...His ordinances, His law, and His testimonies...” (Jer. 51:23). As a servant of God, he stood squarely in the unbroken tradition received from the Patriarchs, but most especially from Moses and the earlier Prophets of God. Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself taught and defended this same tradition. Listen to Him: “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the Kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the Kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 5:17-19). Consider well what Christ our Lord says!
The proponents of offering incense and libations to the goddess, Astarte - ‘the queen of heaven’ - made a superficial case in defense of their worship: we and our fathers worshiped her in Judah, and “...we were full of bread and were well-off and saw no calamities” (Jer. 51:17). But they did see calamity! Notice: they make no mention of God’s law, of the active will of the Lord, nor of His statutes, which they flaunted, regarding the worship of other gods. Astarte, in practice, was the nature goddess of fertility and love associated with Baal, being worshiped by the Philistines.
Jeremiah speaks of history as a source for discerning the consequences of disobeying God’s will: “The Lord could no longer bear with your evil deeds and with the abominations you committed. Thus your land became as a desolation, as impassable, and as a curse, as it is this day” (vs. 22). Our lives, the future of our families and of our nations depend on doing what is right in eyes of the Lord. When we flaunt God’s will, consequences follow. As Jeremiah says. “Because you...sinned against the Lord...therefore, these calamities came upon you” (vs. 23).
O Lord, we thank Thee that Thou didst not forget the work of Thy hands, but didst speak to us by Thy Prophets: release us from delusions, and bring us to a true knowledge of Thee.