One of things that grieves me the most is seeing people who are not passionate about Jesus. I remember a time when I neglected to live for Jesus, when I was neglecting the Word, neglecting a lot of things. One day priorities changed. I had a thirst for Christ Jesus. I wanted nothing more. If I didn’t get to read my Bible, I felt starved. If I hadn’t taken the time to pray, I felt lacking.
Paul wrote about everything being worthless when in comparison to knowing Jesus. Paul noted how he discarded everything so he could gain Christ. The person who sold everything to buy a field with hidden treasure had the same desire Paul had for Jesus (Matthew 13:44). Nothing else mattered.
Today, look at your priorities. Is everything worthless compared to Jesus Christ? How do you value your relationship with Jesus? Are you putting things before God? What matters most to you?
“Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ” – Philippians 3:8 [NLT]
In Jeremiah 2, the words are harsh. The Lord asks what the people found wrong with God that made them go after other things. The verse says that because they went after worthlessness, they became worthless. This is blunt. This is harsh. This is difficult to swallow.
It is hard to read this truth and feel any grace. The reason the people had become worthless is because they were deep in idolatry. They could not be used by God for His glory if they were running after other things. It is difficult for you to selfishly and foolishly run toward something in place of God and be used by God for great things for His glory. At the end of the day, not only is it a choice that will be regrettable, but it is also very unfruitful.
Verse 11 makes it clear that this way of living does not profit. The people, His people (note “my people”), decided to cast aside their specialness. They were a chosen people. They cast it aside for something else. The something else was not better. Rather, this action caused them to settle for something that would lead them nowhere good, nowhere they would want to be if they knew the truth. Today, look within. Are you useful? Are you fixated on other things? Imagine what God can do through you for His glory.
“Thus says the LORD: ‘What wrong did your fathers find in me that they went far from me, and went after worthlessness, and became worthless? Has a nation changed its gods, even though they are no gods? But my people have changed their glory for that which does not profit.’” – Jeremiah 2:5, 11 [ESV]
As you look through old clothing, you might find a pair of old shorts that are not even able to be donated. They are beyond salvageable. They are discolored. They are frayed. They have holes. The fabric is worn hard and perhaps stained. They are worthless.
God had Jeremiah take a linen belt, or for us to better understand, some linen shorts, and wear them without any washing. Then he was directed to take them off and hide them. When they were retrieved, they were worthless because they did not receive the proper care.
The people of God, which includes us today, are to cling to God. But like the people of this time, the people that went from clinging to God and His Law to burying themselves in idolatry and sin, we have a great problem with corruption that can take away our worth to the Kingdom. Thankfully, Jesus Christ can wash us and we become as white as snow. When we come to know Christ, we do not have to be a pair of old shorts. We are made new. We are forgiven. We are redeemed. We are restored.
God told me, “Go and buy yourself some linen shorts. Put them on and keep them on. Don’t even take them off to wash them.” So I bought the shorts as God directed and put them on. Then God told me, “Take the shorts that you bought and go straight to Perath and hide them there in a crack in the rock.” So I did what God told me and hid them at Perath. Next, after quite a long time, God told me, “Go back to Perath and get the linen shorts I told you to hide there.” So I went back to Perath and dug them out of the place where I had hidden them. The shorts by then had rotted and were worthless.
-Jeremiah 13:1-7 [MSG]
We read in Isaiah that the idols are “empty as the wind.” When we think of wind, you don’t see anything there. It’s this movement of air. You can’t see it. The only reason you can tell the air is moving is because you see trees dancing in the wind or lightweight objects like leaves are carried by the strength of the wind. Or perhaps you feel the air blowing on your skin or through your hair.
The Bible says that idols are “foolish, worthless things.” When we think of idols, we often think of the man-made items that the people in biblical times worshiped. We read about different gods they worshiped that were made of wood or other materials and looked like an animal. But man-made idols can be anything that takes the place of God.
Ecclesiastes speaks of chasing the wind. Solomon writes of everything being meaningless. But what does that mean? Is everything meaningless? Is life meaningless? Not at all. Solomon understood that meaning could only be found in God. The idols we have on this earth—for some people it is money, a career, family, a particular person, gambling, etc—are all foolish, worthless things that cannot do a thing for us. With Jesus Christ we find meaning. There is no emptiness; there is only fullness. He satisfies completely. He makes whole. He completes.
“See, they are all foolish, worthless things. All your idols are as empty as the wind.” – Isaiah 41:29 [NLT]
I have seen many people buying gift cards for people just because they felt that they had to do it. They didn’t want to buy the gift cards. Some were very blunt about it. They were doing it because “it’s what you do” or because “the other person was getting them something” which meant to them that they had the “obligation” to do the same in return.
This verse speaks about meaningless gifts. The people were not giving gifts from the heart. The people were simply doing what was part of the ritual. When you think of it, the people were actually worshiping the ritual. It was all about the ritual, all about getting it accomplished. They were that far from God that this ritual was a routine to get done and nothing more.
God doesn’t want meaningless gifts. In fact, God doesn’t need your gifts. He doesn’t need your weekly tithe. He doesn’t need you to help your neighbor shovel. He doesn’t need anything from you. But He wants your heart. He loves you. He doesn’t want you to feel obligated to do something for Him, but if you love Him, you will want to do things for Him. You’ll want to serve, to help, to live your life with open hands. The gifts you present won’t be meaningless—they will be out of love. It will be a sweet aroma to God and He will be pleased. Not because you’re following a routine but because you’re pouring out love.
“Stop bringing me your meaningless gifts; the incense of your offerings disgusts me! As for your celebrations of the new moon and the Sabbath and your special days for fasting–they are all sinful and false. I want no more of your pious meetings.” – Isaiah 1:13 [NLT]
Most people who bake cakes have used the toothpick test. You use a toothpick to make sure the cake is completely finished. If you take out a cake before it finishes baking, it will be worthless. Hosea noted that the people of Israel who were spending time with godless foreigners were “as worthless as a half-baked cake.”
We know why a cake is worthless when it is half-baked. It cannot be eaten. But why were these people of Israel worthless? As they mingled with these foreigners, they started to embrace the godless ways. They started to accept what was unacceptable for God’s chosen people.
God has placed a special calling on your life. Yes YOUR LIFE. You are valuable. You have a purpose. It is important that you do not allow things to keep you from embracing what God has for your life. He has so much for you.
“The people of Israel mingle with godless foreigners, making themselves as worthless as a half-baked cake!” – Hosea 7:8 [NLT]