The Folly of Self-Seeking

“My people have changed their glory” (Jer. 2:llb)

In last week’s lesson from Jeremiah, the prophet’s call is set forth. Though Jeremiah initially protested that he was unskilled and too young to serve, the Lord assured him that he would be empowered and protected, and Jeremiah accepted the call. In today ‘s lesson, Jeremiah begins his public ministry with a ringing denunciation of the nation’s leaders who have led the people astray. “The priests did not say, ‘Where is the Lord?’ Those who handle the law did not know me; the shepherds transgressed against me; the prophets prophesied by Baal” (Jer. 2:8).

This early prophecy of one who had considered himself unsuitable for the work of a prophet declares that the apostasy of the nation through the waywardness of its leaders is not only appalling to God himself and unprecedented even among pagan nations, but outright egregiously foolish. The message is clear: to abandon God for falsehood is not only wrong, it is shockingly stupid. “My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water” (2:13). Even more than that, it is the very leaders of the nation who have brought the people to this abysmal situation: the priests, lawyers, rulers, and the prophets.

Even this does not sufficiently describe the outrage, for the leaders have done this immediately after God had delivered them from slavery, brought them through the desert, and given them “a plentiful land to enjoy its fruits and its good things” (2:7a).

The psalm connected with this lesson reveals God’s response to this folly: “I gave them over to their stubborn hearts” (Psalm 81:12a); yet he still holds out the promise of rescue: “O that my people would listen to me . . . Then I would quickly subdue their enemies … I would feed you with the finest of the wheat” (81:13a, 14a, 16a). Though more subtly, the other lessons appointed for today carry out the same theme. The lessons from Sirach, Proverbs, and the Gospel of Luke all set forth the sin of pride through self-seeking that brings about disharmony in all relationships and eventual disruption and humiliation. Throughout all the lessons, the message is that dedicating oneself to the principle of “Me first!” over the common good and the revealed will of God leads to disaster in every aspect of life. The triumphant answer is given in Psalm 112: “Happy are those who fear the Lord … they will be remembered forever. They are not afraid of evil tidings; their hearts are firm, secure in the Lord” (112:la, 6b-7).

Look It Up

Reflect on Jesus’ words in Matt. 16:24-25.

Think About It

When have you made a significant sacrifice in your life and found it to be a tremendous blessing? Did you miss whatever it was that you left behind? Did you regret the choice?


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