Chapter seven is full of heat.
“They are all adulterers, like an oven heated by the baker who ceases to stir up the fire. On the day of our king, the princes become sick with the heat of wine; He stretched out his hand with scoffers, for their hearts are like an oven as they approach their plotting; their anger smolders all night, in the morning it burns like a flaming fire. All of them are hot like an oven, and they consume their rulers; all their kinds have fallen. None of them calls on Me. Ephraim mixes himself with the nations; Ephraim has become a cake not turned.” (7:4-8)
I have to change gears in my head a little here, because I’m still in Jeremiah, imagining Jerusalem burning down as they’re dragged off into exile. However, this book was written decades before the exile of Judah. In fact, it takes place up in the Northern Kingdom of Israel during the reign of Jeroboam II (786-746 BC). It’s a totally different, yet painfully familiar situation.
The Northern Kings never followed the LORD. They worshiped the calf of Samaria (8:6) which Jeroboam I set up when the kingdoms split, in order to deter his people from traveling to Jerusalem for worship (1 Kings 12:26-30). “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem; behold your gods, O Israel, that brought you up from the land of Egypt.” (1 Kings 12:28). Things really just got worse from there. They never recovered.
So what is being communicated with all these heated words? This chapter is surrounded by assertions that the LORD is less interested in their sacrificial work, and more interested in their obedience (6:6; 8:13). Instead of following after Him in truth, they are needlessly setting themselves on fire. They may kick and scream and protest, but they are truly their own worst enemies. They’re a cake that’s burnt because no one bothered to turn.
What are our calves of Samaria? What idols of religiosity have we erected in order to cut down on travel time, ie. doing the work to get to know the One True God? How have the consequences of those choices started to burn us?
So often we cry out that trails are judgement of the LORD, but He’s saying, I haven’t even touched you yet. These are just your own natural consequences singeing your toes. He still remains in the posture of a husband, paying to take you back after you’ve whored yourself out to some abusive relationship.
Ask the LORD, today: what are the fires you lit that are starting to burn? Are you ready to exchange them for obedience and true worship?