The Letter of Jeremiah, or the Epistle of Jeremiah, is a note of encouragement written by Jeremiah and sent to the exiles living in Babylon. The theme of the letter reminds the Jews in Babylon to avoid idols and idol worship.
A short one-chapter book, the Letter of Jeremiah, is comparable to, but different then, Jeremiah’s letter recorded in Jeremiah 29. Also, we see some similar language in Jeremiah 10:2-15.
Some versions of the Bible include the Letter of Jeremiah as an addendum to the book of Baruch, in Baruch 6. This includes the original Authorized King James Version (KJV), The New Jerusalem Bible, New American Bible (NAB), Good News Translation (GNT) and Douay-Rheims (DRA). Though Baruch did not write the letter, he may have preserved it and added it to his other writings. This is understandable, since Baruch was the scribe who helped Jeremiah record the prophet’s writings for the book of Jeremiah.
The Letter of Jeremiah is an Apocrypha book and not included in all versions of the Bible. The Common English Bible (CEB), Revised Standard Version (RSV), and Wycliffe Bible (WYC) all include the Letter of Jeremiah. The Eastern Orthodox and Ethiopian Churches have the Letter of Jeremiah in their scriptures.
Worship is an act of displaying devotion, paying homage, or offering reverence to God.
True worship is not meaningless ritual or a mindless, mechanical act but instead a heart-felt love and adoration to God, which is manifested in actions, be it by prayer, song, meditation, acts of service, and even through a lifestyle that honors him.
This may be best captured in John 4:23-24 which says we are to worship God in spirit and in truth.
The prophet Amos had some condemning words for the people of Israel. Through Amos, God unleashed a lament against his chosen people. He says he despises their religious festivals, and their assemblies are a stench to him. Yeah, I get that. Those people sure rebelled against God; they deserved his stern rebuke. They went through the motions of worship but forgot to focus on why; to their shame they didn’t really understand who God is.
Yet, I wonder if those words also apply to us today. Does God also despise our efforts at church? Are our gatherings a stench to him?
God continues his stinging reproach. He calls their songs noise and refuses to listen to their music. Does God think the same way about our worship music today? Does our preoccupation with music style, instrument selection, volume level, worship team, and pursuit of excellence repeal God? I hope not, but I fear it might be so.
A couple chapters later God says what he will do. He will turn their religious celebrations into mourning; he will change their singing into tears.
Sometimes (too often) I sit in church and want to cry, at least on the inside. I thought this was because I was bored and disconnected, but now I wonder if maybe God isn’t revealing a bit of his heart to me.
I fear there is more to worshiping God, so much more, but we largely miss it.
The Bible says we are to fear God. But what does that really mean?
I don’t think it implies God is malevolent or waiting for us to mess up so he can zap us, which would be legitimate reasons to fear him. Instead, God is benevolent and wants good things for us; there is no reason to fear him for that.
Some translations render fear as “worship” or “revere.” That helps some. We are to worship God and to revere him. I can do that. And although I have a healthy respect for his power, it’s not one the produces fear. That’s a good thing, isn’t it?
Perhaps a hint of understanding is that of the 13 times the phrase occurs in the Bible, most are in the Old Testament.
I will post more on this next time.
Until then, do you fear God? What does that mean to you?
A common practice in the United States (and perhaps globally) is to take parts from different religions and philosophies, mashing them together to form a personal belief system. Doing so is extremely consumer-centric: keep the parts you like and ditch the rest; keep what is comfortable and jettison everything that make you squirm.
Making up a belief system in that manner is really little more than deciding to believe in yourself; of making God in your image, to be who you want and need him to be for your own satisfaction and comfort.
It may seem like a good approach, but it’s not. The God who is revealed in the Bible doesn’t like it when people mix religious thoughts and practices. In fact, he has some harsh criticism for them, which he shared with the prophet Zephaniah.
Speaking through the prophet, God declares his judgment against those who mix the worship of him, with the worship of stars and the worship of others gods. Mixing and matching doesn’t work in God’s book.
He is not content to have our partial attention. He is jealous of our affections and wants it completely. We must give ourselves fully to him.
Do you worship your work? Of course you would say “no.” But consider that what you make sacrifices for is that which is important to you. Do you make sacrifices for work? Do you sacrifice family time to complete work projects? Do you sacrifice personal health and well-being to climb the corporate ladder? Do you sacrifice relationships or needed rest to earn a promotion or get a raise? If so, then perhaps you worship your work; perhaps you have elevated your vocation to the status of god.
Consider what Habakkuk had to say on the subject:
“Therefore he sacrifices to his net
and burns incense to his dragnet,
for by his net he lives in luxury
and enjoys the choicest food.”
Worshiping work sounds quite ridiculous when viewed this way, but is it any different from the types of sacrifices people make for their jobs today?