Jeremiah 44: 3 (KJV)
3Because of their wickedness which they have committed to provoke me to anger, in that they went to burn incense, and to serve other gods, whom they knew not, neither they, ye, nor your fathers.
This chapter contains a sermon of Jeremiah’s to the Jews in Egypt, reproving them for their idolatry there; their answer to it, expressing their resolution to continue in their idolatrous practices; and a denunciation of judgments upon them, of which a sign is given. The sermon begins with observing to them the destruction of Jerusalem, and the causes of it, idolatry and contempt of the prophets. The cause of this desolation was the wickedness they were guilty of; whereby they provoked the anger of God to bring this destruction on them. Sin is always provoking unto God; and though it may not be done on purpose to provoke him, which it sometimes seems to be; yet it eventually does and is always the cause of punishment. God never punishes man without a cause, or for anything but sin. The particular wickedness they were guilty of, and which was the cause of their ruin, was burning incense to idols, and worshipping them, than which nothing is more provoking to God and it was an aggravation of their sin, that they were gods.
He refers to the sins by which the Jews had provoked the wrath of God; for the people whom Jeremiah addressed had relapsed into those superstitions which had been the cause of their ruin. Had the Prophet spoken generally and said, that it was strange that the Jews had forgotten the punishment which had been inflicted by God on the whole nation, his doctrine would not have been so impressive. But when he now points out as by the finger how they had procured for themselves such calamities, he presses and urges them more forcibly to acknowledge their madness, because they thus continually provoked God, and sinned not through ignorance, but offended him by the same sins for which yet they had suffered punishment so grievous and dreadful. This is the reason why the Prophet says, For the evil which they did to provoke me, even to go, he says, to offer incense and to serve alien gods. To go here intimates the care and diligence they exercised in false worship. God had shewn to the Jews a certain way in his Law which they ought to have followed: had they then continued in the doctrine of the Law, they would have kept in the right way, and gone forward to the right end. But they are said to go, because they disregarded the Law and went here and there, as those who wander at random, and know not where they are going. There is then to be understood a contrast between going and remaining under the teaching of the Law. To go, in short, is to weary one’s self by an erratic course, when the word of God is neglected, and the way which it points out is forsaken. This is one thing.
As Henry pointed out, “If you love God, do not, for it is provoking to him; if you love your own souls, do not, for it is destructive to them. Let conscience do this for us in the hour of temptation.”
The Jews whom God sent into the land of the Chaldeans, were there, by the power of God’s grace, weaned from idolatry; but those who went by their own perverse will into the land of the Egyptians, were there more attached than ever to their idolatries. When we thrust ourselves without cause or call into places of temptation, it is just with God to leave us to ourselves. Let this be a lesson for us that if we walk contrary to God, He will walk contrary to us. The most awful miseries to which men are exposed, are occasioned by the neglect of offered salvation.
Have a great and God filled day!