Those of you from Strasburg Community Church have heard of my new role as primary chef of the Yohn household. With Nancy picking up a second job after school, she doesn’t get home until after six o’clock. So, I’ve adjusted my schedule to start my church day earlier, which allows me to get home in enough time to get dinner ready and start my evening writing. Tonight is French Onion Soup. Nancy has a great recipe that she got from her mom, but I’m going to stray a bit today. I’m going to try an Instant Pot version of French onion, because the Instant Pot is my new best friend.
When I went to the store yesterday to buy all the ingredients, I saw that the recipe emphasized the necessity of buying a high quality beef stock. Since the stock comprises so much of the soup, as goes the stock so goes the soup. As one who typically buys whatever is on sale, that gave me pause. It makes perfect sense. Why would I spend $10 on a wedge of gruyere cheese, only to grate it on a cheap, tasteless soup? Although, now that I think about it, why did I spend $10 on a wedge of gruyere cheese? Oh well, different issue for a different blog post.
I was reading Jeremiah 2 this morning, and I got thinking about recipes. In this chapter, God calls out the Israelites on three ingredients that they were putting into their lives that were leading them down the wrong direction. Initially, they stood out to me just because the word-smithing in this chapter is so great (Jeremiah is one of the best writers in the Old Testament). Then, as I revisited them, I saw a lesson emerge. Bad ingredients make bad soup.
The first set of ingredients the Israelites were putting in were wrong pursuits. “Hear the word of the Lord, O house of Jacob, and all the clans of the house of Israel. 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?” (Jeremiah 2:4-5) If you put nasty ingredients into your soup, you’re going to get nasty soup. There are things that are worthwhile in this life – relationships, sacrifice, love, holiness, mercy. There are things that are worthless in this life – money, immorality, fame, comfort, stuff. If you pursue those things that are worthwhile, you will live a worthwhile life. If you pursue those things that are worthless, your life will be worthless. What is it that you are pursuing? When you look at the way you spend your time or when you consider your future dreams, are they leading to worthwhility or worthlessness?
The second batch of bad ingredients messing up the Israelites’ soup were bad teachings. God said, “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 and went after things that do not profit.” (Jeremiah 2:8) What a beautiful word-picture – the prophecies of profitless prophets. Now, I’ll admit that this verse does benefit from translation into English. However, the original Hebrew still has a very poetic ring to it (if you want to listen to this in Hebrew, click this link and go to 1:18 for the beginning of verse 8; if you listen closely, you’ll be able to pick out the name of God [Adonai] and of Baal [Ba’al] and the last word of the verse “halaku” which sounds like alachu at 1:30). Amir Tsarfati often makes the joke that even though he speaks about prophecy, he is not a prophet. How do we know? He comes from a non-profit organization. The Israelites were going to non-profit prophets. However, most of these prophets were making a hefty financial profit, while their teaching was of no profit to the hearers. Where do you go for your teaching? Make sure that the “prophets” you listen to or read are grounded in God’s word, teaching His truth, and furthering His kingdom and not their own. If you ever have a question about a pastor or teacher or ministry, please come to one of us Pastor Steves and ask. We’ll make sure that your prophets are truly profiting you.
After a few discussions about bad cisterns, wild vines, and camels and donkeys in heat, each designed to throw some savage shade on the Israelites, God presents the final bad ingredient poisoning their soup – bad theology. They were depending on gods who weren’t God. “As a thief is shamed when caught, so the house of Israel shall be shamed: they, their kings, their officials, their priests, and their prophets, who say to a tree, ‘You are my father,’ and to a stone, ‘You gave me birth.’ For they have turned their back to me, and not their face. But in the time of their trouble they say, ‘Arise and save us!’ But where are your gods that you made for yourself? Let them arise, if they can save you, in your time of trouble; for as many as your cities are your gods, O Judah.” (Jeremiah 2:26-28) Ouch! Beautifully harsh!
Theology is the study of God. If you’re following the wrong God, then by definition your theology is out of whack. The Israelites were cutting down trees and using some of the wood for their cooking fires, while fashioning others parts of the tree into idols. They were picking stones up off the ground, and after a little sculpting work with hammer and chisel they were worshipping these rocks. God said, “Fine. When the Babylonians come knocking on the gates of Jerusalem, don’t come begging Me for help. Go to your tree gods and your rock gods – see what they can do. Worse comes to worse, maybe you can chuck them at their heads.”
What God are you following? Is He the true God or a god of your own making? Is He the Creator God you were created to serve? Is He the One who is worthy of being the center of your life – the One that you live to follow? Or is He the go-to genie for when things go wrong or for when you want something really bad? Is He the nice companion to have around – the One who gives you a nice aura of respectability and gives you access to a pleasant group of church friends – as long as He stays in His place and doesn’t go meddling in those areas where He’s not welcome?
The Lord is our beef stock (sounds like the beginning of a really bad Psalm). When we have Him as the key ingredient in our lives, the soup is sure to taste good. Then, when we spice it up by filling our lives with pursuits and teaching that truly matter, we will have a life that is worthwhile – a life lived the way God intended for it to be lived, doing the things He’s called us to do. In fact, that kind of life might even be $10 wedge of cheese worthy (which, now that I think about it, is a wholly subjective comparison, since for me a $10 wedge of cheese is crazy extravagant while someone from various cheese-loving parts of Europe may turn up their snooty little noses at such a pedestrian gruyere, choosing instead to only partake of those cheeses which were aged in oak barrels that previously held 100-year-old port, and which are cut from cheese-wheels that are daily wafted with a light essence derived from winter black truffles; which would mean for those snooty Euros, whom God still somehow loves as His own, my whole point would be twisted, making a life centered around God seem like something that only a common dirty American pig-dog like myself would partake in; so, that being the case, please feel free contextualize my entire illustration depending on your level of cheese-appreciation – thank you).