“The sin of Judah is written down with an iron stylus;
With a diamond point it is engraved upon the tablet of their heart
And on the horns of their altars,
As they remember their children,
So they remember their altars and their Asherim
By green trees on the high hills.
O mountain of Mine in the countryside,
I will give over your wealth and all your treasures for booty,
Your high places for sin throughout your borders.
And you will, even of yourself, let go of your inheritance
That I gave you;
And I will make you serve your enemies
In the land which you do not know;
For you have kindled a fire in My anger
Which will burn forever.”
We’ve all been at points in our life at which, wherever we turn, something reminds us of sins past and present. Fortunately, when my previous relationship ended, my ex had transferred to another school. It was much easier to heal and deal with the past when she was not chillin’ with my friends or sitting at my table in the cafeteria or the library.
The people of Judah had sinned in the most horrific of ways: not only leaving the covenant with YHWH, but worshiping other gods by child-sacrifice. Rather than worshiping YHWH on the mountain of the temple cult, they worshiped Ba’al and his consorts, the Ashterot, on hills, under trees, in the valleys.
In this passage, the punishment promised Judah is that they will be plundered and taken into exile. This does not seem to reflect YHWH’s grace, does it? However, when we consider this passage, we remember three truths. First, YHWH takes sin seriously–he cannot let it go unpunished. Second, to do so would be to leave us wallowing in our own filth. YHWH chastened his people to drive them back to himself. Third, the prophet here appears to be speaking hyperbolically, since he promises restoration elsewhere (see 16:14-15; 31:31ff.).
If I had not been part of a selfish, destructive, manipulative relationship, I myself would have transferred, as was my original plan, so I wouldn’t have been part of a wonderful, YHWH-glorifying marriage. Or maybe she would have found me anyway. Who knows….