But since we left off to burn incense to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her, we have wanted all things, and have been consumed by the sword and by the famine. Jeremiah 44:18
It is the simplest of errors to attribute our circumstances to the wrong causes. We do this all the time and without fail it is motivated by dissatisfaction and unbelief in the Lord God. We fall on hard financial times and rather than praise Him for past provisions and trust Him to provide once more, we conclude that we should consult a financial guru, open a new line of credit, or sign up for government welfare. We face sickness or malady and rather than rejoice in our sufferings, we debate over whether we sinned or our parents sinned that this illness has come (John 9:2-3).
In this text, the Jews, fearing Nebuchadnezer, have disobeyed and fled to Egypt (Jer. 42:7-43:7); then they begin disputing with Jeremiah and pointing out how things were pretty swell when they were offering incense to the Queen of Heaven, and since they left off that well-respected practice, suddenly bad things have begun to happen. Rather than seeing that the judgment was the result of their unrepentant attitude (doing the right thing with the wrong motives), and that the blessings they were enjoying even while in stark rebellion to God was a profound mercy.
The good was God’s mercy, the evil was God’s chastisement, and the believing heart knows how to see God in both. The unbelieving heart ascribes the causes in the exact opposite. A modern iteration of this is the thinking that the church is losing her reputation because we aren’t being inclusive enough, and kissing the toe-ring of secularism. We are falling on hard times, these advocates say, because we aren’t relevant, accepting and tolerant to the culture.
As usual, the Jews error, like ours, is failing to acknowledge that God is sovereign and God is loving and God is just. He loves us enough to freely bless us and to wisely chastise us. We should repent of ascribing both the blessings we enjoy and the sorrows we endure to anything other than God. Otherwise, we will be enveloped in the hazy cloud of incense to the Queen of Heaven. She is in fact impotent, and does not give life, she only takes it. Thus, repent of unbelief and idolatry, and thank God for the good and the bad, since all that He is working is for our good and His glory.