Confusing Mercy With Acceptance
In Jeremiah chapter 44 we have an interesting development. The people of Judah begin to tell Jeremiah that things were better for them when they were offering incense and worship to idols. They say they are going to continue to do that because when they did that they had plenty to eat and things were better. They refuse to listen to Jeremiah who tells them to stop doing these things. You can read their words here: 15 Then all the men who knew that their wives had burned incense to other gods, with all the women who stood by, a great multitude, and all the people who dwelt in the land of Egypt, in Pathros, answered Jeremiah, saying: 16 “As for the word that you have spoken to us in the name of the Lord, we will not listen to you! 17 But we will certainly do whatever has gone out of our own mouth, to burn incense to the queen of heaven and pour out drink offerings to her, as we have done, we and our fathers, our kings and our princes, in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. For then we had plenty of food, were well-off, and saw no trouble. 18 But since we stopped burning incense to the queen of heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, we have lacked everything and have been consumed by the sword and by famine.”
What was going on? While they were burning incense to the queen of heaven, God was being merciful. He promised judgment but held it off. Then they stopped burning the incense and offering false worship (but it seems that their hearts were still inclined to do so) and God’s judgment fell on them anyway. So they conclude that God’s mercy was actually acceptance. Or, that the queen of heaven and other gods were stronger than the true God. Sometimes God delays His judgment but we cannot assume that this delay means God is not displeased with our actions. God did not immediately turn them over to judgment while they were disobedient. He was gracious. He was merciful; but they abused that grace and then suffered. But they mistook mercy for acceptance. This is an easy thing to do when we start evaluating right and wrong solely on consequences. We are far better served by evaluating what is right and wrong based on what God’s word says.