“For if you thoroughly amend your ways and your doings, if you thoroughly execute judgment between a man and his neighbor, if you do not oppress the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place, or walk after other gods to your hurt, then I will cause you to dwell in this place, the land that I gave to your fathers forever and ever. (Jeremiah 7:5-7)
One of my coworkers has become a master flower gardener. She has a bevy of beautiful and interesting flower beds laid out all over her property. Pots of eye-catching color line the walk and steps leading up to the porch. She has put a great deal of work, love, imagination, and dedication into creating and maintaining these comely landscapes.
Way over on the other side of the flower cultivation spectrum is yours truly.
I love flowers as well, but my expertise has only expressed itself in nurturing weeds and brown stems where pleasant blossoms should be. When I lament my utter failure, my coworker keeps telling me, “You need to amend your soil!” And I always respond, “I need to…what…my soil?” Of course I know she is telling me I must feed my soil, break it up, let it breathe, make it healthy. But truth be told, I really do not want to put the time and effort into my gardening. And again, truth be told, I’m content to just pretty much go through the motions.
That is what Judah was doing during the time of Jeremiah. They ignored doing justly for the less fortunate and committed all kinds of immorality (vs. 8-11). They only proved faithful to other gods and embraced any lie that assured them they were fine. Then they would actually show up at the house of the Lord to worship Him. God told them through Jeremiah that He would not hear their prayers and His anger and fury would soon be poured out on the place. (vs. 12-20) The remainder of chapter 7 continues the verbal spanking for the empty religion that dominated the land.
The Lord God told Israel the land given to their fathers and the promises made to their fathers were in their hands. But, they needed to change the whole direction in which they were going and doing. And going through the motions would not cut it – weeds and brown stems were not acceptable. They must make the soil of their lives healthy. As my coworker tells me, “You need to amend your soil!” Israel then, and we today, need to amend our ways and our doings.