The words of that judgment were spoken to Jeremiah in about 630 B.C. A few hundred years later, God mercifully restored His people: “Ezra praised the LORD, the Great God; and all the people lifted up their hands and responded, ‘Amen! Amen!’ Then they bowed down and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground.” Nehemiah 8:6 (about 435 B.C.)

Jeremiah and Ezra prophesied two hundred years apart, with contrasting results! For forty years Jeremiah admonished God’s people to clean up their act and worship God alone. They ignored him, rejected him, imprisoned him. Finally, God’s message came heavily: northern kingdoms would be ‘poured out’ upon Israel, Jerusalem burned, and foreign kings established on home soil. God was tired of his chosen ones exalting carved idols made of their hands rather than Him. Many were exiled to Babylon.

Two centuries later, Ezra’s right-hand man Nehemiah learned of Jerusalem’s demise, its ruined walls, and its need for a ruler. In short order, he arrived, organized, and inspired the remnant to rebuild the city. He also convinced them to listen to Ezra. Ezra brought out the forgotten Book of the Law and read it publicly. Hearts were broken and listeners wept because the message encouraged and convicted. But their response indicated that spirits had been warmed and consciences cleared. They raised open, empty hands in praise, and bowed in reverence.

Like those in Jeremiah’s day, we often worship things of our hands — skills, careers, or accomplishments. Like the idolatry of old we carve out comfortable ways of living so God becomes unnecessary, perhaps even a bother. And we allow powerful people to reign supreme in our soul.

What will it take for us to be convinced and convicted that only God is worthy of our praise? Freedom from idols comes from immersing ourselves in his Word, listening to his Voice, walking in his Creation, and marveling at his Works. Like people returning from exile it may take walls to protect us from outside forces, so we have time to sit and soak in Him. When Jesus becomes our ultimate treasure, every area of life can become a means of worshiping God.

Dear God, Creator of all, rule in my life. I acknowledge you as LORD of everything you created, including me. Keep me from valuing the work of my hands more than hands lifted up to you in adoration. Amen.

Go deeper — Right now, before you go about your day, tell God how good and great He is. Raise your hands as you do.

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Tags: worship Jeremiah 1 Nehemiah 8