Queen of heaven

English: Ishtar Gate The reconstruction of the...

“As for the word that you have spoken to us in the name of the Lord, we will not listen to you. But we will do everything that we have vowed, make offerings to the queen of heaven and pour out drink offerings to her, as we did, both we and our fathers, our kings and our officials, in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. For then we had plenty of food, and prospered, and saw no disaster. But since we left off making offerings 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.” Jeremiah 44:16-18

The passage is striking because the people (women in this case) tell Jeremiah they will not listen to him (which means they are refusing to listen to God). This is never a worthy endeavor, but let’s unpack their reasoning. The text refers to a time when they made offerings to the “queen of heaven” and that they had plenty and prospered. But now since they stopped their idolatry, everything had gone south, they were lacking in every way. This is why they say they will not listen. It is worth understanding who the queen of heaven was. According to Merrill Unger in his commentary, the queen of heaven was the Babylonian-Assyrian goddess Ishtar (goddess of the star Venus). The worship of this goddess was to bring fertility and also gave women a superior role. The women would bake cakes that were stamped with the image of the goddess. What is most interesting about Unger’s exposition of this passage is what he says the women thought about the cause of the nation’s problems. He states, “The women had been so blinded by idolatry that they apparently thought Josiah’s reform, which had rooted out the idolatry, was the cause of economic woes and the nation’s downfall.”

So, the people left idolatry to worship God and things got worse. Now because of this, they were stubbornly returning to their idol worship. If you read the rest of the passage you find out what Jeremiah has to say about this and what is going to happen due to their refusal to obey God. However, for us I can’t help but think of our own idols. What have we left behind in pursuit of Christ that we now have stubbornly decided to pick back up? It just didn’t work out, so we choose to go back to the idols we once worshiped. As we pursue Jesus, things do not always get better, sometimes they progressively get worse. So we decide to return to the dead gods of our flesh. We may not have a statue of Venus in our living room, but we do have many “queen” idols rattling around in our soul – counterfeit gods that we once left, but now are returning to because things have not worked out. The greatest god that we worship today is the god of self. If we have chosen to follow Christ, let us not return to self love and self worship. Proverbs 26:11 says, “Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly.” Let us not foolishly return to former thinking just because we are not experiencing the “abundance” we think we deserve. Let us consider another alterative – “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Galatians 5:22-24

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