But this people has a stubborn and rebellious heart;
they have turned aside and gone away.
They do not say in their hearts,
‘Let us fear the LORD our God,
who gives the rain in its season,
the autumn rain and the spring rain,
and keeps for us
the weeks appointed for the harvest;
Your iniquities have turned these away and
your sins have kept good from you.
(Jeremiah 5:23-25 ESV)
I particularly like this passage from Jeremiah. The passage implies that God desires to bless His people if only they would turn to Him and trust in Him, but the problem is that the people turn their backs to Him and chase after idols. They may give lip service to God, but functionally speaking, they make their idols to be greater than God.
In the original context of this passage, the people of Israel worshiped Baal, and attributed to him the ability to give rain, which was very important for an agricultural society such as Israel. But Yahweh is the one who actually gives the rain and provides for those who trust in Him. This observation highlights the fact that one issue with idolatry is that it gives credit to the wrong object. The true object of our worship should be our God.
God has been graciously providing for His people, but as they continue to stray away from Him, they do so to their own harm. The phrase, “your sins have kept good from you,” implies that God aims to bless His people and greatly desires their well-being, but His people walk away from the good He aims to give.
In fact, the phrase might also be applied to the situation with our original parents, Adam and Eve. They had a glorious garden with its many fruits to enjoy and God Himself to enjoy a relationship with, but in their rebellion against Him, they forfeited these blessings. The sin that they thought would satisfy them pales greatly in comparison to the good that they forfeited.
The two episodes should cause us to reflect on our own relationship with God. Some things never change: whether from Adam and Eve to ancient Israel to our current generation, we often forfeit our eternal pleasures for lesser joys.
Sometimes I hear people describe God as someone who is eager to punish. As soon as He finds something wrong with us, He will punish accordingly. However, this passage turns that perspective on its head. God is revealed to be someone who is more eager to bless than to punish. He is actively looking for people who will come to Him in trust, faithfulness, and obedience that He might bless them with good, and the ultimate good He can give us is Himself.