“Today you repented and did what pleased Me, each of you proclaiming freedom for his neighbor. You made a covenant before Me at the temple called by My name. But you have changed your minds and profaned My name. Each has taken back his male and female slaves who had been freed to go wherever they wanted, and you have again subjugated them to be your slaves” (Jeremiah 34:15-16).
We sometimes think that God takes more seriously the sins we commit against Him than those we commit against others. It’s not that we think we should sin against others, but we tend to allow ourselves a bit more freedom and grace for these sins. What does the Bible say about this?
The prophet Jeremiah announced to the leaders and people of Judah that God would judge them, with the destruction of Jerusalem and the kingdom, because they broke the covenant that they established to honor the year of release (in Hebrew the shmittah). The law of the shmittah required that every seventh year everyone set free his Hebrew slaves, both male and female, and settle all debts.
The people of Judah made a covenant to honor this commandment of God, but then they went back on it. After setting the slaves free, they forced them into slavery again. And God was furious.
Jeremiah declared that God had been pleased with the initial action of the people because their fathers had ignored the shmittah, but now, by turning back, they actually profaned God’s name.
Do we recognize that the way we treat those around us may profane the name of God? God’s name is at stake in how we choose to behave in our relationships with others.
As a result of their action, God proclaimed destruction to the leaders and people of Judah by the sword, pestilence, and famine—making them a horror to all the earth. He would fill their land with their dead carcasses, and the city of Jerusalem and Judah would be destroyed because they violated the shmittah by sinning against their fellow human.
The Bible clearly demonstrates that God takes very seriously our treatment and behavior toward others, and that violating those relationships carries divine consequences. The way we treat others can profane God’s name and arouse His anger.
We often look at the brokenness within our world today, and we want to blame it on others, especially those we deem godless. Some of us may even long for God’s justice and vengeance against them.
But do we recognize His anger at how we treat others? Do we see that perhaps some of the devastation in our world comes as a result of us not following His commands about human relationships? Perhaps it’s our actions toward others that is the source of His name being profaned in our world.
Father, forgive us for not taking as seriously as You do our behavior toward those around us. Lord, we acknowledge that we cannot truly love You and serve You if we do not love and care for those around us. Help us to love and serve people as You do. Amen.