Idolatry is an issue throughout the Bible not just in Jeremiah, but it is one of the major concerns to which God responded by allowing Babylon to overtake Judah, the Southern Kingdom. The Northern Kingdom of Israel have already fallen to Assyria a couple hundred years earlier for similar reasons.
While some of the kings of Judah led reforms and proper worship of God, most did not.
God was well aware that his children would be susceptible to the temptations of worshipping the idols of foreign gods. He commanded against this right from the start. Read Exodus 20:4-6. Then look at Exodus 23:33.
King Josiah from a young age ordered the clean up of the Temple, which led to finding missing Torah scrolls. As these were read, he instituted several reforms to bring people back in line with God’s commandments which the people had forgotten. Read Jeremiah 2:1-9. One Old Testament image for their relationship with God was husband and wife, not just as individuals but as a nation of God’s people. Now read Jeremiah 2:32 for a contrast regarding their forgetfulness.
Read Jeremiah 2:10-13. A spring of living water is contrasted with a cracked cistern that can’t even hold the collected rainwater. What if people repeatedly went to the cistern instead of a stream or spring fed pool? Wouldn’t the fresh water be better? Spoelstra uses this to talk about fake or counterfeit substitutes for God.
Read Jeremiah 11:1-13.
We also refer to marriage as a covenant. When I officiate a wedding, I see it as a covenant not only between bride and groom but also between them and God. This ties the image of our relationship with God back to the idea of covenant as well. Sadly, many marriage covenants are broken (mine included) as is our covenant with God. One of the life lessons I remember from one of my religion professors is that married couples need to continue “courting” each other. I think he meant not to slip into complacency in a married relationship. God continues to woo us, but we sometimes become lukewarm in our pursuit of God or we make no effort at all.
Questions to ponder on your own:
The people of Judah were practicing idolatry in their worship in various ways. Read Jeremiah 13:27; 19:4-5; 19:13; 32:34.
Read Jeremiah 7:5-34. Spoelstra lays out a chart for this section.
Just as the most even-tempered parent will reach a point when enough is enough, so does God. When we have strayed and frustrated God to that point, even God’s patience will give way to anger.
Read these passages: Jeremiah 8:19; 11:17; 15:14; 17:4; 23:19-20; 25:6; 32:32; 44:3. Notice in each the words related to anger and what the people did that led to such anger.[vi]
Read Jeremiah 6:13-14 and 8:10-11.
[i][i][i] Melissa Spoelstra, Jeremiah: Daring to Hope in an Unstable World, p. 808 (page #s are actually Kindle location #s)
[ii] P. 868
[iii] From Counterfeit Gods, quoted by Spoelstra, p. 952
[iv] P. 1073
[vi] P. 1108
[vii] P. 1207