The children gather wood, the fathers light the fire, and the women knead the dough and make cakes of bread for the Queen of Heaven. They pour out drink offerings to other gods to provoke me to anger.
Human beings seem to gravitate toward deification.
Often deification of ourselves.
When the Israelites were deep in the wilderness on their way to the promised land, they dealt with the stress of their escape and the absence of Moses by creating a community project, one that involved artistry, sacrificial giving and a focus of commonwealth.
Which resulted in the unfortunate sculpting of a golden idol cast in the form of a calf and a subsequent worship of that rendered object.
And it seems to me that we women have our idol worship as well, unique to our gender, unique to the stresses we face.
The Hebrew women adopted into their liturgy the worship of a female mythological character called the Queen of Heaven. This pseudo-deity was the amalgam of female goddesses of their pagan neighbors, under the names of Asherah, Astarte and Ishtar. She was known as the consort of Baal and to the human mind, seemed to embody the mysterious feminine aspects of the spiritual that no male god could possess.
The husbands of the Hebrew women initially tolerated this worship as a 'girly' thing that would seemingly do no harm. And over the course of the years, the celebration of the Queen of Heaven would become central to the traditions surrounding harvest time.
And it all was a pageant declaring that God alone was not enough for the needs and seasons.
The prophet Jeremiah warns the people that their adherence to this practice will lead to their enslavement. The people knock off from their practices for a bit, but then retort that as long as they made sacrifices to the Queen of Heaven, their crops produced more and they saw more increase. And the Hebrew women return to their idol.
We sometimes talk of 'modern' idols in our lives, the television set, money, materialism. And these do emerge as focuses of our daily devotion. But we women also have our little shrines in the heart, those places where we think our gender deserves a special devotion, a unique need only other women can understand.
We caress the idea that women have a higher intelligence in practical matters, that men operate out of brute and power. We sprinkle offerings at the altar of self-pity, with chants of how tough it is to be a woman. We bristle at any sniff of some man trying to control us. We offer crumbs of our hopes at the icon of 'If-Then'...'if' this situation will occur, 'then' we will walk in happiness. We smooth unguents over the results of sulking behavior, blaming hormones and circumstances for our lack of emotional discipline. And we do it all in the name of Womanhood, taking up a mantle of chromosomes as justification for sin areas in our lives that are difficult to prune and bend to the discipline of the spirit.
But when we read of the fruit that is to be evident in our lives through the Holy Spirit, it is fruit that is not predicated on our specific gender. We are all created in the image of God, all of us. Whether male or female, we represent unique and specific aspects of the character of our Creator. We are to walk in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, no matter the arrangement of our DNA. It is the ultimate leveling, the complete culmination of women's rights, to be able to traffic in the same quality and character as the Creator of the universe, the One who is Light. While we can and should rejoice in the unique way we are knit together as women, our devotion belongs alone to Jehovah. And in that sole worship, we acknowledge that Jehovah is the I Am, the One who is complete and in whom we are completed.
May we tear down those high places and shrines that keep us from this truth.