But ever since we stopped burning incense to the Queen of Heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, we have had nothing and have been perishing by sword and famine. Jeremiah 44:18

King Josiah was a good king who destroyed a lot of idols and encouraged Yahweh worship. However, Josiah was killed by the Egyptians when he was relatively young. From then on there had been war, invasions, occupations and assassinations. People concluded that returning to Yahweh in Josiah’s day had been a backward step for Judah.

Looking at these basic historical facts we may conclude the same. Yet when we look more deeply into the situation we realised that the people only returned to God “in pretense” (Jeremiah 3:10). They worshipped God as a ritual as if he was just like one of the idols they’d previously worshipped. They hadn’t recognised his deeds in rescuing them from Egypt or giving them their own land. They hadn’t committed to understanding his ways or be in covenant relationship with him. They ignored all their history and wanted to worship the god who would most meet their needs.

How easy it is for us to do the same. We attend church and go through the routines, maybe we even do charitable work. But our real motive is to gain favour with God so that he protects us from tragedies and blesses us according to our own desires. How prepared are we to commit to being in a long-term relationship with God, when there’s no guarantee of a comfortable life?

If God wanted people who would perform for him, he would have created robots or puppets. Worshipping God out of ritual or duty is futile. What God desires is people who willingly choose to be in relationship with him.