THE TEMPLE SERMON
The Location of the Sermon
God instructed Jeremiah to stand at the gate of the Temple (the Lord’s house) to deliver this sermon. The reason is that the temple is the center of Jewish worship. But it had also become a talisman of sorts, for the Jews believed God would not destroy Jerusalem and allow his temple to be destroyed. So, the Lord emphasizes his point by having Jeremiah preach from there.
The heart of the message is that repentance, not the temple, is all that will save them from the Lord’s wrath. They are to reform (NIV) or amend (ESV) their ways. The Lord used the if\then conditional language. In verse 6, he says if they quit doing the list of wrong things, then in verse 7 he would let them live in their land.
Note in verse 7 that he acknowledges he gave the land to the Israelites forever. But the promised is conditioned on obedience. That is clearly set out in the blessings and curses of the covenant. The Israelites are only entitled to live in the land when they obey the covenant. That is one reason why I do not believe the current nation of Israel is the descendant of Biblical Israel, entitled by God to live in the land.
Other priests and prophets told the people the temple would protect them. This may come from God’s miraculous delivery of Jerusalem from the Assyrians during Hezekiah’s reign. But, here, the people are not living in obedience as they were then. So, the Lord told them not to believe such deceptive words (4) or to chant “the temple of the Lord” as if it would protect them.
What did God want them to stop doing? Here is a list:
1. oppressing the alien or sojourner (6)
2. oppressing orphans
3. oppressing widows
4. stealing (9)
7. committing perjury
8. worshipping other gods (6, 9)
God was saying “do not think you can do these detestable (NIV) or abominable (ESV) things, then come into my house and say it will protect you. This is to make his house a “den of robbers”, a place where robbers feel safe.
You have probably heard the phrase “den of robbers” applied to the temple. It was Jesus who did so. In Matthew 21:12-13, Jesus confronted the money changers and sellers of doves in the temple. The money changers changed whatever currency travelers had into the coin required for the temple tax. The dove sellers sold doves to those who traveled and could not bring an animal over the distance for a sacrifice. Both were making a profit on the requirements of worship. Plus, they were taking the court of the Gentiles away for this commerce, and it was the only place Gentiles could come to in the temple.
Jesus said, instead of a place of commerce, the temple should be a place of prayer. This was a reference to Isaiah 56:7 where God said “my house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations”. For all nations to come at that time would require their access to the court of the gentiles to be unhindered.
Two Examples From History
God said, if you do not think I will do this, remember your own history. Remember what I did at Shiloh.
Shiloh was where the tabernacle was put after the Israelites moved into Canaan. (Joshua 18:1) But the complex surrounding it and possibly the town itself were destroyed if not the tabernacle itself. This probably happened along with the events of 1 Samuel 4, when the Philistines defeated Israel and captured the Ark during the time Eli was chief priest.
Asaph mentioned God’s abandonment of His dwelling place at Shiloh in
Psalm 78:58–60: For they provoked Him with their high places, and aroused His jealousy with their graven images. When God heard, He was filled with wrath, and He greatly abhorred Israel, so that He abandoned the dwelling place at Shiloh, the Tent which He had pitched among men.
This should have affirmed to the Jews that the temple would not protect them in Jeremiah’s time. It should also have warned the Jews in Jesus’ time that destruction was coming as it had during Jeremiah’s time.
The second example is the exile of the northern 10 tribes. The short hand for them is “Ephraim” in verse 15. God said, as I sent them out of the land I will do the same to you. Ironically, Shiloh was located in the tribal allotment of Ephraim. Again he used the language of thrusting or casting them out of his sight or presence. This is what he did when Adam sinned and when Israel sinned.
Do Not Pray For These Idolaters
God told Jeremiah not to intercede for Judah. He would not listen to it. Since he just called them to repentance, this does not mean that he has given up on them completely. But he will not relent from his wrath because the prophet intervenes, as he did with Moses. Instead, he will only relent if the nation repents.
The reason is the rampant idolatry. They did it openly, in the streets of Jerusalem itself (17). That is where the temple was they thought would protect them. The children, the fathers and the mothers all participated in pagan worship. The Queen of Heaven is probably Ishtar, an important Babylonian goddess.
Because of this, the Lord said he would pour out his wrath on the people, the land and the animals. (20) All of creation is affected by man’s sin. When Adam sinned, God cursed the ground. (Genesis 3:17-18). This is what we call Original Sin. It was passed on to all men according to Romans 5:12-13 as evidenced by the fact that we all die. Romans 8:22 says that the whole creation groans under the weight of the curse of sin until redemption comes.