THE TEMPLE SERMON PART 2
The passage from Jeremiah 7:1 to 8:3 is called the Temple Sermon because the Lord told Jeremiah to stand at the gate of the Temple and deliver the sermon.
We discussed the first 20 verses in Part 1, so we will begin in verse 21 in this lesson. God is speaking to Jeremiah in this passage.
This passage shows us that the Israelites were still presenting their offerings to God despite their idolatry. They added the worship of other gods to their worship of the one true God.
The Lord said for the Israelites to eat their own burnt offerings. The rules for the burnt offering were set out in Leviticus 1 and 6. The worshipper was to bring an animal from the herd or flock (so cow or sheep). It had to be a male without blemish. This was, therefore, the most expensive offering.
The ritual required the man to bring the animal to the entrance of the tent of meeting (this was before the Temple was built and the portable Tabernacle, or Tent of Meeting, was used). He laid his hand on the head of the animal then killed it. When this was done, it made atonement for him. The priests would butcher the animal, throw the blood against the sides of the altar and burn the animal on the altar. (Leviticus 1:1-9) It was to be completely consumed by the fire, which took all night. (Leviticus 6:8-9) Then the priest changed out of his holy garments and took the ashes outside the camp. (Leviticus 6:10-11)
This was a picture of blood of a perfect male being shed for the atonement of sins. When the man placed his hand on the head of the animal, it signified his sin being transferred to the animal. The animal then died, shedding his blood for sin. Then the sacrifice sent a pleasing aroma to the Lord, who would be pleased. This is a picture of Christ’s atonement for us. Our sin was placed on him, he was killed and presented himself to God as the pleasing sacrifice. Hebrews 9:11explains this to us.
So, why did God tell them to eat their sacrifice rather than burn it? It was because the Israelites observed the ritual without a heart of repentance and obedience. Therefore, they might as well eat it. God did not want it and did not accept it.
Hosea 6:6 says “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.” This is a manner of speaking in the Hebrew language. God did desire offerings or he would not have commanded them. But the statement is made to emphasize that God does not want offerings or sacrifices without the heart of worship. That is not acceptable worship. Saul did the same thing. He disobeyed God by not destroying all the Amalekites and their property and tried to justify it by saying he took a lot of cattle to sacrifice to the Lord. (1 Samuel 15). Samuel told him:
Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
As much as in obeying the voice of the Lord?
To obey is better than sacrifice,
And to heed is better than the fat of rams.
For rebellion is like the sin of divination
And arrogance like the evil of idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
He has rejected you as king. (1 Samuel 15:22-23)
God demanded complete obedience to him and his covenant before he set out the sacrificial system. So obedience is more important.
It is also not acceptable worship for a Christian to come to church and sit in a pew and go through the motions without really worshipping God.
This is a big point of engagement between Jesus and the Pharisees centuries later. They had many rules, but their heart was not in it. See for example Matthew 23:23, where Jesus condemned them for tithing their herbs but neglecting the weightier matters of justice, mercy and faithfulness.
In verses 22-23, God reminded Israel that he told them to obey him before he told them to make the burnt offerings. We see this in Exodus 19:1-8. The Lord brought the Israelites out of Egypt. He redeemed them. Then be brought them to Sinai and told them that they would have a special relationship with him if they obeyed him and kept the covenant. The people agreed to do it. But they continually failed to obey.
In verse 25, God said he continually sent them the prophets, his servants, to call them to repent and obey, but they did not.
As a result, God told Jeremiah to speak his message, but to know that the Israelites would not listen. So, the only thing to do is mourn their coming destruction (cut off your hair). Then the chilling word was “for the LORD has rejected and forsaken the generation of his wrath”. Because of their idolatry and disobedience to the covenant, God would bring the curses of the covenant down on them.
This chilling statement should remind us of another chilling statement. This one was made by Jesus. Return to Matthew 23 and read verses 29-36. The blood of all the prophets killed by the Israelites would be put on that generation. They went on to reject and kill the last prophet, Jesus the Messiah. God destroyed the city and the Temple and the hands of the Romans in 70 A.D. They should have made the connection and repented.
There are two great apostasies mentioned in this passage. First, verse 30 tells us the Israelites had defiled the Temple by putting their idols in there. Second, verse 31 says they engaged in human sacrifice, burning their own children.
Then, this passage described the great slaughter that would come when the Babylonians came and defeated Jerusalem. Since the Valley of Hinnon had become a place of idol worship, including child sacrifice forbidden by the law of the covenant, the valley would be stacked with the dead bodies of Israelites. Verse 33 said the birds and beasts would eat the bodies, a great desecration. This is the same language used at the final battle where Christ defeats his enemies in Revelation 19:17-18.
The theme of desolation occurs again in verse 34 where God says he will bring silence to the land and it will be a waste (desolate in the NIV).
Bodies would be removed from tombs and spread on the ground. Again this would be considered a desecration of the bodies. In fact, they would be desecrated right before the idols they worship, the sun and the moon and the host of heaven, the stars and planets.
8:3 tells that any who survived the attack and defeat would be taken into exile and would wish they had died.
The outpouring of God’s wrath is a terrible thing. The Old Testament gives us these horror stories so that we will understand how severe God’s wrath is toward those who reject him and his words. Jesus’ parables demonstrating the terrors of hell also serve that purpose. The prophecies of the end, when God punishes all sin, also serve this purpose. Romans 1:18 says “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” The truth is God’s law.
Man’s sin brings God’s wrath. Colossians 3:5-6 says “Put to death, therefore, what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming.”
When will the wrath of God come? It will come when Christ returns to judge the living and the dead. The Apostles’ Creed says: “He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.” Revelation 14:19 pictures those who are not Christ’s as grapes thrown into the winepress of the wrath of God where they are trampled.
We were all children of wrath at one time according to Ephesians 2:1-3. I do not want to be a child of wrath. I do not want to experience God’s wrath on my sin. What can I do to escape it?
I can repent of my sin and believe in Jesus Christ. By faith I may access the grace of God for salvation. Ephesians 2:4-9.
Those who believe in Christ will not receive wrath, but salvation when he returns. 1 Thessalonians 5:9; Romans 5:9
This is the meaning of the theological term “propitiation”. It means to appease the wrath of God through the sacrifice of Christ. He was the “wrath bearer” so his followers would not bear God’s wrath.
The Old Covenant showed us this in the construction of the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark was a wooden box that contained the stones of the commandments. It held the law that no man or woman was able to keep. Over that box was a cover of solid gold. It was called the Mercy Seat (in Hebrews 9:5) or Atonement Cover. The gold cover represented symbolically how God would cover our guilt through the promised redeemer.
The Latin word for this covering of the ark is “propitiatorium” the root of our word “propitiation.” The Latin verb “propitio” means “to appease.”
The Old Testament priests sprinkled blood on the cover to symbolize the sacrifice. Christ was and is our sacrifice. He bore God’s wrath that should have fallen on him. Isaiah 53:6 says the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
You can be the object of God’s wrath. If so, you will experience all the horrors described. Or, you can receive Jesus Christ as God’s son who bore your sins and died for your salvation. If you do, God’s wrath is turned away from you and you may live in his favor for ever.