Sunday, June 24, 2012


The Location of the Sermon
Jeremiah 7:1-2

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 Message
Jeremiah 7:3-11

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)
5. murdering
6.committing adultery
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.

Sunday, June 10, 2012


In Jeremiah 6:8, the Lord urged Israel to repent.  If they would not repent, he would "turn from them in disgust".  We often speak of discipline or punishment from the Lord for those who do not obey him.  That would be the case for Israel at that point in time.  But, aside from invasions and plagues, this little phrase should strike terror into our hearts.

For, one thing God may do is simply turn from us in disgust.  He may move on to work elsewhere.  There are many countries in the world where Christianity has basically died.  Empty churches abound.  You see these in Europe and in Asia.

When I visited Boston, that home of the old Puritans, I was struck with the number of empty churches.  There were churches everywhere.  But no Christians to attend them.

David understood this.  In Psalm 51:11, he cried out to the Lord "do not take your Holy Spirit from me"! He knew life without the presence of God would be unbearable.

Let us not be complacent when there seems to be no wrath poured out from God when we know our nation or our church is disobedient or cold toward the Lord.  For it may mean he has decided to turn from us in disgust. 

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Jeremiah 5 Part 1

JEREMIAH 6 (Part 1)

Chapter 6 ends the section that began in Chapter 2 calling for repentance.  There will be other calls to repent, but the emphasis of the other sections will change.

God’s Judgment

Jerusalem would no longer be a refuge, but a trap. (6:1) The Lord says he will bring people from the north to attack Jerusalem.  We know these were the Babylonians.  But, verse 2 makes clear that Babylon was only the instrument.  The Lord brought the destruction.  He says this plainly in verse 2 “I will destroy the Daughter of Zion”. 

The sins the Lord described in this chapter do not involve idolatry, but mistreatment of their brothers and sisters.  In verse 6, he said the city was filled with oppression.  He describes wickedness, violence and destruction. 

Still, at this point, the Lord allowed for repentance.  In verse 8, he tells them to take the warning and repent.  If they do not repent, he will make the land desolate so no one can live it in. 

“Desolate” seems to mean the land is too wild and unforgiving to be habitable.  In Exodus 23:29, the Lord told the Israelites he would not drive out the Canaanites all in one year, for the land would become desolate and wild animals would overwhelm them.

In Joshua 8:28, the city of Ai was called desolate after Joshua burned it to the ground.

In contrast, the Lord promised the Israelites a land of milk and honey and cities already built, with fields and vineyards already planted.  It was the opposite of desolate. 

The most startling description of this is in Jeremiah 4:23, where he said it would be formless and empty.  In Hebrew, these are the same words translated “without form and void” used to describe the earth before God made in habitable for humanity.

No One Listens

Despite the dire warnings, no one listened.  God says who could I give warning to now?  They will not listen to me.

In fact, verse 10 tells us the word of the Lord became an object of scorn.  They took no pleasure in it.  Therefore, the Lord was tired of holding in his wrath.  He was ready to pour it out. 

When I think of the disrespect for God’s word in our time, I realize how it must anger God.  People within and without the church assail the Bible as untrue or not literally true.  They criticize it from every angle.  Or, the just find it irrelevant to them.  Will God pour out his wrath on us for that? 

When you read the Bible, do not look for a way to explain it away.  Do not decide it is not relevant for our time.  Instead, read it to know the God who says he never changes.  Read it to see the sinful heart of mankind.  Read it to see how to be saved to eternal life.  Read it to know how to please God.  Submit to it.

A small phrase in verse 10 is worthy of consideration.  God said “their ears are uncircumcised”. (ESV) (the NIV & NASB say “closed”, but with footnotes to “uncircumcised” as the literal translation.)   What does he mean by that?  Wasn’t circumcision a ritual for the males of Israel?  It was, but it was a symbol of something greater.

We often take a symbol, forget its meaning and make it into a meaningless ritual.  For example, a person will not at all live a Christian life, but go take communion on Sunday because it is a ritual to which he is accustomed.  The Jews took great pride in circumcision, for it separated them from the Gentiles.  But, it was supposed to mean something about their relationship toward God.

Genesis 17 records God’s command to Abraham to circumcise himself and his people.  But, God had already made a covenant with Abraham in Genesis 15.  In chapter 17, God gave more details of that covenant.  The covenant required Abraham and his descendants to obey the Lord and maintain right relationships with other people.  This was spelled out in detail in the books of Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy.  In Genesis 17:19, God said “For I have chosen him that he may command his children and the household after him t o keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice.”

From the beginning, the prosperity of Israel was contingent on obedience to God. This was the covenant on the part of Israel:  submit to and obey God. Circumcision was the sign of this covenant. In Genesis 17:11, God said circumcision was the sign of the covenant. Paul said in Romans 4:11:   He (Abraham) received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well.

So, when God says someone has uncircumcised ears or heart, he means they do not listen to God’s command or obey it.  This statement appears several times in the Old Testament.  For example, in Leviticus 26:41 (Leviticus 26 being the chapter containing the curses for disobedience to the covenant), God said that, after he sent a disobedient Israel into captivity, he would restore them if they humbled their uncircumcised heart, meaning hearts that did not submit to God.  Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel all use this language.

So, here in Jeremiah, they cannot hear because they are in rebellion against God.  That is why their ears are closed. 

Jesus said the same thing about those who truly follow him.  "My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow me." (John 10:27)  The implication to the Pharisees was, you can not hear my message for you are not my sheep.  It is the New Testament version of uncircumcised ears.