Scriptures

Jeremiah 7

Introduction

‘This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: ‘Stand at the gate of the LORD’s house and there proclaim this message: ‘Hear the word of the LORD, all you people of Judah who come through these gates to worship the LORD. This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Reform your ways and your actions, and I will let you live in this place.’ Jeremiah 7:1-3

Some have believed that the sermon of this chapter was given in the first part of the reign of Jehoiakim, 608 B.C. The result of the sermon was explained in Jeremiah 26. But it is also possible that the message was given in the last years of Josiah, with similar thoughts given at a later date.

This message was delivered at the temple gate. The time of deliverance may have been during one of their national festivals. His call is for a change in their behaviour. Their repentance must be more than the outward reformation of ceremonies as that which took place during the days of Josiah when he destroyed the places of idol worship throughout Judah. Their repentance must be sincere and from the heart.

‘Do not trust in deceptive words and say, ‘This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD!’ If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, if you do not oppress the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your ancestors for ever and ever. But look, you are trusting in deceptive words that are worthless. ‘Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, burn incense to Baal and follow other gods you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which bears my Name, and say, ‘We are safe’—safe to do all these detestable things? Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching! declares the LORD. ‘Go now to the place in Shiloh where I first made a dwelling for my Name, and see what I did to it because of the wickedness of my people Israel. While you were doing all these things, declares the LORD, I spoke to you again and again, but you did not listen; I called you, but you did not answer. Therefore, what I did to Shiloh I will now do to the house that bears my Name, the temple you trust in, the place I gave to you and your ancestors. I will thrust you from my presence, just as I did all your fellow Israelites, the people of Ephraim.’ Jeremiah 7:4-15

The exhortations that Jeremiah makes in Jeremiah 7:4-9 indicate the moral low to which they had digressed to be considered such a vile society. But because God was calling on them to repent, they could be assured that God still cared for them and sought their good.

They were incredibly audacious. They did all those things that were against the law of God, and yet came to the temple that had been dedicated to God. They were as the Pharisees and priests who crucified Jesus. They planned and executed a murder scheme, but would not take back the thirty pieces of silver they had given to Judas to betray Jesus, Matthew 26:15 / Matthew 27:3-8.

Taking back the money into the temple treasury was against the law. Legalistic religious leaders with evil motives will always be inconsistent in their application of the law. They will break the law in order to keep their own law and traditions, Mark 7:1-9. They were religious leaders who clung to their positions in order to maintain their financial security, Matthew 21:13. They used the religious spirit of the people as an opportunity to be supported full-time.

Since they believed that God would not allow the temple to be destroyed, they concluded that God would never allow Jerusalem to fall. But the people were trusting in the lying words of their false prophets. Jeremiah reminded them of their history.

The ark was at one time placed in Shiloh, 1 Samuel 4. The people subsequently made Shiloh a sacred place. But eventually, Shiloh was destroyed. God would do the same to Jerusalem, regardless of whether the ark was in the city.

Man should never make any place sacred, and thus assume that God condones his desire for holy places. God’s throne is in heaven, and there He will keep it. They had the example of their northern ten tribes who were taken into Assyrian captivity in 722/21 B.C. God said that the same would happen to Judah.

‘So, do not pray for this people nor offer any plea or petition for them; do not plead with me, for I will not listen to you. Do you not see what they are doing in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem?’ Jeremiah 7:16-17

Jeremiah was moved to prayer for the people. But sometimes a people are beyond prayer, 1 John 5:16-17. If they were set in sin, then they did not deserve the prayers of a righteous man.

They were beyond any request that God would answer for their deliverance. The people had become so accustomed to their idol gods that they openly made sacrifices to them in the streets of Jerusalem.

‘The children gather wood, the fathers light the fire, and the women knead the dough and make cakes to offer to the Queen of Heaven. They pour out drink offerings to other gods to arouse my anger. But am I the one they are provoking? declares the LORD. Are they not rather harming themselves, to their own shame? ‘Therefore, this is what the Sovereign LORD says: My anger and my wrath will be poured out on this place—on man and beast, on the trees of the field and on the crops of your land—and it will burn and not be quenched.’ Jeremiah 7:18-20

The ‘Queen of Heaven’ was the heathen goddess, Ishtar, the Babylonian fertility goddess. It isn’t possible to describe the shameful, licentious worship which characterised the idolatry of the Queen of Heaven. Stephen’s mention of Israel’s worshipping ‘the heavenly bodies’, in Acts 7:42 is a reference to this very goddess, who was also said to be represented by the planet Venus. As I’ve already said, she was also identified as Ishtar in Babylon and also to the moon-goddess.

Why were God’s people attracted to this? Because it gratified the lust of the flesh which it supplied in abundance.

‘This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Go ahead, add your burnt offerings to your other sacrifices and eat the meat yourselves! For when I brought your ancestors out of Egypt and spoke to them, I did not just give them commands about burnt offerings and sacrifices, but I gave them this command: Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people. Walk in obedience to all I command you, that it may go well with you. But they did not listen or pay attention; instead, they followed the stubborn inclinations of their evil hearts. They went backward and not forward. From the time your ancestors left Egypt until now, day after day, again and again I sent you my servants the prophets. But they did not listen to me or pay attention. They were stiff-necked and did more evil than their ancestors.’ ‘When you tell them all this, they will not listen to you; when you call to them, they will not answer. Therefore, say to them, ‘This is the nation that has not obeyed the LORD its God or responded to correction. Truth has perished; it has vanished from their lips.’ Jeremiah 7:21-28

This lays down the proper approach to worship. The foundation of this is, obedience. Listen to what God has to say, and obey Him. God has always directed how one should worship Him. To obey is pleasing and acceptable to Him. So simple is this statement, and yet man is so slow to accept it. If you do what I ask, you will find rest in your souls. But they don’t want to hear. It is not for man to know how to direct himself.

Part of what we often call Jeremiah’s Prayer, says this,

‘I know, O Lord, that a man’s life is not his own; it is not for man to direct his steps. Correct me. Lord, but only with justice, not in your anger, lest you reduce me to nothing.’ Jeremiah 10:23-24

Instead of going forward they were going backward. Even through all of this Jeremiah is continuing his prophetic work. He knows that he Is talking to people whose hearts are dead. He knew what the outcome would be.

So why bother?

He was willing to do this because he wanted the truth to be known. That’s why he continued. He tells them these things, but they do not listen.

‘Cut off your hair and throw it away; take up a lament on the barren heights, for the LORD has rejected and abandoned this generation that is under his wrath. ‘The people of Judah have done evil in my eyes, declares the LORD. They have set up their detestable idols in the house that bears my Name and have defiled it. They have built the high places of Topheth in the Valley of Ben Hinnom to burn their sons and daughters in the fire—something I did not command, nor did it enter my mind. So beware, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when people will no longer call it Topheth or the Valley of Ben Hinnom, but the Valley of Slaughter, for they will bury the dead in Topheth until there is no more room.’ Jeremiah 7:29-32

These verses show how acceptable worship has been polluted, destroyed. The idea of cutting off your hair was a sign of being unclean, Numbers 6:9-18.

‘Cut off your hair and throw it away’,

Jerusalem is commanded to go into mourning for herself. When a Nazarite touched a corpse, he was defiled. So, he was required to cut his hair. Here it signifies Jerusalem being defiled, and God finds no excuse for her. He announces His rejection of the once chosen race. God didn’t do this just because they worshipped the Queen of Heaven. He passed this terrible sentence upon them for many additional reasons.

The Valley of Ben Hinnom is where they sacrificed to Molech, sacrificed their own children. It will be called the Valley of Slaughter. They will bury their dead there until there is no more room for the bodies. There will be so many dead bodies It will soon be filled up.

In the New Testament the word Gehenna stands for ‘hell’ and is derived from the

‘Valley of Ben Hinnom.’

It’s the infamous ravine south of Jerusalem where the statue of Molech was situated. This was the scene of Judah’s sacrificing their children to that pagan god. There were other horrible practices mentioned, but the terrible sacrifices of their sons and daughters to Molech had God in the high heavens demanding His vengeance against the practice.

Matthew Henry says, they

‘burned their children alive, killed them, killed them in the most cruel manner imaginable, to honour and appease those idols that were devils and not gods.’

‘Then the carcasses of this people will become food for the birds and the wild animals, and there will be no one to frighten them away. I will bring an end to the sounds of joy and gladness and to the voices of bride and bridegroom in the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem, for the land will become desolate.’ Jeremiah 7:33-34

Everything is going to be miserable. There will be an end to bride and groom. There will be no happy marriages. The horrible slaughter in the Valley of Ben Hinnom probably took place when Jerusalem fell to Babylon. Where once God’s people had killed and sacrificed their own children, they would themselves being killed either exposed to birds of prey, or left unburied and exposed.

I would like to mention something about ‘worship’ before we move onto Jeremiah 8.

At verse 4 of this chapter we looked briefly at this verse that said,

‘Do not trust in deceptive words and say, this is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.’

If a person wants to worship God acceptably, he needs to be in the right place. And in Jeremiah’s day, the right place was the temple. I find it interesting that, in Jeremiah’s sermon, people were saying,

‘This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD’,

even though their worship wasn’t acceptable. They had problems with their worship.

But, you might say, at least they were in the right place, they were in the temple of the Lord. Yes, that’s true. Today we need to be in the right place, the church. But when we are in the church we should say the right words, and do the right things.

At verse 28 of Jeremiah’s sermon he says,

‘Therefore say to them, this is the nation that has not obeyed the Lord its God or responded to correction. Truth has perished, it has vanished from their lips.’

So, what was God saying to Judah? I want you to say the right things. But He also wants them to do the right things. After the reforms in Jeremiah’s day, the reforms of Josiah, they were doing the right things. They had found the book of the law. They were saying what the book of the law said. They began to do what the book of law said. So, they were doing the right things.

But verse 30 says,

‘The people of Judah have done evil in my eyes, declares the Lord. They have set up their detestable idols in the house that bears my Name and have defiled it.’

We don’t just bring whatever WE want to bring, to the Lord’s Church and call that the worship of God. In the worship of God, we bring what HE wants us to bring.

Whenever there was an innovation, in Judah’s day, that went beyond or fell short of what God had asked, that was pollution. I wonder what we would call it today?

The right place, the right words, the right things, but something was missing. A true relationship with God. This was lacking. God said in verse 5,

‘If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, if you do not oppress the alien, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, then I will let you live in this place, in the land that I gave to your forefathers.’

What is God saying? That worship is not divorced from life. Worship means that one lives his life well before God. That he treats the people that he meets on Monday or any other day of the week, as he should. That he deals honestly with them, correctly with them. Worship has to affect the way we live, must affect our lives. Judah lacked a relationship with God.

Look at verses 9+11. God says,

‘Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, burn incense to Baal and follow other gods you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which bears my Name, and say ‘We are safe’, safe to do all these detestable things? Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you?’

A den of robbers was a place of safety for them, after the evil deeds that they performed. So, what is God telling them? You can’t look upon my house as a place of safety, a place where you come after you have lived, for the other days of the week, as though you didn’t know me. Don’t you think it was amazing? They were at the right place. They said the right words. They did the right things. BUT, they had no relationship with God.

When we move to Jeremiah 8, we will find Jeremiah saying at verse 20,

‘The harvest is past, the summer has ended, and we are not saved.’

This simply means that the last opportunity for Judah to repent and turn to the Lord has already slipped away. The harvest refers to the early Summer months, April to June. The ending of Summer means the approach of Autumn, the end of the final harvest for that year. There will be nothing more for another year. This is a metaphor for the termination of all of Judah’s lost opportunities. The Winter of God’s judgment is coming swiftly upon them.

Let’s look again at verse 23 of Jeremiah’s sermon. Jeremiah says that God

‘gave them this command: obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people. Walk in all the ways I command you, that it may go well with you.’

What has God always asked of man? That we obey His will. The essence of relationship with God is a knowledge of God, a surrender of human will, of self-rule, and then obedience to the commands of God.

Go To Jeremiah 8

 

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart."

Psalm 37:4

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