Jeremiah 8:13-17

13 “‘I will take away their harvest,
declares the Lord.
    There will be no grapes on the vine.
There will be no figs on the tree,
    and their leaves will wither.
What I have given them
    will be taken from them.’”

14 Why are we sitting here?
    Gather together!
Let us flee to the fortified cities
    and perish there!
For the Lord our God has doomed us to perish
    and given us poisoned water to drink,
    because we have sinned against him.
15 We hoped for peace
    but no good has come,
for a time of healing
    but there is only terror.
16 The snorting of the enemy’s horses
    is heard from Dan;
at the neighing of their stallions
    the whole land trembles.
They have come to devour
    the land and everything in it,
    the city and all who live there.

17 “See, I will send venomous snakes among you,
    vipers that cannot be charmed,
    and they will bite you,”
declares the Lord.
(Jeremiah 8:13-17 NIV)

In yesterday’s passage, we began a new section of the Lord’s word to His people. This section extends through the end of chapter 10.  Yesterday’s verses outlined Judah and Jerusalem’s complacent behavior toward the Lord.  They were on a fast track to ruin but failed to acknowledge their plight or take any action to repent and return to the Lord.

Today’s passage is a combination of comments from the Lord and the people of Judah.  The Lord’s comments encapsulate the passage (verses 13 and 17), while the people’s comments are sandwiched in between (verses 14 through 16).

Verse 13 is the Lord’s opening statement.  The Lord went to enjoy the fruit of His work among His people, but there was nothing.  Remember the progression of the vine so far?

  • The Lord planted some choice vines, known for making great grapes for both eating and making wine (2:21)
  • The vine grew wild and did not produce any fruit.  Even the gleaners (those who inspected the vine after the main harvest) could not find any fruit (6:9)
  • Now the vine is fruitless, and the leaves have withered.  The vine is not dead, but under severe distress (8:13)

The Lord promised a fruitful harvest if the people of Judah and Jerusalem would abide in Him and obey His commands.  If the people abandoned His covenant relationship and tried to transplant themselves, they were on their own, and the results were disastrous.

In verses 14 – 16, the people finally realize that they are under God’s discipline, and panic ensues.  Their first response is to run to a fortified city (Jerusalem) for safety.  But there would be no refuge there.  The Lord had already said there would be no shelter from His discipline, either fighting against the enemy in the city or as a group of unarmed refugees out in the open (6:25).  Terror was everywhere.

The reference to poisoned water (v. 14) is a reference to the people of Judah disobeying the Lord.  Back in chapter 2 verse 13, the Lord accused the people of digging leaky cisterns to capture rainwater (“dead water”) rather than rely on the Lord’s fresh water (“living water”).  Again, this calamity was of the peoples’ own doing, from their disobedience.

The priests’ false claims of peace and safety (8:11) are now called out.  Those who were supposed to know and tell the people but were lying for their self-interests now admit that their proclamations were wishful thinking, not reality (v. 15).

Verse 16 references the city of Dan.  Geographically, Dan was on the northern-most border of Judah.  As the Lord had already said the enemy would come from the North, this is an explicit reference to the enemy’s attack strategy.  The time of the invasion was drawing very near.

Verse 17 closes with the words from the Lord again.  The references to poisonous snakes were to the enemies from the north who would invade Judah.  There would be no “charming” the enemies this time.  There would be no cooperation or making of treaties or deals.  Judah and Jerusalem could not seduce their enemies. Their captors were coming with a vengeance (4:30).

The reference to poisonous snakes also recalled the experience of the Israelites in the desert with Moses (Numbers 21:6-9).  The people were disobedient to the Lord, and He sent in poisonous snakes that bit people.  The Israelites confessed their sin, and the Lord gave Moses an antidote for the snakebite so that the people could live.  In today’s passage, there is no repentance and no antidote.

May the Lord’s promise to Solomon many centuries ago be our prayer in our lands today:

 If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
(2 Chronicles 7:14 NIV)

Blessings,
~kevin

Jeremiah 8:4-12

“Say to them, ‘This is what the Lord says:

“‘When people fall down, do they not get up?
    When someone turns away, do they not return?
Why then have these people turned away?
    Why does Jerusalem always turn away?
They cling to deceit;
    they refuse to return.
I have listened attentively,
    but they do not say what is right.
None of them repent of their wickedness,
    saying, “What have I done?”
Each pursues their own course
    like a horse charging into battle.
Even the stork in the sky
    knows her appointed seasons,
and the dove, the swift and the thrush
    observe the time of their migration.
But my people do not know
    the requirements of the Lord.

“‘How can you say, “We are wise,
    for we have the law of the Lord,”
when actually the lying pen of the scribes
    has handled it falsely?
The wise will be put to shame;
    they will be dismayed and trapped.
Since they have rejected the word of the Lord,
    what kind of wisdom do they have?
10 Therefore I will give their wives to other men
    and their fields to new owners.
From the least to the greatest,
    all are greedy for gain;
prophets and priests alike,
    all practice deceit.
11 They dress the wound of my people
    as though it were not serious.
“Peace, peace,” they say,
    when there is no peace.
12 Are they ashamed of their detestable conduct?
    No, they have no shame at all;
    they do not even know how to blush.
So they will fall among the fallen;
    they will be brought down when they are punished,
says the Lord.
(Jeremiah 8:4-12 NIV)

Today’s passage begins a new section of the Lord’s word to His people.  This section extends through the end of chapter 10.  While there are many parallels to the previous section (chapters 4 through 6), the one main difference is that this passage seems to assume that Judah and Jerusalem are incorrigible.  There are no calls to repentance in this section, as it would appear to be a waste of breath on Jerusalem and Judah.

The Lord begins with a few practical rhetorical questions:  If someone falls, will they not get back up?  If someone turns off the path, will they not return when they are done investigating whatever caused them to turn aside?

In verses 5 – 6, the Lord calls out the people of Judah for not returning to Him after they have strayed.  Common sense seems to evade God’s people – their spiritual dullness makes God wonder what the people were thinking.  In verse 7, even multiple species of birds instinctively know when it is time to migrate.  But yet, God’s people don’t know His requirements, either instinctively or by His revelation through His prophets.

In verses 8 – 9, the people claim to be wise, but are not.  The Lord refutes their common belief of having the Word of God and knowing what it means.  Those who are charged with handling God’s Word have lied and mishandled it.

Verses 10 – 12 are very similar, almost word-for-word, to chapter 6, verses 12 – 15.  The Lord reminds them again of their greed, for their lying to make things look good for them, and for their lack of conscience.

May we have David’s heart for God’s Word and our obedience to it:

How can a young person stay on the path of purity?
    By living according to your word.
10 I seek you with all my heart;
    do not let me stray from your commands.
11 I have hidden your word in my heart
    that I might not sin against you.
12 Praise be to you, Lord;
    teach me your decrees.
13 With my lips I recount
    all the laws that come from your mouth.
14 I rejoice in following your statutes
    as one rejoices in great riches.
15 I meditate on your precepts
    and consider your ways.
16 I delight in your decrees;
    I will not neglect your word.
(Psalm 119:9-16 NIV)

Blessings,
~kevin

Jeremiah 8:1-3

“‘At that time, declares the Lord, the bones of the kings and officials of Judah, the bones of the priests and prophets, and the bones of the people of Jerusalem will be removed from their graves. They will be exposed to the sun and the moon and all the stars of the heavens, which they have loved and served and which they have followed and consulted and worshiped. They will not be gathered up or buried, but will be like dung lying on the ground. Wherever I banish them, all the survivors of this evil nation will prefer death to life, declares the Lord Almighty.’
(Jeremiah 8:1-3 NIV)

Today’s passage is the final thought from Chapter 7.  The Lord begins with “At that time”, referring to chapter 7, verses 32 – 34.

As we look back on yesterday’s text, the Lord declares that the Valley of Ben-Hinnom will be renamed the Valley of Slaughter, for all the people buried there.  When there were no more gravesites, then the bodies of the dead would be tossed out on the ground to be food for the wild animals, with no one to scare them away.

In today’s passage, the Lord says that the armies of the north that will overtake Judah and Jerusalem will add insult to injury.  These troops will remove the bones of the dead from their graves and toss them out on the ground like dung.  The troops will be no respecter of persons – the bones of kings, priests, and common citizens will all be desecrated.  All the astral array (sun, moon, stars) which the people of Judah worshipped as false gods will be powerless to protect their living or their dead.  These false gods will watch coldly and silently as the grave robbers exhume the bones of the dead and toss them out like yesterday’s litter.

Verse 3 ends with a grim future for those that survive the invasion.  The Lord declares that these survivors will prefer death to life.  Life as they have known it is no more.  They will be subjected to the merciless treatment of their captors.  If their captor’s treatment were not enough, the memory of Jerusalem and Judah would be the final straw that would make them wish for death rather than life.

You might think, “that’s a little over-dramatic, don’t you think?”   I will let you, the reader, draw your own conclusions.  2 Kings 25:1-7 tells the story of the Jerusalem’s fall.  Nebuchadnezzar’s army captured Zedekiah, the king of Judah, then killed his sons in front of him.  The soldiers then blinded him, put him in shackles, then led him away as a captive to Babylon.  Put yourself in Zedekiah’s place for a moment.  Would you have preferred life or death?

The sad thing is that none of this was necessary.  The Lord had offered and provided a good life on earth as well as eternal life for those who walked with Him by faith.  But yet, everyone in Judah had turned their back on the Lord and worshipped false gods, choosing their own way over His way.  The people of Judah rejected God’s hedge of protection and provision and determined to live in direct defiance and rebellion to His love and care.

May we choose life and truth – to walk with the Lord and serve Him only.  May we love our neighbors as well, letting the love of Christ overflow our hearts and be a blessing to those around us, offering hope and eternal life only found in Him.

Blessings,
~kevin

Jeremiah 7:29-34

29 “‘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.  30 “‘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. 31 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. 32 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. 33 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. 34 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 7:29-34 NIV)

As we wrap up our journey through chapter 7, we have seen the Lord call out His peoples’ false religious practices.  Today’s passage is more of that same theme.

Verse 29 is a call to the people of Judah to mourn and lament their sins.  The act of cutting off one’s hair was a show of grief and loss.  Remember Job’s reaction when within a few minutes, he found out he had just lost his family plus all his material possessions?  Job tore his robe, shaved his head, and worshipped the Lord (Job 1:20-22).  The Lord tells Judah to mourn and lament at the same places where they had previously worshipped the false Canaanite gods (chapter 3, verse 21).

Verses 30 – 31 give the two reasons that the Lord commanded His people to mourn and lament their sins.  Verse 30 tells us that the people defiled the Lord’s House (the Temple) with false gods.  The people of Judah were, in their compromised faith, likely trying to appease all the gods, including the One True God.  For these foreign gods to be placed in God’s Temple, the priests and ruling officials had to know about it, and allow it.   From previous passages in Jeremiah, we know that the priests and rulers not only allowed it but condoned it.  There was no sneaking in of the foreign gods into God’s temple – the priests and rulers threw open the front doors and welcomed them in wholeheartedly.

Verse 31 describes the wretched practice of child sacrifice to the foreign gods.  The people, to the horror of the Lord, were trying to secure their own safety and well-being at their children’s expense.  The Lord had expressly forbidden His people from participating in this terrible practice – the penalty for doing so was death (Leviticus 18:21; 20:2-5).  But since the people had abandoned the Lord and ignored His commandments, they bought into the lie that sacrificing their children was the highest form of piety they could offer.  2 Kings 23:10 indicate that child sacrifice was an acceptable practice before King Josiah began hs reforms.  First-born children were to be consecrated to the Lord, but not sacrificed.

Verses 32 – 33 detail the Lord’s action against His people for child sacrifice.  Faithful to his promises in Leviticus 20:2-5, the Lord was stepping in since the religious rulers were not.  The valley of Ben-Hinnom would be filled with the bodies of those who practiced this hideous ritual, even to the point of running out of graves.  After the graves had been all taken, the valley would become the trash heap where the dead were stacked, to be desecrated and eaten by the wild animals.  The Lord was so repulsed by the child sacrifices that He fed the corpses of these people to the wild animals.  In His Law, the Lord had commanded that convicted murderers be given a prompt and proper burial (Deuteronomy 21:22-23).  The ones who sacrificed their young to the foreign gods were not worthy of a criminal’s burial.

In verse 34, the result was described.  Where weddings and laughter and joy once echoed through the valley, now only death, silence, and desolation remained.

May we remember that God did not require child sacrifice of His people.  He instead provided the ultimate and final sacrifice through the life and death of His Son Jesus, to offer eternal life to all who will accept Him.

Blessings,
~kevin

Jeremiah 7:21-28

21 “‘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! 22 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, 23 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. 24 But they did not listen or pay attention;instead, they followed the stubborn inclinations of their evil hearts. They went backward and not forward. 25 From the time your ancestors left Egypt until now, day after day, again and again I sent you my servants the prophets. 26 But they did not listen to me or pay attention. They were stiff-necked and did more evil than their ancestors.’

27 “When you tell them all this, they will not listen to you; when you call to them, they will not answer. 28 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 NIV)

In our journey through chapter 7, we have seen the Lord call out His peoples’ false religious practices.  The nation’s deliberate and obstinant rebellion against the Lord resulted in their misplaced faith:

  • in the Temple building, rather than the God of the Temple (vv. 1-15)
  • in family idol worship, rather than worship of the One True God (vv. 16-20)
  • in sacrifices, rather than obedience (vv. 21-28)

In today’s passage, we see the Lord addressing the sacrifices the people offered.  To comprehend verse 21, we need to understand the difference between burnt offerings and sacrifices.  Burnt offerings were completely consumed on the altar.  The entire offering was burned up – nothing was held back from the Lord.   Sacrifices, on the other hand, were shared.  Part of a sacrifice was given to the Lord, and the rest was consumed by the worshipper.

In verse 21, the Lord says that the people might as well eat the burnt offerings in addition to the sacrifices they were offering, as He equally rejected both.  Was there something wrong with the sacrifice itself, or was there another issue?   Verses 22 – 23 answer the question.  The Lord gave His people the command to love and obey Him.  God’s command was based on the covenant relationship He established between Himself and His people.  Yes, the Lord delighted in sacrifices from His people, but only when they were combined with their love and obedience to follow His commands.

Hosea, another prophet, expresses the Lord’s same heart and priorities:

For I desire mercy, not sacrifice,
    and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.
(Hosea 6:6 NIV)

In verses 24 – 26, the Lord points out Judah’s history of disobedience, tracing their willful behavior all the way back to their exodus from Egypt.  In fact, the Lord says, their disobedience has not lessened, nor has it stayed the same – it has gotten worse each generation.  The Lord has sent His prophets to warn the people of their sins, but it has not had any effect.  The people have strayed far from Him.

In verses 27 – 28, the Lord shifts His focus from the people of Judah to Jeremiah.  The Lord tells Jeremiah that when he tells the people of Judah these things, they will not listen nor will they heed the Lord’s warnings.  The Lord gives Jeremiah a tagline to tell the people of Judah:  “Truth has perished; it has vanished from their lips.”

As we study today’s passage, it may seem like the Lord was rejecting the sacrificial system He established.  That was not the case at all – in fact, the complete opposite.  The problem was not the sacrificial system, nor the sacrifices being offered.  The issue the Lord was driving home was the heart intent behind the action, the “why” underlying the “what” and “how”.

If you recall the chronology of the nation of Israel in Moses’ day, remember that the Lord established the Ten Commandments first, and they had no mention of sacrifice.  The Ten Commandments were based on relationships – between God and His people, and between His people and other people.  Sacrifices came after the covenant relationship, in heart response to God’s faithfulness, goodness, and mercy toward His own.  But God’s people had abandoned their relationship with Him and were treating Him the same way they worshipped the other pagan gods.  They believed they satisfied God’s commands by offering their sacrifices.   They were “checking the box”, and expecting God to approve.  Their misplaced faith was in their actions, not their relationship with the Almighty.

While we are no longer under the Old Testament law because of Christ’s once-and-for-all sacrifice for our sins, the principle of the “why” beneath the “what” and “how” still applies.  May Paul’s admonition be our way of life:

13 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
(1 Corinthians 13:1-13 NIV)

Blessings,
~kevin

Jeremiah 7:16-20

16 “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. 17 Do you not see what they are doing in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem?18 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. 19 But am I the one they are provoking? declares the Lord. Are they not rather harming themselves, to their own shame?

20 “‘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 7:16-20 NIV)

In yesterday’s passage, the Lord told Jeremiah to go specifically to the temple in Jerusalem and preach the words He would give Jeremiah.  Jeremiah preached what God laid on his heart.  His temple sermon warned those gathered that the temple was not a “safe house” for them or the country that would protect them from invaders or God Himself.  The Lord then reminded the people what happened at Shiloh.

When Jeremiah finished preaching the words God gave him, what would be the next logical thing?  Most likely, the Prophet would pray on behalf of and for the people.  However, the Lord tells Jeremiah not to pray for them in any way, shape, or form (v. 16).

Verses 17 – 18 gives the reason for the Lord’s unwillingness to hear Jeremiah’s prayers.  Throughout the country, and even in the holy city of Jerusalem, the people were engaged in the worship of the false deity known as the “Queen of Heaven”.  This goddess was a feminine deity, typically associated with fertility and childbearing.

While Josiah may have removed the prominent public places of pagan worship from Judah, his reforms did not reach the heart and soul of the people.  The worship of the Queen of Heaven was practiced in the home.  The Lord points out that this was not just a worship practice reserved for the woman of the home – it involved the entire family.

The worship of this goddess was an all-family ritual.  The children gathered the wood; the fathers made the fire, and the wives cooked the bread in a form of a star, a crescent, or a woman, all symbolic forms related to this goddess.  The entire family knew what this worship was about – it was not some secret feminine ritual.  On top of that, the Lord says, the family was making drink-offerings to other gods.

When the Lord pointed out this deeply rooted pagan worship in the home, this was yet another example of how far God’s people had wandered away from Him.  Truly there was not one righteous person left in Judah or Jerusalem.  No prayers could fix this, even from a holy and upright man of God like Jeremiah.

Verse 19 shows the consequences of their deliberate rebellion.  Yes, the Lord was angry at them (v. 18).  But the real issue is that they are harming themselves.  Whether they realized it or not, the people were on a path of self-destruction.

Verse 20 is the Lord’s judgment against the nation of Judah – the land, the people, the animals, even the vegetation.  This sin was beyond what even the prayers of the prophets could fix.  This required severe supernatural intervention.

While there is a lot of bad news in today’s text, may we remember God’s earlier promises to Jeremiah and His people that He loves them and will go to any length to bring them back to Himself.  Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection is an incredible promise of God’s love and sacrifice for us, even while we were sinners and enemies of Him, pursuing our self-centered way of life before coming to Christ.

12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
(Hebrews 12:1-3 NIV)

Be encouraged, dear friends.

Blessings,
~kevin

Jeremiah 7:1-15

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. 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, 10 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? 11 Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching! declares the Lord.

12 “‘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. 13 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. 14 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. 15 I will thrust you from my presence, just as I did all your fellow Israelites, the people of Ephraim.’
(Jeremiah 7:1-15 NIV)

As we noted yesterday, Chapters 2 – 6 established God’s standard for His people, revealed their guilt for not following the Lord’s commands, and foretold the discipline His people would endure for deliberately turning their back on their Creator and Sovereign.

Chapters 7 – 10 speak to the next topic that the Lord addressed to His people – their false religion.  This section starts with today’s text – Jeremiah’s famous (or infamous, to the people of his day) temple sermon.

Jeremiah had been traveling around Judah, warning God’s people of the impending discipline that would come on them if they did not turn away from their wickedness and turn back to the Lord.  In today’s passage, the Lord tells Jeremiah to go specifically to the temple in Jerusalem and preach the words He would give Jeremiah.

The first thing God tells His people is to reform their ways – to repent and turn back to the Lord (v. 3a).  The second thing God reminds His people is that He owns the temple and the land of Judah, not them (v. 3b).  The people can only live and worship there because God allows it.

To understand this statement, we need to go back a bit in history.  First, the residents of Judah felt they were immune to God’s punishment.  Yes, the northern kingdom of Israel was overtaken because of their sin against the Lord.  Since Judah was spared, including Jerusalem, the residents thought they had a free pass – nothing could touch them.

Secondly, the people thought that God’s temple in Jerusalem was a “safe house” for their protection.  Again, their thought was that nothing and no one could touch them there, including the Lord.  God would not destroy His own house, would He?  That idea was beyond comprehension.

But the temple was more of a bragging right than a place of worship.  To say “our God lives among us” was a powerful statement – no other culture or religion could make that claim.  But the Lord says those are deceptive words (v. 4).   God cannot be kept in a single place or building – he is everywhere, all the time.  That idea of God only residing in a building was more like pagan belief and practice, where gods were represented in wood or stone.

God tells His people that to stay in the land and keep the temple, they need to turn back to Him, and treat each other as He commanded them in the Ten Commandments.  These commands included taking care of the foreigners (refugees) among them, as well as their own orphans and widows (vv. 5 – 8).

Again, the Lord calls out the peoples’ behavior in the temple and the land.  He has been watching and sees the disparity between the way they treat each other and the way they act when they are in the temple.  Neither are pleasing to Him, as their actions are in direct contradiction and violation of His commands and instructions.

In verses 12 – 15, the Lord takes the people of Judah on a field trip in history, back to a place called Shiloh.  Shiloh is where the Ark of the Covenant was kept when it resided in the northern kingdom of Israel.  The people of Israel thought the same thing about their place of worship – it was a “safe haven”, and no one could touch the Ark or the city.  When Israel disobeyed the Lord, He allowed the Ark to be carried off, the city destroyed, and all the people scattered (represented by the tribe of Ephriam, v. 15).  Now Shiloh was completely leveled and uninhabitable.  God says the same thing could happen to Jerusalem and the Temple if they do not turn back to Him and treat one another according to His commands.

May we heed God’s warning in Jeremiah’s day and live out our lives for the Lord as He still desires and commands – to love God and to love our neighbor (Matthew 22:34-40).

Blessings,
~kevin