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Jeremiah 7:1-15 – The Temple Sermon

Summary

This section gathers themes from chapters 2-6 and anticipates key themes of indictment and horrendous judgment to be emphasized in the chapters that follow.

Analysis

This text consists of oracles that God commands Jeremiah to give at the entrance of the temple precincts (Jeremiah does not actually speak them). The people are called upon to amend their "ways and doings," if they wish God to remain with them. Verses 5-7 specify what it means for Israel to amend its ways and doings. Most fundamentally, they are to act justly with one another and worship God alone. But their trust has been misplaced, focused in the temple itself and its worship, rather than in the God of the temple and the divine expectations for the shape of their lives.

Israel has persistently violated the ways of God, and so God proceeds to specify the indictment (7:8-12). God will have nothing to do with the deceptive excuse that the temple protects them, making them secure from any disaster, regardless of whether they take up their responsibilities to their neighbors. Indeed, the temple has become a "den of robbers" (see Jesus' use of the phrase in Matthew 21:13). That is, the temple is made analogous to a hideout for robbers, where they could escape from the authorities and not be threatened with arrest. Then, when the coast was clear, they could sally forth to do as they have always done. But God will not allow this disjunction between worship and daily life. As it once was regarding Shiloh, which was destroyed some five hundred years earlier, so judgment could fall again.

Because of what the people have persistently done, God proceeds to announce the judgment ("therefore"; 7:14-15). The temple will be destroyed, and the people will be cast out of the land, indeed out of God's sight.

Most readers experience some disjunction between the call to "amend your ways" (7:3-7) and this unqualified announcement of disaster. The future is no longer open for the people of God; the judgment is set. Verse 27 provides a clue to understanding this seeming contradiction. Jeremiah is to speak the words God gives to him, but the hardened people will not listen. As a result, their disastrous future is set in stone.

Jeremiah 7:1-15

Jeremiah Proclaims God’s Judgement on the Nation

7The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 2Stand in the gate of the Lord’s house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the Lord, all you people of Judah, you that enter these gates to worship the Lord. 3Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Amend your ways and your doings, and let me dwell with you* in this place. 4Do not trust in these deceptive words: ‘This is* the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.’

5 For if you truly amend your ways and your doings, if you truly act justly one with another, 6if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, and the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own hurt, 7then I will dwell with you in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your ancestors for ever and ever.

8 Here you are, trusting in deceptive words to no avail. 9Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, 10and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, ‘We are safe!’—only to go on doing all these abominations? 11Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your sight? You know, I too am watching, says the Lord. 12Go now to my place that was in Shiloh, where I made my name dwell at first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of my people Israel. 13And now, because you have done all these things, says the Lord, and when I spoke to you persistently, you did not listen, and when I called you, you did not answer, 14therefore I will do to the house that is called by my name, in which you trust, and to the place that I gave to you and to your ancestors, just what I did to Shiloh. 15And I will cast you out of my sight, just as I cast out all your kinsfolk, all the offspring of Ephraim.

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10 February 2011

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