Jeremiah 7:1-15 – The Temple Sermon
SummaryThis section gathers themes from chapters 2-6 and anticipates key themes of indictment and horrendous judgment to be emphasized in the chapters that follow.
AnalysisThis 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.