This week we find ourselves in the book of Jeremiah as the reading plan brings us back to the prophets and the prophetic call to the people of Israel to remember and keep their covenant with God. Jeremiah is sent by God to basically tell the people of Judah and Jerusalem that the Babylonians (“a people from the north”) are going to be his instrument to punish Israel for not keeping their covenant with him. Like the prophets we’ve read so far, Jeremiah warns Israel of the coming covenant curses (recall the covenant blessings and curses from Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28). Jeremiah is painting a grim picture for Israel.
Just for fun, or not fun, I thought I would skim through Jeremiah and list out some of the sins God tells Jeremiah to point out to Israel:
- worshipping other gods
- seeking help and blessing from Baal (pagan god)
- rejecting God as God (God says not even the pagans do that, at least they stick with their gods)
- speaking falsely of the Lord
- rejecting the Lord’s prophets
- oppressing poor people (sojourner, fatherless, widow)
- lying, deceitfulness
- perverting justice to make a profit
- shedding innocent blood
- committing adultery
- sacrificing their children to pagan gods
What a mess. But for me, there is one especially disturbing scene. I have been thinking about this since I read it. It is in chapter 7 where Jeremiah is standing at the gate of the temple. Jeremiah warns Israel, “Do not trust in these deceptive words: ‘this is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord’” (7:4).
Why would those words be “deceptive”? Why is Jeremiah rebuking people for going to the temple and declaring its significance, “the temple of the Lord”? Here’s why:
“Behold, you trust in deceptive words to no avail. Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, ‘We are delivered!’—only to go on doing all these abominations?” (7:8-10)
The people are deceiving themselves because they think they can do as they please with their lives then show up at the temple with offerings and sacrifices and make everything right. “We are delivered!”
How could they think they could do such things and then show up at the temple and “poof” everything is right between them and God? Sounds crazy. It is easy to wonder about them when their sins are written down for us to read.
But I’ve been wondering, what would Jeremiah say to me if he were standing on the front steps at Clear Creek on Sunday? Greg, you would come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, ‘I am delivered!’—only to go on doing all these abominations?”
Does the way I live align with my regular presence in the company of the church? Do I ignore sin and selfishness and evil in my life but stand at church and sing and make offerings and tell myself “delivered!”? Do I see that what I truly worship I worship every day - not just on Sunday or Wednesday? Am I willing to repent? Am I willing to let God align my character with his so my worship is right and not self deceiving?
Good questions, aren’t they?