Reflections on Scripture

by Wayne Bandy

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Scripture Passage

      Jeremiah - Chapter 07 (Contemporary English Version)
    1. The LORD told me to stand by the gate of the temple and to tell the people who were going in that the LORD All-Powerful, the God of Israel, had said: Pay attention, people of Judah! Change your ways and start living right, then I will let you keep on living in your own country.
    2. (SEE 7:1)
    3. (SEE 7:1)
    4. Don't fool yourselves! My temple is here in Jerusalem, but that doesn't mean I will protect you.
    5. I will keep you safe only if you change your ways. Be fair and honest with each other.
    6. Stop taking advantage of foreigners, orphans, and widows. Don't kill innocent people. And stop worshiping other gods.
    7. Then I will let you enjoy a long life in this land I gave your ancestors.
    8. But just look at what is happening! You put your trust in worthless lies.
    9. You steal and murder; you lie in court and are unfaithful in marriage. You worship idols and offer incense to Baal, when these gods have never done anything for you.
    10. And then you come into my temple and worship me! Do you think I will protect you so that you can go on sinning?
    11. You are thieves, and you have made my temple your hideout. But I've seen everything you have done.
    12. Go to Shiloh, where my sacred tent once stood. Take a look at what I did there. My people Israel sinned, and so I destroyed Shiloh!
    13. While you have been sinning, I have been trying to talk to you, but you refuse to listen.
    14. Don't think this temple will protect you. Long ago I told your ancestors to build it and worship me here, but now I have decided to tear it down, just as I destroyed Shiloh.
    15. And as for you, people of Judah, I'm going to send you away from my land, just as I sent away the people of Ephraim and the other northern tribes.
    16. Jeremiah, don't pray for these people! I, the LORD, would refuse to listen.
    17. Do you see what the people of Judah are doing in their towns and in the streets of Jerusalem?
    18. Children gather firewood, their fathers build fires, and their mothers mix dough to bake bread for the goddess they call the Queen of Heaven. They even offer wine sacrifices to other gods, just to insult me.
    19. But they are not only insulting me; they are also insulting themselves by doing these shameful things.
    20. And now, I, the LORD All-Powerful, will flood Judah with my fiery anger until nothing is left--no people or animals, no trees or crops.
    21. The LORD told me to say to the people of Judah: I am the LORD All-Powerful, the God of Israel, but I won't accept sacrifices from you. So don't even bother bringing them to me. You might as well just cook the meat for yourselves.
    22. At the time I brought your ancestors out of Egypt, I didn't command them to offer sacrifices to me.
    23. Instead, I told them, "If you listen to me and do what I tell you, I will be your God, you will be my people, and all will go well for you."
    24. But your ancestors refused to listen. They were stubborn, and whenever I wanted them to go one way, they always went the other.
    25. Ever since your ancestors left Egypt, I have been sending my servants the prophets to speak for me.
    26. But you have ignored me and become even more stubborn and sinful than your ancestors ever were!
    27. Jeremiah, no matter what you do, the people won't listen.
    28. So you must say to them: People of Judah, I am the LORD your God, but you have refused to obey me, and you didn't change when I punished you. And now, you no longer even pretend to be faithful to me.
    29. Shave your head bald and throw away the hair. Sing a funeral song on top of a barren hill. You people have made me angry, and I have abandoned you.
    30. You have disobeyed me by putting your disgusting idols in my temple, and now the temple itself is disgusting to me.
    31. At Topheth in Hinnom Valley you have built altars where you kill your children and burn them as sacrifices to other gods. I would never think of telling you to do this.
    32. So watch out! Someday that place will no longer be called Topheth or Hinnom Valley. It will be called Slaughter Valley, because you will bury your dead there until you run out of room,
    33. and then bodies will lie scattered on the ground. Birds and wild animals will come and eat, and no one will be around to scare them off.
    34. When I am finished with your land, there will be deathly silence in the empty ruins of Jerusalem and the towns of Judah--no happy voices, no sounds of parties or wedding celebrations.

Jeremiah - Chapter 07

Entered: September 13, 2004
Evidently Israel has taken pains to conduct temple worship in the prescribed manner, offering all the right sacrifices in the right ways. But God says this is not really what He wants. All He really wants is their obedience. I can't help but wonder if our situation is not a bit similar. There is all this concern about 'contemporary' worship being genuine worship with the more outgoing praise, the lifting of hands, the clapping, etc., etc. But does this really mean anything to God if there is not obedience in our lives, or have we really worshiped if this is the case? I contend that true worship is "to offer your bodies to him as a living sacrifice, pure and pleasing." (Rom 12:1)

Entered: November 03, 2010

God had given up on Judah, instructing Jeremiah not to even pray for the people for He was beyond listening to petitions on their behalf. This does not mean, however, that He was beyond extending mercy to the people of Judah if they should repent. For He said to them, " if you really change your ways and your actions, if you act justly toward one another . . . I will allow you to live in this place, the land I gave to your ancestors forever and ever." (7:5-7) God was still faithful to His covenant with them, it was they who were unfaithful. Nor did God expect that they would change. Jeremiah was not the first prophet God had sent to warn Judah, and instead of repenting of their ways the people had gone deeper into them. 

Why did the people not heed the warnings of Jeremiah and other prophets? They felt they were safe in their religious practices. For instance, they would stand in the temple and chant, "This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD," (7:4) thinking such practices made them safe. They also regularly brought their burnt offerings before the Lord further sealing their security, so they thought. But the Lord told them it would do more good for them to eat these meat offerings themselves. He reminded them that in the beginning of His covenantal relationship with Israel He didn't even speak to them about burnt offerings or sacrifices. What He did command them, though, was to "Obey Me, and then I will be your God, and you will be My people. You must walk in every way I command you so that it may go well with you." (7:23) This was the part they would not do. They wanted to observe what was convenient for them and continue to go about their evil ways walking "according to their own advice and according to their own stubborn, evil heart. They went backward and not forward." (7:24) 

Judah does not stand alone in these indictments. She is no different than people of all ages and nations. We want to do our own thing, living however we please, yet consider ourselves religious and pleasing in God's eyes because we follow the religious observances of our choosing. But what pleases God is hearts that desire Him and seek to please Him because they delight in Him and His ways. And what we fail to understand is that the good life we seek can only be found in God. Everything else is a sham, like chasing he gold at the end of the rainbow. As the end of the rainbow remains always beyond our reach, so is the life we pursue without God.

God's message to Judah is to "take note! Days are coming . . . when this place will no longer be called Topheth and the Valley of Hinnom, but the Valley of Slaughter." (7:32) "I will remove from the cities of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem the sound of joy and gladness and the voices of the bridegroom and the bride," says the Lord, "for the land will become a desolate waste." (7:34)