Steven Ger - Monday, May 18, 2015
Welcome to the third installment of our study of the dynamic message of the prophet Jeremiah.
We have previously established the uniquely autobiographical tone of the book, concerning
the one whose name means both "the Lord exalts" and "the Lord throws down". We have confirmed
that Lord's message through his prophet in the first six chapters is indeed to "exalt" the
righteous and to "throw down" the disobedient. This month we will continue on through the
emotional and vivid journey of Jeremiah's message and see the passionate reaction of a
spurned God to His people's faithlessness and rejection of His law. Let's proceed on to this
month's invigorating portion of the prophetic word, Jeremiah 7-13.
The prophet in chapters 7-10, standing in the gate of the great Jerusalem Temple, indicts
Judah for backsliding away from the Lord. In front of crowds of priests, merchants and
worshipers, Jeremiah addresses the issue of true religion, i.e., religion that is acceptable
to God. He demonstrates that salvation does not come through ritual or sacrifice or going
through any other pious "motions,” but rather comes from knowing the true God and then
Early in the ministry of Jeremiah, good King Josiah had begun to reform the religious practices
of Judah and to restore and purify the worship of God. He had even initiated a building
project to repair the decaying Temple. Some years later, in the wake of Josiah's
religious reformation, the Jewish people were falsely placing their trust in the sacrifice
and ritual of the Temple. They believed that although the Lord may have judged the idolatry
and rebellion of the northern kingdom of Israel, that there was no way He would allow His
holy city of Jerusalem to suffer judgment. Certainly He would not permit the great Sanctuary
of Zion to be desecrated.
Jeremiah proclaims that this is futile wishful thinking. The Lord will not spare a people who
have brazenly transgressed a full half of the Ten Commandments (7:9). Pronouncing the
judgment that Jesus would later echo over six hundred years later, Jeremiah cries that the
house of the Lord has become a den of thieves (7:11). The Temple will provide no shelter for
those who have profaned its sanctity.
Jeremiah knew that elaborate sacrifice and ritual were meaningless unless they were accompanied
by individual changes of heart. Knowledge was useless without obedience and Jeremiah evoked
the message of his prophetic predecessors in calling for social justice and renewed obedience
to the Mosaic Covenant. Jeremiah again promises destruction on Judah if there is no repentance
. He contrasts God's infinite wisdom with their foolishness. Unless the people of Judah
change their ways their sin would be severely punished. Their claim of “peace,
peace” when there was no peace would suck them down in a whirlwind of terror; the
terror of destruction, death and exile from their homeland (10:17ff). Disaster cannot be
averted. The prophet himself identifies and personifies the hopelessness of the imminent
judgment to come. The weeping prophet cries out for "the balm in Gilead;" healing medicine
to close the gaping wounds of Judah (8:22-9:1).
In chapters 11-13, Jeremiah implores Judah to face the fact that they were grossly violating
the Covenant and that dire consequences were about to follow. To say the least, the prophet's
message lacked popularity. In fact, he records that there was a plot to muffle his message
by assassinating him. Disturbingly, even members of his own family were involved with this
heinous scheme (11:18-12:6). However, the Lord revealed the plot and protected his servant
and Jeremiah continued to speak the word of the Lord against his people. The message
continued to be uncomplicated: those who were obedient were under God's divine protection
and those who were disobedient were under His wrath. God and his prophet were both acutely
aware that the people would not listen and Jeremiah wept bitterly at the pending disaster
for his people.
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