Obedience and Worship

Prophet Jeremiah
Jeremiah, as depicted by Michelangelo from the Sistine Chapel ceiling

The Prophet Jeremiah


Jeremiah 7:1-11; 21-23
1The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, 2Stand in the gate of the LORD’s house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the LORD, all ye of Judah, that enter in at these gates to worship the LORD. 3Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, Amend your ways and your doings, and I will cause you to dwell in this place. 4Trust ye not in lying words, saying, The temple of the LORD, The temple of the LORD, The temple of the LORD, are these. 5For if ye thoroughly amend your ways and your doings; if ye thoroughly execute judgment between a man and his neighbor; 6If you oppress not the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and shed not innocent blood in this place, neither walk after other gods to your hurt: 7Then will I cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers, for ever and ever. 8Behold, ye trust in lying words, that cannot profit. 9Will ye steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and burn incense unto Baal, and walk after other gods whom ye know not; 10And come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, We are delivered to do all these abominations? 11Is this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, even I have seen it, saith the LORD.

21Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Put your burnt offerings unto your sacrifices, and eat flesh. 22For I spake not unto your fathers, nor commanded them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices: 23But this thing commanded I them, saying, Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people: and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you.

Jeremiah has been called the grandest, strongest, bravest man of Old Testament history. The history of Jeremiah bears a closer resemblance to that of Jesus than that of any other prophet of the Old Testament.

Jeremiah was the son of a priest. He was born just a few miles from Jerusalem. The ministry of Jeremiah covers about forty-one years. Commentaries tell us that he was very lonely. He didn’t have a wife and family.

Jeremiah experienced a life of hardship. He was surrounded by bitter foes, endured cruel persecutions, spent much time in horrible prisons and his life was often in danger but he had unfailing courage and confident hope.

We are not always told explicitly in just what ways God spoke to prophets. Sometimes they received messages from God through the moving of the Holy Spirit.

Frequently they actually heard the voice of God. They often saw visions. Perhaps at times God spoke to them with strong impressions, upon their minds, as they were attuned to God’s will by their ready obedience.

We have seen in Jeremiah Chapters 2-6 the prophecies which Jeremiah delivered during the first five years of his ministry as a young man around 20 years of age. He delivered those severe predictions, condemning his people and pronouncing judgment upon them.

Now the prophecies in Jeremiah Chapters 7-10 were given after the law of the LORD had been discovered in the Temple, during the time of cleaning, ordered by the young King Josiah. King Josiah was greatly concerned about his people which revealed that he had a personal relationship with God as a young man.

Jeremiah’s father, Hilkiah, is the one who found the Law of the LORD in the house of the LORD. The Temple was cleaned out and repaired and back in use, which was, of course, a very wonderful thing.

Now Jeremiah stands in the gate of the LORD’s house and gives a prophecy to his people. This is the way Chapter 7 opens. Jeremiah is sent to call for true repentance to prevent the Jews’ captivity.

This worship at the Temple in Jerusalem was good as far as it went. It was what God’s ancient law had commanded. But Jeremiah was disturbed by what was happening between the times of worship, and that was what Jeremiah’s sermon was about.

At the very start, Jeremiah must make it plain that he was not trying to tell the people what to do. The LORD of Host, the God of Israel, was telling them. Jeremiah was only a messenger.

Jeremiah 7:3 (above), Amend your ways and your doings. It is evident that although they are going to the temple and are returning to temple worship there is no real change in their lives. They are still living as they did when they were worshiping idols. It is only an outward revival at this time. The time would come when it was more real, but at this point it is only a surface movement.

Now we see the attitude of the people which was the thing that concerned Jeremiah. Verse 4 (above), Trust ye not in lying words, saying, The Temple of the LORD, The Temple of the LORD, The Temple of the LORD (three times). You can imagine how the people felt about all of this. They probably were exclaiming “My, look at the Temple. Isn’t it beautiful since it has been restored? It’s just like old times. Isn’t it good to get back to the Temple!” Their Temple was their “salvation” instead of trusting and obeying the LORD’s words delivered by Jeremiah.

You see, there was enthusiasm about the Temple, but there was no genuine turning to God. This is the thing that Jeremiah noticed.

By reading 2 Chronicles, Chapters 34 and 35, you will understand what was happening at this time in history. They had reinstituted the services in the Temple with all the sacrifices and feasts. That was good, and wonderful, but the problem was that they were not changing their ways.

They lived just as they had lived before (verses 9-10, above) and although the people were talking about how wonderful the Temple was, they were still worshiping Baal. They felt that they had given what was necessary by participating in the offering for the rebuilding of the Temple. They were visiting the Temple but what they didn’t realize was that they could not take refuge in external religious practices.

The fact that they came to the Temple to carry on outward forms of worship would not protect them from God’s judgment if their hearts did not change.

In Verse 4 (above) the lying words of the false prophets were of such concern to God that He referred to them again in verse 8 (above). These men were assuring the people that God would never destroy Jerusalem, because the Temple was there.

Listening to such words could only bring trouble on the people, not profit. These so-called prophecies were completely contrary to those delivered by the LORD to the nation through His true prophets.

The lying words cited in verse 4 came from false prophets who continually soothed the people with the assurance that all was well. These impostors implied that there was something almost magical about the Temple. Recall the repetition of the phrase: The Temple of the Lord.

Jeremiah declared there was no protection in the Temple building. Protection could come only from the LORD Himself, and that protection came with conditions. The people were to restore justice as explained in

Jeremiah 7:5-7
5For if ye throughly amend your ways and your doings; if ye throughly execute judgment between a man and his neighbor; 6If ye oppress not the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and shed not innocent blood in this place, neither walk after other gods to your hurt: 7Then will I cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers, for ever and ever.
John 4:20-26
20Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. 21Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. 23But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. 24God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. 25The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things. 26Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he.

Jesus made it perfectly clear that the geographical situation or the kind of building is immaterial to worship. It is the spiritual condition of the worshiper and not his physical location that determines whether or not his worship is acceptable to the Father.

Jeremiah reminded the people of the purpose for which they had come to the Temple. It was to repent of their sins, make things right and worship God from their hearts.

Legal disputes could no longer be based on favoritism; oppression of the helpless was to stop. The “stranger” was the foreigners who lived in the land but was not part of the covenant people. Nevertheless, he was to be treated with kindness and compassion.

Orphans and widows were to receive the full protection they could not provide for themselves. Murders and idolatry were to cease. They were going to the Temple, but were still doing these things—an outward pretense of worshiping God but their hearts were still hard and calloused, far from being right with God.

God is not as interested in our ritual on Sunday as He is in our behavior on Monday. The place to judge whether a Christian is genuine or not, is not to watch him in church on Sunday but to see him at work on Monday.

Jeremiah 7:23
But this thing commanded I them, saying, Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people: and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you.

God clearly states for them, again, that what He wants is their obedience. Coming to the Temple is wonderful, but it is no substitute for obedience.

Just as the Jews of Jeremiah’s day were deluded by false prophets, many are still deceived by messengers of a worldly gospel, that helps sinners feel comfortable.

But the beauty of the gospel is its simplicity. John 3:16 is so uncomplicated that a child can understand and apply it.

John 3:16
For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

The Lord told the people they might as well eat the burnt offerings too because they no longer meant anything to Him. They had become mere flesh with no spiritual significance. As far as the Lord was concerned, He invited them to pile up all their burnt offerings and eat them, as they would any other meat. The spiritual condition of the people made all of their sacrifices worthless.

God’s promise of blessings on the nation was conditional. Obey My voice and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you. That was the condition. When it was met, the relationship would be beautiful. God would become a personal God and the Jews would be His people.

Jeremiah did not have people come forward and declare themselves for God. His message went unheeded, yet it was his responsibility to deliver the message. God bid him to do the job, to give out His Word, even if there was no response to it.

It is not important for us to be able to count heads or noses and see a response to our message. The important thing is the report we must give to God, to be faithful in giving out His Word and backing it up with our lives.

Author: Nannie Mae Jordan   (Transcribed by Joyce Carter   Transcribed and Formatted by Jerry Knight)

 

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