The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Stand in the gate of the Lord’s house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the Lord, all you men of Judah who enter these gates to worship the Lord. Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Amend your ways and your deeds, and I will let you dwell in this place. Do not trust in these deceptive words: ‘This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.’
“For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly execute justice one with another, if you do not oppress the sojourner, the fatherless, or the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own harm, then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your fathers forever.
“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? Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, I myself have seen it, declares the Lord. Go now to my place that was in Shiloh, where I made my name dwell at first, and see what I did to it because of the evil of my people Israel. And now, because you have done all these things, declares the Lord, and when I spoke to you persistently you did not listen, and when I called you, you did not answer, therefore I will do to the house that is called by my name, and in which you trust, and to the place that I gave to you and to your fathers, as I did to Shiloh. And I will cast you out of my sight, as I cast out all your kinsmen, all the offspring of Ephraim.” – Jeremiah 7:1-15 ESV
God sent Jeremiah to the temple. He was to stand at the gate to the temple and, as the people entered in to worship, he was to give them another word of warning. What an interesting juxtaposition this passage presents. The people were obviously still worshiping Yahweh by attending the temple and offering Him the appropriate sacrifices. For them, the temple was a sign of their place of honor as God’s people. It was His dwelling place and had been constructed by Solomon under the direct supervision of God Himself. And when Solomon had dedicated the temple to God, he had prayed:
“Lord, the God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth below—you who keep your covenant of love with your servants who continue wholeheartedly in your way. You have kept your promise to your servant David my father; with your mouth you have promised and with your hand you have fulfilled it—as it is today.“ – 1 Kings 8:23-24 ESV
Solomon saw the temple as a place where God would dwell among His people and where the people could turn to Him in prayer, pleading for forgiveness when they had sinned against Him.
“May your eyes be open toward this temple night and day, this place of which you said, ‘My Name shall be there,’ so that you will hear the prayer your servant prays toward this place. Hear the supplication of your servant and of your people Israel when they pray toward this place. Hear from heaven, your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive.” – 1 Kings 8:29-30 ESV
Solomon had gone on to provide God with a range of different scenarios in which the people might come to Him in need and offer prayers to Him at the temple. They included vindication for the innocent, military defeat, famine, drought, plague, disease, pestilence, and even captivity.
“When they sin against you—for there is no one who does not sin—and you become angry with them and give them over to their enemies, who take them captive to their own lands, far away or near; and if they have a change of heart in the land where they are held captive, and repent and plead with you in the land of their captors and say, ‘We have sinned, we have done wrong, we have acted wickedly’; and if they turn back to you with all their heart and soul in the land of their enemies who took them captive, and pray to you toward the land you gave their ancestors, toward the city you have chosen and the temple I have built for your Name; then from heaven, your dwelling place, hear their prayer and their plea, and uphold their cause. And forgive your people, who have sinned against you; forgive all the offenses they have committed against you, and cause their captors to show them mercy; for they are your people and your inheritance, whom you brought out of Egypt, out of that iron-smelting furnace.” – 1 Kings 8:46-51 ESV
You can begin to see why the people felt like they were immune from complete destruction by God. Jerusalem was the city of God. The temple was the dwelling place of God. And as long as the people asked for forgiveness from Him, He was obligated to forgive them. Or so they thought. They were counting on the fact that God had made a promise to preserve Jerusalem forever.
For the Lord has chosen Zion;
he has desired it for his dwelling place:
“This is my resting place forever;
here I will dwell, for I have desired it.” – Psalm 139:13-14 ESV
They were confident in their safety because God had also promised David that his kingdom would be established forever.
“And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.” – 2 Samuel 7:16 ESV
But God had not said that Jerusalem would not fall, the temple might not be destroyed or that the Davidic dynasty would be uninterrupted. In fact, after Solomon had finished his prayer of dedication at the opening of the temple, God had responded:
“But if you or your descendants turn away from me and do not observe the commands and decrees I have given you and go off to serve other gods and worship them, then I will cut off Israel from the land I have given them and will reject this temple I have consecrated for my Name. Israel will then become a byword and an object of ridicule among all peoples. This temple will become a heap of rubble. All who pass by will be appalled and will scoff and say, ‘Why has the Lord done such a thing to this land and to this temple?’ People will answer, ‘Because they have forsaken the Lord their God, who brought their ancestors out of Egypt, and have embraced other gods, worshiping and serving them—that is why the Lord brought all this disaster on them.’” – 1 Kings 9:6-9 ESV
And as Jeremiah stood at the gate of the temple that day, he made it painfully clear that the people had not kept their end of the covenant. They were placing all their hope in the presence of the temple, saying, “‘This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord” (Jeremiah 7:4 ESV). In other words, they were counting on the fact that the temple was God’s dwelling place and He was not going to let anything happen to them. He would protect His house. But God had warned them that the temple would become a heap of rubble if they failed to live in obedience and faithfulness to Him. And He had meant far more than just refraining from idol worship. He has Jeremiah tell them, “I will be merciful only if you stop your evil thoughts and deeds and start treating each other with justice; only if you stop exploiting foreigners, orphans, and widows; only if you stop your murdering; and only if you stop harming yourselves by worshiping idols” (Jeremiah 7:5-6 ESV). They were guilty of far more than idol worship. They were disobeying the commandments of God. As far as they were concerned, His laws had become optional. They felt no compulsion to live according to His will. And God exposes the audacity of their actions and the absurdity of their thinking.
“Don’t be fooled into thinking that you will never suffer because the Temple is here. It’s a lie! Do you really think you can steal, murder, commit adultery, lie, and burn incense to Baal and all those other new gods of yours, and then come here and stand before me in my Temple and chant, ‘We are safe!’ —only to go right back to all those evils again?” – Jeremiah 7:8-10 NLT
God has Jeremiah remind the people of the fate of Shiloh, a site just 20 miles from Jerusalem. It lay in ruins. Why? Because of the disobedience of the people of Israel. Shiloh had been the place where the tabernacle of God was kept. But the people had proven unfaithful to God. And they were given over by God to defeat by the Philistines, who captured the Ark of the Covenant and, most likely, destroyed Shiloh.
But they put God to the test
and rebelled against the Most High;
they did not keep his statutes.
Like their ancestors they were disloyal and faithless,
as unreliable as a faulty bow.
They angered him with their high places;
they aroused his jealousy with their idols.
When God heard them, he was furious;
he rejected Israel completely.
He abandoned the tabernacle of Shiloh,
the tent he had set up among humans.
He sent the ark of his might into captivity,
his splendor into the hands of the enemy.
He gave his people over to the sword;
he was furious with his inheritance. – Psalm 78:56-62 ESV
God had done it once before and He warned that He would do it again. Unless His people repented. They must return to Him, but they would also be required to change their ways. It wouldn’t be enough to simply ask Him for forgiveness. Let’s look back at Solomon’s dedication of the temple. God had told the people what they would have to do to receive healing and help from Him.
“…if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” – 2 Chronicles 7:14 ESV
God was looking for repentance, but repentance must be accompanied by a determination to live in obedience to Him. Repentance involves a resolve to change the way you live. It is not just a sorrow over sin, it is a recognition that sin is an offense to God. And it is a desire to live differently, to change one’s actions and to live in keeping with God’s will.
English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.