God’s Word for You
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, January 23, 2015
14 Then Jeremiah came from Topheth where the LORD had sent him to prophesy, and he stood in the court of the house of the LORD and said to all the people: 15 This is what the LORD of Armies, the God of Israel says. I will bring on this city and on all its towns all the evil that I have pronounced against it, because they have become stiff-necked, refusing to hear my words.
Jeremiah called the Jews stiff-necked three times (Jeremiah 7:26, 17:23 and here). When God uses the term “stiff-necked” (hiqshu et-orpham), he is condemning his people for being unwilling to repent and for embracing their sinfulness. This is what happened when they were worshiping the golden calf at Mount Sinai (Exodus 32:9). It is what God called the Israelites in the days of the last king of the Northern Kingdom just as they were taken into exile by the Assyrians (2 Kings 17:14). It was also the description of Judah’s last king, Zedekiah, just before he and the Southern Kingdom were taken into exile by the Babylonians (2 Chronicles 36:13). Solomon warned that a stiff-necked man will be destroyed “suddenly—without remedy” (Proverbs 29:1).
Jeremiah proclaimed this message in the court of the temple. No one stopped him as he went from one end of Jerusalem to the other. He walked away from his visual sermon in the valley of Topheth, leaving behind the smashed pot, and he marched through the streets of the lower city, the old City of David, up the slope called the Millo (the “supporting terraces” built by Solomon and Jeroboam, 1 Kings 11:26-28), and into the temple area on top of Mount Zion.
There he preached to the people who were there, calling God by the long, full title “the LORD of Armies, the God of Israel.” This title reminded people of God’s power, of how he gave victory to Israel under the leadership of faithful leaders like Moses, Joshua, Deborah and David. It reminded the people of God’s heavenly army as well, the legions of angels ready to come to our aid whenever necessary (2 Kings 6:17). This name also reminded people of God’s special covenant with Israel the man, Jacob the son of Isaac, who wrestled with God (Genesis 32:28) and whose family was promised this land of Israel (Genesis 35:11,12).
God gives us great promises, but he asks us to be faithful. The Jews were called to repentance by Jeremiah, and a few of them did repent, but most did not. Later, the Jews turned on Jesus and rejected him, putting him to death on the cross. They were condemned by Stephen for being “stiff-necked” and for turning away from the Savior (Acts 7:51).
At the time of Stephen’s sermon, five hundred years after Jeremiah’s, the fragments of Jeremiah’s smashed pot were undoubtedly still there, in a vast pile of other broken pottery, useless and worthless. That’s what God’s message meant for Israel: This place had become useless and worthless. Just as the pagan shrines had been defiled and could no longer be used, so also the temple of the Lord was defiled by the crucifixion of Jesus. It was no longer useful to God, and it had become worthless. Children who had known Jesus as a child grew up, became parents and then grandparents—and lived to see the final destruction of the temple. The wood burned, the massive stones cracked and disintegrated, and the gold was plundered. The beautiful building, perhaps the most gorgeous structure in all Judea, was demolished by the Romans and left in ruins, “not one stone left standing on another,” as Jesus prophesied (Luke 21:6).
Jeremiah delivered this message to the priests, elders of the people, and everyone else who was there, gathered for worship, prayer and sacrifice. Would they turn their hearts? Would they repent and turn back to God?
What do we learn from events like this one? Does it make us want to turn away from our sins and turn back to God, or does a hissing voice whisper in our ears, “You sins aren’t that bad. You don’t have to repent yet…”? You know where that voice comes from. That voice is never your friend. Trust in Jesus, and leave behind yesterday’s sins. Ask God to help you follow after his holy will today and every tomorrow. In Jesus there is life. In Jesus alone there is hope.
Pastor Timothy Smith
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