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God’s Word for You

Jeremiah 7:9-11

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, August 27, 2014

9 Will you steal and commit murder, commit adultery and swear falsely, offering sacrifices to Baal and following other gods you don’t know, 10 and then come and stand before me in this temple that bears my Name, and say, ‘We are rescued’—only to do all these abominable things?

There are many places in the Bible where a speaker will rattle off about half of the commandments in almost any order to show that the accused are really guilty of breaking all of them. Hosea quotes six (Hosea 4:1-2); Paul quotes four or five in Romans 13:9; Jesus himself quotes six in one place (Matthew 15:19) and a different list of six in another place (Matthew 19:18). James quotes just a couple to make a strong point, saying “Whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it” (James 2:10,11). Here Jeremiah asks about the most commonplace sins he sees going on all the time. The point is that the people are hypocritical about their faith. They have been faithless to God, but expect that God will be faithful to them. They push God away but expect him to pull them out of their dire circumstance anyway. They are like a cruel wagon driver, whipping God like an ox or a tired horse hitched to their wagon of sinfulness, swearing at him and lashing him with their sins. They are like a teenager who expects his hundred dollar car to run forever even though the only thing he ever does to it is put gas into it or kick it.

11 This house bears my name. Have you made it a den of robbers? I have been watching! declares the LORD.

Earlier in the chapter, Jeremiah condemned people for thinking, “The temple, the temple, we’ve got the magic temple” (Jeremiah 7:4). Now the Lord condemns people for making the temple a robbers’ hideout. It was commonplace for thieves, cutpurses and robbers to hide in caves around the Dead Sea. There were and still are so many caves there in the high cliffs that a massive search for a single thief could take many weeks, leaving plenty of moonless nights for a bad guy to get away without being noticed. The people of Judah were sinning like robbers, using the temple as their safe hideout, thinking that God’s eye would miss them behind the smoke of their sacrifices. “But I have been watching,” says the Lord.

That phrase, “I have been watching,” could be translated differently. The basic words mean “I myself have seen it,” and God could be saying, “Have you made it a den of robbers? I see it that way!”

On Monday of Holy Week, the week that ended with his crucifixion, Jesus drove out men who were selling doves and animals for sacrifice, but were not there because they wanted to serve God; they were only there to make a steep profit. They wanted only the money. Now, money isn’t the root of evil (the “love of money” is—1 Timothy 6:10), and there’s nothing wrong with making a profit, even if your doing a job for the church. But when we do anything for a motive apart from our faith, we’re sinning, and Jesus knew that the men selling birds in the temple were not doing it because of the faith in their hearts. As he drove them out, he quoted this passage, saying “My house will be a house of prayer, but you have made it ‘a den of robbers’” (Luke 19:45). God isn’t fooled when thieves hide under the cloak of the church to do their stealing. God knows what’s in our hearts, and what he wants to see is repentant faith. Maybe we should ask more often for trouble to come into our lives so that we will turn to him in faith and for forgiveness. It’s a frightening thing to do, but he understands our prayers, even when our own prayers might frighten us. And his mercy endures forever.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.