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God’s Word for You

Jeremiah 7:1-4

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, August 25, 2014

In chapter 7 we will hear the beginning of a long passage known as the Temple Sermon (chapters 7-10). Although the term “temple sermon” is sometimes only applied to chapter 7, or 7 and 8, all of 7-10 fits the designation. Later in the book (chapter 26) we will hear the historical and political circumstances of this temple sermon.

7 The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD. 2 “Stand in the gate of the LORD’s house and proclaim this message there: Hear the word of the LORD, all you people of Judah coming through this gate to worship the LORD.

In chapter 26 we learn that this happened “early in the reign of Jehoiakim” (Jeremiah 26:1), who began his rule in the autumn or early winter of 609 BC (2 Kings 23:34). The gate mentioned here would have been one of the gates worshipers used in Solomon’s temple, but we don’t know exactly which gate it would have been. A medieval commentator (Kimchi) tells us that Solomon’s temple had seven gates in all, most of which might have been used by people coming in to worship. Perhaps the golden gate on the east side or the temple gate on the south side would be likely places for the prophet to have encountered the most people.

3 This is what the LORD of Armies, the God of Israel, says: Reform your ways and the things you do, and I will establish you in this place.

We want to ask two things of this verse, and I’ll ask them backwards. The second one is, what is “this place” where God would establish his people? The first one is, what things are involved in the “reform” that God demands? Too many commentaries spend time on the question of “where” instead of the reformation. The “place” might be the entire land of Judah, or it might be the temple—Jeremiah was, we remember, standing in the temple gate when he said this. But we need to see the bigger issue; the first and most important question, the question of reform.

The word hetivu (הֵיטִיבוּ) is a command from the root word yatuv “be good.” There is a common Hebrew noun, tov, “good,” the word God used to judge each of the days of creation: “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). God wants his people to change the bad things they do and the evil way that they live, and make it good. He wants us to live in line with his will. This begins with each person; with each one of us, personally. When you were a child, your parents said: “Be good!” By that, they meant don’t get into trouble and do what you’re supposed to do: eat your meals, drink milk every day, put on clean clothes and take a bath, and so on. When God looked at his creation and saw that it was good, he saw that there was nothing at all wrong with it. It was perfect and flawless. So when God is the one who says “Be good; reform your ways,” we know that he means more than “Don’t be very bad.” He means “Be holy and walk in my ways.”

4 Do not trust in deceptive words and say, ‘This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD!’

This is one of the most important passages in the book. The people of Judah were being told by the temple priests that because the temple was God’s special resting place on earth, nothing could happen to the temple or, by extension, to the city and nation that surrounded it. So they had taken to chanting or singing, “The temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD,” or as one of my seminary professors put it: “The temple, the temple, we’ve got the magic temple!” But God had not commanded his people to build the temple. Only the tabernacle, the movable tent built by Moses and Aaron, had been constructed at God’s command. The stone temple in Jerusalem was King David’s idea and King Solomon’s project. But God had warned: “If you or your sons turn away from me… 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 become a byword and an object of ridicule among all peoples…” (1 Kings 9:6,7).

The people thought they were invulnerable. In 1941, the Japanese military leaders had convinced the Emperor and the people of Japan that their islands were invulnerable, too. Their attack on Hawaii in December and throughout the Pacific that month and early 1942 led the people and their leaders to believe the propaganda even more. Then in April 1942, Lt. Colonel James Doolittle led a raid of U.S. Army bombers launched from an aircraft carrier to attack the Japanese islands. The raid did little physical damage, but the reason for the raid was not so much to destroy material as it was to destroy a Japanese idea: “The Japanese people had been told they were invulnerable… An attack on the Japanese homeland would cause confusion in the minds of the Japanese people and sow doubt about the reliability of their leaders.” (James Doolittle).

The people of Judah did not have a “magic temple.” What they had was thinly disguised unbelief that was in danger of condemning them to rejection, judgment, and eternal punishment. It was time to reform.

The time to reform and repent is always right now. Even if we were in church yesterday and had communion and have God’s will foremost in our minds, we have sin and temptation plaguing us every day. Keep your eyes on the cross of Jesus, and thank him with every part of your life.

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.