Faithlife Sermons

10 The Temple Sermon

Jeremiah  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented
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Jeremiah 7:1-15
A couple weeks ago while many were celebrating Halloween, others were celebrating Reformation Day. Reformation Day is celebrated by some to mark the day Martin Luther nailed his ninety-five statements of disagreement to the door of the Wittenberg church in Germany.
This was the beginning of the Reformation, a time when preachers began to preach what the Bible actually says instead of what was politically expedient.
But Martin Luther wasn’t the first reformer. Long before him there was Jeremiah, faithfully preaching the word of God. And if he were alive today I believe he would tell the evangelical church to repent. He would teach that the external Christian things we do without a changed heart cannot save us.
And if he was given the opportunity to preach to us today I think this is the sermon he would give, the temple sermon from chapter 7.
This sermon is called the temple sermon because he was commanded to go to where God’s people gathered to worship.
Jeremiah 26:1–2 CSB
At the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim son of Josiah, king of Judah, this word came from the Lord: “This is what the Lord says: Stand in the courtyard of the Lord’s temple and speak all the words I have commanded you to speak to all Judah’s cities that are coming to worship there. Do not hold back a word.
So, the message that Jeremiah was told to preach was intended for God’s people. And since all of Scripture is profitable for teaching and correction, these words are relevant to us today.
They are also relevant because they have a...

A Political Context

This sermon was given “At the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim son of Josiah, king of Judah.” As we know, Josiah was one of the good kings who was trying to lead his people back to the Lord through the destruction of idols and reinstitution of God’s word.
But this same sermon is reprinted again in chapter 26 where we have some additional information.
Jeremiah 26:1 CSB
At the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim son of Josiah, king of Judah, this word came from the Lord:
The sermon in chapter 26 may have been given at a different time but it’s content is fundamentally the same. So the point is, Jeremiah preached this sermon at a time of political crisis.
Transition from Josiah to Jehoiakim was not smooth.
When Josiah died his son Jehoahaz who only reigned for three months is said to have done evil in the sight of the Lord (2 Kings 23:32). After Egypt kidnapped him, his brother Jehoiakim became king who we told also did evil in sight of the Lord (2 Kings 23:37).
So, when Jeremiah stood in the temple to give this sermon to God’s people their country was in turmoil. Even under good king Josiah God was rejecting them for their disobedience. Even with his reforms, the people were still far from God.
And now things were worse.
The message of Jeremiah’s sermon was simple...
Jeremiah 7:3 CSB
“ ‘This is what the Lord of Armies, the God of Israel, says: Correct your ways and your actions, and I will allow you to live in this place.
This isn’t a difficult message to understand but it’s also a bitter pill to swallow and the people didn’t accept it at all.
Jeremiah 26:8 CSB
When he finished the address the Lord had commanded him to deliver to all the people, immediately the priests, the prophets, and all the people took hold of him, yelling, “You must surely die!
And in verse 11...
Jeremiah 26:11 CSB
Then the priests and prophets said to the officials and all the people, “This man deserves the death sentence because he has prophesied against this city, as you have heard with your own ears.”
Martin Luther could relate, I think. When he began to preach his reformation sermons, the Pope called him a pig, a snake, and an infectious virus.
So what was so offensive about Jeremiah’s message?

Half-Right Theology

Essentially, the content of Jeremiah's sermon was doing external Christian things without a changed heart cannot save. Put in theological terms: “Those who seek justification without sanctification need reformation.”
What’s so deceptive about Israel’s theology was that it was half right. These were religious people doing religious things. They offered sacrifices. They went to the temple in their best clothes to pray and hear scripture read.
But their hearts were far from God. They were not convicted of their sins and they refused to turn to God in repentance.
Verse 4 pretty much sums up what they believed.
Jeremiah 7:4 CSB
Do not trust deceitful words, chanting, “This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.”
They had replaced faith in God with faith in a building. Perhaps they weren’t trusting in kings anymore because of what happened with Josiah and his sons but they still weren’t trusting in God. They were putting their confidence in external religion.
And this makes them half right, which is true of most heresies. It’s good to go to church and do religious things, but without a changed heart those things produce the kind of results we desire in us or in our country.
So, the Israelites assumed that since they were meeting all of their religious obligations they could live however they wanted the rest of the time. But that’s not true which is why Jeremiah tried to convince them in verse 8.
Jeremiah 7:8 CSB
But look, you keep trusting in deceitful words that cannot help.
They had their slogans. They had their meetings and they even had their faith, of a sort. But they were living lives of sin which God was judging them for.
For anyone who has said they put their trust in Christ yet continues to live in sin this is a strong warning. If you are refusing to repent of lust, bitterness, greed, or worry then what you need is a reformation. We must not separate justification (God’s declaring you righteous) from sanctification (God making you into what he has declared you to be).
Some of us might chant internally: “I’m born again, I’m born again, I’m born again” or “I go to church, I go to church, I go to church” or “I pray every day, I pray every day” but we should not put our trust in these things. These are good things but not saving things.
Trusting in Christ alone is what we should boast about. As Paul said in Philippians:
Philippians 3:3 CSB
For we are the circumcision, the ones who worship by the Spirit of God, boast in Christ Jesus, and do not put confidence in the flesh—

A Life of Sin

So half of Israel's problem was that they were trusting in doing religious things to save them. The other half was that they were disobedient, living lives of sin.
They said “the temple, the temple, the temple, the temple” but God responded with three “if’s.”
Jeremiah 7:5–7 CSB
Instead, if you really correct your ways and your actions, if you act justly toward one another, if you no longer oppress the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow and no longer shed innocent blood in this place or follow other gods, bringing harm on yourselves, I will allow you to live in this place, the land I gave to your ancestors long ago and forever.
God’s people broke every one of the Ten Commandments. They didn’t show love for God or for people but Jeremiah seems to have a special emphasis on their lack of social justice.
They oppressed the “resident alien” the person living within their land that wasn’t a citizen. From God’s point of view this is a sin and one of the main reasons he was judging them.
They didn’t have a heart for the fatherless, or the widow, or the helpless. Why is this so bad? Because it reveals an ungrateful, arrogant, heart that thinks they deserve God’s blessing more than someone else does.
How should we determine if a nation is godly? Is the measure how many people go to church each week? That’s important but I don’t think it is God’s standard. To learn about how godly a society is, find out what happens to the underclass. Find out how orphans, immigrants, and single-parent families are treated.
When Jeremiah walked around Jerusalem he didn’t see much concern for the disadvantage. What would he see if he walked around here?
I don’t claim to know everyone’s heart, but I do know that every time we had Joy’s Kitchen at our church, an opportunity to directly serve the disadvantaged, usually only 1 or 2 of you would show up. In fact, the main reason Joy’s kitchen moved to this church is because at the other church they had even less.
You know who did show up? Catholics, atheists, liberals, and many from our communities who have no use for formal religion.
So, God sees our hearts. He saw the hearts of the Israelites and what He saw wasn’t good.
They broke all of the commandments.
Jeremiah 7:9 CSB
“ ‘Do you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, burn incense to Baal, and follow other gods that you have not known?
Yes, yes they do. But even worse, they acted as if they were completely innocent. Every week they would come to the temple as if nothing was wrong expecting God to just look the other way at their rebellion.
Jeremiah 7:10 CSB
Then do you come and stand before me in this house that bears my name and say, “We are rescued, so we can continue doing all these detestable acts”?
They came to church and bowed their heads at the right time. They sang the songs. They turned in their Bibles to the passages and maybe even took notes but then they left and went right back to whatever idols consumed all of their time for 6 more days.
God wants to know, how can we say we are rescued if we continue to live like we do?
How many times have I used my sermon prep time as an excuse to avoid serving at Joy’s Kitchen. Too many times. How often have I argued with my wife or my children, or used an unnecessarily harsh tone? Too many times. And then I come to church, give a sermon, and afterwards talk about the weather as if nothing’s wrong.
Jeremiah 7:11 CSB
Has this house, which bears my name, become a den of robbers in your view? Yes, I too have seen it. This is the Lord’s declaration.
Jesus quoted this same verse when he threw over the tables of the money changers:
Matthew 21:13 CSB
He said to them, “It is written, my house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of thieves!”
The thing about robbers and thieves is they try to stay hidden. They steal at night or they wear masks so they can get away with their crimes. These people showed up to the temple each week thinking they could fool God, that he wouldn’t notice their hypocrisy, and then they could go back doing whatever they wanted to do for six more days: complaining, arguing, worrying, trusting in idols instead of trusting in God.
Just as bad, I think many of us will hear God speaking to us this week but then will return to our TV, the Internet, Facebook, or what ever source of information we prefer and let that have more control over our thinking than God’s word.
But God see us as He says in verse 11 “Yes, I too have seen it. This is the Lord’s declaration.”

The Lesson of Shiloh

So, Jeremiah’s message is that doing external Christian things without a changed heart doesn’t save. Or put in theological terms: “Those who seek justification without sanctification need reformation.”
But what happens if a church or a nation refuses to mend its ways?
Jeremiah answers this question by asking us to remember the lesson of Shiloh.
Jeremiah 7:12 CSB
“ ‘But return to my place that was at Shiloh, where I made my name dwell at first. See what I did to it because of the evil of my people Israel.
There wasn’t much to see at Shiloh when Jeremiah wrote this and that’s the point.
Shiloh was where the temple used to be. It was where the ark was kept and where God presence dwelled. But if God’s people went there during Jeremiah’s day all the archeological evidence indicates all they would’ve found was a pile of rubble.
What happened?
Psalm 78:58–60 CSB
They enraged him with their high places and provoked his jealousy with their carved images. God heard and became furious; he completely rejected Israel. He abandoned the tabernacle at Shiloh, the tent where he resided among mankind.
So Shiloh represents the absence and abandonment of God. The people of God thought He would never leave them. The conservatives during Jeremiah’s day thought God would never abandon them. That’s what happened to the liberals but surely not to us.
They looked around at the temple and thought “look at how nice our building is, look at all the good things we’ve done with our money.” They couldn’t imagine that the temple would ever be destroyed and yet that’s exactly what happened because they had replaced their trust in God with doing external Christian things.
Jeremiah 7:13–15 CSB
Now, because you have done all these things—this is the Lord’s declaration—and because I have spoken to you time and time again but you wouldn’t listen, and I have called to you, but you wouldn’t answer, what I did to Shiloh I will do to the house that bears my name, the house in which you trust, the place that I gave you and your ancestors. I will banish you from my presence, just as I banished all of your brothers, all the descendants of Ephraim.’
But God would never do that today, right? Well, all we have to do is look around at all of the abandoned churches throughout the country, especially in rural areas. Just talk with Richard if your skeptical.
And I think these days of Covid-19 should serve as a warning to us. Right now there are thousands of church buildings throughout the world that are closed. We pray that it’s only temporary but who knows?
No building, no church, no congregation, has a permanent hold on God’s presence. The perseverance of God’s people in any place depends upon God’s grace. There is nothing sacred about buildings.
Acts 17:24 CSB
The God who made the world and everything in it—he is Lord of heaven and earth—does not live in shrines made by hands.
Could it be that while church leaders are suing the government over attendance limits and mask regulations that we are forgetting what it actually means to be the church.
In Wenzhou, China I think they get it. Not that long ago, the Chinese government commandeered a church building and appointed one of the government officials as their pastor.
The church was more than a thousand people and they had built the building with their own hands but government told the people to either accept the new pastor or leave.
The decided to leave and within two days they had set up dozens of house churches for their congregation. And as far as I know this is still how they are meeting today.
See, what they wanted more than anything else was the living presence of God who doesn’t dwell in a building but in his people, in people who are trusting not in lawsuits, or political parties, or building programs or new methods of church growth, but in Christ alone.
What the church needs now is reformation and our prayer should be that God will use our present situation to make that happen.
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