THE TEMPLE SERMON
INTRODUCTION: Preach the word! Where? Jeremiah leaves the square (5:1) and now goes to the sanctuary (7:1). He exits the courthouse and enters the church house. A background study of this scene reveals two items. One, this was a festival time so there would have been a large crowd on hand. Second, it was a time of crisis. Word was spreading of an uprising in the north. Babylon’s saber-rattling could be heard. There had been the untimely death of good King Josiah. Now an unproven leader named Jehoiakim had come to the throne. It was an unsettling time. People were worried, weeping and wondering. They were searching for security. There were concerns militarily, politically and religiously. With all of that as a backdrop let’s research these chapters and verses and find some message for today.
I. THE PROCLAMATION
In order to understand the sermon one must grasp the scene. Note 7:1. Here is a message
from the Lord through the prophet to those gathering for worship. Large crowds were entering the sacred precincts. It’s as if Jeremiah is standing in the foyer preaching to the masses. Like a prosecuting attorney he hurls several accusations their way. Look at what he charges these people with.
A. The Misplaced Trust (7:2, 4, 8, 14). The leaders were gathering together their sermon notes. The pews were being filled. The choir was rehearsing and sounded in perfect harmony. The ushers were busy escorting people. The sound technicians were testing the acoustics. The lighting people were busy making sure the stage was proper. Yet! Yet! Yet, something was tragically wrong. Observe that three times reference is made to “the temple of the Lord.” The implication here is that they were safe.
Here’s the problem. They had chosen a place over a person. They chose a pattern
over a presence. In today’s vernacular we might describe it like this. “My name is on the church roll.” “I show up – sometimes.” “I give a little to the church.” But the issue is that ones’ life has not been transformed. These people had divorced their morality, ethics and conduct from their religion. The same holds true today. People spend Saturday night at the barroom or the cathouse and then show up Sunday morning as if everything is fine. “Why do people go to church or participate in worship services when it doesn’t make any difference in how they live each day?”
B. The Misguided Theology (7:9-11). Jeremiah mentions specifically six of the Ten Commandments. Obviously, they felt no shame about breaking God’s moral laws and then showing up for worship. For the words “den of robbers” remember Jesus’ words in Matt. 21:13. Research this section and you will find that because of their misguided theology they had no regard for the law (7:28). They had no regard to loyalty (7:16-19, 24-25). “Queen” here is a reference to Ishtar – the goddess of love and fertility. Immorality was rampant. They had no regard for life (7:30-34). The most hideous and deplorable practice of idolatry was child sacrifice. Today’s parallel would be called abortion. You may argue abortion socially or politically but you cannot argue it theologically. A child is a gift of God to be treasured not a fetus to be trashed.
C. The Misleading Teachers (6:13; 7:4, 8; 8:5, 7-8, 10: 9:14). Focus on 10:21. Remember when Dorothy and Toto landed in Munchkin Land (The Wizard of Oz). In order to find her way back to Kansas she had to follow the yellow brick road to the Emerald City to find the Great Oz. Along the way she meets the Scarecrow. When he asked Dorothy where the Oz and the city was she expressed surprise that he did not know. Remember his reply, “I don’t know anything. You see, I am stuffed. I have no brains at all.” Look back at Jer. 10:5.
II. THE FRUSTRATION
A study of Jeremiah reveals that he was as human as any modern day preacher. The prophet’s frustration manifests itself in three ways.
A. His Questions. Note the questions mentioned in v.5, v.14, v.19, v.22. These people refused to admit they had fallen. They had no desire to return. They had become so hardened that prayer for them was useless. What was their problem? It can easily and clearly be traced. Look at 8:9 then go back to 8:8 then to 8:6. They reject the word, become wise in their own eyes and then pursue their own course.
B. His Quest (9:1-2). Jeremiah wanted to escape. He was like many preachers on Monday morning. The ‘inn” here was not a Holiday Inn! It was a lonely, desolate place.
C. His Quote (8:20). The crops have failed. The enemy is coming and God has deserted. Jeremiah was crushed. He is experiencing intense suffering.
III. The Exhortation
Once again Jeremiah exhorts the people. Note three things.
A. Reform (7:3). This is a call for transformation. The meaning implies repentance. It is a command, a requirement for an authentic response. God is under no obligation to let the corrupt continue to live in the land.
B. Remedy (7:23; 9:23-24). Look at the results of trusting God.
C. Revenge (10:23-25). Jeremiah pleads with God to deal in justice – not in anger. He calls for corrective judgment not punitive judgment. He pleads with God to punish the nations who do not acknowledge him. Always remember that God is in total control. Don’t try to set His agenda for Him. Vengeance belongs to Him – not us.
CONCLUSION: The temple sermon back then is the temple sermon we need today!