Summary: Worship is not about appearing, it is an active, lively part of the complete sacrifice God desires from all who claim to be His.
Jeremiah’s Temple Sermon
Jeremiah wanted to know why…The temple in the Old Testament was characterized by beauty on the outside and on the inside. The temple had pure bronze columns, golden incense altars and lamp stands, wooden cherubim, each ten feet tall with outstretched wings. Inside the holy place, and in the innermost part of the temple, was the Ark of the Covenant, where at one time the two stone tablets of the 10 commandments, a golden bowl of manna from the wilderness wanderings, and Aaron’s rod were. In this place in the temple, according to 1 Kings 8:10-11, was the very presence of God. The presence of God characterized the temple of God. This was the place where the dwelling and presence of God were.
The temple was also a place where Israel sacrificed. Sin offerings and burnt offerings were performed by the Levites on behalf of the people and their sins. The temple housed altars that offered the atonement of sins from God.
In one sense, it was very ritualistic. The people had to go through certain rituals in order to sacrifice pleasing to God. Rules were enforced as to which animal should be sacrificed and the manner in which it was to be killed and then offered. The point was for the people to give back what had already been given to them through God’s grace.
But unfortunately, I think we misunderstand what God really wanted. The majority of the overall religious world today feels that Israel faithfulness to God was determined by their sacrifice. Some go a little farther and teach that Israel needed a pure heart when they sacrificed. I think if we look at the Old Testament, we will see an entirely different picture.
The temple was very important….
Jeremiah finds himself at the temple gate in Jeremiah 7 asking why.
Many people in Israel loved going into the beautiful house of God. The majority of the people participated in the rituals and sacrifices to God. But many people’s experience of God stopped there. They characterized their entire relationship with God by their sacrifice. God came to Jeremiah, and told him to stand at the gate of the temple, and preach a message, a message that they needed to hear, and a message that we need to hear today.
What Jeremiah said right here, would have shocked the people. You see the people placed their confidence in the temple. They knew that God lived there, and by coming to the temple and offering up their sacrifices, they would be ok. They KNEW that this was the truth. But Isaiah tells them the complete opposite. He tells them that just coming to the temple, to the very house of God didn’t make them faithful. They would come to the temple and say, “This is the temple, this is the temple, this is the temple!.” And by saying so, they were proclaiming that God is here, we are doing what God wants, we are here.
Jeremiah told them that just because you come to the temple doesn’t mean you live with God. Just because you come here and offer sacrifices doesn’t mean you follow or walk with the Lord. What did the people have to do? Jeremiah told them to reform their ways and their actions, and then they could live with God.
We can’t learn anything from this can we?
They came to worship God, but they weren’t living like it on the outside. You see their religion was only at the temple.
The people in Israel, lived many different lives with many different faces. Some would murder and steal, lie and cheat, serve other gods, and then come to the temple and feel safe.
Israel struggled with a major problem. They participated actively in sacrifice to God on Sabbath. I’m sure that they knew the rules, they were actively involved in making sure that the rules were kept and followed closely. They would come, and many would offer their sacrifice of a tenth of what God had given them. I can picture an Israelite family getting up early on the Sabbath day so they could sacrifice. They mount their camels and mules and they would go the temple. They would watch as the priests offered sacrifices. They would participate in the fellowship offering, or well being offering and eat part of the sacrifice. They knew what the Sabbath day was about. They knew what the temple was about. And they were good at keeping Sabbath laws.
But their actions, and their words, and their attitudes, and their thoughts, were different when they were not at the temple. Their relationship with God was completely defined by the temple.
And Jeremiah said, WAKE UP, why are you here?