Samuel says something we l-o-v-e to quote (I Samuel 12:23)
“It would be unthinkable for me to sin against Yahweh by failing to pray for you . . .”
We quote that as teaching about the need for prayer. But then what are you going to do with the verse we read yesterday, where God told Jeremiah, “As for you, do not pray for this people . . .”
As if that were not bad enough, in Verse 27 God goes on to tell Jeremiah,
“Jeremiah, you will say all these things to them, but they will not obey you. You will call to them, but they will not respond to you.” (Jeremiah 7:27)
In other words, “Stop praying, Jeremiah, but keep on preaching.” Now, that is hard to do! I know you do not think of yourselves as preachers, but anyone who speaks the word of God to another person is, in a sense, preaching to them. In essence, God is telling Jeremiah, “Don’t pray, but I want you to keep preaching. And I tell you this . . . No, they will not listen to you, but I want you to continue to share my word with them. They are just going to go right on their way. But I want you still to stand up and say what you have to say to them!”
That has to be one of the toughest assignments the Lord ever gave to anybody! I mean, to go and preach, but know ahead of time that they will ignore you. Wow! Sure, there have been times when people would not listen to my preaching, so I simply went home and prayed for them! But Jeremiah could not even do that! Until recently I had no idea what I would do if the Lord told me to, “Stop praying.” Now, I don’t know what to do. Prayer has always been a refuge and a strength to me.
Then the Lord seemed to instruct me to look at the historical setting. So let’s go back to the beginning of chapter 7:
Yahweh spoke his word to Jeremiah. He said, “Stand at the gate of Yahweh’s house, and announce from there this message: ‘Listen to the word of Yahweh, all you people of Judah who go through these gates to worship Yahweh. This is what Yahweh Tsebaoth, the Elohim of Israel, says: Change the way you live and act, and I will let you live in this place. Do not trust the words of this saying, “This is Yahweh’s temple, Yahweh’s temple, Yahweh’s temple!” It’s a lie.
“‘Suppose you really change the way you live and act and you really treat each other fairly. Suppose you do not oppress foreigners, orphans, and widows, or kill anyone in this place. And suppose you do not follow other gods that lead you to your own destruction. Then I will let you live in this place, in the land that I gave permanently to your ancestors long ago.” (Jeremiah 7:1-7)
It is difficult to grasp this unless we understand what was going on at this time. If you turn to Second Chronicles, Chapters 34 and 35, you will read the historical background of this moment in Judah. The young king Josiah was attempting to turn God’s people back to the Lord. But after discovering that the temple had become a “national attic,” a storage bin, he ordered them to clean it up.
Then, as they prepared for a big garage sale, the high priest, Hilkiah, who was very likely Jeremiah’s father, found an old scroll of the Law, probably of Moses’ book of Deuteronomy. Now, I want you to picture this: the Law had been ignored and lost somewhere in the junk. The king read it and was shocked when he saw how far the nation had drifted from the Lord. And, that the LORD had said what He would do if the nation had reached that point. So the king called all of his counselors and they tried to turn the nation around.
They read about the Passover and discovered that no one in that nation had celebrated the Passover since the days of Hezekiah, a hundred years earlier! This is was outrageous! They had ignored the most significant event in their history!
So, the king ordered a great celebration of the Passover. Scripture tells us that there had never before been a Passover in Israel like this one. This king went all out! He offered sacrifices according to the Levitical commandments and had the priests prepare themselves to conduct the ceremony.
The great day arrived when the sacrifices were to be offered in the temple. The companies of singers and chanters were prepared, and a great procession was ready, headed by the king himself! They were on their way to the temple to worship and to obey the command to perform the Passover supper . . .
The priests were swinging their incense pots, the choir was singing a hymn which included these words: “The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.” People were heaving a sigh of relief and thinking, “Oh boy! Now God is satisfied. Now he will save us. Now the nations around us will not take us over because we are at last settling our religious accounts with God!” And on the way, as they were chanting this chorus, suddenly, to everyone’s astonishment, a young man climbed up on the steps of the temple and yelled out, “HOLD IT!” And everybody stopped. He began to speak:
“Listen to the Lord’s word, all you people of Judah who go through these gates to worship the Lord. This is what the Lord of Armies, the God of Israel, says: Change the way you live and act, and I will let you live in this place. Do not trust the words of this saying, “This is theLord’s temple, theLord’s temple, theLord’s temple!” It is a lie‘” (Jeremiah 7:2-4)
Oh wow! He is saying, “Who do you think you are kidding? Do you really think God is like this, that all he is interested in is religious games, rituals that you go through? Do you really think that if you merely get all this religion going, God will be fooled and will spare this land? Don’t you know that God knows what is going on?” And he went on to describe it in Verses 8-11:
“You are trusting the words of a saying. It is a lie that cannot help you. You steal, murder, commit adultery, lie when you take oaths, burn incense as an offering to Baal, and run after other gods that you do not know. Then you stand in my presence in the house that is called by my name(?). You think that you are safe to do all these disgusting things(?). The house that is called by my name has become a gathering place for thieves. I have seen what you are doing,’” declares Yahweh.” (Jeremiah 7:8-11)
Ouch! Egad! That sounds like what happened centuries later when a young man stood up in the temple, made a whip of cords and drove the money-changers out of the temple, shouting, “You have turned my Father’s house into a den of thieves!” (John 2:16). That’s right! And in the midst of Jeremiah’s dramatic interruption, he delivered the message which God had for the people. They weren’t actually worshipping the Lord, they were counting on the fact that the temple was now clean, and the discovery of the law. Take a look at Chapter 8, Verses 8-9:
“How can you say that you are wise
and that you have Yahweh’s teachings?
The scribes have used their pens to turn these teachings into lies.
Wise people are put to shame, confused, and trapped.
They have rejected the word of Yahweh.
They don’t really have any wisdom” (Jeremiah 8:8-9)
Here was a nation who was trusting in performance, in outward ritual, but never realized that God knows the heart and what was going on. So, the only thing left was to be judged . . . not a pleasant thought. You see, when people become so blind that they cannot see what they are doing, and they really think that our God cannot see any further than the outward appearance of their life, then the only thing left, the only that is left to open their eyes, is judgment. So the prophet said these words to them, Verses 12-15 of Chapter 7:
“‘But go to my place that was at Shiloh, where I first made a dwelling place for my name. See what I did to Shiloh because of the evil done by my people Israel. You have done the same things the people did at Shiloh,’” declares the Lord. “‘Although I spoke to you again and again, you did not listen. When I called you, you did not answer. So what I did to Shiloh I will now do to the house that is called by my name. This is the place I gave to you and to your ancestors, the place where you feel so safe. I will force you out of my sight as I forced out all your relatives, all of Ephraim’s descendants’” (Jeremiah 7:12-15)
Whoo boy! This was the point that Jeremiah was told that he could no longer pray for this people because Yahweh had decided to bring judgment.
(I send out messages like this each morning in emails, and if you are interested in receiving them, send me your email address and I will add you—a to the list: Mail List)
I do thank you for your gifts. It is your faithful and continued support that makes these messages possible.