Jeremiah 7: 1-15
1 The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 2 Stand in the gate of the Lord’s house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the Lord, all you people of Judah, you that enter these gates to worship the Lord. 3 Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Amend your ways and your doings, and let me dwell with you in this place. 4 Do not trust in these deceptive words: This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord. 5 For if you truly amend your ways and your doings, if you truly act justly one with another, if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, and widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own hurt, 7 then I will dwell with you in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your ancestors forever and ever. 8 Here you are, trusting in deceptive words to no avail. 9 Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Ba’al, and go after other gods that you have not known, 10 and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, “We are safe!”–only to go on doing all these abominations? 11 Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your sight? You know, I too am watching, says the Lord. 12 Go now to my place that was in Shi’loh, where I made my name dwell at first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of my people Israel. 13 And now, because you have done all these things, says the Lord, and when I spoke to you persistently, you did not listen, and when I called you, you did not answer, 14 therefore I will do to the house that is called by my name, in which you trust, and to the place that I gave to you and to your ancestors, just what I did to Shi’loh. 15 And I will cast you out of my sight, just as I cast out all your kinsfolk, all the offspring of E’phraim.
Known as the “weeping” prophet, in this passage Jeremiah seems hardly on the verge of tears! On the contrary, gone is his customary sensitivity, timidity, and melancholy, replaced instead by a ferocious appeal for Judah to repent. Especially in verses 8 through 15, we can almost see the prophet–eyes ablaze, bits of spittle on his lips–boldly exhorting Judah to turn back. Then Jeremiah takes things a step further, warning of God’s consequences should they fail to obey: nothing less than God’s total abandonment of His beloved Judah to destruction and desolation.
So what does this grim Old Testament scenario have to do with us today? After all, we’re not thieves, murderers, adulterers, slanderers, or idolaters, are we?
Before we answer “no,” it would be well for us to take a hard look at our “inner” heart, that place deep within that harbors our secret selves, carefully hidden from the world, known only to God. Viewed in this uncompromising light, we are forced to recognize and acknowledge our sins, as well as our need for forgiveness. From scripture we know God’s wonderful promise of forgiveness. But while freely given, God’s grace requires something of us in return: our active participation. Far more than the lip service of repentance offered by Judah, only to continue their evil practices, ours must be sincere and heartfelt where we let go of those stumbling blocks that separate us from God. It won’t be easy. However, unlike the Kingdom of Judah whose story ends unhappily with their captivity, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ our savior who promises to be with us every step of our journey. Thanks be to God for His abundant mercy!
Loving Father, be with us, as close as our very skin, as we seek to repent and be transformed into the persons you have created us to be!