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Sep 4 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

Jeremiah chapters 7-8 – 09/03/2023



Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Good morning and welcome!           The Lord is with you.

Perhaps you are a master at something—plumbing, teaching, maybe you’re a physician or an artist.  If someone wants to learn your trade or become like you, where do they start?  It probably involves being your student, an intern, or an apprentice, right?  The Holy Spirit’s mission is to help us become like Jesus – a Master of Love, of Righteousness.  If we are to become like Jesus, there WILL be some lessons to learn, some skills to acquire, and some dedicated commitment to follow Him.  And, the Holy Spirit has our lesson plan. 

This week I came across these verses in Psalm 18,  “He brought me out into a broad place; he rescued me, because he delighted in me.  The LORD dealt with me according to my righteousness…” 

In the chapters in Jeremiah that Chuck brought us last week, God’s people had been charged with forsaking him and serving other Gods.  Maybe you could say they were interning or had apprenticed themselves to other masters. God was relentless in his accusations, but he doesn’t want to destroy them; he wants them to change their ways.  Their social systems were not in order, their worship was misplaced, they were insensitive to their shame and wrong doing, they were weak and untested. Do you think our own nation might feel a bit convicted here.  It was not just a declaration of guilt, but an invitation to turn, an invitation to learn again how to be people after God’s heart. 

If we say that we are followers of Jesus, the Spirit takes us at our word and begins to disciple us.  We can be rebellious students or go AWOL, yet the Spirit will be relentless.  Why?  Because God rescued us and delights in us.  And, God deals with us according to our righteousness, in other words, according to what we need.  The people in Jeremiah’s time had been warned, and now disciplined, because they wouldn’t accept the LORD’s correction.

This week, I read about how our own nation has gone wrong,  “We have unknowingly baptized many of our North American values to feel a little more Christian to us.  We baptized greed and imagined it was the abundant life.  We baptized contempt and imagined it was fighting the good fight against the enemies of the faith.”  I’m feeling convicted myself here.

The prophet Daniel also prayed when he saw the desolation of Jerusalem coming.   Our opening prayer this morning will use words taken from his prayer.  Will you join me?

O, Lord, the great and awesome God who keeps his covenant of love with all who love him and obey his commands, we have sinned and done wrong. We have turned away from your righteousness and defined it for ourselves.  We are ashamed.  We will hold these truths—that You rescued us and delight in us, that You will do what is necessary to shape righteousness in us, not as punishment, but as discipline.  Thank you for the gift of our nation.  O, Lord, listen and act for the sake of your name and for us who bear your name.  We humbly ask you to restore streets of safety, goodness and mercy, faithfulness to Jesus.  Our reward will be in becoming apprenticed to You that we might become like You.  Thank you for your Word and Your Spirit with us this morning.  Lead us in righteousness for Your name’s sake, we pray.  Amen

Morning Talk: chuck smith, jr.

The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: “Stand in the gate of the LORD’s house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the LORD, all you of Judah who enter these gates to worship the LORD. Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Amend your ways and your deeds, and I will let you dwell in this place. Do not trust in these deceptive words: ‘This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD.’Jeremiah 5:1-4

Intro: The first time I visited Shiloh in Israel, I loved it

Finally I felt something extraordinary in Israel–like an energy vibrating up through the soil
– that was on the path, before we had even reached the site
• one strong appeal that Shiloh that appealed to me was that there was nothing there but bare hillsides
• but for that same reason, Shiloh was a message of doom for Jerusalem
– I knew about Shiloh from this passage in Jeremiah–it had always intrigued me
• so I looked closer at scripture and found that when Israel entered the land,
Then the whole congregation of the people of Israel assembled at Shiloh and set up the tent of meeting there (Jos. 18:1)
◦ Shiloh was established as a holy place
◦ 400 years later, God’s dwelling was no longer just a “tent,” but some kind of more permanent structure
Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat beside the doorpost of the temple of the LORD (1 Sam. 1:9)
• Shiloh had been made sacred by God’s presence there
◦ but by Jeremiah’s time, Shiloh had already been desolate for centuries
– now the temple in Jerusalem was headed for same destiny
• we will see why – and try to learn from their mistakes

The beliefs they adopted were more superstition than revelation

the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD (v. 4)
Robert Alter, “The triple repetition reflects something like a mantra recited by the people: this is the LORD’s temple, and hence those who enter it to worship have nothing to fear.”
– if you read the books of Kings and Chronicles, many times you’ll come across a vision for the temple
(to David) your son . . . shall build a house for my name (2 Chr. 6:9)
For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that my name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will be there for all time (2 Chr. 7:16)
(Notice also in this chapter of Jeremiah, “this house, which is called by my name,” vv. 10, “my place where I made my name dwell at first” v. 12, “the house that is called by my name,” v. 14)
◦ the temple was God’s house, and he was present there
• however, God’s promise to reside in the temple was provisional
But if you turn aside and forsake my statutes and my commandments that I have set before you and go after other gods . . . this house that I have consecrated for my name, I will cast out of my sight . . . (2 Chr. 7:19-20)
◦ people in Jeremiah’s time, assumed the building was special
◦ but it was sacred only as long as God treated it as sacred
– her in the U.S., there’s a long Christian tradition of “going to church”
• for many people, that’s what defines their Christian faith
◦ being a Christian is what they do one day of the week
• in Jeremiah 9, God will explain what it means to know him
◦ it has to do with how he has revealed himself
◦ in scripture, revelation always calls for a response
The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law (De. 29:29)
– what I learn from this passage is that there is no magic building
• and no mechanical membership in the family of God
• we do not belong to an institution, but to a personal God
◦ as it has been noted many times, we are not an organization but an organism

They were not paying enough attention to how they lived

God’s first instruction to them was “Amend your ways and your deeds”
– the word “ways” has great significance in Hebrew Scriptures
[The LORD] made known his ways to Moses,
his acts to the people of Israel (Ps. 103:7)
• “ways” refers to interior values, concerns, and commitments
◦ a person’s inner ways determine their outward actions
• amend is also translated “do well”– it means to make better
◦ these people needed to reconsider what they treasured and how they ran their lives
– God provided a list of activities they needed to change
For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly execute justice one with another, if you do not oppress the sojourner, the fatherless, or widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own harm, then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your fathers for ever Jeremiah 7:5-7
• I see this as a minimum standard of acceptable behavior
◦ the entire law reveals the complete requirements of God to live a righteous life
• if Jeremiah’s audience would take on the short list, they would be decent people
◦ but if they failed to do this much–well, they would not be God’s people
– this is the life of doing what is right and good is the standard Jesus lived and taught
• he never said, “Go to church, read your Bible, and tithe”
• he said, “Love God and love your neighbor”

They were putting their trust in deceptive (or lying) words
Behold, you trust in deceptive words to no avail. Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, ad go after other gods that you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, “We are delivered!”–only to go on doing all these abominations? Jeremiah 7:8-10

The backstory to this deception breaks my heart
– where were those people hearing those lying words?
• that it was okay to break God’s commandments and come into his presence as if nothing was wrong?
◦ they got it from their religious teachers
How can you say, “We are wise because we have the word of the LORD,”
when your teachers have twisted it by writing lies?
These wise teachers will fall
into the trap of their own foolishness,
‘ for they have rejected the word of the LORD.
Are they so wise after all?” Jeremiah 8:8-9 NLT
• years ago I read Scripture Twisting by James Sire
◦ the subtitle is, 20 Ways the Cults Misread the Bible
◦ the problem is, it’s not only cults that twist the Scriptures
– about the same time I was reading another book
• I was enjoying it until the author quoted 1 Jn. 2:2
[Jesus] is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.
◦ he explained, as a Calvinist, could not tell a non-believer, “Jesus died for your sins”
• he went on to present most the convoluted interpretation of any passage I ever read
◦ and he did so to prove that the Bible did not mean what it said

It is easy for us to read and interpret the Bible in wrong ways
– but it’s much worse when Bible teachers offer us lame interpretations
• I’ll give you one example: many of my colleagues advocate teaching the Bible “verse-by-verse”
◦ this is an artificial method of teaching the Bible, because it was not written in chapters and verses
• teaching verse-by-verse creates the impression that each verse is a single unit,
◦ and each one has its own inspired message and meaning
◦ but most verses in the Bible are parts of a larger thought and it’s that larger thought that gives each verse its meaning
– a lot of believers cling to promises God did not make to us
• or hold onto dogmatic positions based on a faulty interpretations
• Paul’s advice to Titus is good for every Bible teacher:
Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech (Titus 2:7-8)

They had missed the point of God’s revelation
Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: “Add your burn offerings to your sacrifices, and eat the flesh. For in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, I did not speak to your fathers or command them concerning burn offerings and sacrifices. But this command I gave them, ‘Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people. And walk in all that I command you, that it may be well with you.’(7:21-23)

This sounds odd, because God did give them instructions regarding offerings and sacrifices
– but not when they first left Egypt – that came later
• God wanted something more personal between them and himself
“obey my voice” has a specific significance
• in all their travels through the desert, and all God said to them and did for them,
◦ he was teaching them to hear his voice and listen to him
• even when the people were given the commandments,
◦ in those static words engraved in stone,
◦ they could still learn to hear God’s dynamic voice
– God’s word is always a living word – it is always speech
• we live in a continuous conversation with our God

They had a chronic spiritual disorder; namely, a stiff neck
Yet they did not listen to me or incline their ear, but stiffened their neck. They did worse than their fathers Jeremiah 7:26

This is given poetic expression in chapter 8
You shall say to them, Thus says the LORD:
When men fall, do they not rise again?
If one turns away, does he not return?
Why then has this people turned away
in perpetual backsliding?
They hold fast to deceit;
they refuse to return.
. . . Even the stork in the heavens
knows her times,
and the turtledove, swallow, and crane
keep the time of their coming,
but my people know not
the [regulations] of the LORD
Jeremiah 8:4-7
– at times God points out that nature is more faithful to him than humans
• here he contrasts migratory habits of species of birds who know to return
– falling down or making a wrong turn, these are normal human errors
• all God asks is that we get back up, that we turn around and take the correct road
• the greatness of biblical heroes like David and Peter,
◦ is not that they never sinned or made mistakes
◦ but that they always bounced back

One more observation
As for you, do not pray for this people, or lift up a cry or prayer for them, and do not intercede with me, for I will not hear you. Jeremiah 7:16

I’m not going to try to explain this, but only note how sad it is
– this sadness was not lost on Jeremiah (read the dark conversation in Jeremiah 8:18-22)
– God had answers for Jeremiah and the people
• but his answers are not consoling

Conclusion: When God told Israel, “Obey my voice,”

He gave them a promise:
and I will be your God, and you shall be my people
This is the heart of God’s covenant with Israel
This is the heart of God – it reveals what he wants with us
He doesn’t want us to engage in an impersonal and formal religion
But to embrace him in a familial relationship – Father and child
He speaks to us every day
In the breeze says, I am with you
Let’s learn to listen,
so we can give God what he desires;
our best love and our whole self

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