Jeremiah’s Temple Sermon
Published November 24, 2018
From a very young age, and really even before he was born, Jeremiah was called to speak words of truth and wisdom into the people of Israel. And from their beginning, Israel was called to be a people and a nation who existed for more than just themselves.
As Jeremiah grew older he began understanding some of what was happening around him. He saw the foreigner, widow, and orphan abandoned. He saw people rejecting God’s way of love for their own twisted sense of self love. The people of Israel had fallen into the trap of existing for just themselves.
Instead of honoring what God had set forth from the very beginning, which is to love God with all that you are and to love others with all that you have, the people instead chose to worship in the temple performing rites and rituals that they believed made them right with God. Worship in the temple was becoming a place to horde blessings for oneself while ignoring those suffering right there in their own communities.
It’s no wonder that Jeremiah asked if the temple was becoming a den of robbers? It’s also no surprise that when Jesus showed up hundreds of years later that he told the people they had made the place a den of robbers and then began flipping tables.
I’m afraid that the same sort of thing still exists today. People who gather in Jesus name, practicing rites and rituals, singing songs, and praying prayers that make us feel right with God without actually choosing to follow God with all that we are and to love others with all that we have.
All I can do, and all that any of us can do, is to ask questions of ourselves. Am I a part of that den of robbers? Do I exist for just myself and practice rites and rituals to feel like I’m following God? Or have I chosen true religion? Religion that takes care of the stranger, widow, and orphan? Religion that trades in selfishness for love lived out?
Jeremiah and Jesus are both prophets of their time, calling out the false religion of those who claim to follow the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob. People claiming to be God followers aren’t really walking with God or taking care of the stranger, widow, and orphan and instead what they’re doing is celebrating in their holy huddles while turning a blind eye to the needs of the rest of the world and a blind eye to their own sin. This sort of religion is worthless and God isn’t in it. The religion that God is in is the one where people love God with everything they are and the love others with everything they have.
Setting – Jeremiah is at the temple, the Jewish place of worship, proclaiming a message to the people that God has given him.
Tension – People are not really walking with God and they’re not really taking care of others but they still show up for temple worship practicing rites and rituals like all is good.
Resolution – Feel good worship is worthless. Real worship is walking with God AND taking care of the least of these. When we do that God will actually be with us.
Application – Have our church services become a den of robbers, a den where we horde blessings for ourselves while turning a blind eye to the rest of the world?
Jeremiah 1:4-10 We don’t accomplish the work that God has set before us by our own strength. It’s accomplished by God’s strength. It’s not about us. It’s about God.
Jeremiah 7:1-11 Will we follow the deceptive words of our time, forsaking what God has really called us to, and show up for our religious services pretending like everything is okay?
Matthew 21:12-13 Have we turned faith into something to suit the existence of ourselves instead of honoring the other-centeredness of what faith is really all about?
“Jesus was elevating loving God and neighbor, that is, matters of the human heart, over the rites, rituals and rules of his own religion. Interestingly enough, the common people loved Jesus for his message, while the religious establishment turned against him.”
–Commentary on Jeremiah 7:1-11 and Matthew 21:12-13.
I’m not surprised that after Jesus says what he says in Matthew 21 that he’s executed a week later. People hate love and compassion because it doesn’t serve their own self interests. I’m no longer surprised by anything that happens in churches or with Christians when self takes priority to the detriment of others.
The question that strikes me this week with Jeremiah’s text is, “What is the Gospel?”
Is it to show up to church, church, church and act like everything is perfect?
Or is it to realize our need for a Savior, who doesn’t just make us spiritually right, but also physically right with the world, taking care of the widow, orphan, and stranger?