For the Love of God, Volume 2/July 11
From Gospel Translations
Joshua 14—15; Psalms 146—147; Jeremiah 7; Matthew 21
THIS TEMPLE ADDRESS (JER. 7), delivered in prose to the people coming through the gates “to worship the LORD” (7:2), is famous for its powerful insistence that no rite or institution or building can shield a guilty people from the wrath of God. To think otherwise is to descend to ridiculous superstition. Some notes:
(1) The merely repetitious chanting of a godly theme such as “the temple of the LORD” (7:4)—or, for that matter, “Jesus is Lord”—avails nothing. What God demands is moral renovation, repudiation of false gods, justice, and generosity (7:6-8). The shedding of innocent blood (7:6) might refer to judicial murders, for we know they were committed (26:23, under Jehoiakim).
(2) But what is offensive above all is the sheer hypocrisy. People would happily steal and murder and commit adultery and perjury, offering their worship to false gods—and then participate in temple worship, claiming shelter as if the temple’s ramparts could save them from the judgment of God (7:9-11). When one reads contemporary statistics on stealing (e.g., cheating on income tax) and adultery, both outside the church and inside, it is difficult to believe that we are in a vastly different situation. We may not claim the sanctuary of temple precincts, but somehow we think that our modicum of Christian observance means that we are still “good people” and therefore safe from the judgment that falls on other nations.
(3) The time may come, as it came in the days of Jeremiah, when intercessory prayer on behalf of such people is actually forbidden by God himself (7:16). This is equivalent to saying that it is too late.
(4) Even so, God wants Jeremiah to tell the people all these things. Perhaps the sheer extremity of the threat will prompt reflection and encourage repentance. But no: “When you tell them all this, they will not listen to you; when you call to them, they will not answer. Therefore say to them, ‘This is the nation that has not obeyed the LORD its God or responded to correction. Truth has perished; it has vanished from their lips’” (7:27-28). Though written to describe Judahites in the sixth century before Christ, it is difficult to imagine any passage that more accurately describes Western culture, including much of the Western church. Indeed, in our day “truth has perished” not only in the sense that integrity is at a low ebb, but as a result of postmodern sensibilities that find it difficult to see what all the fuss is about: all these religious claims are driven by sociological pressures, aren’t they, and not by a divine Being who actually speaks objective truth? And so we rush to perdition.