Getting Our Heart’s Desire
Pastor Steve Ellison
Chapter seven of Jeremiah begins a sermon which points out that the people of Judah were on a fast track to receive the judgment of God. Jeremiah 26 provides the historical background of Jeremiah’s sermon in chapter seven and it also tells the response of his hearers. The immediate historical context is early in the reign of Jehoiakim/Eliakim, son of Josiah, who was ruling as a puppet ruler at the pleasure of the Egyptians. Before his death, Josiah had removed many idols from the land but evidently not from the hearts of the people, for they turned back quickly.
In only the second verse of chapter seven, we read that God’s instruction to Jeremiah is to speak from the very gate of the Temple itself and to address his remarks to those who are entering for the purpose of worship. We find out very quickly that those entering the Temple were not worshipping at all. Rather they only thought they were worshipping. They were only engaging in religious ritual. In the second verse of chapter twenty-six, I note that Jeremiah’s instructions are the same except his remarks are to be addressed to the “cities” of Judah which are entering the Temple for worship. Thus we know that the sermon topic must be proper worship and it applies to the whole congregation not just the individual. We can also safely assume that it must be a time of one of the great feasts. Based on 7:4, it seems that the residents of Judah wrongly believed that the presence of the Temple in their town and their observance of religious rites therein gave them right relationship to YHWH and His protection. Much of the rest of the chapter is devoted to describing the people’s attempt at mixing idol worship with worship of the one true God. The rest of chapter seven also reveals a complete lack of ethical behavior by the residents of Judah which should have accompanied their religious rites.
In 7:12, God gave them a real example from their history that should have served as a clear warning that in spite of the importance God Himself placed on the Temple, it was not guaranteed to last. The people refused to heed the warning and paid the price for their idolatry and lack of ethics.
As I write on this the day after a very important national and local election day in the United States of America, I am overwhelmed by the thought that “the people have spoken”. We will receive exactly what we have desired. We have a semblance of spirituality, we engage in religious ritual, but we have hard hearts, seeking ill-gotten gain and the fleeting pleasures of sexual sin. The list could go on and on. We mix our religious ritual toward the one true God with our real worship at the idol of self. No matter what happens as a result of this election, the witness of the true Christian will not be ruined. No matter if the Chinese flag or the Muslim flag, or a new flag created in civil war flies over the White House, God will continue to have a testimony on the earth. The true believer in the God of the Bible will still be “salt and light”; however, just like in Jeremiah’s case, that testimony will be more costly to the person giving it, far more costly than we would have ever dreamed a few years ago. God has promised to keep a testimony for Himself on the earth, but He did not mention what it would cost. ………..firstname.lastname@example.org