Jeremiah 7 records God’s word to Jeremiah on what to say to an Israel in need of a rebuke (Jer 7:1). He was to stand at one of the gates of the temple and call to those who were entering for worship (Jer 7:2). His message was that they should amend their ways so that God would be pleased to let them dwell in His temple for worship (Jer 7:3). They were not to trust in their temple participation as a means of avoiding God’s wrath for their sins (Jer 7:4). With an unrepentant heart, it was no use to go to the temple and vainly repeat, “This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord” (Jer 7:4).
Jeremiah was then to identify their specific sins and how they failed to execute justice in Israel (Jer 7:5). Their sins were to oppress the disadvantaged― foreigners, fatherless, and widows (Jer 7:6). Moreover, they were murdering innocent people and worshipping other gods (Jer 7:6). Renounce these ways, they were told, and God would surely secure their place in land of Israel (Jer 7:7).
Recalling the deceptive words in Jer 7:4, Jeremiah was to point out that their misplaced trust would yield no benefit in light of their theft, murder, adultery, lies, and idolatry (Jer 7:8–9). Any benefit they could have received from their worship in the temple was negated by their abominable behavior (Jer 7:10). Just as bandits and hooligans thieve and then hide with no remorse, so also Israel was treating the temple as a den of robbers where they thought they could flee the consequences of their sins (Jer 7:11). Their actions were like Israel in 1 Samuel 4 when Israel placed its trust in the presence of the Ark of the Covenant to bring them victory against the Philistines. Trusting in an object as if it were a magic charm, their trust was not in the Lord. They lost the battle, the Ark was captured, Shiloh was destroyed, and the high priest and his sons died (Jer 7:12–15; 1 Sam 4:1–11). Being in the temple would no more negate their guilt than the Ark helped Israel in that battle.
Jesus quoted Jer 7:12 in Mark 11:17 and thereby condemned the temple and its salesmen as being a “den of robbers.” If they thought about what Jeremiah had said so long ago, they would have understood that their show of worship was in vain in light of their unrepentant sin. If nothing else, Christ stood in their midst, and they would only challenge His authority (Mark 11:27–28). Eventually, in this same temple, Jesus would be betrayed by Judas to the Jewish leadership for a sum of thirty pieces of silver (Matt 26:14–16; cf. 27:5). This temple and its worship had not improved since Jeremiah’s day. Let us all take note that we truly worship God and do not see our gathering together as a means of excusing a hidden life of sin.
Pastor David Huffstutler
Pastor Huffstutler regularly writes articles for our Sunday bulletin. See his bio on our pastoral bio page.