“‘But just look at you! You are putting your confidence in a false belief that will not deliver you. You steal. You murder. You commit adultery. You lie when you swear on oath. You sacrifice to the god Baal. You pay allegiance to other gods whom you have not previously known. Then you come and stand in my presence in this temple I have claimed as my own and say, ‘We are safe!’ You think you are so safe that you go on doing all those hateful sins! Do you think this temple I have claimed as my own is to be a hideout for robbers? You had better take note! I have seen for myself what you have done!’ says the Lord.” (Jeremiah 7:8-11 NET)
The conditions in Judah were not good. Although there was lip service to being the people of YHVH, the reality was that their hearts were far from him. Jeremiah dispelled any notion that they were in any way living as the people of God.
They seemed to think that as long as they came to worship in God’s temple in Jerusalem God would accept them. Yet look at what they were doing: they were breaking just about every one of the ten commandments. Stealing? They were involved. Murder? Yes, that was there, too. Adultery? That seems to have been rampant (Ezekiel mentions this frequently as well). Truthfulness? They didn’t know what that was. Idolatry? This was rampant!
Yet despite flagrantly disobeying God’s commands they thought as long as they came to worship YHVH in his temple, they were safe – safe, even though their lives were full of dreadful sins. Did they really think that by going to God’s temple and offering a sacrifice, while living anyway they wanted the rest of the time, that they were fooling God? As God said to them: “You had better take note! I have seen for myself what you have done!”
When we read these words written about God’s people over 2,500 years ago I hope that we can see that people really haven’t changed. Do we know Christians who, sadly, are trying to live the same way?
It isn’t enough just to come to worship God on Sunday. Being a Christian is more than just a period of worship once a week. Being a Christian is what we do every day of the week. Just because we come to worship God on Sunday doesn’t mean that we are ‘safe’. As someone once said, sitting in a hen-house does not make you a chicken anymore than sitting in a church building makes you a Christian.
We need to live like we are God’s people every day of the week, every hour of the day. Stealing, murder, adultery, lying, putting other things before God, is just as sinful today as it was when Jeremiah wrote these words. God knew what the people of Judah were doing. He knows what his people are doing today, as well.
What is the lesson for us? We need to live changed lives as the people of God. Our lives are to be different than what we see too often around us. Although those around us may be involved in stealing (in some form), character assassination, and a total lack of truthfulness we cannot be involved in these if we are going to be God’s people. Adultery seems to be rampant and accepted in society, yet God’s people cannot be involved in this at all. Sadly, God doesn’t come first in the lives of most people.
If we are to be the people of God we must learn to think different and live different. We need to change our lives to reflect who we are as children of God. We must place God on the throne of our lives and give him our undivided loyalty.
Photo of Bede House, St Mary’s Church, Higham Ferrers, England, by Jon Galloway, 2020.
Readings for next week: Jeremiah 2-8