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Deceptive Ways and Despicable Deeds

Jeremiah  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  32:24
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In Jeremiah's most famous sermon, his Temple Sermon, God calls his people to repent of their Deceptive Ways and Despicable Deeds.



Jeremiah's most famous sermon is found in chapter 7. Take a moment to turn to that chapter or if you prefer, you can follow along as it is projected. This sermon is known as "Jeremiah's Temple Sermon." It is called the "Temple Sermon" because it was preached in the temple and because it deals with Judah's idolatrous trust in the temple. Let us now hear God's word:
Jeremiah 7:1–15 ESV

The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: “Stand in the gate of the LORD’s house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the LORD, all you men of Judah who enter these gates to worship the LORD. Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Amend your ways and your deeds, and I will let you dwell in this place. Do not trust in these deceptive words: ‘This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD.’

“For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly execute justice one with another, if you do not oppress the sojourner, the fatherless, or the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own harm, then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your fathers forever.

“Behold, you trust in deceptive words to no avail. Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, ‘We are delivered!’—only to go on doing all these abominations? Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, I myself have seen it, declares the LORD. Go now to my place that was in Shiloh, where I made my name dwell at first, and see what I did to it because of the evil of my people Israel. And now, because you have done all these things, declares the LORD, and when I spoke to you persistently you did not listen, and when I called you, you did not answer, therefore I will do to the house that is called by my name, and in which you trust, and to the place that I gave to you and to your fathers, as I did to Shiloh. And I will cast you out of my sight, as I cast out all your kinsmen, all the offspring of Ephraim.

If you were listening carefully as I read you probably heard echos of Jesus' preaching in the temple. In fact, Jesus quotes Jeremiah when...
Matthew 21:13 ESV

He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”

You might have also heard echos of Jesus' preaching to some of the seven churches of Asia Minor. Just as God threatened to "cast [Judah] out of [his] sight" (Jer 7:1), so Jesus threatens to "remove [the] lampstand" of Ephesus (Rev 2:5), to "war against" Pergamum (Rev 2:16), to "strike dead" the children of the false prophetess in Thyatira (Rev 2:23), to "come like a thief" against the unrepentant in Sardis (Rev. 3:3) and "spit [the Laodicea church] out of [his] mouth" (Rev 3:16). Clearly this is a timeless message. It is a message that is just as relevant today as the day it was first preached by Jeremiah!
Twice in this passage God calls his people to "amend [their] ways and [their] deeds" (Jer 2:3 and Jer 2:5). In their place of worship, their religious practice had the facade of orthodoxy, but in reality it was idolatrous. Just like the Pharisee's that would come after them they were "white-washed tombs". The corrupt nature of their religion exposed itself in their life outside of the temple. Their ways were deceptive and their deeds were despicable. Sadly, the same can be said of far too many people who call themselves Christians. Let us first look more closely at "Deceptive Ways."

Deceptive Ways

When we read our bibles we should not imagine that every Israelite descended into the gross idolatry of a person like Manasseh. For example, even though we are told both the kings of Israel and Judah practice child sacrifice, archeologists have not found evidence that child sacrifice was wide spread as it was in places such as Carthage. As in the case of the Pharisee's of Jesus day, the religion of the average person might have appeared very pious. This is the problem, outward religion can be very deceptive.

The Deception of Outward Religion

The average Israelite made a great show of piety and orthodoxy.
Jeremiah 7:4 ESV

Do not trust in these deceptive words: ‘This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD.’

The Ark of the Covenant was God's throne on earth and the temple was his house. A truly faithful and obedient people had every reason to expect God's divine protection and blessing. However, the people as a whole were not faithful or obedient to God. In spite of how pious and orthodox their words sounded and their worship looked, they had compromised their religion.

The Deception of Compromised Religion

From the very begin, Israel had shown a tendency to mix the true religion of Yahweh with the false religion of the world. In verse 16, God says a rather astonishing thing to Jeremiah, he tells him not to intercede on behalf of Judah! The reason why is as follows:
Jeremiah 7:17–18 ESV

Do you not see what they are doing in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? The children gather wood, the fathers kindle fire, and the women knead dough, to make cakes for the queen of heaven. And they pour out drink offerings to other gods, to provoke me to anger.

The religion practiced in their homes was quite different from the religion they publicly professed in the temple! There in the privacy of their own homes they were teaching their children to worship other gods!
Sadly, the same thing is going on in the homes of many who calm to be bible believing evangelicals. We who call ourselves Reformed Christians take great pride in our theology and orthodoxy. “The Westminster Confessions of Faith, the Westminster Confessions of Faith, the Westminster Confessions of Faith” is our cry, but the religion we practice outside the church is much different than the religion we practice inside. Judah's idolatry and ours becomes evident when you look at our Despicable Deeds.

Despicable Deeds

Despicable is a word made famous by one of our presidential candidates a few weeks ago, it means "to be contemptible, mean or vile." This word certainly fits the deeds the people of Judah.
Jeremiah 7:5–6 ESV

“For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly execute justice one with another, if you do not oppress the sojourner, the fatherless, or the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own harm,

And in verse 9, Jeremiah adds:
Jeremiah 7:9 ESV

Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known,

One of the characteristics of these despicable deeds is that they oppressed the defenseless in society.

The Oppression of the Defenseless

Throughout scripture three groups of people characterize the defenseless, “the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow”. In the ancient near east, security depended on familial relationships. A person who did not have the protection of a strong male, be it the clan leader, a husband or a father was totally defenseless. These are the people others took advantage of.
Of course, God’s law made provision for the care of all three classes of people. I am sure the majority of the people of Judah were not actively oppressing the defenseless, however the majority of theme were not actively helping the defenseless as the law required. To turn a blind eye towards the defenseless is to be culpable in their oppression.
This "sin of omission" still characterizes many who profess faith in God.
The consequences of actively or passively oppressing the defenseless are great--people died. Throughout the Old Testament the oppression of the defenseless goes hand in hand with the shedding of innocent blood.

The Shedding of Innocent Blood

The story of king Ahab and Naboth found in 1 Kings 21 illustrates how the oppression of the defenseless results in the shedding of innocent blood. King Ahab wanted Naboth’s vineyards and queen Jezebel had Naboth murdered to take possession of his vineyard. Sadly, the story of King Ahab and Naboth has been repeated throughout not only Israel’s history, but human history. Human life is cheap when you worship the false gods and goddesses of this world.
The ultimate manifestation of the shedding of innocent blood was child sacrifice. In the valley of Hinnom the infant children of Judah were offered up as sacrifices to the fertility gods and goddesses of this world.
Jeremiah 7:30–31 ESV

“For the sons of Judah have done evil in my sight, declares the LORD. They have set their detestable things in the house that is called by my name, to defile it. And they have built the high places of Topheth, which is in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, which I did not command, nor did it come into my mind.

If the sins of Israel and Judah seem far away and totally removed from our life and society, think again. Fifty years ago, Frances Schaeffer identified the gods of our age. He wrote this:
As the more Christian-dominated consensus weakened, the majority of people adopted two impoverished values: personal peace and affluence.
Personal Peace and Prosperity are the true “American Idols.”

The American Idols: Personal Peace and Prosperity

In the quotation that I have provided you in your bulletins, Frances Schaeffer defines these two idols:
The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer Chapter Eleven: Our Society

Personal peace means just to be let alone, not to be troubled by the troubles of other people, whether across the world or across the city—to live one’s life with minimal possibilities of being personally disturbed. Personal peace means wanting to have my personal life pattern undisturbed in my lifetime, regardless of what the result will be in the lifetimes of my children and grandchildren. Affluence means an overwhelming and ever-increasing prosperity—a life made up of things, things, and more things—a success judged by an ever-higher level of material abundance.

Notice that Schaeffer says that other people, especially our children are sacrificed at the alter of our false gods of Personal Peace and Prosperity. As we learned last week in Jeremiah 2, when we exchange the living God for worthless idols, we become worthless--we lose our humanity. Frances Schaeffer puts it like this:

It is stupid because such people have traded in their beautiful humanity for sawdust and ashes—for broken homes, for abortions, for starved children, and for old people locked away and even destroyed. Being a person has infinitely greater rewards for those who will consciously concentrate on being people—warm and loving people—rather than on their personal peace and affluence.

God offers us a better way through faith and union with Christ--the true God and the true man. Frances Schaeffer continues:

We challenge you to be a person in this impersonal age. Be human in this inhuman age. Put the people in your life first—whether perfect or marred. This is your once-in-a-lifetime chance of being “people with people.” Come to your senses. You and those around you are people, made in the image of the personal God who created all people in His image.

Our Scripture lesson ended with a chilling threat, "I will cast you out of my sight." As we heard earlier, Jesus' words to five of the seven churches of Asia Minor contain the same threats of judgement as we hear Jeremiah speak. God threatens and reproves his people because he loves them. Let us heed the warning of Jeremiah we heard today. Let each of us examine him or herself, turn from our idols and "amend our ways and our deeds." Let us pray:
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