24 July 2010

Jeremiah 7:1-11

"Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Amend your ways and your doings, and let me dwell with you in this place." (v.3)


God sends Jeremiah to the gate of the Temple in Jerusalem to deliver a controversial message: the people's confidence in the Temple is misplaced. It is not religious observance that God requires, but a living faith that expresses itself in heartfelt worship and social justice. God will not allow the Temple to become the refuge of robbers (compare Jesus' words in Matthew 21:13). It will be destroyed and the people will be banished (7:11-15).

Jeremiah's words about the Temple shocked the people. They thought it was inviolable. The Covenant, the kings, and the city of Jerusalem were all seen as guarantees of God's favour and protection. They responded angrily to his message and threatened his life (see chapter 26).

Nevertheless, Jeremiah's words came true. In 587 BC the unthinkable happened. Judah was invaded by the Babylonian empire. Jerusalem fell, the Temple was left in ruins, and the people were exiled. Everything they believed about God and about themselves as God's people was called into question by these events. They could choose to respond in one of several ways...

They could see it as an opportunity to reform their understanding of who God actually is and not who they had imagined or wished God to be. They could decide against God and abandon their faith. Or they could cling on to their old beliefs, even though they had become untenable. Jeremiah wrestled with these questions as much as anyone and he chose to trust in God.

To Ponder

If Jeremiah were to come to your street or church, what might he have to say about your beliefs and behaviour?

How have your life experiences challenged and changed your understanding of who God is?

Bible notes author

The Revd Caroline Ainger

Caroline Ainger is a Methodist minister based in Liverpool. She has a passion for creative worship, social justice issues and international development.