The Word Made Fresh
1This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD:
2Stand at the entrance to the LORD’s house and make this announcement: “People of Judah who enter these gates to worship the LORD, listen to what the LORD says, 3the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says this: ‘change your ways and the things you do and let me live alongside you here. 4Don’t put any trust in the words, “This is the house of the LORD, the house of the LORD, the house of the LORD.” 5If you wholeheartedly change your ways and the things you do, and if you truly begin to be honest with one another, 6and if you stop oppressing foreigners and orphans and widows and stop spilling blood here, and if you don’t kiss up to other gods, 7then I will live in this place with you and we will be together in the land I gave your ancestors so long ago, gave it to them to have forever and ever. 8But here you are, trusting in false promises that amount to nothing.
9“‘Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, lie, worship Baal and chase other gods you’ve never known, 10then come and stand in my presence in the temple which is called by my name and say, “We’re safe here!” but then turn right around and continue to do wicked things? 11Has this temple that bears my name become a gathering place for thieves while you watch? I’m watching too, you know, says the LORD. 12Go up to Shiloh and visit the place where I first placed my name and note what I did because of the wickedness of my people Israel.
13“‘And now,’ says the LORD, ‘because you did all these things and didn’t listen when I kept telling you to stop, or answer when I called to you, 14I will do to the temple that is called by my name, the place in which you trust, the place I gave to you and your ancestors, exactly what I did to Shiloh. 15I will run you out of my sight just as I did to your relatives, the children of Ephraim.
16“‘Don’t pray for these people. Don’t cry for them. Don’t try to change my mind with your prayers. I won’t hear you. 17Don’t you know what they do in the streets of Jerusalem and in all the towns of Judah? 18The children gather the wood, the fathers start the fire, and the women knead the dough for the cakes dedicated to the “queen of heaven.” And they pour out drink offerings to other gods, too, just to make me angry. 19Am I the one they deliberately provoke? Aren’t they really doing it to themselves to hurt themselves? 20That is why, says the LORD God, my wrath will angrily fall on this place, on both people and animals, and on the fruit trees and on the fruit. It will all burn, and you won’t be able to salvage any of it.’
21“The LORD, the God of Israel, says this: ‘Add your other offerings to your sacrifices, and eat the meat. 22When I brought your ancestors out of Egypt I didn’t give them any orders about burnt offerings and sacrifices. 23Instead, I told them I would be their God if they would obey my voice, and that if they lived as I told them to live, all would be well with them for I would be their God. 24But they didn’t listen or obey. They were stubbornly wicked. They followed their own advice and looked backward instead of forward. 25From the day they came out of Egypt until this day I have constantly sent the prophets, my servants, to them day after day. 26But they haven’t listened to me. They only stiffened their resolve to do even worse than their ancestors.
27“‘So, go and tell them all of this, but they won’t listen. Call them, but they won’t answer. 28Say to them, “You are the people who did not obey the LORD your God’s voice and refused to be disciplined. So, truth is dead, and taken away from your lips.”
29“‘Cut off your hair and discard it. Cry out aloud in the empty hills that the LORD has rejected the generation that made God angry. 30The people of Judah have done evil things in my sight says the LORD. They have defiled the house called by my name by putting abominable things there. 31And they continue to build the high places of Topheth in the valley of Hinnom and burn their sons and daughters in the fire – something I did not command nor even have in my mind. 32So, the LORD says that the days are coming when it will no longer be called Topheth or the valley of the son of Hinnom. Instead, it will be known as the Valley of Slaughter, because they will bury people in Topheth until no room is left. 33The dead bodies of these people will be food for the birds and the animals, and no one will frighten them away.
34“‘Then I will put an end to the sound of joy and glee, and to the voice of the bride and groom in the cities of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem, because the land shall have become a wasteland.'”
1-4: God gives Jeremiah specific instructions: stand in the gate and proclaim loudly that they must repent. The temple’s mere existence guarantees them nothing.
5-7: It is God’s presence in the temple that counts, and justice and kindness are the virtues that will attract God to dwell with them.
8-11: The gist of verses 8-11 basically means that worship alone does not satisfy God. It is the way the people live that counts.
12-15: Shiloh was an early worship center for the people of Israel (see 1 Samuel 1:3, for example). The destruction of Shiloh is not described in the Bible, but the implication is that, upon the death of Eli and his sons (1 Samuel 3:11-14), the site was no longer an important religious shrine (see also Psalm 78:60).
16-20: The corruption of Israel’s faith has caused God to move against them. The specific charge is that they have mixed pagan elements into their religious practices — baking bread for the “queen of heaven” (probably Astarte, a popular goddess among the deities worshiped by the peoples of that region) and pouring out drink offerings for other gods.
21-26: Pagan idols and household gods had been a problem for God’s people at least back to the time of Jacob (see Genesis 31:30-32, for example).
27-29: It is a common theme in the books of the prophets that God commands them to speak knowing the people would not listen.
30-34: Specific crimes are noted: abominations in the temple and a pagan shrine being built in the valley of Hinnom where fire rituals involving children are being practiced. Scholars do not believe that this necessarily involved child sacrifice, but disfigurement and other ritual hurts done to children were also forbidden by God.
We don’t want to read about God’s anger because God is love. But love that goes only one way will not survive. We are told often to love the LORD our God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength, but do we really strive for that in our day-to-day activities? Today may be a good time to contemplate how our lives reflect God’s will for us.