But this thing commanded I them, saying, Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people: and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you. — Jeremiah 7:23
Margaret Parker had drifted away from the faith of her childhood, and she was miserable. Though she attended various churches and prayed at times, she had no victory in her life. She knew her prayers were not going through to God, and sin began to take over her life more and more. One day, in despair she walked into her bedroom and cried out, “God, help me!” And God did! He reminded her of a Christian woman she had known, one who believed and lived by the Bible. Margaret wrote to her, and the woman wrote back and included some literature from the Apostolic Faith Church.
Margaret later recounted, “We had a settee before the fireplace, and I was sitting on it when I started reading that Apostolic Faith paper. I do not know when I knelt down, but I finished reading it on my knees. As I read, Jesus was there with me, helping me to say yes to everything I read. Yes, I would make restitution. Yes, I would ask forgiveness. Yes, I would give up those sinful practices. When I got to my feet, I was completely changed. God assured me that He would be with me all the way, a promise He has kept for many decades now.”
When Margaret promised God that she would obey Him and walk in the ways that He had commanded, she found peace and the victory in her life that she had longed for. God blessed her life from that day forward, and she had the opportunity to prove His promise many times. Her husband was saved, and their home was changed. Later in her life, she was afflicted with a terrible cancer on her body. God instantly healed her as she sat in a church service — when she took away the bandages after the service, the swelling, the lump, and all other evidences of the cancer had disappeared.
God kept His promise to Margaret, and He would have kept the promise given in our focus verse to the people of Judah if only they would have followed Him in obedience. Sadly, their reaction was the exact opposite of Margaret’s. We read in verse 24, “But they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear, but walked in the counsels and in the imagination of their evil heart, and went backward, and not forward.”
Today, each of us can choose to follow God and enjoy the rich blessings He promises to those who will obey Him. Of course, we do not lose our free will when we become Christians. We daily will be presented with choices. Will we choose good or evil? Right or wrong? Will we choose to obey God or disobey? In every decision, God will be there to give us strength to do right when that is our choice.
Margaret found out that the benefits of doing so are incalculable — they lasted right up until the moment she stepped joyously into the presence of her Savior. The same testimony can be yours if you will choose to obey!
Chapter 7 begins Jeremiah’s third sermon, which he delivered from the gate of the Temple. He rebuked the people of Judah for bringing their idolatrous rituals into the Temple, and for believing that God would never destroy Jerusalem because the Temple was there. Jeremiah began his message with the assurance that if the people of Judah would deal with each other justly, take care of their poor, and turn from idolatry, God would allow them to continuously dwell in the land He had given to them.
Beginning in verse 8, Jeremiah adopted a harsher manner as he reminded Judah of its sinful ways. The people trusted in the lying words of the false prophets, and had turned the Temple into a place of vile behavior and thievery. In response to their declaration that the Temple ensured their safety, God reminded Judah of what had happened in Shiloh when the people of Israel disobeyed by removing the Ark of the Covenant from the Tabernacle to protect them in battle (1 Samuel 4). Just as He had done in Shiloh, God would bring judgment to the Temple in Jerusalem because of Judah’s waywardness.
In verse 15, “Ephraim” signified the Northern Kingdom, which had previously been taken into captivity. After instructing Jeremiah not to pray or intercede for the people of Judah, God continued with His indictment against them. The men, women, and children openly prepared and offered sacrifices to other gods. In verse 18, the “queen of heaven” may have referred to Ishtar (or her counterpart Ashtoreth), the goddess of fertility, sexuality, and war.
Under the Mosaic Law, eating the flesh of a burnt offering was forbidden. God stated in verse 21 that the people of Judah may as well combine their burnt offerings with their peace offerings (which were permitted to be eaten) because all of their sacrifices were worthless in His eyes. God also declared that His principal commandments did not concern burnt sacrifices, but the fact that if they obeyed Him, He would be their God and it would be well with them.
In verse 31, Tophet (which meant “to burn”) was the name of an altar near Jerusalem in the Valley of Hinnom, and was associated with child sacrifice to the god Molech. Because of the dreadful judgment to come, Jeremiah instructed the inhabitants of Jerusalem to cut off their hair (a sign of mourning). The forthcoming retributions outlined in Jeremiah 7:32 through Jeremiah 8:3 were compelling reasons for Judah to mourn. Because of their Hebrew culture, there was no greater humiliation than to have their dead bodies exposed to the elements of nature. Jeremiah also stated that those who managed to survive the siege of Judah would prefer death over life because of the revolting living conditions in the land of their captivity.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II. The pronouncement of judgment against Judah
A. The condemnation of the prophet
3. The third sermon: Distortion of worship
a. The declaration of the misuse of the Temple (7:1 — 8:3)
(1) The error of trusting in the Temple (7:1-15)
(2) The error of trusting in false prophets (7:16-20)
(3) The error of trusting in sacrifices (7:21-26)
(4) The error of trusting in Molech (7:27 — 8:3)
(a) The error (7:27-31)
(b) The result (7:32 — 8:3)
God promises that if we serve and obey Him, we will be blessed both now and in eternity. Let’s learn from the defiance of Judah, and do as God commands!