The Sermon at the Gate

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Most scholars believe the sermon we see in chapter 7 is also mentioned in chapter 26. I think there is a strong case for that. The details are very similar. Chapter 26 repeats some of what we see in chapter seven but it also reveals how the people responded to Jeremiah’s preaching.
Chapter 26 also gives us details as to the date of this sermon. It says it was at the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim, probably around 609 BC. Jehoiakim was an evil king appointed by an Egyptian Pharaoh (2 Kings 23:31-34). Jehoiakim was nothing lie his father, Josiah. Under Jehoiakim’s reign the nation did evil in the sight of the Lord. Jehoiakim burned the Words of God (ch. 36) and even had a great prophet, Uriah, murdered (26:20-23).
That gives you an idea of the climate in which Jeremiah was preaching. Let’s look at the text.
1. The Sermon (1-15).
A. The people had become superstitious (1-4).
Most likely, Jeremiah stood at the gate the led from the outer court to the inner court of the Temple. This is where most of the traffic would have been. As the people pass through, he preaches to them. Look at verse 4. Jeremiah says, “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 repetition of the phrase “The Temple of the Lord” was probably a phrase the false prophets said over and over. This was like a formula or an incantation. The false prophets made the people believe there was something magical about their words. They thought that they were protected from any Divine judgment because they were in a special place. The words of the false prophets reminded them that they were in a safe place.
Jeremiah says they were not in a safe place. The only way they would be safe is if they changed their ways. If they did not the Temple would be destroyed, and they would be removed from the land of Judah.
We need to be careful that our religion is not superstition. There are people who believe there is power in:
Repeating a prayer
Speaking certain words or phrases
Holding on to an object: bible, cross, oil
I’m convinced that many of the people in our culture who claim to be Christian are superstitious rather than Christian. The reason I think this is they do religious things but there character is contrary to what Scripture teaches God requires.
B. God made them a conditional promise (5-8).
The promise was they would be allowed to stay in the land of Judah. The condition was they change their ways. The change had to be sincere. Notice the word “Truly” mentioned two times in verse. Notice all the sins he lists.
Injustice (5)
Oppression of the weak (orphans, widows, aliens) (6)
Idolatry (6)
Look at verse 8. The false prophets were telling them everything was ok. As long as they clung to the Temple they would be safe. Jeremiah said they were trusting in deceptive words. God would not allow them to remain in the land if they continued in sin. This promise to inhabit the Promised Land was conditional. Jeremiah reminds the people of this.
C. God revealed their hypocrisy (9-11).
Jeremiah mentions six of the Ten Commandments they have broken in verse 9. The people were breaking the basic commands of Scripture on a daily basis. Then they came to the Temple and participated in worship as if nothing was wrong. Notice what they said. They said, “We are delivered!” They thought that their Temple activities atoned for their breaking of the commands. They thought they were safe.
The Lord asks them a question. He asks, “Has My house become a den of robbers?” In other words, is the purpose of the Temple to protect the wicked from being punished? The answer to that question is no. Jesus quoted this verse when He confronted the religious leaders for using the Temple for their own personal gain (Matthew 21:13).
God says, “I have seen it!” The Temple could not protect them from their sins. They couldn’t use it as a place to hide their evil actions.
D. God reminded them of what happened in Shiloh (12-15).
Years earlier the Tabernacle was housed in Shiloh. This was a city about twenty miles North of Jerusalem (Joshua 18:1). The city was eventually destroyed by the Philistines and the Tabernacle moved to Nob (1 Sam. 4, 21-22; Psalm 78:60-64).
God will not spare Jerusalem simply because the Temple is there. History proves this to be true. God destroyed Shiloh because of Idolatry and He would do the same thing to Jerusalem. God warns them that He will cast them out of the land. There is no safety in the Temple. Ephraim referred to the Northern Kingdom. God warns the Southern kingdom that He will treat them the same way He treated the Northern Kingdom.
2. The Silence (16-20).
A. Jeremiah is commanded not to pray (16).
This seems like such a strange command. Notice how serious the command is:
Do not pray for this people.
Do not lift a cry or prayer for them.
Do not intercede for them
Why does God tell Jeremiah not to pray for the people? The answer is in the text. Look at the end of verse 16: “I will not hear you.” That’s the reason they are not to pray.
We should not develop our prayer habits from this verse. God does not speak directly to us like He did Jeremiah. God speaks to us through the written Word. It is interesting to note, however, that Jeremiah had to be told to stop praying for them. Too often we have to be reminded to pray for people.
B. The people have chosen idolatry over God (17-19).
God asks Jeremiah if he has not seen what the people are doing. They are committing sin in the cities and streets, out in the open for all to see. The sins involve the worship of the queen of heaven. The whole family is involved in this sin.
The children gather wood
The father’s kindle fire
The women knead the dough and make cakes
God is describing a process whereby the fertility goddess Ishtar was worshipped. Cakes were made and offered to her as well as drink offerings poured out upon her altars. There were other gods and goddesses they worshipped as well. Judah had made her choice. The God of Abraham was not enough for her.
C. Judgment is certain (20).
God has made His decision. The entire land would experience His wrath.
Man and beast
Trees of the field and fruit of the ground
Nothing would escape the judgment of God. Jeremiah’s prayers would be answered with the silence of heaven. This is a sad place for a nation to be. It could be our nation if we do not seek the Lord.
3. The Sacrifices (21-26).
A. God tells them to continue in their hypocrisy (21).
There is sarcasm in verse 21. God says “Just keep on sinning. Keep on adding to your sacrifices.” He even says, “eat the flesh.” The burnt offering was not meant to be eaten by the worshipper, but completely burned up as an offering to the Lord (Lev. 1:3-9). They might as well consume it themselves because that would be the only benefit they received from it anyway. Their worship was spiritually useless. No much they added to their worship it would not be beneficial to them at all. But if they insist on rebellion God says “Keep going!”
B. The sacrificial system was secondary to obedience (22-23).
God is not saying He never commanded the people to have a sacrificial system. It’s clear from Scripture He did. He is saying that the sacrificial system was only secondary to obedience to his Word. They had made the sacrificial system primary and completely done away with the obedience part. God, in both Testaments, has always shown He delights in obedience more than sacrifice.
C. The people became persistently worse. (24-26).
God has been consistent in His message to His people. He references the exodus. He told them obedience was mor important than sacrifice. Yet through the years they never seemed to take this to heart. God sent His prophets and His servants to warn the people of this sin but they never seemed to listen. Until Jeremiah’s day, they got progressively worse.
The same is true with us. It’s much more common for people to engage in religious action rather than to live in obedience to God. We need to remember that religious actions are no substitute for obedience. God requires obedience.
4. The Slaughterings (27-34).
A. The people will not listen to Jeremiah (27-29).
It must have been difficult for Jeremiah to keep preaching. God told him no one would listen. After years of ministry look at what Jeremiah would have to say about the people:
This is the nation that did not obey the voice of the LORD their God.
They did not accept discipline.
Truth has perished.
Look what God calls these people at the end of verse 29. He calls them “the generation of His wrath.” That’s a terrible thing to be known as.
He tells the nation to shave its head. This was a sign of mourning. When Babylon arrives Judah will experience such suffering and death that the cries of the people will be heard far off. There is a price to be paid for forsaking God and Judah would pay that price.
B. The slaughtering of children (30-31).
If you’re feeling sorry for Judah you’re about to have reason not to. First, they had introduced the idols of false gods into their temple worship. But second, God reveals one of their sins that is gut wrenching. They were engaged in worship which involved child sacrifice. It was in the Valley of Hinnom that Molech was worshipped (2 Kings 23:10). Judah had begun participating in the worship of Molech. They were killing their own children. God says He never commanded this nor did the thought ever enter His mind (Lev. 18:21).
C. The slaughtering of the people (32-34).
As a result of this horrible sin, God would slaughter the people. He will change the name of the Valley of Hinnom to the Valley of slaughter. There will be so many dead bodies they will run out of room to bury them. Scavengers will feed on their bodies. Attempts to beat off the scavengers will be unsuccessful ensuring proper burials cannot take place.
There will be no joy in Jerusalem. The pleasure that sin brought the people will be replaced with sorrow. The land will become a waste. A nation that kills its children can expect the judgment of God. It is no different if we kill our children to appease our gods or to appease ourselves. Both are equally shameful.
This message Jeremiah preached at the Temple was not something the people were used to hearing. But it was the message they needed to hear. Most people probably thought he was a crazy preacher. But he was God’s prophet. The sermon at the gate was the sermon the people need to hear. Even though they would not heed it, they did indeed need it.
You can’t help but think of Jesus when you see what Jeremiah was called to preach. Jesus told the people that the religion of the Temple could not save them. He said unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and pharisees you cannot be saved. Jesus, like Jeremiah, pointed to the heart. Righteousness is not revealed through religious actions. It’s revealed through obedience to God’s Word. Christ told us to come to Him and receive a righteousness we cannot earn. Through the new birth He will give us the power to live in bedance to God’s Word.
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