Sick Church, Toxic Church-Jeremiah 7-10

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Big Idea: How crucial it is for the Word of God to be read, taught, proclaimed and obeyed.

"As God can send a nation or people no greater blessing, than to give them faithful, sincere, and upright ministers; so the greatest curse that God can possibly send upon a people in this world, is to give them over to blind, unregenerate, carnal, lukewarm, and unskillful guides. And yet, in all ages, we find that there have been many wolves in sheep's clothing, many that ... prophesied smoother things than God did allow. As it was formerly, so it is now, there are many that corrupt the word of God, and deal deceitfully with it." George Whitfield, On the Method of Grace.

After being called by God (ch.1) Jeremiah charges Judah of spiritual adultery (ch.2) and calls her to repentance (ch.3). When she refuses, disaster is inevitable and comes through the mighty Babylonians (ch.4-6). Then Jeremiah denounces his people for deceiving themselves and belonging to a sick, toxic religion (ch.7-10). A sick, toxic church is where people prefer:

  1. Rituals instead of a relationship (ch.7). Don't go to church to deceive yourself.
  2. Lies instead of the truth of God (ch.8-9). You will listen either to God's word or to wailing.
  3. Idols instead of the Living God (ch.10). Fear God and live without fear.

"This is what the Lord says: 'Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, 24 but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,' declares the Lord" (Jer 9:23-24).

"Lord, I know that people’s lives are not their own; it is not for them to direct their steps. 24 Discipline me, Lord, but only in due measure—not in your anger, or you will reduce me to nothing" (Jer 10:23-24).

Jeremiah 7 is typically called the "Temple Sermon." (False Religion Worthless - NIV.) It has 6 parts:

  • 7:1-8 Change your ways and I will let you live in Jerusalem.
  • 7:9-11 Will you break the Ten Commandments and think you're OK?
  • 7:12-15 Sin will bring destruction to Jerusalem, even though the presence of God dwells there.
  • 7:16-29 God tells Jeremiah to stop praying for the people.
  • 7:30-34 If you sin and go to church terrible judgment will come.
  • 8:1-3 Judgment will come to the leaders who worship idols.

7:1-10:25 is loosely connected around the theme of false, perverted religion and its consequent, just punishment. This section opens with a "sermon" delivered by Jeremiah at the temple gates as people were going to the temple. In contemporary terms he was saying to them, "Don't go to church." The hostile reaction to this sermon is in Jeremiah 26.

What infuriates God is that while people continue to live in sin, they still went to church (the temple). What audacity! God is the very one whom they should fear most, and their total lack of reverence and respect for his righteous presence angers him immensely. This same anger is seen in Jesus when he encounters the corrupt money changers right in the temple courtyard. He lashes out at them, connecting them with Jeremiah 7 by accusing them of making the temple a "den of robbers" (Mt 21:13; Mk 11:17; Lk 19:46), implying a coming judgment on Jerusalem similar to that which Jeremiah proclaimed. God is particularly offended when people treat him as if he is not really concerned with sin, or as if he has no power to punish those who disrespect and defy him. But if we come into God's presence to worship with repentant hearts and with an awareness of our sin and his righteous power to judge us, he forgives us and accepts us into his presence.


  • 8:4-7 People stubbornly clinging to deceit.
    • "I have listenedattentively, but they do not say what is right.None of them repentof their wickedness, saying, 'What have I done?'Each pursues their own course like a horse charging into battle.Even the stork in the sky knows her appointed seasons,and the dove, the swift and the thrush observe the time of their migration.But my people do not know the requirements of theLord" (Jer 8:6-7).
  • 8:8-12 Prophets and priests deceive the people.
    • "From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain;prophetsand priests alike, all practice deceit.11 They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. 'Peace, peace,' they say, when there is no peace.12 Are they ashamed of their detestable conduct? No, they have no shameat all;they do not even know how to blush.So they will fall among the fallen; they will be brought down when they are punished,says theLord" (Jer 8:10b-12).

  • 8:13-17 People flee when they understand that the prophecies of peace were false."...theLordour God has doomed us to perish" (Jer 8:14).
  • 8:18-9:1 Jeremiah cries out in sorrow.
    • "You who are my Comforter in sorrow, my heart is faintwithin me. Since my people are crushed,I am crushed; I mourn,and horror grips me.22 Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physicianthere?Why then is there no healing for the wound of my people?" (Jer 8:18, 21-22).
  • 9:2-6 People characterized by lies and deceitfulness.
  • 9:7-11 Because of the constant deceitfulness, God will completely devastate and make desolate Jerusalem and the towns of Judah.
  • 9:12-16 The one who is wise will understand that the judgment on the people of Jerusalem is just and well deserved.
  • 9:17-22 Using a wordplay that seems to suggest a sense of "poetic justice," God declares that since the people refuse to listen to his voice, they will now listen to waiting.
  • 9:23-24 Knowing God in the context of his love and his justice is more important than wisdom, strength or riches.
  • 9:25-26 Footnote: The coming judgment is broader than described so far, for it will also fall on Judah's unrighteous neighboring nations.
  • 10:1-5 God exhorts the people to avoid following the valueless ways of the other nations, especially in regard to worshiping their impotent gods that have been made by human hands.
  • 10:6-10 Jeremiah declares that it makes much more sense to fear (worship) the all-powerful, living God than to worship worthless, human-constructed idols.
  • 10:11-16 All the worthless false idols, which did not create the world, will perish. God, on the other hand, is the all-powerful Creator of heaven and earth, the one who actually controls the thunderstorms and rain.
  • 10:17-22 God declares that he will hurl the people of Judah out of the land because of their continued idol worship.
  • 10:23-25 Finally, Jeremiah prays again to God, acknowledging God's sovereignty and calling on God to pour out his wrath on the unbelieving nations while showing mercy toward him.

Questions:

  1. How do people hurt themselves (6:10, 13-15)? What do they do (6:20; 7:22) and fail to do (6:16-17; 7:23-28)?
  2. What is the problem with the people attending "church" (7:3, 4, 5-8, 9-11; Mt 21:13; Mk 11:17; Lk 19:46)?
  3. Why do people think they are smart (8:8)? What will happen to them (8:9-10, 12-13)? What is the role of the preacher/leader (8:11; 4:10; 6:14)? How does Jeremiah feel (8:21-9:2)? What is true wisdom (9:12-16, 23-24)?
  4. What does self-deception do to relationships (9:3-6)? If we don't listen to God's word, what will we have to listen to (9:17-22)?
  5. Instead of useless idols, whom should we fear (10:7)? Why (10:6, 10-12, 16)? Read 10:23-25. How is Jeremiah different from Jesus (Lk 23:34)?

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