At the beginning of chapter 7 the story has moved forward a few years, to a time when the Temple is once again functioning, and the men of Judah enter its gates to worship the LORD. However, the LORD calls Jeremiah to “stand in the gate of the LORD’s house, and proclaim there this word… Amend your ways and your deeds, and I will let you dwell in this place… Listen intently to the LORD’s indictment, and remember where Jeremiah is as he delivers it. Consider also the LORD’s injunction that Jeremiah “not pray for this people…and do not intercede with me, for I will not hear you.”
It’s no wonder that by the end of chapter 8 Jeremiah is driven to lament: “My joy is gone; grief is upon me; my heart is sick within me…” This is the tense position of the prophet that I alluded to yesterday. Jeremiah carries the weight of knowledge: clear vision of both his countrymen’s sin and of the LORD’s word. Consider the LORD’s observation in chapter 9: “Let everyone beware of his neighbor, and put no trust in any brother… Heaping oppression upon oppression, and deceit upon deceit, they refuse to know me, declares the LORD.” Is it a relief that the LORD sees what Jeremiah sees?
Even He grieves over Jerusalem’s destruction: “Shall I not punish them for these things? Declares the LORD… I will take up weeping and wailing for the mountains, and a lamentation for the pastures of the wilderness, because they are laid waste… I will make Jerusalem a heap of ruins, a lair of jackals, and I will make the cities of Judah a desolation, without inhabitant.”
At the end of chapter 9 there is a benediction of sorts, proclaiming the steadfast love, justice, and righteousness of the LORD. This is a striking interjection and worth our attention. Is this reminder `for the men of Judah, for Jeremiah, or for the future reader?
Our verse for this week is Lamentations 3:22-23: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
Jeremiah 7 through 9. Now let’s read it!
Jeremiah 7 - 9
7:1 The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: “Stand in the gate of the LORD's house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the LORD, all you men of Judah who enter these gates to worship the LORD. Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Amend your ways and your deeds, and I will let you dwell in this place. Do not trust in these deceptive words: ‘This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD.’
“For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly execute justice one with another, if you do not oppress the sojourner, the fatherless, or the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own harm, then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your fathers forever.
“Behold, you trust in deceptive words to no avail. Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, ‘We are delivered!’—only to go on doing all these abominations? Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, I myself have seen it, declares the LORD. Go now to my place that was in Shiloh, where I made my name dwell at first, and see what I did to it because of the evil of my people Israel. And now, because you have done all these things, declares the LORD, and when I spoke to you persistently you did not listen, and when I called you, you did not answer, therefore I will do to the house that is called by my name, and in which you trust, and to the place that I gave to you and to your fathers, as I did to Shiloh. And I will cast you out of my sight, as I cast out all your kinsmen, all the offspring of Ephraim.
“As for you, do not pray for this people, or lift up a cry or prayer for them, and do not intercede with me, for I will not hear you. Do you not see what they are doing in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? The children gather wood, the fathers kindle fire, and the women knead dough, to make cakes for the queen of heaven. And they pour out drink offerings to other gods, to provoke me to anger. Is it I whom they provoke? declares the LORD. Is it not themselves, to their own shame? Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, my anger and my wrath will be poured out on this place, upon man and beast, upon the trees of the field and the fruit of the ground; it will burn and not be quenched.”
Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: “Add your burnt offerings to your sacrifices, and eat the flesh. For in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, I did not speak to your fathers or command them concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices. But this command I gave them: ‘Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people. And walk in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you.’ But they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked in their own counsels and the stubbornness of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward. From the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt to this day, I have persistently sent all my servants the prophets to them, day after day. Yet they did not listen to me or incline their ear, but stiffened their neck. They did worse than their fathers.
“So you shall speak all these words to them, but they will not listen to you. You shall call to them, but they will not answer you. And you shall say to them, ‘This is the nation that did not obey the voice of the LORD their God, and did not accept discipline; truth has perished; it is cut off from their lips.
“‘Cut off your hair and cast it away;
raise a lamentation on the bare heights,
for the LORD has rejected and forsaken
the generation of his wrath.’
“For the sons of Judah have done evil in my sight, declares the LORD. They have set their detestable things in the house that is called by my name, to defile it. And they have built the high places of Topheth, which is in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, which I did not command, nor did it come into my mind. Therefore, behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when it will no more be called Topheth, or the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, but the Valley of Slaughter; for they will bury in Topheth, because there is no room elsewhere. And the dead bodies of this people will be food for the birds of the air, and for the beasts of the earth, and none will frighten them away. And I will silence in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, for the land shall become a waste.
8:1 “At that time, declares the LORD, the bones of the kings of Judah, the bones of its officials, the bones of the priests, the bones of the prophets, and the bones of the inhabitants of Jerusalem shall be brought out of their tombs. And they shall be spread before the sun and the moon and all the host of heaven, which they have loved and served, which they have gone after, and which they have sought and worshiped. And they shall not be gathered or buried. They shall be as dung on the surface of the ground. Death shall be preferred to life by all the remnant that remains of this evil family in all the places where I have driven them, declares the LORD of hosts.
“You shall say to them, Thus says the LORD:
When men fall, do they not rise again?
If one turns away, does he not return?
Why then has this people turned away
in perpetual backsliding?
They hold fast to deceit;
they refuse to return.
I have paid attention and listened,
but they have not spoken rightly;
no man relents of his evil,
saying, ‘What have I done?’
Everyone turns to his own course,
like a horse plunging headlong into battle.
Even the stork in the heavens
knows her times,
and the turtledove, swallow, and crane
keep the time of their coming,
but my people know not
the rules of the LORD.
“How can you say, ‘We are wise,
and the law of the LORD is with us’?
But behold, the lying pen of the scribes
has made it into a lie.
The wise men shall be put to shame;
they shall be dismayed and taken;
behold, they have rejected the word of the LORD,
so what wisdom is in them?
Therefore I will give their wives to others
and their fields to conquerors,
because from the least to the greatest
everyone is greedy for unjust gain;
from prophet to priest,
everyone deals falsely.
They have healed the wound of my people lightly,
saying, ‘Peace, peace,’
when there is no peace.
Were they ashamed when they committed abomination?
No, they were not at all ashamed;
they did not know how to blush.
Therefore they shall fall among the fallen;
when I punish them, they shall be overthrown,
says the LORD.
When I would gather them, declares the LORD,
there are no grapes on the vine,
nor figs on the fig tree;
even the leaves are withered,
and what I gave them has passed away from them.”
Why do we sit still?
Gather together; let us go into the fortified cities
and perish there,
for the LORD our God has doomed us to perish
and has given us poisoned water to drink,
because we have sinned against the LORD.
We looked for peace, but no good came;
for a time of healing, but behold, terror.
“The snorting of their horses is heard from Dan;
at the sound of the neighing of their stallions
the whole land quakes.
They come and devour the land and all that fills it,
the city and those who dwell in it.
For behold, I am sending among you serpents,
adders that cannot be charmed,
and they shall bite you,”
declares the LORD.
My joy is gone; grief is upon me;
my heart is sick within me.
Behold, the cry of the daughter of my people
from the length and breadth of the land:
“Is the LORD not in Zion?
Is her King not in her?”
“Why have they provoked me to anger with their carved images
and with their foreign idols?”
“The harvest is past, the summer is ended,
and we are not saved.”
For the wound of the daughter of my people is my heart wounded;
I mourn, and dismay has taken hold on me.
Is there no balm in Gilead?
Is there no physician there?
Why then has the health of the daughter of my people
not been restored?
9:1 Oh that my head were waters,
and my eyes a fountain of tears,
that I might weep day and night
for the slain of the daughter of my people!
Oh that I had in the desert
a travelers' lodging place,
that I might leave my people
and go away from them!
For they are all adulterers,
a company of treacherous men.
They bend their tongue like a bow;
falsehood and not truth has grown strong in the land;
for they proceed from evil to evil,
and they do not know me, declares the LORD.
Let everyone beware of his neighbor,
and put no trust in any brother,
for every brother is a deceiver,
and every neighbor goes about as a slanderer.
Everyone deceives his neighbor,
and no one speaks the truth;
they have taught their tongue to speak lies;
they weary themselves committing iniquity.
Heaping oppression upon oppression, and deceit upon deceit,
they refuse to know me, declares the LORD.
Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts:
“Behold, I will refine them and test them,
for what else can I do, because of my people?
Their tongue is a deadly arrow;
it speaks deceitfully;
with his mouth each speaks peace to his neighbor,
but in his heart he plans an ambush for him.
Shall I not punish them for these things? declares the LORD,
and shall I not avenge myself
on a nation such as this?
“I will take up weeping and wailing for the mountains,
and a lamentation for the pastures of the wilderness,
because they are laid waste so that no one passes through,
and the lowing of cattle is not heard;
both the birds of the air and the beasts
have fled and are gone.
I will make Jerusalem a heap of ruins,
a lair of jackals,
and I will make the cities of Judah a desolation,
Who is the man so wise that he can understand this? To whom has the mouth of the LORD spoken, that he may declare it? Why is the land ruined and laid waste like a wilderness, so that no one passes through? And the LORD says: “Because they have forsaken my law that I set before them, and have not obeyed my voice or walked in accord with it, but have stubbornly followed their own hearts and have gone after the Baals, as their fathers taught them. Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I will feed this people with bitter food, and give them poisonous water to drink. I will scatter them among the nations whom neither they nor their fathers have known, and I will send the sword after them, until I have consumed them.”
Thus says the LORD of hosts:
“Consider, and call for the mourning women to come;
send for the skillful women to come;
let them make haste and raise a wailing over us,
that our eyes may run down with tears
and our eyelids flow with water.
For a sound of wailing is heard from Zion:
‘How we are ruined!
We are utterly shamed,
because we have left the land,
because they have cast down our dwellings.’”
Hear, O women, the word of the LORD,
and let your ear receive the word of his mouth;
teach to your daughters a lament,
and each to her neighbor a dirge.
For death has come up into our windows;
it has entered our palaces,
cutting off the children from the streets
and the young men from the squares.
Speak: “Thus declares the LORD,
‘The dead bodies of men shall fall
like dung upon the open field,
like sheaves after the reaper,
and none shall gather them.’”
Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.”
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will punish all those who are circumcised merely in the flesh—Egypt, Judah, Edom, the sons of Ammon, Moab, and all who dwell in the desert who cut the corners of their hair, for all these nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in heart.”