Now we come to a slight transition in the book of Jeremiah. Accompanying the transition is a specific mission at a specific location prompted by the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord (vs.1). We are not told the exact date of this oracle; however, if it is the same occasion that’s recorded in Jeremiah 26, it occurred “in the beginning of the reign of” Jehoiakim (26:1). But that may simply be another temple sermon delivered at a subsequent time. But while the date is in question the location is not.

The LORD told Jeremiah, “Stand in the gate of the Lord’s house, and proclaim there this word” (vs2.a). You heard right – God told Jeremiah to stand at the gate of the Lord’s house, likely meaning – the east gate through which the public would enter and exit the temple courts. It was there, to the throngs of worshipers, perhaps on a feast day, that Jeremiah was to proclaim the forthcoming message. Not an easy platform for the prophet. Open-air preaching has its challenges in and of itself but to stand at the gate of the temple, with the message that Jeremiah was given, is akin to standing in the front of a church building rebuking the worshipers as they enter on a Sunday morning.

Jeremiah’s opening words were a sober call to attention for the people that entered: “Hear the word of the Lord, all you of Judah who enter in at these gates to worship the Lord” (vs.2b). Just as the Shema of Deuteronomy 6 called Israel to, “Hear…that the LORD our God is one….”, so this message from Jeremiah began with a similar call to attention – “Hear.” As an aside, it’s worth noting that the demands that follow are predicated on that first imperative being heeded. One must hear God’s Word before they can act upon it.

Well, what was the word of the Lord to all who entered to worship the Lord? It began like this:


3 Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: “Amend your ways and your doings, and I will cause you to dwell in this place. 4 Do not trust in these lying words, saying, ‘The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are these.’”


So that no one mistakes the high and exalted author of this message, Jeremiah’s preface to the oracle began with a lofty identification of God: the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel(vs.3a). As John Gill noted, God is “The Lord of armies above and below in general, and the God of Israel in particular.” Judah, thus, would’ve done well to give careful attention to the words of such a one. Those first words were, “Amend your ways and your doings, and I will cause you to dwell in this place” (vs.3b). Temple worship did not take the place of obedience and it did not excuse disobedience. ‘Two offerings and two hours’, for instance, spent in temple observance could not justify all the interpersonal acts of sin they engaged in (7:5-6a) and the idolatry they practiced (vs.6b). If they were going to avoid captivity, the solution wasn’t going to be found in greater resources or national networking (say with Egypt), it was to be found in repentance.

The spiritual state of the people of Judah in the days leading up to the Babylonian Captivity is similar to the spiritual state of Israel in the years leading up to the Roman sack of Jerusalem. And thus the situation that Jeremiah found himself in at the temple is similar to the situation that John the Baptist found himself in at the Jordan River. John was telling his hearers, who were prone to say ‘We have Abraham as our father’ that they needed to bear fruits worthy of repentance and that a genealogical connection to Abraham did not secure an excusal of their sin (Mt. 3:8-9). Likewise the people to whom Jeremiah spoke were prone to say, “The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are these” (vs.4b). Even biblically sanctioned ‘religious observance’, if not coterminous with genuine faith and subsequent Spirit-granted fruitfulness, will not spare anyone from the wrath to come. In the case of the people of Judah the blessing of the temple had become a burden. God had spared Jerusalem and the temple years earlier from the Assyrian armies that tried to conquer them, and it appears the people began to think that they were immovable because the temple was indestructible. Like the Israelites of 1 Samuel 4 they began to practice ‘lucky charm theology.’ Those Israelites-of-old thought the Ark of the Covenant was a secret weapon whose mere presence at the battlefield ensured a victory; and boy they were wrong. And God wanted them to remember that:

But go now to My place which was in Shiloh, where I set My name at the first, and see what I did to it because of the wickedness of My people Israel” (7:12).

This generation was making the same kind of mistake, they trusted in the temple and their repetitious chants of “the temple of the Lord.” That’s why the Lord called these words “lying words” (vs.4a). Not because the temple was not really the temple, but because they thought the recitation of such words ensured some spiritual and temporal aid. It would be like someone saying, ‘The blood of Jesus, the blood of Jesus, the blood of Jesus’, to ward off some spiritual or temporal concern while their horizontal relationship with others and their fraternization with the world illustrated the sorry state of their vertical relationship with God.

Blessings (and sayings) become burdensome when they become the objects of trust and hope. Genuine faith in the living God, a vibrant trust in a resurrected Savior, and humble sensitivity to the Scripture inspired by God’s Spirit, evidenced by regular amending of our ways and doings, is the recipe to avoid having God-granted blessings become spiritually burdensome.