Jeremiah’s Calling & Temple Sermon
- Main text: Jeremiah 1:4-10; 7:1-11
- Accompanying text: Matthew 21:12-13
Jeremiah was a prophet during one of the darkest moments in Israel’s history – the beginning of the Babylonian (Chaldean) exile (circa 587 BC). ‘[Jeremiah] declares the coming destruction of all the visible, tangible evidences of God’s presence with the people: the land, the city, the temple, the throne of David’ . Yet Jeremiah’s prophecies were recorded and kept by a people in exile, not because of their accuracy in predicting Judah’s downfall, but because of the hope and promise that God is ‘both unfailingly faithful and bountifully merciful and will bring restoration and salvation’ .
Jeremiah’s calling ‘was not a sudden divine response to an immediate or unforeseen crisis, but simply the implementation in the present of something long since planned for’ . God, in his grace, chose Jeremiah and empowered him for service just as we are chosen and empowered by the Spirit to serve Jesus Christ (1 Pet 1:2; Rom 8:29).
In 1:6 we see that Jeremiah’s first response is to object! Like many of us, Jeremiah does not think he is sufficient for his calling. This verse calls to mind the calling of Moses and of his doubts about being God’s messenger due to his speech impediment (Ex 4:10,13). God does not rebuke Jeremiah for his uncertainty, and, instead, he encourages him that it is not Jeremiah who needs to be sufficient. In Jeremiah’s weakness—not despite his weakness—God will be with him and will deliver him (Jer. 1:8, 19); God is sufficient. Our weaknesses can never thwart the will of God (2 Cor 12:5-10). Jeremiah’s faithfulness and obedience to God’s will is far more relevant than his age or his speaking ability.
In 1:9, God tells Jeremiah that he will give him the words he needs to be a prophet, and that his words will have the power to both give life and take life. The proclamation of the Gospel has a similar power: ‘For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God’ (1 Cor 1:18, ESV throughout). It is easy to let our weaknesses, our lack of words, become an excuse for not proclaiming Jesus Christ to a fallen world, yet God is with us (Matt 28:19-20), and what he desires is for us to go like Jeremiah and to speak to those to whom he sends us (Jer 1:7).
In 7:1, we see that Jeremiah is sent to the temple in Jerusalem. The temple was in many ways the focus of Israel’s worship of the Lord. The dwelling place of God in their midst. The presence of the Ark of the Covenant within the temple was a physical symbol of God’s blessing upon Israel. Jeremiah message is stark: God requires more than lip service. Israel had God’s blessings because of God’s grace, not because of her merit, or because the temple was physically located in Jerusalem. The thought, in 7:3, that Israel could lose the land & temple (or that God would abandon the temple) would have been scandalous to the worshippers at the temple.
But God’s grace is not to be abused. Israel was blessed so that she could be a blessing to others. Jeremiah calls on Israel to turn to the Lord and to be that blessing. To look after the poorest and most in need – the refugees, the orphans, the single mothers. To be faithful to the Lord, and not to worship our own desires or false gods.
Israel cannot steal, murder and commit adultery and claim that they worship God who is righteous and holy. ‘Jeremiah was not talking about greater sincerity in their worship. He was not talking about greater piety or better attitudes; nor about sounder doctrine or deeper prayer. His demand reaches, as it always did with God’s prophets, to the practical, social and ethical level of everyday life in the public arena’ .
The comparison of the temple to a den of thieves is shocking. He is comparing the place of worship to the Lord to a ‘hideout where robbers flee after committing their crime, a place where they could stay safe and unseen by the authorities’ . Yet theirs crime are visible to God. The Church, like Israel was, is called to be a holy nation (1 Pet 2:9), which means that we are to worship the Lord with all of our life, not just the few hours each week that we dedicate to collective worship.
How does this text testify to Jesus Christ?
Like Jesus, Jeremiah displays the power of God in ways that are not obvious to this world. Jeremiah is young and not practiced in speaking, and yet God uses him to be a prophet to Israel in one her darkest moments in history. Jesus did not come in the clothing of the messiah that the world expected, and his death on a cross for many seemed to be a defeat, but through his resurrection death has been conquered and we have the hope of eternal life. The promises of God are not fulfilled in a physical temple, but in the person of Jesus Christ. Through his Spirit, believers are God’s temple (1 Cor 3:16) and we are called to live our lives as ‘a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God’ (Rom 12:1).
- 1 Corinthians 3:10-23
- Ephesians 4:1-16
- Matthew 21:12-17
- John 2:13-22
- The ESV Gospel Transformation Bible, 2013. Digital Edition.
- Chris Wright, The Bible Speak Today: the Message of Jeremiah, 2014. Digital Edition.