International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday August 9, 2015
Purpose: To affirm that it is not a special place but obedience to God’s will that endows us with holiness.
Bible Lesson: Jeremiah 7:1-15
Background Scripture: Ezra 7:1, 6, 21-28; Jeremiah 7:1-15
Jeremiah 7:1-15 (CEB)
(1) Jeremiah received the Lord’s word: (2) Stand near the gate of the Lord’s temple and proclaim there this message: Listen to the Lord’s word, all you of Judah who enter these gates to worship the Lord. (3) This is what the Lord of heavenly forces, the God of Israel, says: Improve your conduct and your actions, and I will dwell with you in this place. (4) Don’t trust in lies: “This is the Lord’s temple! The Lord’s temple! The Lord’s temple!” (5) No, if you truly reform your ways and your actions; if you treat each other justly; (6) if you stop taking advantage of the immigrant, orphan, or widow; if you don’t shed the blood of the innocent in this place, or go after other gods to your own ruin, (7) only then will I dwell with you in this place, in the land that I gave long ago to your ancestors for all time. (8) And yet you trust in lies that will only hurt you.
(9) Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, sacrifice to Baal and go after other gods that you don’t know, (10) and then come and stand before me in this temple that bears my name, and say, “We are safe,” only to keep on doing all these detestable things? (11) Do you regard this temple, which bears my name, as a hiding place for criminals? I can see what’s going on here, declares the Lord. (12) Just go to my sanctuary in Shiloh, where I let my name dwell at first, and see what I did to it because of the evil of my people Israel. (13) And now, because you have done all these things, declares the Lord, because you haven’t listened when I spoke to you again and again or responded when I called you, (14) I will do to this temple that bears my name and on which you rely, the place that I gave to you and your ancestors, just as I did to Shiloh. (15) I will cast you out of my sight, just as I cast out the rest of your family, all the people of Ephraim.
My Thoughts by Burgess Walter
I can see where today’s lesson could easily upset some people. It is so easy to assign some sort of special comfort in the places where we worship or have worshipped. It is also easy to take comfort with the wearing of trinkets around our neck or on a lapel, or even hang from our mirror in our automobile.
That is the problem God uses the prophet Jeremiah to proclaim. The nation of Judah, or the southern kingdom, of Israel had gone through a period of spiritual decline under King Manasseh around the time Jeremiah was born. For over 50 years Manasseh had built places for idol worship and sacrificed his own son. The economy of Judah was very good, but God’s laws were being ignored. People stopped being good and the more they prospered the more they ignored God. Does that sound at all familiar?
Jeremiah accuses the people of just giving lip service to God by saying a mantra, “This is the Lord’s temple! The Lord’s temple! The Lord’s temple!” God is not interested in lip service, God wants us to be obedient to His word and laws. We can go through all sorts of litanies and recite all sorts of creeds and prayers but God is only impressed with an obedient heart. I worry about the way we do worship, often God is not even invited into our service. Or our service is all about us and what we can do, and how well we perform, and how well we know the litany.
God’s promise to the nation of Judah was that he would destroy the very thing they thought was their house of refuge. God had already destroyed the place where the northern kingdom of Israel worshipped in Shiloh. Always remember God did not want the temple built, that was man’s idea. Which begs me to ask, “Does God want these fabulous buildings we have built at great expense?”
I think all of us know the real answer, God is only interested in our hearts and our obedience to his laws. Maybe a community of believers can accomplish more than individuals, but I doubt that a building makes any difference to God.
Ministering to the homeless, widows and orphans would probably be more pleasing to God than a multi-million dollar sanctuary. Let us be honest, we build those buildings out of pride and to puff ourselves up, very little thought goes into being obedient to His call.
As Samuel (1 Sam. 15:22) said so many years ago, “Obedience is better than sacrifice.” Or as John H. Sammis wrote so many years ago, “Trust and Obey” for there is no other way, to be happy in Jesus.