“Consequences” – Jeremiah 7:1-29

June 30th, 2019

Jeremiah 7:1-29 – see also chapter 26

“Consequences”

Aux. Text: Romans 8:5-8

Call to Worship: Psalm 33

 

Service Orientation: God is who He is. To think you can have a relationship with the immutable God by asking Him to compromise or tolerate unrighteousness, injustice, lies, wickedness or apathy is to alienate and blaspheme God.

 

Bible Memory Verse for the Week: God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind.  Does he speak and then not act?  Does he promise and not fulfill? — Numbers 23:19

 

Background Information:

  • This temple sermon, the first major prose section in the Book of Jeremiah, is summarized in chapter 7. (Max Anders, Holman OT Commentary: Jeremiah, 79)
  • Jeremiah spoke at a critical time. The nation was shocked by Josiah’s death, the removal of Jehoahaz, and the imposition of Jehoiakim as king by Pharaoh Neco.  With Jehoiakim a religious reversal took place in the nation.  Canaanite rites were reappearing in Judah.  The temple address was Jeremiah’s first public sermon and as has been said above, the source of all his later opposition from various groups in the nation.  Through it he made lasting enemies and may have been excluded from the temple because of it (36:5).  It was a thoroughgoing denunciation of the worship of the day.  The deliverance of Jerusalem in 701 B.C. in Hezekiah’s reign had become almost legendary and led to the idea that Jerusalem was inviolable because of the sanctuary (cf. 2 Kgs 18:13-19:37).  Jeremiah spoke during a lull in hostile political activity.  Doubtless, many were ready to attribute the respite to the glory of the temple.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Jeremiah, 427)
  • Josiah’s son Jehoahaz reigned for three months, but was deposed by the king of Egypt and replaced by his brother Eliakim, whom the Egyptian king named “Jehoiakim.” (Because of Josiah’s defeat, Judah was now an Egyptian vassal state.)  During Jehoiakim’s eleven years’ reign, he led the nation back into their old idolatrous ways.  Although Josiah had removed the idols from the land, he couldn’t take idol worship out of the hearts of the people.  (Warren Wiersbe, Be Decisive, 50)
  • The time was not long after the death of Josiah. The entire discourse seemed to run counter to Josiah’s attempt to centralize worship at the temple in Jerusalem and appeared to blaze hopes inculcated by the earlier prophets, Isaiah among them.  Josiah’s reform promised a restoration of God’s blessing and not the calamity of the temple and the dissolution of the commonwealth.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Jeremiah, 426)
  • The temple-gate address is an eloquent attack on the people’s confidence in the temple as insuring Jerusalem’s inviolability from all enemies. The emphasis on ethical issues is paramount.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Jeremiah, 426)
  • (vss.1-2) These verses give the setting for Jeremiah’s message to the people and further identifies the prophet’s words as being delivered with God’s authority.  The parallel passage in chapter 26 locates the time as “early in the reign of Jehoiakim.”  Since Jehoiakim began reigning in 608 B.C. and Babylon’s first invasion was in 605 B.C., this sermon was probably preached sometime before 605 B.C.  (Max Anders, Holman OT Commentary: Jeremiah, 80)
  • (v. 4) God’s answer to the parrot-cry The temple of the Lord begins with an appeal to conscience (3-7), to reason (8-11) and to history (12-15). (Derek Kidner, The Bible Speaks Today:  Jeremiah, 49)
  • (v. 4) Almost certainly the remarkable way in which Judah and Jerusalem had survived in the face of the Assyrian threat posed by Sennacherib in 701 B.C.–(2 Kgs 18:13-19:37; cf. Clements, Isaiah and the Deliverance of Jerusalem, 52ff.) had done much to intensify the special regard for Jerusalem and its temple by the time of Jeremiah. As a consequence, the destruction of it in 587 B.C. came to appear as an event that challenged the very foundations of faith in God.  (R.E. Clements, Interpretation: Jeremiah, 46)
  • (v. 11) “A den or robbers” (7:11) is a place of retreat for thieves between successive acts of plunder. This is what the Covenant people had made of God’s house, declared Jeremiah.  (Howard Tillman Kuist, Layman’s Bible Commentary: Jeremiah, 36)
  • (v. 11) The people may think that God is not aware of their activities, but he challenges them by saying, I have been watching! (v. 11). (Tremper Longman III, Understanding the Bible: Jeremiah, Lamentations, 72)
  • (v. 11) This temple that the people revered had become a hiding place for marauders and thieves. What was the basis for such a figure of speech?  Pagan temples were places where criminals could find retreat from law enforcement officers or even enemies who wished to plunder their illicit gains.  As lawbreakers in the nation found safety in the isolation of pagan strongholds, so the people of Jeremiah’s day considered themselves safe in Yahweh’s temple.  (Max Anders, Holman OT Commentary: Jeremiah, 81)
  • (v. 12) Shiloh, eighteen miles north of Jerusalem, was the site of a very important sanctuary in the early days of Israel.  The house of Eli served as priests there, and Samuel grew up in its temple (Josh 18:1; 1 Sm 1:1-4:22).  The OT nowhere tells of the destruction of Shiloh and its sanctuary, but the excavations carried on by the Danish Palestine Expedition at the site, modern Seilûn, showed that Shiloh was destroyed about 1050 B.C., apparently by the Philistines at the time they captured the ark of the covenant from the Israelites (1 Sm 4:11).  The ruins were probably still visible in Jeremiah’s day, for the site was not reoccupied until the Hellenistic period, ca. 300 B.C.  (Hans Kjaer, “The Excavation of Shiloh 1929,” Journal of the Palestine Oriental Society, X, 870174)
  • (v. 12) Shiloh, the modern Seilûn (possibly about one mile from the ancient site), was on the main highway between Jerusalem and Shechem.  The Mosaic tabernacle was set up there after the conquest of Canaan (cf. Josh 18:1; 22:12; Jdg 21:19; 1 Sm 1:9, 24).  It was the abode of the ark and tabernacle during the era of the judges.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Jeremiah, 428)
  • (v. 18) The Queen of Heaven is a reference to a female astral deity in the pantheon of the surrounding nations. The fact that the Hebrew word cakes (kawwanim) is an Akkadian loan word (kamanu), and its mention in the Gilgamesh Epic (vi, 59) as offerings to Ishtar, the goddess of love, war, and sex associated with the planet Venus, suggest that there is an association between this deity and the Queen of Heaven.  (Tremper Longman III, Understanding the Bible: Jeremiah, Lamentations, 75)
  • (v. 18) There is no queen in heaven, only a King. (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 135)
  • (v. 22-23) 7:22-23 This passage is difficult to understand, though the NIV has made things easier by helpfully adding just to 7:22. The Hebrew states baldly “I did not give them commands about burnt offerings and sacrifices.”  The NIV adds “just” because God had given Israel such commands as they came out of Egypt (so Lv 1-7)!  This rhetorical device emphasizes just how angry God is with the people.  The sacrifices were not the only, or even the most important, requirement, and useless unless they are an expression of heartfelt worship of Yahweh.  (Tremper Longman III, Understanding the Bible: Jeremiah, Lamentations, 76)
  • (v. 29) 7:29 The word for hair in this verse is not the generic term. It actually means a diadem or a sign of consecration.  It is related to the verb nazar (“to dedicate oneself”) and the concept of the Nazirite vow (Nm 6:1-21).  The Nazirite vow was a way for a non-Levite to be specially consecrated in service to the Lord.  By telling the Israelites to cut their “consecrated hair,” Jeremiah is using a metaphor to say that Israel’s special relationship with God is over.  (Tremper Longman III, Understanding the Bible: Jeremiah, Lamentations, 77)

 

The question to be answered is . . . Why does Jeremiah keep telling Judah (and sinful mankind) that God is rejecting them?

 

Answer: Judah is looking for God to change and be less than He is.  God is Who He is.  He changes not.   It is rationally, philosophically, and theologically impossible for God to be anything other than He is.

 

The Word for the Day is . . . Immutable

 

What do we need to know about God that Judah forgot?:

I-  God is immutable . . . not a charm.  Rebellion, wickedness, and disobedience puts you at odds with the God Who is.  (Jer 7:3-11, 17-20 see also: Ex 3:14; 19:1-8; Nm 23:19; Dt 32:30-31; 1 Sm 2:2; 4:3ff15:29; 2 Sm 23:3; Ps 18:2, 31, 46; 102:7; 132:13-16; Mic 3:11; Mal 3:6; Jam 1:17)

 

God knows all things from eternity, and, therefore, perpetually knows them; the reason is because the Divine knowledge is infinite, and therefore, comprehends all knowable truths at once.  An eternal knowledge comprehends in itself all time, and beholds past and present in the same manner, and, therefore, his knowledge is immutable: by one simple knowledge he considers the infinite spaces of past and future.  (Stephen Charnock, The Existence and Attributes of God, Vol. 1, 828)

 

Some put their trust in church attendance and say, “I go to church, I go to church, I go to church.”  Some put their trust in religious experience and say, “I’m born again, born again, born again.”  Some put their trust in a sacrament and say, “I’ve been baptized, baptized, baptized.”  Some put their trust in church affiliation and say, “I belong to an evangelical church, evangelical church, evangelical church.”  Others put their trust in religious duties and say, “I have daily devotions, daily devotions, daily devotions.”  Still others put their trust in some theological principle separated from a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  They say, “I believe in the doctrines of grace, doctrines of grace, doctrines of grace.”  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 122-3)

 

God demands a conversion of the mind and heart as the basis of peace and security (cf. Isa 26:3), not the superstitious veneration of a stone building or a traditionally sacred site.  The crimes listed by the prophet violate most of the provisions of the Decalogue, thus amounting to a complete repudiation of covenant grace (hesed).  In the midst of this gross wickedness the people are still so naïve as to imagine that they will be delivered from impending destruction by the performance of cultic rites.  They have profaned God’s house by making it a place of retreat between acts of crime (cf. Mk 11:17; Lk 19:46).  (R.K. Harrison, Tyndale OT Commentaries: Jeremiah, 86)

 

A close look shows that they violated virtually every one of the Ten Commandments (Ex 20:1-17).  The first commandment says to have no other gods before God.  Well, they followed other gods (Jer 7:9).  The second commandment says not to make idols, but the people of Judah burned incense to Baal (also v. 9).  The third commandment says not to take the name of the Lord in vain, but they profaned the house that bore God’s name (v. 10).  The fourth commandment says to honor the Sabbath, but they gave false worship on the day of worship.  They violated all the commandments that deal with one’s relationship to God.

What about the commandments that govern human relationship?  The fifth commandment gives honor to parents, but the people neglected their social responsibilities to the fatherless and the widow (v. 6).  Commandments six through nine say, “You shall not murder. . . commit adultery. . .steal. . . give false testimony.”  All these sins are mentioned in verse 9: “Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, burn incense to Baal and follow other gods you have not known?”  Run a finger down the list: Judah rejected every basic principle of God’s Law.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 123-4)

 

God is not changed, when of loving to any creatures he becomes angry with them, or of angry he becomes appeased.  The change in these cases is in the creature; according to the alteration in the creature, it stands in a various relation to God: an innocent creature is the object of his kindness, an offending creature is the object of his anger; there is a change in the dispensations of God, as there is a change in the creature making himself capable of such dispensations.  God always acts according to the immutable nature of his holiness, and can no more change in his affections to good and evil, than he can in his essence.  (Stephen Charnock, The Existence and Attributes of God, Vol. 1, 345)

 

Clearly the sermon is an open and scathing attack on the supposition that Yahweh can be appeased by any sort of temple worship or ritual sacrifice.  Amend your ways and your doings, said Jeremiah; then will the Lord permit them to dwell in the land.  He exposes their behavior by his superb and cutting irony: they have put their trust in deceptive words.  This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD.  As though the very repetition of the phrase had some magical property wherewith their safety was assured.  (George Arthur Buttrick, Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 5, 871)

 

(v. 4)  This verse summarizes the “Temple theology” of the false prophets.  Not merely had God promised an everlasting dynasty to David (2 Sm 7:12f.) But He had also chosen Zion as His earthly abode (cf. Ps 132:13f.).  Therefore if God was to be true to Himself, no possible harm could overtake His dwelling-place or any who sheltered in it.  The false prophets fully believed that, in an emergency, God would intervene directly to save Zion, His sacred mount.  For them, therefore, Temple worship was little better than a charm for averting evil, and they had beguiled the people into trusting in material buildings, forgetful that God required living persons as His temple (cf. Isa 57:15; 61:1f.; 1 Cor 3:16f.).  (R.K. Harrison, Tyndale OT Commentaries: Jeremiah, 85-6)

 

  1. With great courage Jeremiah warned the people against believing the deceptive words of false prophets ascribing talismanic power to the temple. The threefold repetition of the false prophets’ words expresses emphasis even to the superlative degree (cf. Isa 6:3).  In effect they were saying, “These buildings are assuredly the temple of the Lord!”  And they were saying this at a time when the temple was made central by Josiah’s reforms in 621 B.C.  The people were using these words like a magical incantation.  The words were true, but what the people inferred from them was entirely erroneous.  The temple had become a kind of fetish and object of faith (cf. The use of the ark [1 Sm 4:3]).  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Jeremiah, 427)

 

The counsel of God stands sure; what changes soever there are in the world, are not in God or his will, but in the events of things, and the different relations of things to God: it is in the creature, not in the Creator.  (Stephen Charnock, The Existence and Attributes of God, Vol. 1, 346)

 

If God were not immutable, he would not be God.  His name is being, and this name is “an unchangeable name.”  Whatever changes ceases to be what it was.  But real being pertains to him who does not change.  That which really is remains.  But that which changes “was something and will be something”; “however, we cannot say that it is, i.e., that it has being, for it is mutable.”  (Herman Bavinck, The Doctrine of God, 147)

 

The immutability of God: he is always consistent.  ‘I the LORD do not change’ (Mal. 3:6); ‘the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows’ (Jas. 1:17); ‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever’ (Heb. 13:8).  God’s changelessness is expressed in his faithfulness and dependability in his relationships with is people.  The whole idea of the covenant is based on this perfection.  (Bruce Milne, Know the Truth, a Handbook of Christian Belief, 65)

 

If God were changeable, he were not infinite and almighty.  All change ends in addition or diminution; if anything be added, he was not infinite before, if anything be diminished, he is not infinite after.  All change implies bounds and limits to that which is changed; but God is infinite; “His greatness is unsearchable:” we can add number to number without any end, and can conceive an infinite number; yet the greatness of God is beyond all our conceptions.  (Stephen Charnock, The Existence and Attributes of God, Vol. 1, 333-4)

 

Where feminism becomes a religion, child sacrifice is its rite of atonement.  The belief that lies behind the so-called right to choose is that someone else may have to die in order to keep me happy.  It is not surprising that Jeremiah’s Temple Sermon ends with a cry against infanticide (7:30-8:3).  There is a straight path from the adoration of the Queen of Heaven to the abomination of the Valley of Slaughter.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 136)

 

Regardless of the particular bag of tricks that they happen to carry, their line of trade is always the same.  They deal in magic, and magic is the attempt to bend the will of God to suit the will of man.  Magic presumes to have power to control the laws of God and to exercise that power by secret knowledge in favor of particular persons.  It does not worship God; it uses him. (The Interpreter’s Bible, Volume IX Acts, Romans, 171)

 

The essence of Jeremiah’s Temple Sermon is simply this: a faith which divorces the worship of God from one’s obligations to people is no real faith.  (Howard Tillman Kuist, Layman’s Bible Commentary: Jeremiah, 36)

 

From the unchangeableness of his nature, the apostle (Jam 1:17) infers the unchangeableness of his holiness, and himself (Mal 3:6) the unchangeableness of his counsel.

Unchangeableness doth necessarily pertain to the nature of God.  It is of the same necessity with the rectitude of his nature; he can no more be changeable in his essence than he can be unrighteous in his actions.  God is a necessary Being; he is necessarily what he is, and, therefore, is unchangeably what he is.  Mutability belongs to contingency.  If any perfection of his nature could be separated from him, he would cease to be God.  What did not possess the whole nature of God, could not have the essence of God; it is reciprocated with the nature of God.  Whatsoever is immutable by nature is God; whatsoever is God is immutable by nature.  (Stephen Charnock, The Existence and Attributes of God, Vol. 1, 318-9)

 

God is unchangeable in regard of his will and purpose.  A change in his purpose is, when a man determines to do that now which before he determined not to do, or to do the contrary; when a man hates that thing which he loved, or begins to love that which he before hated; when the will is changed, a man begins to will that which he willed not before, and ceaseth to will that which he willed before.  But whatsoever God hath decreed, is immutable; whatsoever God hath promised, shall be accomplished: “The word that goes forth of his mouth shall not return to him void, but it shall accomplish that which he pleaseth” (Isa 55:11); whatsoever “he purposeth, he will do” (Isa 44:11; Nm 23:19); his decrees are therefore called “mountains of brass” (Zech 6:1): brass, as having substance and solidity; mountains, as being immovable, not only by any creature, but by himself; because they stand upon the basis of infallible wisdom, and are supported by uncontrollable power.  (Stephen Charnock, The Existence and Attributes of God, Vol. 1, 325)

 

As God is unchangeable in regard of essence, knowledge, purpose, so he is unchangeable in regard of place.  He cannot be changed in time, because he is eternity; so he cannot be changed in place, because he hath ubiquity: he is eternal, therefore cannot be changed in time; he is omnipresent, therefore cannot be changed in place: he doth not begin to be in one place wherein he was not before, or cease to be in a place wherein he was before.  He that fills every place in heaven and earth, cannot change place; he cannot leave one to possess another, that is equally, in regard of his essence, in all: “He fills heaven and earth” (Jer 23:24).  (Stephen Charnock, The Existence and Attributes of God, Vol. 1, 328-9)

 

God’s drawing near to us is not so much his coming to us, but his drawing us to him; as when watermen pull a rope that is in one end fastened to the shore, and the other end to the vessel; the shore is immovable, yet it seems to the eye to come to them, but they really move to the shore.  God is an immovable rock; we are floating and uncertain creatures; while he seems to approach to us, he doth really make us to approach to him; he comes not to us by any change of place himself, but draws us to him by a change of mind, will, and affections in us.  (Stephen Charnock, The Existence and Attributes of God, Vol. 1, 329-30)

 

So that the sovereign perfection of God is an invincible bar to any change in him; for which way soever you cast it for a change, his supreme excellency is impaired and nulled by it: for in all change there is something from which a thing is changed, and something to which it is changed; so that on the one part there is a loss of what it had, and on the other part there is an acquisition of what it had not.  If to the better, he was not perfect, and so was not God; if to the worse, he will not be perfect, and so be no longer God after that change.  (Stephen Charnock, The Existence and Attributes of God, Vol. 1, 331)

 

Whatsoever hath limits and is changeable, is conceivable and searchable; but God is not only not known, but impossible in his own nature to be known and searched out, and, therefore, impossible to have any diminution in his nature.  (Stephen Charnock, The Existence and Attributes of God, Vol. 1, 334)

 

Therefore, repentance in God is only a change of his outward conduct, according to his infallible foresight and immutable will.  He changes the way of his providential proceeding according to the carriage of the creature, without changing his will, which is the rule of his providence.  When God speaks of his repenting “that he had made man” (Gn 6:6), it is only his changing his conduct from a way of kindness to a way of severity, and is a word suited to our capacities to signify his detestation of sin, and his resolution to punish it, after man had made himself quite another thing, than God had made him; “it repents me,” that is, I am purposed to destroy the world, as he that repents of his work throws it away; as if a potter cast away the vessel he had framed, it were a testimony that he repented that ever he took pains about it, so the destruction of them seems to be a repentance in God that ever he made them; it is a change of events, not of counsels.  (Stephen Charnock, The Existence and Attributes of God, Vol. 1, 341-2)

 

A change of laws by God argues no change in God, when God abrogates some laws which he had settled in the church, and enacts others.  I spake of this something the last day; I shall only add this: God commanded one thing to the Jews, when the church was in an infant state; and removed those laws, when the church came to some growth.  The elements of the world were suited to the state of children (Gal 4:3).  A mother feeds not the infant with the same diet as she doth when it is grown up.  Our Saviour acquainted not his disciples with some things at one time which he did at another, because they were not able to bear them: where was the change; in Christ’s will, or in their growth from a state of weakness to that of strength?  (Stephen Charnock, The Existence and Attributes of God, Vol. 1, 346)

 

The name Jehovah signifies this attribute (Ex 3:14): “I am that I am; I am hath sent me to you.”  It signifies his immutability as well as eternity.  I am, signifies his eternity; that, or the same that I am, his immutability: as it respects the essence of God, it signifies his unchangeable being from eternity to eternity; as it respects the creature, it signifies his constancy in his counsels and promises, which spring from no other cause but the unchangeableness of his nature.  The reason why men stand not to their covenant, is because they are not always the same; I am, that is, I am the same, before the creation of the world, and since the creation of the world; before the entrance of sin, and since the entrance of sin; before their going into Egypt, and while they remain in Egypt.  (Stephen Charnock, The Existence and Attributes of God, Vol. 1, 330)

 

Nevertheless the doctrine of God’s immutability is of the highest significance for religion.  The contrast between being and becoming marks the difference between the Creator and the creature.  Every creature is continually becoming.  It is changeable, constantly striving, seeks rest and satisfaction, and finds this rest in God, in him alone, for only he is pure being and no becoming.  Hence, in Scripture God is often called the Rock: Dt 32:4, 15, 18, 30, 31, 37; 1 Sm 2:2; 2 Sm 22:3, 32; Ps 19:14; 31:2; 62:2, 6; 73:26, etc.  On him man can firmly rely; he does not change with respect to his being, nor with respect to his knowing or willing; he ever remains himself.  Every change is foreign to God.  He transcends every change in time, for he is eternal; in space, for he is omnipresent; in essence, for he is pure being, whence Christian theology often called God “pure actuality.”  (Herman Bavinck, The Doctrine of God, 149)

 

For, indeed, the idea of becoming or development predicated of the divine being is of no value whatsoever in theology.  Not only does Scripture explicitly state that with God “there can be no variation neither shadow that is cast by turning,” but a moment’s reflection upon this matter leads to the same result.  Becoming presupposes a cause, for there is no becoming without a cause.  But absolute being leaves no room for a cause.  Absolute being is because it is.  The concept of deity of itself implies the idea of immutability.  Both increase and decrease are absolutely inconceivable with respect to God.  He can become neither worse nor better, for he is the absolute, complete, and very being.  Becoming is an attribute of the creature.  It is a form of change with respect either to time or to space.  But God is the I WILL BE THAT I WILL BE, eternally transcendent above space and time and exalted far above every creature.  He rests in himself, and for that very reason he is the goal and the resting point of every creature, the Rock of salvation, whose work is perfect.  He who predicates of God any change whatsoever, whether with respect to essence, knowledge, or will belittles every one of his attributes: independence, simplicity, eternity, omniscience, omnipotence.  He robs God of his divine nature and religion of its firm foundation and sure comfort.  (Herman Bavinck, The Doctrine of God, 150-1)

 

The immutability of God is a perfection.  Immutability considered in itself, without relation to other things, is not a perfection.  It is the greatest misery and imperfection of the evil angels, that they are immutable in malice against God; but as God is infinite in essence, infinitely good, wise, holy; so it is a perfection necessary to his nature, that he should be immutably all this, all excellency, goodness, wisdom, immutably all that he is; without this he would be an imperfect Being.  (Stephen Charnock, The Existence and Attributes of God, Vol. 1, 817-8)

 

Immutability is a glory belonging to all the attributes of God.  It is not a single perfection of the Divine nature, nor is it limited to particular objects thus and thus disposed.  Mercy and justice have their distinct objects and distinct acts; mercy is conversant about a penitent, justice conversant about an obstinate sinner.  In our notion and conception of the Divine perfections, his perfections are different: the wisdom of God is not his power, nor his power his holiness, but immutability is the centre wherein they all unite.  There is not one perfection but may be said to be and truly is, immutable; none of them will appear so glorious without this beam, this sun of immutability, which renders them highly excellent without the least shadow of imperfection.  How cloudy would his blessedness be if it were changeable!  (Stephen Charnock, The Existence and Attributes of God, Vol. 1, 318)

 

So it is with all God’s announced intentions.  They do not change.  No part of His eternal plan changes.

It is true that there is a group of texts (Gn 6:6f.; 1 Sm 15:11; 2 Sm 24:16; Jon 3:10; Joel 2:13 f.) which speak of God as repenting.  The reference in each case is to a reversal of God’s previous treatment of particular men, consequent upon their reaction to that treatment.  But there is no suggestion that this reaction was not foreseen, or that it took God by surprise, and was not provided for in His eternal plan.  No change in His eternal purpose is implied when He begins to deal with a man in a new way.  (J. I. Packer, Knowing God, 72)

 

As the self-existent God, He is not only independent in Himself, but also causes everything to depend on Him.  This self-existence of God finds expression in the name Jehovah.  It is only as the self-existent and independent One that God can give the assurance that He will remain eternally the same in relation to His people.  Additional indications of it are found in the assertion in Jn 5:26, “For as the Father hath life in Himself, even so gave He to the Son also to have life in Himself”; in the declaration that He is independent of all things and that all things exist only through Him, Ps 94:8 ff.; Isa 40:18 ff.; Acts 7:25; and in statements implying that He is independent in His thought, Rom 11:33, 34, and in His will, Dn 4:35; Rom 9;19; Eph 1:5; Rv 4:11, in His power, Ps 115:3, and in His counsel, Rom 9;19; Eph 1:5; Rv 4:11, and His power, Ps 115:3, and in His counsel, Ps 33:11.  (Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 58)

 

The divine immutability should not be understood as implying immobility, as if there were no movement in God.  It is even customary in theology to speak of God as actus purus, a God who is always in action.  The Bible teaches us that God enters into manifold relations with man and, as it were, lives their life with them.  There is change round about Him, change in the relations of men to Him, but there is no change in His Being, His attributes, His purpose, His motives of action, or His promises.  The purpose to create was eternal with Him, and there was no change in Him when this purpose was realized by a single eternal act of His will.  The incarnation brought no change in the Being or perfections of God, nor in His purpose, for it was His eternal good pleasure to send the Son of His love into the world.  And if Scripture speaks of His repenting, changing His intention, and altering His relation to sinners when they repent, we should remember that this is only an anthropopathic way of speaking.  In reality the change is not in God, but in man and in man’s relations to God.  (Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 59)

 

In anthropomorphic terms God is represented as changing His mind, or repenting (Gn 6:6; 1 Sm 15;11; Jer 18:8, 10; 26:3; Joel 2:13; Amos 7:3; Jon 3:9; 4:2); as changing His purpose (Ex 32;10-14); of becoming angry and then turning from His anger (Ex 32:10-14; Nm 11:1, 10; Dt 13:17; 2 Chr 12:12; 30:8; Ps 106:40; Zech 10:3).  On one occasion Israel experiences the love of God, on another His wrath.  God becomes man in the person of Jesus Christ and becomes subject to the vicissitudes of human experience.  The ascended Christ can sympathize with our weaknesses (Heb 4;15) and the Holy Spirit can be grieved (Eph 4:30).  Nevertheless, Scripture remains firm in its insistence that in all these relationships with His people, in which God is set forth almost as one of them, He remains God and that His purposes do not fail.  He accommodates Himself to His peoples in His revelation and presence among them, but He ever remains the same.  That is why He is referred to so often as the Rock (Dt 32:4, 15, 18, 30f., 27; 1 Sm 22:3, 32; Ps 19:14; 31:2; 62:2, 6, et al.).  He does not change in His nature or purpose.  His people can trust in Him.  (Merrill C. Tenney, The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, Vol. One, 264-5)

 

The biblical narratives in which God appears to repent, or change His mind, are almost always narratives that deal with His threats of judgment and punishment.  These threats are then followed by the repentance of the people or by the intercessory petitions of their leaders.  God is not talked into “changing His mind.”  Out of His gracious heart He only does what He has promised to do all along–not punish sinners who repent and turn from their evil ways.  He chooses not to do what He has every right to do.  (R.C. Sproul, The Character of God, Discovering the God Who Is, 92)

 

II-  History confirms point number 1.  (Jer 7:12-15 see also: Josh ch 7; 1 Sm chps. 4-6: Ps 78:60-64)

 

The ruins of Shiloh (12-14) said all that needed to be said about the temple, and the disappearance of the northern tribes (summed up as Ephraim, 15) showed what Judah might expect.  Moreover, Judah has already been pronounced the guiltier of the two kingdoms (3:11).  (Derek Kidner, The Bible Speaks Today:  Jeremiah, 49)

 

The sanctuary at Shiloh proved the falsity of the claim that the Lord was unalterably committed to an earthly temple and its preservation regardless of the moral state of the people.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Jeremiah, 429)

 

Shiloh thus represents the absence and abandonment of God along with the end of his worship.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 126)

 

Again Jeremiah makes it plain that the people trusted the temple of God instead of the God of the temple (v. 14).  God is never dependent on any particular place of worship.  For Jeremiah’s hearers, this was unheard of heresy.  The outcome of Judah’s ways would soon be exile, as it had been for Ephraim (Israel), the northern kingdom, in 722-721 B.C. (v. 15).  This was the message that inflamed Jeremiah’s hearers and earned him their lasting hatred and opposition almost to the point of martyrdom.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Jeremiah, 429)

 

The history of the ark was, for the Hebrews, a kind of theological handbook.  It provided an account of the presence of God among the people.  Its history showed the importance of having God with you and the danger of trying to use God or carry him around.  And so the ark itself was important in that it emphasized that God was with his people, and that God was over and above his people (for God quite obviously was not in the box).  The ark was the symbol not the reality.  When the ark was treated as a talisman, as a curio or as a magical device with which to manipulate God, everything went wrong.  God cannot be contained or used. (Eugene H. Peterson; A Long Obedience in the Same Direction discipleship in an Instant Society, 160-1)

 

So periodically God visits on man, by the operation of his immutable moral laws, a divine judgment.  The way of history is strewed with the wreckage of destroyed civilizations which went down in flaming ruin or rotted in the stagnation of moral corruption because they had no place in their piled-up glories for God.  It has come again, this terror of judgment, and man stands in his stricken world with fear in his heart.  Thus far, in the mercy of God, there has always been for him another chance.  “Thus far,” for we cannot presume to say it will always be so.  But the end is not yet.  Still the infinite patience of God suffers us to rebuild.  How it shall fare with us depends altogether on the place we shall give God and his laws in our rebuilding. (The Interpreter’s Bible; Abingdon Press, 186-7)

 

  1. Ultimately the people were treating the temple, the house of God, as robbers do their dens. It was a temporary refuge till they sallied forth on another foray.  Limestone caves in Palestine were used as robbers’ dens; so Jeremiah’s metaphor was clear to his hearers.  Here was nothing less than corruption of the best and the holiest.  The Lord having seen the situation, will deal with it accordingly (cf. Isa 56:7 and Mt 21:13; Mk 11:17; Lk 19:46).  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Jeremiah, 428)

 

III-  Worship, sacrifice, tithes, and/or prayer contrary to God’s immutable character is fruitless.  (Jer 7:16, 21-29 see also: Isa 1:11-17; 56:7; Jer 11:14; 14:11-12; Ezek 8:18; Hos 6:6; Amos 5:21-24; Micah 6:6-8; Mt 21:22; Mk 11:17; Lk 19:46; Jn 16:24; Jam 4:3; 1 Jn 3:22)

 

God could protect His holy temple if He desired, but His temple in Jerusalem was no longer holy.  It was a den of thieves!  Better there were no temple at all than that hypocrisy should desecrate God’s house.  (Warren Wiersbe, Be Decisive, 52)                                                         

Because they have missed the true meaning of the Lord’s worship, they may even eat the sacrifices intended only for the Lord because he cares for none of them.  He calls them mere flesh.  In other words, they could multiply their offerings as much as they liked because all of them were worthless.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Jeremiah, 431)

 

Herein is terror for the wicked.  Those who defy Him, who break His laws, who have no concern for His glory, but who live their lives as though He existed not, must not suppose that, when at the last they shall cry to Him for mercy, He will alter His will, revoke His word, and rescind His awful threatenings.  Lo, He has declared, “Therefore will I also deal in fury: Mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity: and though they cry in Mine ears with a loud voice, yet will I not hear them” (Ezek 8:18).  God will not deny Himself to gratify their lusts.  God is holy, unchangingly so.  Therefore God hates sin, eternally hates it.  Hence the eternality of the punishment of all who die in their sins. (Arthur W. Pink; The Attributes of God, 40)

 

There was no truth in family worship, for the people worshiped false goddesses rather than the one true God.  Nor was there truth in public worship.  The people were just giving him lip service, which is what people do when they call Jesus Savior but do not live for him as Lord.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 134)

 

To do so would have been to pray against the purposes of God.  God is glorified by his justice.  Whenever he judges sin, it is wrong to pray against his judgment.  Praying for the glory of God to come includes accepting his justice.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 131)

 

Any theology that minimizes God’s holiness and tolerates people’s deliberate sinfulness is a false theology.  (Warren Wiersbe, Be Decisive, 52)

 

If God’s advice to Jeremiah not to waste time interceding (16-20) was a shock, his advice to Israel not to waste good meat in burnt-offerings knocked their stoutest prop away–for, short of human sacrifice, a burnt-offering was the highest bid, to their mind, that one could make for heaven’s favor.  (Derek Kidner, The Bible Speaks Today:  Jeremiah, 50)

 

It is because the prophets had access to the divine council chambers that they were charged with interceding for the people.  Jeremiah prays for the people (18:18-20), but God tells him not to do it (see also 11:14; 14:11-12).  We will see that Jeremiah’s intercession for grace transforms into a prayer for their punishment.  (Tremper Longman III, Understanding the Bible: Jeremiah, Lamentations, 74)

 

23-26.  Actually, God had not spoken at Sinai of sacrifices but only of obedience (v. 23)–and this even before the law was given (Ex 19:3-6).  Jeremiah’s words show that he had in mind in v. 23 the giving of the Ten Commandments.  Among these there were no directions for sacrifices; they dealt solely with spiritual and moral matters.  The OT order was first obedience and worship of God and then institution of sacrifices (cf. Ps 51:16-19).  In Judah, as Jeremiah shows, the whole sacrificial system was invalidated on the ground that it was not carried out in true faith (v. 24).  Obedience always was and would be the dominant consideration (so Cundall).  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Jeremiah, 431-2)      

 

The Jews didn’t actually abandon the temple ministry; they simply brought their idolatry into the temple courts and made Jehovah one of the many gods they worshiped.  If you had watched their worship, you would have thought the people were sincerely honoring the Lord, but their hearts belonged to Baal, Ashtoreth, Cemosh, and the other gods and goddesses of the heathen nations around them.  Judah paid lip service to Jehovah but gave heart service to idols.  (Warren Wiersbe, Be Decisive, 50)

 

He knew that the people of Israel would neither listen to the prophet’s message nor repent.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 131)

 

If we ask according to his revealed will, the unchangeableness of his nature will assure us of the grant; and what a presumption would it be in a creature dependent upon his sovereign, to ask that which he knows he has declared his will against; since there is no good we can want, but he hath promised to give, upon our sincere and ardent desire for it?  (Stephen Charnock, The Existence and Attributes of God, Vol. 1, 349)

 

 

Reciting magical formulas or holy words with hypocritical lips could not give immunity from the dangers that threatened the nation.  Enchanted phrases mouthed in rhythmic unison would not provide certainty of God’s presence.  Nothing less than transformed conduct would meet his approval.  Yahweh could fellowship with his people in the temple only if they were compassionate for the weak and helpless.  Magical, sentimental expressions of loving ardor for the temple but lacking in concern for the unprivileged and helpless would find no approval from God.  (Max Anders, Holman OT Commentary: Jeremiah, 80)

 

God recognized Israel had gone so far in their repeated rebellions that they had lost the ability to recognize their wrongdoing.  He was always ready to forgive, but his acceptance is contingent on our repentance.  As God viewed the situation, he felt the people no longer had the ability to turn away from their God-dishonoring lifestyle.  (Max Anders, Holman OT Commentary: Jeremiah, 82)

 

God had promised the ultimate deliverance of his people.  But they must pass through the crucible of judgment before they can shine like silver.  There is no other way for them to be refined and purified but to pass through punishment.  Jeremiah was not allowed to pray for a temporary deliverance that would fall short of full salvation.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 131)

 

The false prophets continually assured the people of the personal intervention of God in case of any danger to the temple and Zion.  But Jeremiah thundered that the temple without godliness was a delusion.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Jeremiah, 427-8)

 

The people felt that going to the temple granted them release from guilt; it was as though they had an indulgence to go on sinning (cf. Eccl 8:11).  Ignoring God’s ethical demands, they rested in ceremonial rites.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Jeremiah, 428)

 

(Nm 23:19).  Repenting means revising one’s judgment, and changing one’s plan of action.  God never does this; He never needs to, for His plans are made on the basis of a complete knowledge and control which extend to all things past, present, and future, so that there can be no sudden emergencies or unlooked-for developments to take Him by surprise. ‘One of two things causes a man to change his mind and reverse his plans: want of foresight to anticipate everything, or lack of foresight to execute them.  But as God is both omniscient and omnipotent there is never any need for Him to revise His decrees’ (A. W. Pink).  (J. I. Packer, Knowing God, 71)

 

In view of the passages just cited, and in view of the Pentateuchal legislation, sacrifices were always meant to be of secondary importance to obedience and godliness.  Neither Jeremiah nor any other prophet decried sacrifices as such.  They meant that moral law is always paramount to the ritual law.  It is significant that when Lv 6-8 is read in the synagogue, this passage in Jeremiah is read as the concluding portion, called the Haphtorah (so Freedman).  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Jeremiah, 431)

 

In Jeremiah’s view, when the right spirit comes, the sacrificial system is irrelevant, if not idolatrous.  Nor is it merely that there is an ineradicable ambiguity in sacrifices and symbols as such.  It is not merely that the symbol or the sacrifice might be, for one person, “an aid to worship,” whereas for another person it would be a barrier if not an image substituted for the genuine encounter with God.  It is rather that the ambiguity is in the worshiper; that this ambiguity is itself a result of an antecedent rejection of the god-man relationship, and that whatever is done outside this relationship, or whatever substitutes itself for the relationship, is necessarily polemically and dialectically in retreat from the relationship.  The only right way is the way which is necessarily tied in with the primacy of the voice.  Vss. 24-26 are therefore a genuine continuation of the prophet’s argument.  When the people refused to listen to the voice in the wilderness and consequently walked in their own counsels and the stubbornness of their evil hearts, they went backward and not forward, spiritually speaking.  They could not advance in the knowledge of the love of God, but steadily slipped backward, becoming increasingly corrupt until in Jeremiah’s time they appear to be beyond correction.  (George Arthur Buttrick, Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 5, 876)

 

Worship Point: True worship is in Spirit and in Truth; not in superstition, superficiality, and disinterested ritual(Psa 51:16-19; Prv 15:8-9, 26; 21:27; Isa 1:1-17; Hos 6:6; Amos 5:21-24; Micah 6:6-8;  Rv 2:6, 15)

 

We have been made for relationship with God.  Therefore it is not surprising that we long to meet and know God.  But the God we seek is the God we want, not the God who is.  We fashion a god who blesses without obligation, who lets us feel his presence without living his life, who stands with us and never against us, who gives us what we want, when we want it.  We worship a god of consumer satisfaction, hoping the talismans of guitars and candles or organs and liturgy will put us in touch with God as we want him to be.  (Mark Labberton, The Dangerous Act of Worship, 65-6)

 

This wasn’t faith; it was blind superstition.  (Warren Wiersbe, Be Decisive, 51)

 

Opposed to spiritual worship is superstitious worship.  Superstitious worship is motivated not by the Spirit but by dread of God, by un unholy fear of God and an anxiety about his will toward us.  The worship of an “unknown God” is superstitious worship that tries to appease a shadowy, dark divinity seen from the standpoint of the guilt of those who have not kept his commandments rather than from the standpoint of grace, the standpoint of the thousand generations of those who know him and keep his commandments.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Give Praise to God A Vision for Reforming Worship, 427)

 

It is here emphatically and explicitly stated that ceremony and sacrifice have nothing to do with the religion of Moses and the true worship of Israel.  Heap up your burnt offerings as high as you like, says Jeremiah, both those that are meant to be eaten and those that are not, and eat them all.  It is a matter of indifference to Yahweh.  This was not a part of Yahweh’s covenant with Israel when he brought them out of the land of Egypt.  (George Arthur Buttrick, Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 5, 875)

 

Students of Jeremiah have difficulty determining how much of their worship was superstition and how much was hypocritical.  (Max Anders, Holman OT Commentary: Jeremiah, 80)

 

Gospel Application: Only the God/man Jesus can reconcile sinful man with a holy, righteous, pure and immutable God.   Jesus alone can allow mercy and justice to kiss.  Jesus alone can provide for God to be loving and just with we who are sinners.  Jesus alone can change our hearts to love, trust and obey.  (Jer 31:31-34; Ezek 11:19; 36:26-27; 37:14; Rom 1:17; 3:21-26; 5:8-10; 10:4; 2 Cor 5:21; Gal 3:11; Phil 3:8-9; 1 Tm 2:1-6; Heb 8:8-12; 10:16-17)

 

God desires all kinds of men and women to be saved.  So he instructs us to pray for the salvation of all kinds of men and women.  No boundary is set to limit our prayers for the salvation of the lost.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 132)

 

You will not find a verse in Scripture where people are told to “bow your heads, close your eyes, and repeat after me.”  You will not find a place where a superstitious sinner’s prayer is even mentioned.  And you will not find an emphasis on accepting Jesus.  We have taken the infinitely glorious Son of God, who endured the infinitely terrible wrath of God and who now reigns as the infinitely worthy Lord of all, and we have reduced him to a poor, puny Savior who is just begging for us to accept him.

Accept him?  Do we really think Jesus needs our acceptance?  Don’t we need him?  (David Platt, Radical, 37)

 

The truth which has perished from her midst was that of faith issuing in righteous works (cf. Hab 2:4; Rom 1:17; Gal 3:11; Heb 10:38), a response as necessary for the Old covenant as the New (cf. Jam 2:26).  (R.K. Harrison, Tyndale OT Commentaries: Jeremiah, 87)

 

Those who seek justification without sanctification need reformation.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 121)

 

But they were living in sin, which means they had never truly understood the marvel of God’s grace.

That is a strong warning for anyone who has experienced God’s sovereign grace, yet continues to live in sin.  God has saved you from sin, not for sin.  If you are unrepentant about lust, bitterness, greed, anxiety, or any sin whatsoever, you are presuming upon God’s grace.  Know this: You cannot separate justification (God’s declaring you righteous) from sanctification (God’s making you righteous).  If you have done so, what you need is reformation.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 122)

 

Spiritual Challenge: In your worship, work, relationships, thoughts and behaviors; never forget God is the God Who said, “I am Who I am.” (Ex 3:14).  “I change not” (Mal 3:6).  

 

Both Paul and Peter proclaim the church as the body of Christ and the spiritual temple (Rom 12:4-5; 1 Cor 12:12, 27; Eph 1:22-23; 2:19-22; 1 Pt 2:1-5).  Individual Christians too are a temple of God’s dwelling (1 Cor 6:19-20).  Thus, the imperative to Christians to “honor God with your body” (6:20) reflects a concern similar to that of Jeremiah under the old covenant: behavior matters, for through it God is either glorified or mocked.  (J. Andrew Dearman, The NIV Application Commentary: Jeremiah, 102)

 

This passage takes us back to the Exodus, to the story of the beginning of that relationship between the Lord and Israel, which we describe in the word covenant, a relationship summed up in the words “I will be your God, and you shall be my people” (v. 23).  Nothing was said, claims this passage, about burnt offerings or sacrifices when God established this relationship.  Instead there was the demand for obedience, an obedience which has been singularly lacking throughout Israel’s history, in spite of God’s repeated attempts through “his servants the prophets” to remind the people of their obligations (vv. 24-26).

In fact if you look back to the story of covenant in the book of Exodus, you will see that burnt offerings and sacrifices are mentioned (Ex 24:5); but it is interesting that the Ten Commandments (Ex 20:1-17), which we may regard as the basic charter of the covenant, have nothing to say about sacrifice.  What Jeremiah is claiming here is that as far as Israel is concerned the only indispensable element in her relationship with God is a response of obedience to the ethical and social demands God makes upon his people.  (Robert Davidson, Daily Study Bible Series: Jeremiah, 76-7)

 

This is not to say that sacrifice is not important to Israel’s faith.  It could be a means of grace.  But other ways of worship, as it had to during the Exile in Babylon where there was no possibility of offering sacrifice, and as it has had to in the Jewish community for the last 1,900 years.  Take away, however, obedience to the commandments of God which are there to shape daily life, and nothing is left.  (Robert Davidson, Daily Study Bible Series: Jeremiah, 77)

 

The people had plenty of warning and reason to worry.  However, instead of listening to the divine oracle, they paid attention to deceptive words, most likely the words of false prophets.  In particular, this leads them to chant “The temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD.”  It appears that they were taking solace in the superficial trappings of religion.  They knew that the temple represented God’s presence on earth.  They then wrongly reasoned that God would let nothing happen to his earthly residence.  So they took solace in the presence of the temple.  (Tremper Longman III, Understanding the Bible: Jeremiah, Lamentations, 72)

 

Spiritual Challenge Questions:

 

  1. Do you incorporate magic, incantations, or superstition into your daily Christian life? What tradition, tithe, habit, ritual, or behavior are you counting on to manipulate God in your favor?
  2. There are something like 33 attributes of God; all of them intimately interconnected. You can’t take one of God’s attributes away without negating God altogether.  How does this help us in our relationship with God and in our daily lives?
  3. God is immutable. In fact, all of His attributes are unchanging.  How should this affect our relationship with God?  How should this affect our worship, giving, devotional and prayer life?
  4. God hates sin. God is repulsed by sin.  Our sin separates us from God.  How can keeping this in mind help us to resist temptation to sin?

 

So What?: There are consequences for wrong ideas.  If you want an intimate relationship with the God Who is, stop pushing Him away(Gn 6:6-7; Dt 7:12-15; 25:13-16; 2 Sm 11:27; Ps 1; 5:4-6; 11:5; Prv 6:16-19; Isa 59:1-2; Lk 13:27; Rom 8:7; Rv 2:6, 15)

 

JESUS:

IMMUTABLY LOVE

 

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