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Jeremiah Proclaims God’s Judgment on the Nation


The word that came to Jeremiah from the L ord: 2Stand in the gate of the L ord’s house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the L ord, all you people of Judah, you that enter these gates to worship the L ord. 3Thus says the L ord of hosts, the God of Israel: Amend your ways and your doings, and let me dwell with you in this place. 4Do not trust in these deceptive words: “This is the temple of the L ord, the temple of the L ord, the temple of the L ord.”

5 For if you truly amend your ways and your doings, if you truly act justly one with another, 6if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, and the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own hurt, 7then I will dwell with you in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your ancestors forever and ever.

8 Here you are, trusting in deceptive words to no avail. 9Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, 10and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, “We are safe!”—only to go on doing all these abominations? 11Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your sight? You know, I too am watching, says the L ord. 12Go now to my place that was in Shiloh, where I made my name dwell at first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of my people Israel. 13And now, because you have done all these things, says the L ord, and when I spoke to you persistently, you did not listen, and when I called you, you did not answer, 14therefore I will do to the house that is called by my name, in which you trust, and to the place that I gave to you and to your ancestors, just what I did to Shiloh. 15And I will cast you out of my sight, just as I cast out all your kinsfolk, all the offspring of Ephraim.

The People’s Disobedience

16 As for you, do not pray for this people, do not raise a cry or prayer on their behalf, and do not intercede with me, for I will not hear you. 17Do you not see what they are doing in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? 18The 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. 19Is it I whom they provoke? says the L ord. Is it not themselves, to their own hurt? 20Therefore thus says the Lord G od: My anger and my wrath shall be poured out on this place, on human beings and animals, on the trees of the field and the fruit of the ground; it will burn and not be quenched.

21 Thus says the L ord of hosts, the God of Israel: Add your burnt offerings to your sacrifices, and eat the flesh. 22For in the day that I brought your ancestors out of the land of Egypt, I did not speak to them or command them concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices. 23But this command I gave them, “Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people; and walk only in the way that I command you, so that it may be well with you.” 24Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but, in the stubbornness of their evil will, they walked in their own counsels, and looked backward rather than forward. 25From the day that your ancestors came out of the land of Egypt until this day, I have persistently sent all my servants the prophets to them, day after day; 26yet they did not listen to me, or pay attention, but they stiffened their necks. They did worse than their ancestors did.

27 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. 28You shall say to them: This is the nation that did not obey the voice of the L ord their God, and did not accept discipline; truth has perished; it is cut off from their lips.


Cut off your hair and throw it away;

raise a lamentation on the bare heights,

for the L ord has rejected and forsaken

the generation that provoked his wrath.

30 For the people of Judah have done evil in my sight, says the L ord; they have set their abominations in the house that is called by my name, defiling it. 31And they go on building the high place 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. 32Therefore, the days are surely coming, says the L ord, 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 until there is no more room. 33The corpses of this people will be food for the birds of the air, and for the animals of the earth; and no one will frighten them away. 34And I will bring to an end the sound of mirth and gladness, the voice of the bride and bridegroom in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem; for the land shall become a waste.

I spoke not then to your fathers, nor commanded them in the day I brought them forth from the land of Egypt, etc. The Prophet calls the attention of the Jews to the first condition of the Church; for though God had made his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, yet he then only formed or framed for himself a Church when the Law was promulgated. Hence God at that time showed what pleased him, and prescribed certain things, which were in future to be inviolably observed: and as the Jews violated the rule given them, the Prophet concludes that God was corruptly and absurdly worshipped by them. This is the reason why he expressly speaks here of the deliverance granted to the fathers. There follows afterwards a clearer explanation, which removes all ambiguity: for God subordinates sacrifices to obedience. Yet sacrifices are a part of obedience: very true; but as the people were to be subject to the whole law, it hence follows, that the worship of God was mutilated by them, when there was no care for true piety. We now then, no doubt, understand the meaning of the Prophet, and see at the same time the reason why God so expressly rejected sacrifices: for what God has connected, it is not in the power of man to separate. (Matthew 19:6; Mark 10:9.) This rending of things is impious. As the Jews had separated sacrifices from their right and legitimate end, whatever they did was a sacrilege and a profanation.

That we may now more fully comprehend this doctrine, we must remember this principle — that the basis of true religion is obedience. For unless God shines on us with his word, there is no religion, but only hypocrisy and superstition; as the case is with heathens, who, though they busy themselves much and with great diligence, yet loose all their labor, and uselessly weary themselves, for God has not shewn to them the right way. In short, true religion may always be distinguished from superstition by this mark — If the truth of God guides us, then our religion is true; but if any one follows his own reason, or is led by the opinion and consent of men, he forms for himself superstition; and nothing that he does will please God. This is one thing.

Now, in the second place, let us see what God chiefly requires from those who are his servants. Being fully convinced of this truth — that God cannot be truly served, except we obey his voice, we must consider, as I have said, what God commands us to do. Now, as he is a Spirit, so he demands sincerity of heart. (John 4:24.) We also know that God so comes to us, that he would have us to trust wholly in his gratuitous goodness, that he would have us to depend altogether on his paternal kindness, that he would have us to call on him, and to offer him the sacrifice of praise. Since, then, God has expressly required these things in his word, it is certain, that all other modes of worship are rejected by him as vitious; that is, when there is no faith, when there is no prayer and praise: for these hold the first place in true and legitimate worship.

This one passage is sufficient to put an end to all the contentions which are now in the world. For if the Papists admitted that obedience is of more account with God than all sacrifices, (1 Samuel 15:22,) we might easily agree. They might afterwards debate every article of faith; but there would be in the main an agreement between us, were they to submit simply and unreservedly to the word of God. But we see how pertinaciously they insist on this point — that we are not to stand on God’s word, nor acquiesce in it, because there is in it nothing certain. Hence they regard the doctrine of the Fathers, and what they call the perpetual consent of the Catholic Church, as of more value than the Law and the Prophets and the Gospel. They dare not indeed to contend on this ground; and so far they act wisely: for if the disputes between us are capable of being removed, as I have said, by God’s word, we could easily overcome them. But while they, fostering their own blindness, strive to extinguish the light, and willfully envelop themselves in darkness, let us follow what God’s Spirit shews to us here, — that the main part of true and right worship and service is to hear God speaking, and to regard obedience of more account than all offerings and sacrifices, according to the passage we have quoted from 1 Samuel 15:22.

He afterwards adds, I will be to you a God, and ye shall be to me a people; and ye shall walk in all the way which I shall shew to you, that it may be well with you. The Prophet confirms what I have already said, that if we would obey God, we must consider what he commands. Now God omits no part of true worship: we shall then never go astray from true religion, if only we render ourselves teachable. Whence then is it, that men diligently labor and profit nothing, except that they are deaf to God’s voice? for as it has been already often said, God has not only spoken generally, and in various ways, of obedience, but has clearly and distinctly taught what he approves. Our obedience then will please him, if only we learn what he would have us to do.

And at the same time he adds, that this condition was mentioned to the Jews, that it would be well with them, if they only obeyed God. Hence their perverseness is more fully detected; for they willfully sought to be miserable, and procured for themselves their own destruction: for a happy life was offered to them, provided only they submitted to God. Since they refused this, who does not see that they willfully gave themselves up to misery, as though they wished to provoke God’s anger, and did so designedly? for it immediately follows —

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