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Jerusalem, 2 November 2016

It was an amazing biblical study tour -- a full week exploring Galilee, Jerusalem, and the Dead Sea. (Please scroll down for loads of photos.) The fellowship, drawing from 21 nations, was golden. Most of the group were Christians, and it looks like two of our guests were greatly inspired to become disciples, and will soon be baptized. 

Most have now flown home -- but not all. Some went to Jordan (the nation immediately east of Israel), while others are taking in more of Jerusalem -- like Vicki and me. We're staying on a few extra days, with friends Steve and Leigh Kinnard. We checked into the YMCA where Steve and I lodged during our first visit 20 years ago. This week we're exploring new sites, planning the 2017 tour, and simply enjoying being together.

Lie No.2: "The Temple of the Lord!" x 3

Last week we examined the first lie the religious leadership of the nation of Judah was telling the people. Not that the covenant people were innocent, since they liked not being called higher (Jer 5:31). This first lie was "Peace, peace!" (Jer 6:14). What's the second? For that we must look at Jeremiah 7.

1 This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 2 “Stand at the gate of the Lord’s house and there proclaim this message: “‘Hear the word of the Lord, all you people of Judah who come through these gates to worship the Lord. 3 This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Reform your ways and your actions, and I will let you live in this place. 4 Do not trust in deceptive words and say, 'This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord!'"
  • The prophet is preaching at the entrance to the Temple: not inside (that's not a place of truth), but just outside the official establishment.
  • A few days ago I was standing in this very location, imagining the scene. To challenge the system right under the noses of the corrupt priests must have taken immense courage!
  • The lie Jeremiah challenges is that one is safe / saved merely by attending church / temple.
  • Notice that this lie is repeated -- as was the first ("peace, peace"). Yet telling ourselves the same lie over and over doesn't make it any more true!
5 "If you really change your ways and your actions... 7 then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your ancestors for ever and ever. 8 But look, you are trusting in deceptive words that are worthless..."
  • Religious meetings are fine and well, but without true change in our lives, they are worthless, a mere going through the motions.
  • God's promise of security was contingent on their obedience.
  • Notice again the word "deceptive" (vs. 4, 8). There is a difference between truth and falsehood. Truth isn't plastic, moldable, what one makes of it. Rather, it is absolute, solid, and real. 
11 "Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching! declares the Lord... 15 I will thrust you from my presence, just as I did all your fellow Israelites... 20 Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: My anger and my wrath will be poured out on this place—on man and beast, on the trees of the field and on the crops of your land—and it will burn and not be quenched...' 27 When you tell them all this, they will not listen to you; when you call to them, they will not answer. 28 Therefore say to them, ‘This is the nation that has not obeyed the Lord its God or responded to correction. Truth has perished; it has vanished from their lips.'"
  • The Temple has become a "den of thieves" (v.11), a lucrative business for those who, instead of feeding the flock, are fleecing them.
  • The people believed that since the Temple was God's house, it was invulnerable (God would never let it be destroyed). And if the Temple was secure, then Jerusalem was secure. The people of Judah couldn't imagine Yahweh allowing his House to be overrun by Gentiles, yet that is exactly what he had warned he would do (Deut 28:63-64)!
  • Note that the unquenchable fire (v.26), like the fire of hell, eventually does go out. The punishment is finite, not infinite.
  • Specific sins must be identified, not covered up. Theirs included oppression, idolatry, theft, murder, adultery, perjury, and worse… (7:5-31).
  • "Truth has perished" (v.28) when leaders believe and tell lies, and when the people follow.
Application today
  1. Many Christians today are considered members in good standing simply for showing up and giving money to the church. But when we're just going through the motions, our religion is worthless.
  2. We may think our group is unique in proclaiming the truth. Yet salvation isn't automatic just hold to "sound doctrine," any more than if we just show up for services. The Lord doesn't care about our attendance unless we're leading faithful lives. That means avoiding sin, loving God, and proclaiming the message through our words and lives.
  3. Furthermore, repeating these compromising lies doesn't make them any less false. They are just as false -- and prevalent -- today as they were 2600 years ago, in Jeremiah's time.
Next week we'll expose the third (and final) fabrication.
Above: Olive farmer; Church of the Holy Sepulchre; Church of St. Ann, by Pool of Bethesda; Dan (source of the Jordan); Garden of Gethsemane; with co-leader Steve Kinnard; synagogue at Magdala (home of Mary Magdalene); one of our three buses; with some of our Hawaiian participants; ancient carpentry. Below: 1:50 scale model of 1st century Jerusalem; 1st century street scene; gate of Megiddo; teacher Joey & Debbie Harris; ancient weaver; tomb; Mackintoshes and Ciminos; SW corner of Temple Mount; with Mark Gregory (Jamaica); with author David Bercot; view of Temple Mount from Mount of Olives.


Next week we'll be back in Atlanta. Until then, Shalôm!
Douglas Jacoby

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