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Denver, 30 November 2016

I've just landed in Denver, where I'll be speaking 19 times from tomorrow till 4 December. Which means... your prayers for stamina are appreciated. Remember also my presentation tomorrow at Reasonable Faith, a Christian evidences ministry. I met the Denver chapter leader and his wife earlier this year on an archaeological tour in Turkey. And now, back to our series.

The Temple Sermon

Jesus reminded people of Jeremiah for many reasons, above all for his revolutionary teaching and the opposition he received from the establishment. In Jeremiah's time, six centuries before Christ, leaders and people alike believed in several egregious lies. Last week we considered the first lie, in Jer 6 -- "Peace, peace!" Today we return to the second lie: 

"Do not trust in these deceptive words: ‘This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.’ For if you truly amend your ways... then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your fathers for ever... Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, I myself have seen it, says the Lord... Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes?" (Jer 7:4-5,7,11)

The lie was that going through the motions of religion, like going to church, is enough to guarantee salvation. Jesus criticized frequently and boldly this deeply flawed way of approaching God (Matt 15:8-9). The Lord does not recognize anyone as a "member in good standing” just for showing up and giving a little money to the church. "We must truly amend our ways." Nor does he recognize the legitimacy of any religious system that fleeces the flock (instead of feeding them).

Whereas the Temple was intended to be a house of prayer for all nations, Jesus denounced it as a "den of thieves" (Matt 21:13) — directly borrowing the prophet (Jer 7:11). Furthermore, this denunciation took place at the Temple itself! Both these facts suggest that Jesus saw himself as another "Jeremiah." This shouldn't be surprising, since Christ fulfills the Prophets.

Den of Thieves?
Let's explore the concept "den of thieves," seeking practical applications.
  • Have I been affected by materialism and consumerism? Are my spending habits different from those of my non-Christian friends and neighbors, or have I imbibed the spirit of the world? If I'm living beyond my means, or so busy with work that my ministry is shriveled or non-existent, do I think Jesus or Jeremiah would be proud of me?
  • Under the New Covenant we are not required to tithe (give 10%) -- although most of us could give much more. Yet, as in the Old Testament, to skimp on offerings is a form of robbing God (Mal 3:8-10). Do I give grudgingly? If everyone gave like me, would the church have to close its doors?
  • Do I pretend to be more sacrificial than I really am? Do I realize how serious a sin that is (Acts 5:1-11; Matt 6:1-4)?
  • Jewish historian and statesman Josephus has strong words for Annas, the former high priest and father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest who engineered Jesus' crucifixion. He calls Annas “the great hoarder of money.” So, apparently, were the Pharisees of Jesus' day (Luke 16:14).
  • If we are church leaders, do we live in luxury while the members struggle just to get by? Do financial considerations drive our meetings and agendas, or are we willing to step out in faith? Do we constantly talk about money, or do we trust church members to do what is right?
  • If I'm a preacher, am I willing to challenge my listeners on materialism -- greed which the Bible calls idolatry (Col 3:5)? Or am I unable to do so because I myself embody unhealthy living and spending, and would lack the moral credibility to issue such a challenge?
Next week we will compare the third falsehood Jeremiah challenged to the teaching of Jesus on the identical subject. In the meantime, do you know the English word jeremiad? Finally, let's remember to imitate Jeremiah and our Lord in looking at the world biblically, and with the courage to speak the truth, instead of just going with the flow.


Reminder: Tomorrow is the last day for the early payment discount ($90/person) for the BST 2017 Israel tour.

New Book
My next book, which includes 30 days of Bible study on Exodus, will be out next month. The publisher is IPI. (I will include a link for ordering at that time.)

Your interest and support, whether through prayer, donations, or partnership, are much appreciated. (Specific needs will be listed in next week's bulletin.) Further, the ministry is way too demanding (and broad) to handle alone, so I'm grateful for all those with whom I work side by side -- as for those who support the teaching ministry globally. We thank you!

Douglas Jacoby

All material (c) 2016 by Douglas Jacoby.       unsubscribe from this list           update subscription preferences