In the days of Jeremiah (ca. 600 B.C.), the people of Judah faced difficult times. The northern kingdom of Israel was history, taken into Assyrian captivity. Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, had defeated Assyria, and was making his way into Judah.
The people of Judah had developed a false trust. They were placing their confidence and hopes everywhere but the place where it would have done them some good. It is through the prophet Jeremiah that the Lord condemns as useless the false hopes created in the hearts of the people of Judah by the leaders.
It is still possible today to put our hope and confidence in the
wrong place. We would do well to avoid making the same critical mistake as Judah
did. We read of that false trust and how the Jehovah responded to it in the
seventh chapter of Jeremiah.
The False Trust of Judah
First, the people placed their confidence in the temple buildings themselves (vss. 1-7). The Lord responded, "Do not trust in deceptive words, saying, "This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD.' (Jeremiah 7:4).
The people were under the impression that the mere fact that the temple was located in Jerusalem would spare the city. The Lord sent Jeremiah to the temple itself to preach that it would take genuine repentance to reverse the situation (Jeremiah 7:1-7).
Then, as now, Lord required more than rituals involving temple
worship and outward piety. Repentance would mean not only true-hearted worship
of the Lord, but also a change in how the people treated one another; that their
dealings were to be just and honorable and without oppression.
Second, they sought to excuse their obvious sins (Jeremiah 7:8-11). Again, theirs was a false trust in that they were being led to think that they could sin and not be held accountable. “Behold, you are trusting in deceptive words to no avail” (Jeremiah 7:8). After committing transgression, they would go to the temple thinking that would absolve them: “...then come and stand before Me in this house, which is called by My name, and say, "We are delivered!' -- that you may do all these abominations?” (Jeremiah 7:10). The Lord could see through such hypocrisy and responds by saying that this, too, is a false hope. He says, “Remember Shiloh!" - (Jeremiah 7:12).
Shiloh is where the tabernacle had stood before the temple had been built at Jerusalem, and was at that time the center of the worship unto Jehovah (Joshua 8:1). The ark of the covenant was there. Somehow, the people had gotten the idea that if the ark was physically present with them, that they were invincible. They were not faithful to the Lord in their conduct and service, but they had the “magical” ark, so they would prevail in battle against the Philistines.
They were wrong about that. It was at Shiloh where the ark of the covenant had been captured by the Philistines and the unfaithful people of Israel defeated (1 Samuel 4:10-11). It was as if they believed that the ark was like a lamp and God was a genie inside enslaved to whoever possessed the ark. That was certainly a mistake.
Jeremiah warns that God would do likewise with Jerusalem and the
temple- (Jeremiah 7:13-15). That is, just as He had withdrawn His protection
from Shiloh and allowed the ark to be captured, He would withdraw His protection
from the temple and allow it to be captured as well. This because of Judah's
failure to heed His prophets - (vs. 13).
Similar False Trust Today
Could we have a false trust as "members" of the church which Christ built? Are some like the Judeans who cried "The Temple of the Lord..." but did not give themselves fully and loyally to the Lord and His service? There may be those who cry "The Church of Christ..." behaving as if membership will cover over negligence and inactivity. It may be that some think as long as they are members of a faithful church that they are secure. But the Bible says that judgment begins with the household of God (1 Peter 4:17) and the parable of the tares also tells us that such attitudes are misguided (Matthew 13:41-43).
The fact is, salvation is dependent on individual faith and loyalty, not by the crowd with whom we may be associated. While it is true that our associates may have an effect on what kind of character we develop, each one of us will be judged as an individuals and not by group allegiance or association! - “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:10).
Do some, like the Judeans, who disobeyed God, then claimed exemption, do likewise today? Living in and of the world part of the time, and then going to "church"? Do we find ourselves participating in worldliness in our manner of speech, conduct and/or style of dress but think of ourselves as being "faithful members" because we “go to church” the way they went to the temple?
Today, as then, God is a God of grace, but his grace instructs us to live holy (Titus 2:11,12). There is no sacrifice made for those who willfully transgress God's law (Hebrews 10:23-31). Salvation is dependent upon God's grace, not church ritual!
The Lord's responded to the folly of such a false trust: As they were once told, “Remember Shiloh!” let us "Remember Sardis!" (Revelation 3:1-6). They had "a living name", but that did not free them from the threat of condemnation - (vss. 1-3). As always, salvation was based on individual consecration (vss. 4-6).
To the folly of such a false trust we could also answer:
“Remember Laodicea!” (Revelation 3:14-22). They had become "lukewarm" - (vss.
14,15). They were in danger of expulsion because of worldliness - (vss. 16,17 ).
They were in need of repentance; full and complete repentance. ( vss. 18-22).
Like Judah whose salvation from destruction depended upon wholehearted service to God, so our salvation depends on complete and faithful obedience to the will of Christ! We must avoid the fallacy of "virtue by association", and remember that God has promised to do to us just as He did to Israel if we are not faithful - (see Romans 11:20-22). This is a call to personal commitment and endeavor. It is not enough to be associated with the faithful… each of us must become one of God's faithful.
Note: Many thanks to my friend Mark Copeland for doing a sermon outline upon which many of the thoughts in this article are based
By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 13.3; March 2006