What’s wrong with religion?
Religion should make a difference in our lives. By “religion,” I mean the set of outward behavior, practices, ethics and rituals that we do or avoid doing to mark ourselves as believers. Believing in God means we ought to love and value what God loves and values, and therefore we ought not to be nicer to each other. Yet, religion doesn’t seem to solve all the problems we think it ought to solve. What is wrong with religion? Why doesn’t it make more difference?
Jeremiah began his ministry as the dominant world power, the Assyrians, descended into civil war. As the Assyrians began to lose their power, Babylon and Egypt sought to occupy the power vacuum that the Assyrians would leave. In the midst of this political turmoil the Lord calls Jeremiah. His job is to predict and warn of the coming Babylonian invasion and the restoration that would follow the exile.
- 7:1-7 – proclamation of the word of the Lord. This section exposes the folly of ignoring the 10 commandments and then attending church as if everything is okay.
- 7:8-12 – description of the nation’s apostasy; This sections exposes the even greater folly of using religion to hide from God.
- 7:13-15 – announcement of judgment. This section is the climax of the passage, the ruins of Shiloh expose the folly of trusting in religious rituals.
- Jeremiah 7 is known as Jeremiah’s temple sermon. Jeremiah stood at the gate of the temple as the people entered and warned them about religion.
- Jeremiah began his ministry during the reign of King Josiah who instituted many reforms, repaired the temple and encouraged the people to return to worshiping the Lord.
- But during the reign of the next king, King Jehoiakim, Judah slipped back into her old idolatrous ways, but she still had this habit of going through the motions of worship at the temple.
1) People become religious to get what they want.
- This passage is addressed to religious people (people who are entering the temple to worship).
- The basic message is: “repent and you will avoid the consequences of disobedience.”
- The people of Judah trusted in “deceptive words” instead of the word of the Lord.
- They think going through the rituals of religion will protect them. They thought the temple was like the ultimate lucky rabbit’s foot.
- This kind of “temple theology” is empty superstition. What they really need is radical repentance and profound spiritual renewal.
2) People use religion to fake a relationship with God.
- Jeremiah 7:9 mentions six of the ten commandments, the foundation of the covenant relationship between the Lord and His people.
- The people violated the basic agreement of their relationship with God and then entered the temple, saying “we are safe.”
- Religious rituals allow us to fake having a relationship with the Lord.
3) People use religion compare themselves to others.
- Shiloh was the center of worship for about 400 years when it housed the building that contained the Ark of the Covenant.
- The people in Jerusalem thought they were better than the northern tribes because they had Solomon’s temple.
- The Lord draws a comparison between Shiloh, where the tabernacle used to dwell and Jerusalem where the temple now dwells.
- If He didn’t spare Shiloh because He had his dwelling there, what makes you think He will spare Jerusalem because His temple is there?
4) Religion disappoints.
- The Lord realizes His people are trusting in religion, and so He takes it away from them.
- He doesn’t take away His presence, grace or mercy. He removes their ability to practice religion.
Life, hope, forgiveness and blessing are found at the foot of the cross and faith the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, not in the outward practice of religion.
For more detail and explanation, please listen to the podcast.
Series: Questions Jeremiah Answered
Resources: Jeremiah Resources
Scripture quotes are from the New American Standard Version of the Bible.
Photo used here under Flickr Creative Commons.