What does it say?
The Jews have tremendous faith in the temple – the building itself, not the God that dwells there (Jer 7). They believe that as long as the temple was standing Jerusalem could never fall. God reminds them that the tabernacle once stood in Shiloh, yet the Philistines took and destroyed it (1Sam 4). Despite their religious ritual, there is rampant idolatry in the city as even the pagan goddess Ashtaroth (queen of heaven) has devotees among them.
The people refuse to repent because of their false confidence encouraged by the smooth words of false prophets and religious leaders motivated by self-interest (Jer 8). Beginning in Jeremiah 8:18 and continuing through chapter 9, Jeremiah pours out anguish and heartache over the judgment sure to come.
What does it mean?
God takes no pleasure in judgment. We’ve seen him warn repeatedly before judgment falls, and we see his broken heart as his people fail to respond to his loving call to turn back to him.
Either we are God’s instruments of influence to spread his love among the nations, or the nations are an evil influence to corrupt us and turn us from God. Despite being God’s chosen people, having the scriptures and the prophets, an entire social, civil and religious system to reinforce God’s truth; it is sobering how quickly one can fall into open and blatant idolatry and rest in a false confidence.
Jesus himself tells us that we are to be in the world but not of the world. We tend to quickly drift to one extreme or the other. Either we isolate ourselves in tight, guilt-driven legalist religious cocoon, or we go into the word and allow the world to influence us rather than the other way around. Our job is to be God’s presence among those that do not yet know him, to be his loving influence and make a difference.
How will I respond?
Is my life making a difference in those around me? Sometimes I measure my activity rather than my effectiveness. Is there fruit from my presence among people who do not yet know God? What about my life needs to change in order to a more effective presence for God?