Jeremiah 7:8–11 (NKJV)
8 “Behold, you trust in lying words that cannot profit. 9 Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, burn incense to Baal, and walk after other gods whom you do not know, 10 and then come and stand before Me in this house which is called by My name, and say, ‘We are delivered to do all these abominations’? 11 Has this house, which is called by My name, become a den of thieves in your eyes? Behold, I, even I, have seen it,” says the LORD.
Last week we remarked that the only two options before us as individuals are to repent or perish. Because we have all sinned and are therefore guilty in God’s sight, deserving of judgment, there are only two options: repent or perish. Repent: turn from your sin, confess your need of Jesus to cover your guilt, and ask God’s forgiveness; or perish: cling to your sin, ignore your guilt, and face God’s judgment. These are our only options.
As sinners, however, we don’t like it that there are only two options. We would much rather hold on to our sin and avoid judgment. We want to have our cake and eat it too. So we tell ourselves lies – and these lies come in two forms.
First, we lie about the nature of our behavior. We begin to call good evil and evil good. We redefine justice in accordance with our own thoughts and desires rather than defining it according to God’s moral law. We say to ourselves, “This is the way we are supposed to act!” Or, in the words of our text, “We are delivered to do all these abominations!”
So, locally, some of our city officials, in the wake of the Orlando shooting, held a vigil. This vigil didn’t bow before God and confess that we are sinners deserving of judgment and in need of mercy. This vigil didn’t acknowledge the many ways that we as a people have violated the law of God – stealing, murdering, committing adultery, swearing falsely, worshiping false gods – and become justly subject to His wrath; instead this vigil stood in defense of our perverse sexuality and censured any condemnation of the behavior. We are lying about the nature of our behavior.
But not only do we lie about the nature of our behavior, we also begin to lie about the character of God. “God is soft and cuddly; God doesn’t care; God takes no notice; God just wants me to be happy; God believes in me; or, perhaps, God doesn’t even exist.” But it is these gods that do not exist – they are figments of our own imagination, not the God of creation and revelation. They are, in Jeremiah’s words, gods that we do not know – gods that we use to placate our conscience rather than the God who speaks in our conscience.
Repent or perish is not only a summons for us as individuals; it is also a summons for us as communities. When we lie about the nature of our behavior or lie about the character of God or both, these lies do not profit us. In the end, we shall come up against the solid wall of God’s reality. Gravity eventually catches up with us. For God declares, “Behold I, even I have seen it.”
Jeremiah’s words remind us that we have much to confess – individually and corporately. Let us cry out to God on behalf of our city, that God would have mercy upon us for our rebellion, that He would open our eyes to see the evil of our ways, and that we would together cry out to Him for mercy. And as we confess our sins to the Lord, let us kneel in His presence.