Jeremiah 7:1-27 Counsels and Dictates Of Evil Hearts Instead Of The Word.
Jeremiah was called to proclaim the LORD’s word to Judah, at the gate to the LORD’s house. At this location, everyone entering the LORD’s house would have no choice but to listen, coming from one who was also a priest (vv. 1-2 Cf. 26:2). It was a call for the people to amend both their ways and their doings, that they might continue to dwell in the temple, and the city, on Mt. Zion (v. 3). Their presence in the land, and that of the temple, were not unconditional (v. 4). Only as they repented would they not be moved (4:1; 18:11). In order to amend their ways and doing, and remain unmoved in the temple, the city and the land, they needed to obey the voice of the LORD (26:13).
There is also a second significant point to the location of the gate – it was understood to be the place where disputes would be decided, executing judgments according to this word, between a man and his neighbour, and where the helpless would be treated equally with all the rest (vv. 5-7 Cf. 3:18; 13:10; 21:12; 23:3; Dt. 4:40; 6:14-15). They were given an opportunity to repent and amend their ways and doings, showing the conditionality that is present in the administration of the covenants (Cf. Dt, 13:1-3; 14:28-29). Essentially the intention should have been the application of the civil code and wisdom, in the application of the law of the LORD. This should have been what characterized their ways and doings.
Instead they trusted “in lying words that cannot profit” (v. 8 Cf. 5:31; 14:13-14). Their sin was both religious and civil, with the latter always based on the former, in any society. Every society governs itself based on some religious commitment. They worshipped idols of their own making, offering incense to Baal and walking after other gods, and were also guilty of oppression, bloodshed, stealing, murder, and swearing falsely (vv. 7b, 9b). They broke the law, both towards the LORD and their neighbours. All this was as a result of despising the word of the LORD, and trusting in lies. They worshipped gods they did not know, and then stood in the LORD’s house, believing they had been delivered to live as they wanted (v. 10 Cf. 7:11, 14; 32:34; 34:15).
This admixture with paganism was also a means of commerce for those invested in this idolatry (v. 11 Cf. Is. 56:7). Jesus referred to this verse in the context of the same situation with the temple in his day, and the passage from Isaiah, where he saw what the LORD had seen in Jeremiah’s day (Mt. 21:13). As Jeremiah stated in the previous section, “everyone is given to covetousness; and from the prophet even to the priest, everyone deals falsely” (6:13). The temple was intended to be a house called by the name of the LORD, the place where his tabernacle was first set up in the promised land, at the gate of which they divided up the land, including a place for the Levites (Josh. 18:1; 21:2; 22:9).
Instead, they would suffer the same judgment as those who were guilty of wickedness at the LORD’s place in Shiloh, leading to the taking of the ark of the covenant of the LORD (v. 12 Cf. Dt. 12:11; I Sam. 4:1-11). Hence, because the people did not heed the word of the LORD (v. 13), the same thing would happen as happened at Shiloh, his people would be cast out, and the symbols of the LORD’s presence would depart from the temple and the city (vv. 14-15 Cf. II Kgs. 17:23). Jeremiah was commanded to not pray for the people, because of their idolatry (vv. 16-18 Cf. 11:14; 15:119:13; 44:17), otherwise it would only provoke the LORD to greater anger with them (v. 19 Cf. Dt. 32:16, 21).
All creation would also suffer because of the sins of his people due to their failed stewardship (v. 20). The chief thing which they and their forefathers were to do was not an elaborate religion of mere externals, but rather to heed the word of the LORD (vv. 21-22 Cf. 6:20; Hos. 6:8). “But this is what I commanded them, saying, ‘Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be My people. And walk in all the ways that I commanded you, that it may be well with you.’” (v. 23 Cf. 32:33; Ex. 19:5-6; Dt. 6:3; 29:19). They went backward instead of forward, because they “followed the counsels and the dictates of their evil hearts,” instead of obeying or inclining their ear to the LORD’s voice (v. 24 Cf. Ps. 81:11).
The dictates of their hearts were based on their own premediated counsels, in other words they had been devising their plans for a while. It was not as though the people did not have a revelation of the LORD’s will. The LORD sent among them, his servants, the prophets who delivered his word (v. 25 Cf. II Chr. 36:15). They knew the truth, but they decided, indeed counseled in their own hearts, to suppress that truth and follow the dictates of their evil hearts instead (Cf. 16:12). Instead of obeying the words of the law and the prophets, and inclining their ears to them, they became stiff-necked, so that the sins of the people in Jeremiah’s day were worse than their fathers. Their sin was worse, in part, because they had an even fuller revelation of the truth.
Jeremiah, like all the other servants of the LORD, was simply asked to preach the word, even though they would not answer to it or obey (vv. 26-27). Ezekiel had the same task (2:7). In failing to heed the word of the LORD they were also breaking the covenant they had with him (11:8). Nehemiah reviewed this history, as he prayed to the LORD, looking back from the perspective of the remnant who had returned after the exile. “But they and our fathers acted proudly, hardened their necks, and did not heed Your commandments.” (9:16). “They refused to obey,” even though the LORD was ready to pardon, the remnant then being proof that the LORD had not forsaken his covenant people in mercy and grace (9:17).