In Chapter 7 of Jeremiah, God instructs Jeremiah regarding the message he is to deliver to the people of Judah.  God directs Jeremiah to the entrance of the House of the Lord, the Temple, where he is to call Israel to change their ways. The first three verses explain Jeremiah’s commission. It says, “The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: Stand in the gate of the LORD’s house, and proclaim there this word, and say, ‘Hear the word of the LORD, all you men of Judah who enter these gates to worship the LORD.’ Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: ‘Amend your ways and your deeds, and I will let you dwell in this place.’”

Many sermons on this passage (and I’ve preached a few!) use it as an exhortation to rededicate ourselves to living more righteous lives and obeying the laws and commandments of God. If becoming personally more righteous ourselves is our goal, we’re doomed to failure. We must not forget the part of the Law that involves the sacrificial system. That system is designed for sinners! It involves trusting God’s ways in light of our failure under the law. But Judah didn’t acknowledge their sinfulness and their need for blood sacrifices. Instead they trusted in worldly resources to resolve their problems. They thought mobilizing a bigger army, or entering into treaties with the other nations around them and aligning with other religions would protect them from the Babylonian invaders. The “ways and deeds” involved trusting in the flesh (worldly solutions) to save them in their time of need. It’s easy to do that.

But God promised to save them if they changed their “ways and deeds.” God wanted them to first acknowledge their sinfulness. That was the ordained purpose of the law. Paul explained that in Romans 3:19-20. He says, “Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.” God wanted them to recognize their failures under the law and trust Him to rescue them from their fate according to His promises. It’s similar today! God doesn’t call us to try harder to keep the law but to recognize our radical failure under the law and trust God to rescue us from our fate through His promised redeemer. The ultimate purpose of Jeremiah is to tell us how God will graciously save all sinners in spite of their disobedience, through the Messiah and the New Covenant (Jeremiah 30–33). The call is to trust God’s promise of redemption from our fate through personal faith in Jesus Christ.