The citizens of the southern kingdom of Judah had turned their back on God just as the children of the northern kingdom. God allowed Assyria to conquer, enslave and scatter the ten tribes of the north. The southern kingdom still existed, and God had used Jeremiah as His spokesman to bring them to repentance. But like the northern kingdom, their fate was secured by their failure to listen and act on Jeremiah’s prophecy. So God informed them that the same fate the northern kingdom (referred to as Ephraim) experienced would also be their lot. Jeremiah 7:13-15 says, “And now, because you have done all these things, declares the Lord, and when I spoke to you persistently, you did not listen, and when I called you, you did not answer. Therefore I will do to the house that is called by my name, and in which you trust, and to the place that I gave to you and your fathers, as I did to Shiloh. And I will cast you out of my sight, as I cast out all your kinsmen, all the offspring of Ephraim.”

The Israelites had taken the ark of the covenant into battle with them as the secret weapon that would bring them victory over the Philistines. God would not be used as a good luck charm. The Philistines captured the ark. As people of God, the northern kingdom felt that their religious association with Yahweh would guarantee victory over Assyria. It did not. Now, as Dearman observes, “Taken as a whole, the prophet charges that those attending temple service love neither God nor neighbor according to the standards of the Torah. Instead, they grasp at the magical properties of the temple in hopes that God will protect the city against the enemy.”[1] Jeremiah makes it clear that God is not going to do that. Religion is not going to save them. Like the soldier under fire in the foxhole, it’s time to repent. When facing imminent danger, “The people grasped at any symbol of security, which for them was the temple. Jeremiah’s sermon, however, exposed the fallacy of their trust. Their only real security lay not in a building but in moral uprightness, faithfulness, and obedience to their God.”[2]

God had called them back many times. He repeated the call many times but to no avail. God loves people and wants none to perish. “The call of a merciful Creator who hath no pleasure in the death and destruction of His fallen creatures: and would rather they should repent and live; the call of a tender Father, who looks with compassion upon the prodigal wanderer, invites and urges him to abandon his wretchedness and want, and come back to his home of plenty, and his Father’s bosom again, and assures him of a joyous welcome if he will; the call of a Friend—that Friend that sticketh closer than a brother—even of Jesus our best friend, our elder brother.”[3]

[1] Dearman, J. Andrew. 2002. Jeremiah and Lamentations. The NIV Application Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[2] Huey, F. B. 1993. Jeremiah, Lamentations. Vol. 16. The New American Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[3] Exell, Joseph S. 1905. The Biblical Illustrator: Jeremiah. Vol. 1. The Biblical Illustrator. New York; Chicago; Toronto; London; Edinburgh: Fleming H. Revell Company; Francis Griffiths.