Jerusalem and First Temple

I am reading the bible from cover-to-cover and currently find myself in the book of Jeremiah. Jeremiah served as an Israeli prophet during the reign of the last five kings of Judah (Israel’s southern kingdom). He prophesied the word of God for forty years.

Unfortunately for Jeremiah, his God-appointed job of prophet came at a terrible time during the history of Israel. The northern kingdom had been conquered by the Assyrians and the southern kingdom, even though still sovereign, was suffering moral decay. The capital city of the southern kingdom of Judah was Jerusalem. Jerusalem was the home of Solomon’s temple—often referred to as the first temple. Israel had experienced its grandest presence during the prior reigns of King David and his son, King Solomon. But those days of power and eventual peace had come and gone.

While reading Jeremiah’s book in the Old Testament, the condition that existed within the city of Jerusalem reminds me of America today. On the surface, the Israeli’s were regularly worshiping at the temple; they were performing the required sacrifices and offering their prayers up to God. There were significant problems below the surface, however, that God pointed out to Jeremiah. God then required that Jeremiah point these issues out to the people and their leaders in Jerusalem. Here are God’s words from Jeremiah, “‘Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, burn incense to Baal and follow other gods you have not known, and then come and stand before Me in this house (the temple), which bears My Name, and say, “We are safe”—safe to do all these detestable things? Has this house, which bears My Name, become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching! declares the Lord.’” (Jer 7:9-11)

The people were going through the motions of authentic worship but this was merely on the surface. The people were also doing horrible things away from His temple—all of which God was fully aware. A key issue that caused God great anger was idol worship, God actually mentions the worship of the idol Baal. I do not understand why people, past and present, believe that God is not aware of their actions in private. Why would you believe that God only sees what the public sees? God knows all! Looking around America today, there are so many idols that we worship. Some are easy to see and identify—money, expensive homes & cars, drugs, careers, sex, and so forth. Others are a little less obvious but just as harmful—our children, our spouse, a professional sports team, and so forth.

One truth that God clearly demonstrates in the book of Jeremiah—the only healthy object of our worship must be God. With our focus on God as the center of our lives everything else will fall into its appropriate place. We can effectively manage our money, belongings, sex life, career, children, marriage, and everything else when God is our center. Reading His bible, praying daily to Him, obeying His commandments, and maintaining a healthy Godly respect will give us peace and purpose.

Jeremiah preached to Judah for forty years, demanding that they change their ways and return God to the center of their lives. He continually pointed to their actions of disobedience and their fake attempts at bonafide worship.

I know that this chapter in Jerusalem’s history does not end well. The people never heeded the warnings of Jeremiah. So—in the end—God allowed their punishment to occur. The very punishment that He warned them would occur. The Babylonians conquered the city, eventually destroying Solomon’s temple, killing thousands, and taking a large group of the Jews into captivity in Babylon. The city was completely pillaged, burned, and destroyed.

I wonder if God views America today in a similar fashion to His view of Jerusalem during Jeremiah’s time (600 BC). This country was built on a firm foundation of Christian principles with an outspoken respect for God. Have we evolved into a country that appears ‘on the surface’ to be moral and God-fearing while we are actually worshiping our idols, faking our Christian walks, and turning our backs on God? If so, we need to learn our lesson from the Jerusalem of 600 BC, and return to the beliefs upon which this great nation was founded. God knows the truth and God will make things right. God knows all—when your life is aligned with God this brings peace and purpose.