Jeremiah 7-8
(Empty Sacrifices)
August 5th

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

"Here you are, trusting in deceptive words to no avail. Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, 'We are safe!'—only to go on doing all these abominations?"

- Jeremiah 7:8-10 (NRSV)

Summary of Chapters

Jeremiah was a prophet during the era of the last four kings of Judah, which was the southern half of the divided kingdom of Israel. We had read in earlier chapters how God had called Jeremiah to speak to the people, so he began to warn of forthcoming danger from the north during the time of King Josiah, who brought reform to the people.

Today's reading begins a section of oracles during the reign of Jehoiakim, a successor to Josiah who had reverted back to the evil ways of Josiah's predecessors. In chapter 7, Jeremiah tells the people to go to the Temple and clean up their act. They had desecrated the temple, but still could have been forgiven if they changed their ways. The LORD told Jeremiah to stand at the gate and warn the people that they need to repent soon or would lose the temple:

The LORD says that people have turned the temple into a “den of robbers (Jer 7:11 - NIV)," a statement that was quoted by Jesus when he overturned the tables of the moneychangers (Matthew 21:12-14 NIV ). The LORD also reminds the people of how he had rejected Shiloh as the place of worship and can also reject Jerusalem.

The LORD addresses the horrific act of child worship that was taking place in Ben Hinnom and warns that the consequential destruction will be so devastating that one of the local valleys will be called the “Valley of Slaughter.” The bodies will remain exposed because there will be too many to bury and no one to bury them.

In chapter 8, the LORD compares the instinctive migration of birds to the Israeli people in order to make a point. He explains that the birds know when and where to migrate, but the people don't: "Yea, the stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed times; and the turtle and the crane and the swallow observe the time of their coming; but my people know not the judgment of the Lord (Jer 8:7 - KJV).”

God puts some of the blame on the scribes, whom he accuses of false interpretation of the law. Thus he will give their wives and possessions to others. At the end of the chapter, Jeremiah laments with his people, “Since my people are crushed, I am crushed (Jer 8:21 - NIV).”

Reflection and Application

There are several common themes here. One is the wrath of God. The Jewish scholar, Abraham Heschel observed that that, "Utterances denoting the wrath of God, the intent and threat of destruction, are found more frequently and expressed more strongly than in any other prophet. For this reason, Jeremiah has often been called a prophet of wrath (1)."

Yet, another theme in this group of chapters is the persistent pattern of opportunities for grace. The casual reader of the Old Testament concludes that these books are all about fire, brimstone, and destruction. But the careful readers observe again and again that the LORD was patient and continuously guided the people towards a reformed path, even when they have been stubbornly resisting him, as depicted in chapter 7. Many of the people chose not to accept this invitation, so God allowed them to be defeated by their adversary, and Jerusalem was reduced to a heap of ruins, but they had the chance, even after long-term records of transgressions.

We also have the opportunity to receive forgiveness, at any time, no matter what we have done. If anyone ever tells you they (or you) are too far gone for God’s help, please gently correct them, and give them the good news that nobody is ever beyond God’s help or forgiveness. I once missed my chance to give this response when a man told me he was too far gone for God. I was speechless, knowing in my heart that it can't be true, but not sure what to say. I plan to be prepared for the next time someone makes this claim.

The theme of empty sacrifices also occurs again and again in the Old Testament. How can we apply this instruction when we live in an era where animal sacrifices are a thing of the past? Perhaps when we give up time to serve or give up money as a tithe or donation we should first make sure that our hearts are in the right place. This concept may seem too abstract for many of us to apply, so Jesus addresses this point on at least one occasion, including the one quoted below:

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

Related Questions

  1. What are some of the migrating birds or animals that you have observed where you live or in places where you have lived?
  2. What are the sacrifices that we make for God?
  3. Let us take an objective look at ourselves and ask, "What is our attitude regarding these sacrifices?" Perhaps our hearts are already in the right place, and we sense God’s assurance. If not, then we ought to consider how to conduct an attitude adjustment in this area.

Recommended Prayer
Father in heaven, we acknowledge that you deserve a true sacrifice of our time and our resources. Help us to honor you and care for our brothers and sisters.

Suggested Prayer Concerns
Security Guards


(1) Heschel, Abraham Joshua, The Prophets, Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2001, New York (originally published by Harper & Row in 1962), p.134

Looking Ahead

Tomorrow's reading: Jeremiah 9-10 (The Tongue Is a Deadly Arrow)

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