By Larry Ray Hafley
Some thought so (Matt. 16:14). Why? Jeremiah taught the people of Judah, Jerusalem and Josiah that external reforms were worthless without internal repentance. Josiah’s reformation led to a transformation of national life, but Jehovah sent Jeremiah to say, “Trust not in lying words, saying, The temple of the Lord, The temple of the Lord, The temple of the Lord are these” (Jer. 7:4). “What meaneth this?”
As we learn from the chronicles of the kings in Kings and Chronicles, the law, the sabbath, and the temple were restored. The “order” and the “courses” of divine service were “according to the pattern.” Remnants of Israel and Judah rejoiced. They exulted in anticipation of national exaltation, brought on, as they supposed, by their ritual restoration.
“Not so fast,” Jeremiah said in effect. First, “amend your ways and your doings, and, secondly, I will cause you to dwell in this place” (Jer. 7:3). “If you thoroughly amend your ways and your doings . . . Then (and only then) will I cause you to dwell in this place” (Jer. 7:5-7). You cannot, God said, have one without the other “If . . . then.”
The people saw the new panels. They smelled the sweet aroma of new wood. They were dazzled by the beauty of ornate craftsmanship. In these things they fancied that they saw victory and smelled success. However, Jeremiah thundered, Do not trust in these things; “amend your ways and your doings.” The flesh, blinded by the splendor, was deaf to the spiritual. National ruin, bondage, destruction, and captivity were assured. Their religion, hence, their reformation, was of the eye, not of the mind. In the few, where it was in the conscience, it was not in the hand, not in their deeds and doings.
Jesus so spoke.
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe unto you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye are like unto whited sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.
Though this section appears later than the events of Matthew 16:14, who can doubt that this was a consistent refrain from the mouth of the Messiah during his minis-try? Thus, Jesus was seen as “Jeremiah.” Again, “What meaneth this”? What application may we make?
Briefly, this: We may have restored “the ancient order of things.” We may have made “all things according to the pattern,” but if our ways and doings are not amended, our worship is void and vain, dead on arrival. The restored public temple meant nothing while the private temple housed murder, theft, and adultery (Jer. 7:3-11). So, trust ye not in lying words, saying, “The church of Christ, The church of Christ, the church of Christ,” while your daily life is full of hypocrisy and iniquity. As temple service in structured order availed nothing apart from repentance and renewal, so “church service” in “that form of doctrine” means nothing apart from walking in newness of life. The faith of the humbled heart must match the activity of the harmless, helpful hand (Titus 2:11-14; James 1:26, 27).
Guardian of Truth XL: 10 p. 9
May 16, 1996