Confronting Hypocrisy

Read: Jeremiah 7:1-15
Text: Jer 7:3 (KJV) Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, Amend your ways and your doings, and I will cause you to dwell in this place.
Theme: Hypocrisy is sin, and if we do not judge it, God will.

"I would come to church, but there are too many hypocrites in church." How many times have we heard that one?
The world mercilessly condemns the church for the perceived hypocrisy within, and yet nowhere is hypocrisy more harshly condemned than by God and God's Word. As a matter of fact, only Christ used the word "hypocrite" in the New Testament. He reserved His harshest words for those who fell into this category. (cf. Matthew 23:13f)
None of us would deny that hypocrisy is ugly.
ILLUS. On Sept. 10, 1990, the Associated Press reported that a man was burning garbage behind his home in San Jose, California. That happened to be against the law. What was worse, however, was that while he was burning his garbage, the fire got away from him. It spread over a hundred acres and took six helicopters and four hundred firefighters to extinguish it. The man who had started it was the captain of the San Jose fire department.
None of us would deny that hypocrisy is ugly. Few of us would deny that we are, in some ways, hypocrites... that we have been guilty of hypocrisy.
Today we want to study this sin as Jeremiah saw it, and as God sees it. Israel did not learn from Jeremiah's message, and was judged.

I. The Invitation (vss. 1-7)

A. The need for change ("amend your ways").
QUESTION - How would you describe the religious life of the people described herein? (list qualities on board).
QUESTION - Were these people faithful to church? faithful to "worship"? (vss. 4,10,14)
QUESTION - What do you think of this statement, "The command to amend your ways and your doings (7:3) probably irritated many in Judah who thought that coming to the temple proved their piety."?
QUESTION - What kind of worship were they faithful to? (vs. 4 - ritualistic?)
QUESTION - Is it possible to worship in a way that God is not interested in, that actually disgusts or offends Him? (cf. Amos 5:23 (KJV) Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy viols.)
QUESTION - If they were faithful to the house of God and "worship," of what were they guilty?
QUESTION - Other than meaningless worship, what other areas needed changing, according to verses 1-7? (ANSWER - treatment of others, lack of compassion (shedding of blood refers to regulations re: cities of refuge not being observed?), idolatry)
1. Although they revered the temple, it had become a good luck charm.
2. Although they worshipped, it had become ritualistic and meaningless.
3. They had come to believe that because of the temple in their midst, they could sin with impunity. (vs. 10)
4. They were guilty of the sin of hypocrisy.
B. The result of change ("I will cause you to dwell").
QUESTION - What is implied as a result if change does not occur? (vss. 3,7)
QUESTION - What is plainly stated as a result if change does not occur? (vs. 12,14)
QUESTION - If change did occur, deliverance was promised (vss.3,7). Is there ever a time when it is too late to repent? PARENTHETICAL - Read Jeremiah 7:16, 11:14, 14:11. God had already told Jeremiah that there would be no deliverance. How does this fit with the fact that He promised deliverance in vss. 3,7? How does this fit with 1 John 5:16 ("If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it.")?
1. You can reach a point where there is no possible deliverance, because you will no longer ask for it.
2. You can never reach a point where deliverance is unavailable to you if you ask. God will always deliver those who ask for deliverance!
C. Application.
1. America is "one nation under God," just like Judah was the home to the temple. The temple was God's dwelling place; so, in spite of their idolatrous worship, they believed God would not allow tragedy to come to His place of abode.
QUESTION - Do we, in America, have a similar attitude today?
ILLUS. Judge Robert Bork's new book, entitled Slouching Toward Gomorra details this problem.
2. Those who are faithful to God's house may still need to examine their lives concerning the sin of hypocrisy.

II. The Indictment (vss. 8-11)

A. The Sins (vss. 8-9)
(Have class list them and write them on the board. List should include Trusting in lies, stealing, murder, adultery, burning incense to Baal, walking after other gods.)
QUESTION - Do any of these apply to us today? How?
B. The Hypocrisy - (vs. 10)
QUESTION - What do you think of these statements? "The people apparently felt that by visiting the temple, they had made a sufficient payment and now could go out and do as they desired. God's response showed that performing rituals is not a payment to justify unethical behavior."
QUESTION - How can a believer get in such a condition? (cf. 1 Tim 4:2 (KJV) Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron)
QUESTION - They were condemned for trusting in lies (vs. 4). Is the above condition possibly caused by listening to too many lies?
QUESTION - What warning is here for us?
C. The Reality (vs. 11)
1. "I have seen it." wow
2. God sees sin.
3. God sees through false, ritualistic, heartless worship.
4. God sees everything about us.
Psa 139:2-3 (KJV) Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways.
2 Chr 16:9 (KJV) For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth...

III. An Illustration (vss. 12_15)

A. The Lesson of History (vss. 12-13)
1. Shiloh was the first place God had placed his name when Israelites entered Canaan.
Josh 18:1 (KJV) And the whole congregation of the children of Israel assembled together at Shiloh, and set up the tabernacle of the congregation there. And the land was subdued before them.
2. God destroyed it because of their hypocrisy and idolatry, though. (cf. 1 Sam. 4:1-22)
QUESTION - Did the Israelites learn from history?
B. The Lesson of not learning from History... (vss. 14-15)
... is that history will be repeated.

1. God's hatred of sin is evident is this lesson, isn't it? (Especially the sin of hypocrisy)
2. We could easily become discouraged as we are reminded that at our best, we're missing God's mark. Even our worship, our attempts at righteousness, are often hollow ritualistic, empty, and displeasing to God.
3. BUT, the grace of God is even MORE evident here. Thank God for verse 3! Thank God for verse 7!
4. God IS a God of judgment, and sin must and will be judged, including the sin of hypocrisy. But God is even more a God of grace and mercy and love who already judged sin (including the sin of hypocrisy!) on Calvary, and always always always forgives when we turn to him and "amend our ways."

Please direct questions, comments, and submissions to William E. Johnson
Copyright 1996 William E. Johnson.