CLICK HERE to read Jeremiah 17.
After the Lord has commanded Jeremiah the prophet to give His words to the people, Jeremiah begins to write them down (verse 1). He hopes the people will “write” the words of the Lord on their hearts, also, knowing that if they do not then their children will be brought up with false traditions, priestcraft, and idol worship (verse 2). The people have already violated sacred temple spaces by making them places of sin (verse 3), surrendering their inheritance from the Lord for self-gratification in the moment (verse 4). This is part of the evidence against the people, that they have betrayed the Lord (verse 5).
It was under a juniper tree (“heath”) that an angel appeared to the prophet Elijah, protecting him from being killed (see 1 Kings 19). If the people would listen to the Lord, and do what He says, they would be protected from evil and delivered from their enemies. Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is (verse 7). Those who do what He says are like a tree planted by water, with enough nourishment and relief from the “heat” of life that they are productive in yielding fruit (testimony, character traits, service, and developing spiritual gifts; verse 8; see also Galatians 5:22,23).
But instead, the people do not even recognize goodness when it is right in front of them, and live spiritually famished lives instead of being nourished (verse 6). Their hearts are deceitful, and when they think they are lying to God they are only lying to themselves (verse 9). They think they can hide their sin, but the Lord searches their hearts and knows better, granting people the consequences they themselves choose (verse 10). It is not that God wants bad things to happen to people; it is that He gives them what they ask for, as evidence that He is honoring their agency.
So those who are not choosing holiness are like those who sit on eggs that don’t hatch, or like those who gain wealth but die before getting to enjoy it (verse 11). Our purpose in life is to become better, to progress, to become more like the Savior who came as an example to us. That’s why He bothered to save us, so that we could make something of ourselves, so that we could become more than we were, so that we could honor our Heavenly Father by becoming more like Him. This was our premortal covenant, the promises the Savior made before we ever were born on Earth.
A glorious high throne from the beginning is the place of our sanctuary (verse 12). Our safety and security, our provision and protection, our progress and becoming all have to do with remembering who we are, and actively choosing to become that again. Our spirits have already done it, or we would not have earned a place in mortality. But now we must train our bodies to also be obedient, to also become glorious like our Father. He is our sanctuary, and only by becoming like Him can we return to that place where He is.
Those who reject the Savior, who made returning home possible, will grieve and be ashamed (verse 13). All people will acknowledge the Savior, even those who have not chosen Him. But those who choose Him know that He can heal them, and we will praise Him in gratitude for keeping His promise to rescue us (verse 14). Those who want to progress, who want to be better, who want to become greater actively seek out His example, His teachings, and His commandments (verse 15). Those who truly are following Him will testify of what He has done for us – both in words and in deeds (verse 16).
We have no reason to be afraid (verse 17), for even the difficult things we experience or persecution we endure is nothing compared to what the Lord has done for us – and what He has done for us does help us in our experiences and enduring. That will confuse those who attack us, because we will be strengthened while they receive double the consequences (verse 18).
The Lord tells Jeremiah to go stand in the gates of Jerusalem and teach these things to the people (verse 19). Gates were not just like fence gates like we think of now, but rather a series of rooms in the entrances of the palaces and temples and cities. It was like a community center, and the place where business was done. The Lord is asking Jeremiah to go do His business where the people do their business (verse 20).
The Lord tells Jeremiah to warn the people to honor the Sabbath, which would be the first physical practice expression of returning to the ways of the Lord, of honoring His ordinances the way He has commanded them, and of re-aligning their priorities in life and ways of culture (verse 21). He tells them not to work on the sabbath, and to return to the commandments He taught their ancestors (verse 22). He warns them that just because their ancestors have been foolish and proud and stubborn does not mean they need be (verse 23). If they will listen, and receive His instruction, He will meet them where they are and teach them to become His holy people (verse 24). Only by living according to His laws can they be prepared to receive the priesthood again (verse 25), and if they do then all the people around them – even the other tribes – will come to learn from them and to worship in the temple (verse 26).
This is their choice: to follow His laws that will provide and protect and even restore the priesthood so that all will come to worship with them in the temple, or to refuse to listen and continue in their sin and receive double the consequences that are so public all the surrounding countries will know God was displeased with them (verse 27).
What do we choose, today, right now?