Jeremiah lived among a sinfully religious people. Oppressive, idolatrous, and greedy, they nevertheless felt safe from harm because God’s temple was in the heart of their city. They might be awful people seven out of seven days, but as long as they made the right sacrifices at the right temple they felt secure.
“The temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD!” was their rallying cry. God describes them like a gang, going out to hurt and harm, and then retreating to their hideout within the temple walls.
The Holy Place in Jerusalem is long gone, but the danger is still present. “I can live my religious life on autopilot as long as I (fill in the blank).” As long as I had the right baptism. As long as I worship the right way. As long as I take the Lord’s Supper every Sunday. As long as I… God is no fool. He recognized hypocrisy in Jeremiah’s day and he recognizes it today. A covenant with God has never been about just the right location or rite or sacrifice. God has always desired people who would love him with all of their hearts, souls, and minds. Everything else is just an act.