"Tear down this wall!"
Jeremiah has both tearing down and building up to his legacy.
Jeremiah was commanded by YHWH,
See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.
Jeremiah 1:10 (ESV)
I can go to many construction sites in the US. They will have a similar method no matter where I go. One housing subdivision being built near me was having its wild foliage excavated and burned! Such drastic measures! Plucking up?! Tearing down!? Even if you are very environmentally conscious, it is unlikely that you are in the woods but under a roof, nor if you planted a garden or tilled a farm that you would do so among thorns.
Even as Solomon built massive structures, including God's temple, Jeremiah ripped them to the ground under the careful oversight of the God who built them up (Jeremiah 7:12-14). When a field, be it ever so lovely, is filled with briars; cows and rabbits may not mind, but people cannot abide there. God's field is meant to be tilled, his garden to be full of lush fruit and vegetables. But the priests were throwing their seed into briar patches and God's produce was swallowed up by wild barbs. Thus Jeremiah warned the priests "sow not among thorns” (Jeremiah 4:3)
People can be thorny, but when religion is intermixed, the thorns portray themselves as holy, while the produce is despised and the whole garden overthrown. Such a garden is good for one thing: fire, that the ground at least may be fertile thereafter. While a plot has but a few thorns, the gardener with sense snatches up the briar, root and all before it may multiply. The priests, less sensible than an illiterate farmer, simply cast the holy seed into their clutches. "Sow not among the thorns." Certainly such priests are thorns in the side of the God they attend. Jeremiah must pluck those briars, he must melt their place with fiery words. Jeremiah must pluck up.
Structures are good, but some are meant to be torn. Few buildings are better appreciated when they crumble, but when the Berlin Wall fell, it's pieces became museum must-haves. Its blocks were the scorn of presidents, prime-ministers, and, most of all, separated kin and oppressed citizenry of East and West Germany. The temple of YHWH was an oppression for another reason. It was meant to represent God and his ways, and its beauty to display his glory, and its courts to pray. But when the temple's attendees treated it as a charm to ward off harm by rituals instead of a means to encounter the eternal God, the temple became a lie. The temple’s own God wished it to fall by Jeremiah's tongue and that with same approval of its command to be built (1 Chronicles 22:6, 1 Kings 8:18-20).
I dwell in the midst of rabid religiosity. World leaders perceive they can stave off the apocalypse by regulating carbon. Their hearts proclaim. 'we are gods, we will build and no one will tear us!' Another generation said, 'I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul,' and instead found its “fate” in the midst of one-no-two world wars and its “soul” in the midst of a sprint to stockpile apocalyptic bombs.
I wish in the midst of the world's hope for staving off apocalypse, I could say that God's people needed to be built and planted. Instead they are choosing to sow among thorns, and to build with hewn stone. They are building to fall and planting to reap nothing.
I don't even think it would be healthy for unbelievers to attend churches to hear their gospel. I would rather those persons try to meet with God alone in a quiet room with an open bible. That is how I met him. I didn't want the whole of my Christian life to be there, alone with God and the Word, but I have been forced back there. I cannot find men and women with whom to lock arms, because their arms are locked with idols.
I believe God's season for planting is over, his construction company has sent its workers home. He needs to pluck those thorns, the priests, he needs to tear down those buildings, the institution. God does not need to be instructed, "sow not among thorns" (Jeremiah 4:3) for He is The Vinedresser. When he tastes the fruit of his vine and has to spit it out (Isaiah 5:1-7), he doesn't let it take up the soil (Luke 13:6-9). He breaks the fence round the land, and lets what will have a go at the bitter vine and its fruit.
There are farmers who plant never expecting to see the fruit of their labor in their lifetime. They plant trees whose fruit will provide for children and children's children. That was Jeremiah's building. He tore down the temple, but told them to build after the land had 70 years of rest. The latter glory of that temple was better than the prior, not because it lasted forever, but because the God of Jeremiah went there, incarnate. The temple Jeremiah's mouth built was torn down by the mouth of a prophet like Jeremiah:
Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. But he answered them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.
Matthew 24:1-2 (ESV)
Why would God tear down a temple built for himself? To build an eternal house.
So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?”
“But he was speaking about the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.”
John 2:18-22 (ESV)
Ironically, the Jews that revered the temple, fulfilled Christ’s words. They tore down the temple of God by crucifying their own God. The temple they revered was torn by the Romans and a Mosque of Ishmael’s tribe stands in its place.
Can I suggest something Christ follower? Don’t seek God in Bethel or Gilgal (Amos 5). Seek YHWH, seek Christ and live. He doesn’t dwell in temples made with hands, but the temple of human souls being built together by God.