It is common for those that are furthest from God to boast themselves most of their being near to the church. In Jeremiah 7:1-15 they are haughty because of the holy mountain (Zephaniah 3:11), as if God's mercy were so tied to them that they might defy his justice. Now to convince them what a frivolous plea this was, and what little stead it would stand them in,
1. God shows them the gross absurdity of it in itself. If they knew any thing either of the temple of the Lord or of the Lord of the temple, they would think that to plead this way, either in excuse of their sin against God or else in arrest of God's judgment against them, was the most ridiculous and unreasonable thing that could be.
God is a holy God; but this plea made him the patron of sin, of the worst of sins, which even the light of nature condemns, Jeremiah 7:9, Jeremiah 7:10.
“What,” says he, “will you steal, murder, and commit adultery, be guilty of the vilest immoralities, and which the common interest, as well as the common sense, of mankind witness against? Will you swear falsely, a crime which all nations (who with the belief of a God have had a veneration for an oath) have always had a horror of? Will you burn incense to Baal, a dunghill-deity, that sets up as a rival with the great Jehovah, and, not content with that, will you walk after other gods too, whom you know not, and by all these crimes put a daring affront upon God, both as the Lord of hosts and as the God of Israel? Will you exchange a God of whose power and goodness you have had such a long experience for gods of whose ability and willingness to help you you know nothing? And, when you have thus done the worst you can against God, will you brazen your faces so far as to come and stand before him in this house which is called by his name and in which his name is called upon - stand before him as servants waiting his commands, as supplicants expecting his favour? Will you act in open rebellion against him, and yet herd among his subjects, among the best of them?
By this, it should seem, you think that either he does not discover or does not dislike your wicked practices, to imagine either of which is to put the highest indignity possible upon him. It is as if you should say, "We are delivered to do all these abominations.” If they had not the front to say this, totidem verbis - in so many words, yet their actions spoke it aloud. They could not but own that God, even their own God, had many a time delivered them, and been a present help to them, when otherwise they must have perished. He, in delivering them, designed to reduce them to himself, and by his goodness to lead them to repentance; but they resolved to persist in their abominations notwithstanding. As soon as they were delivered (as of old in the days of the Judges) they did evil again in the sight of the Lord, which was in effect to say, in direct contradiction to the true intent and meaning of the providences which had affected them, that God had delivered them in order to put them again into a capacity of rebelling against him, by sacrificing the more profusely to their idols. Note, Those who continue in sin because grace has abounded, or that grace may abound, do in effect their idols. Note, Those who continue in sin because grace has abounded, or that grace may abound, do in effect make Christ the minister of sin. Some take it thus: “You present yourselves before God with your sacrifices and sin-offerings, and then say, We are delivered, we are discharged from our guilt, now it shall do us no hurt; when all this is but to blind the world, and stop the mouth of conscience, that you may, the more easily to yourselves and the more plausibly before others, do all these abominations.”
His temple was a holy place; but this plea made it a protection to the most unholy persons
“Has this house, which is called by my name and is a standing sign of God's kingdom of sin and Satan - has this become a den of robbers in your eyes? Do you think it was built to be not only a rendezvous of, but a refuge and shelter to, the vilest of malefactors?” No; though the horns of the altar were a sanctuary to him that slew a man unawares, yet they were not so to a wilful murderer, nor to one that did aught presumptuously, Exodus 21:14; 1Kings2:29. Those that think to excuse themselves in unchristian practices with the Christian name, and sin the more boldly and securely because there is a sin-offering provided, do, in effect, make God's house of prayer a den of thieves, as the priests in Christ's time, Matthew 21:13. But could they thus impose upon God? No: Behold, I have seen it, saith the Lord, have seen the real iniquity through the counterfeit and dissembled piety.
Note, Though men may deceive one another with the appearances of devotion, yet they cannot deceive God.
-Matthew Henry, from his Commentary on the Whole Bible, on Jeremiah 7.1-15.