USELESS RELIGIOUS RITUAL
Lord, we understand the value of obedience over dead works.
Read JEREMIAH 7:21–29
21 “‘This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Go ahead, add your burnt offerings to your other sacrifices and eat the meat yourselves! 22 For when I brought your ancestors out of Egypt and spoke to them, I did not just give them commands about burnt offerings and sacrifices, 23 but I gave them this command: Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people. Walk in obedience to all I command you, that it may go well with you. 24 But they did not listen or pay attention; instead, they followed the stubborn inclinations of their evil hearts. They went backward and not forward. 25 From the time your ancestors left Egypt until now, day after day, again and again I sent you my servants the prophets. 26 But they did not listen to me or pay attention. They were stiff-necked and did more evil than their ancestors.’
27 “When you tell them all this, they will not listen to you; when you call to them, they will not answer. 28 Therefore say to them, ‘This is the nation that has not obeyed the Lord its God or responded to correction. Truth has perished; it has vanished from their lips.
29 “‘Cut off your hair and throw it away; take up a lament on the barren heights, for the Lord has rejected and abandoned this generation that is under his wrath.
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:21).
This section takes one point from the first part of the chapter and re-emphasizes it. Yes, God gave them the sacrificial system, but if they follow it apart from obedience to God (23), then their religious works are irrelevant. How many times do people have to be told before they actually hear?! Clearly, far too many—and there does not seem to be any hope that Judah will hear, either (27). They are not the slightest bit interested in truth but only in self-interest. Apparently the “post-truth” society that we hear so much about today is nothing new. Their society, very much like our own, is trending “backward and not forward” (24). Part of what they have failed to grasp is that actually repenting of their corruption and going back to walking in God’s “good way” is the one thing that will serve their self-interest! As Jeremiah puts it, doing that will make it “be well with you” (23).
Western society today seems to be split between those for whom self-interest excuses intolerance and those for whom tolerance trumps truth. Neither of those positions reflect God’s path. If we are in the first group, how many times do we have to be told that God is deeply concerned for the poor, the immigrant, the refugee and the disenfranchised? If we are in the second group, how many times must we be told that God is holy and calls his people to be holy? Sadly, both of these groups are represented in the church, but Jeremiah makes it very clear that even rigid adherence to the rules and practices of our particular church is not enough and not what God is looking for in his people.
Ask yourself this question: what set of sacrifices and burnt offerings (21,22) in my life am I substituting for plain obedience to the revealed will of God?
Lord, we are not always good listeners. Please forgive us when we don’t hear what You are saying to us today or heed how You are calling us to live.
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