to obey is better than sacrifice / obedience is better than sacrifice *
September 19, 2019 – Thursday
Ezekiel 20:8-12 NIV
8 “‘But they rebelled against Me and would not listen to Me; they did not get rid of the vile images they had set their eyes on, nor did they forsake the idols of Egypt. So I said I would pour out My wrath on them and spend My anger against them in Egypt.
9 But for the sake of My name, I brought them out of Egypt. I did it to keep My name from being profaned in the eyes of the nations among whom they lived and in whose sight I had revealed Myself to the Israelites.
10 Therefore I led them out of Egypt and brought them into the wilderness.
11 I gave them My decrees and made known to them My laws, by which the person who obeys them will live.
12 Also I gave them My Sabbaths as a sign between us, so they would know that I the Lord made them holy.
Before discussing the verses above, let’s discuss the chapter as a whole. Most versions that provide a title referencing Israel’s rebellion or continuing rebellion or how Israel is purged of its rebellion. Thus there is an obvious focus on Israel’s history of rebellion, but that is only half the story. The other half is the history of God’s mercy always offering Israel another opportunity to serve Him and live as He wants Israel to live.
Look at how the chapter begins with some of the elders of Israel coming to Ezekiel to inquire of the Lord. You might think the Lord would be pleased they want to inquire of Him, I know I thought that and was surprised when He had Ezekiel say
3 “Son of man, speak to the elders of Israel and say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Have you come to inquire of me? As surely as I live, I will not let you inquire of me, declares the Sovereign Lord.’
Why is this? Why is God refusing to let the elders of Israel inquire of Him?
4b “ Then confront them with the detestable practices of their ancestors 5 and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: On the day I chose Israel, I swore with uplifted hand to the descendants of Jacob and revealed myself to them in Egypt. With uplifted hand I said to them, “I am the Lord your God.” 6 On that day I swore to them that I would bring them out of Egypt into a land I had searched out for them, a land flowing with milk and honey, the most beautiful of all lands. 7 And I said to them, “Each of you, get rid of the vile images you have set your eyes on, and do not defile yourselves with the idols of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”
What were these detestable practices of their ancestors? I don’t know what all of them were, but they revolved around idol worship, the idols of Egypt. God was going to keep His word in the covenant He had made with first with Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3 and then later extended through Isaac and Jacob
And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the Lord.’” Exodus 6:8
But they rebelled against Him and would not give up their idols and obey His laws even when He gave them His Sabbaths as a sign between us, so they would know that I the Lord made them holy. What happened?
13 “‘Yet the people of Israel rebelled against Me in the wilderness. They did not follow My decrees but rejected My laws—by which the person who obeys them will live—and they utterly desecrated My Sabbaths. So I said I would pour out My wrath on them and destroy them in the wilderness. 14 But for the sake of My name I did what would keep it from being profaned in the eyes of the nations in whose sight I had brought them out.
The people rebelled once again and once again God held His hand back because He had made a promise. The result of the promise was mercy and another chance.
15 Also with uplifted hand I swore to them in the wilderness that I would not bring them into the land I had given them—a land flowing with milk and honey, the most beautiful of all lands— 16 because they rejected My laws and did not follow My decrees and desecrated my Sabbaths. For their hearts were devoted to their idols. 17 Yet I looked on them with pity and did not destroy them or put an end to them in the wilderness. 18 I said to their children in the wilderness, “Do not follow the statutes of your parents or keep their laws or defile yourselves with their idols. 19 I am the Lord your God; follow My decrees and be careful to keep My laws. 20 Keep My Sabbaths holy, that they may be a sign between us. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.”
Of course they now followed God laws and decrees. Right? Wrong. Once again they rebelled and once again God stayed His hand while prophesying a future Diaspora.
21 “‘But the children rebelled against Me: They did not follow My decrees, they were not careful to keep My laws, of which I said, “The person who obeys them will live by them,” and they desecrated My Sabbaths. So I said I would pour out My wrath on them and spend My anger against them in the wilderness. 22 But I withheld My hand, and for the sake of My name I did what would keep it from being profaned in the eyes of the nations in whose sight I had brought them out. 23 Also with uplifted hand I swore to them in the wilderness that I would disperse them among the nations and scatter them through the countries, 24 because they had not obeyed My laws but had rejected my decrees and desecrated My Sabbaths, and their eyes lusted after their parents’ idols.
Eventually He would give them up to the worship of the idols of other nations that would even include the horror of child sacrifice. Then He would no longer hold back His judgment and Israel would fall, first the Northern kingdom and then the Southern kingdom. All a result of rebellion and disobedience.
What does our rebellion and disobedience consist of? What idols do we worship – put before God? How does He correct us, bringing us to confession and repentance? Be sure that He does for everyone who has accepted His Son as Lord and Savior yet seeks to rebel and disobey. Many (certainly not all) of the aches and pains in our lives are used by God as a course correction for us.
(to obey is better than sacrifice / obedience is better than sacrifice)
* Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. (1 Samuel 15:22)