to obey is better than sacrifice / obedience is better than sacrifice *
September 18, 2019 – Wednesday
Jeremiah 44:23 NIV
23 Because you have burned incense and have sinned against the Lord and have not obeyed Him or followed His law or His decrees or His stipulations, this disaster has come upon you, as you now see.”
Why this anger about burning incense? Is burning incense sinning against the Lord? Is burning incense disobeying the Lord and His law, decrees, and stipulations? Is burning incense terrible enough to cause disaster to result? To answer let’s take a look at this verse in context.
20 Then Jeremiah said to all the people, both men and women, who were answering him, 21 “Did not the Lord remember and call to mind the incense burned in the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem by you and your ancestors, your kings and your officials and the people of the land? 22 When the Lord could no longer endure your wicked actions and the detestable things you did, your land became a curse and a desolate waste without inhabitants, as it is today. 23 Because you have burned incense and have sinned against the Lord and have not obeyed Him or followed His law or His decrees or His stipulations, this disaster has come upon you, as you now see.” 24 Then Jeremiah said to all the people, including the women, “Hear the word of the Lord, all you people of Judah in Egypt. 25 This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: You and your wives have done what you said you would do when you promised, ‘We will certainly carry out the vows we made to burn incense and pour out drink offerings to the Queen of Heaven.’ “Go ahead then, do what you promised! Keep your vows!
How bad were their actions in burning incense and pouring out drink offerings to the Queen of Heaven? To understand let’s turn to the first two of the ten commandments in Deuteronomy chapter five
7 “You shall have no other gods before Me.
8 “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 9 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate Me, 10 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love Me and keep My commandments.
Their worship of the Queen of Heaven was a direct rebuke against God and a deliberate rebellion against His first two commandments. Thus after Jeremiah told those in rebellion against God to go ahead and carry out their vows to burn incense and pour out drink offerings to the Queen of Heaven, he stated the following prophecy.
26 But hear the word of the Lord, all you Jews living in Egypt: ‘I swear by My great Name,’ says the Lord, ‘that no one from Judah living anywhere in Egypt will ever again invoke My Name or swear, “As surely as the Sovereign Lord lives.” 27 For I am watching over them for harm, not for good; the Jews in Egypt will perish by sword and famine until they are all destroyed. 28 Those who escape the sword and return to the land of Judah from Egypt will be very few. Then the whole remnant of Judah who came to live in Egypt will know whose word will stand—Mine or theirs.
“Wait a minute” you might say was this rebellion really so bad? Yes. To understand, simply reread verse twenty-two When the Lord could no longer endure your wicked actions and the detestable things you did, your land became a curse and a desolate waste without inhabitants, as it is today. Wicked actions and detestable things become common after the first two commandments are rebelled against. The longer they are violated and rebelled against the more common their wicked actions and detestable things, evil deeds and the abominations in the ESV, become.
Let your following of Jesus begin with following the first two of the ten commandments or as Jesus said in answering a question about the greatest commandment?
37 “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37)
29 “The most important one is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29)
Walking with Jesus, following Jesus, always begins loving the Lord our God with all of our hearts and with all of our souls and with all of our minds and with all of our strengths plus loving our neighbors as ourselves. It is our choice to walk with and follow Jesus or not. If we do walk with Him and follow Him then we will be doing our best to do what the Lord requires of us.
To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8b
(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)